Do Axolotls Need A Filter? Not If You Want To Change Water Daily!

Axolotls are very sensitive and gentle aquatic inhabitants and they need the right care in order to survive. Once provided with a healthy environment, they are very easy to take care of and can remain with their owners for a long time.

Axolotls are a type of a salamander that enjoy shady places and cool waters. In nature, they are found in only two lakes in Mexico. They may be very rare in nature but have been gaining popularity as pets. There are also thousands of axolotls in laboratories. Thus, the right living conditions have to be provided for them to survive.

Setting up a tank for an axolotl has a few specifications and one of the questions that often arise is if axolotls need a filter? Yes, they do. It is highly recommendable that your axolotl is provided with a filter. In fact, every aquatic animal in captivity needs a filter. The device provides much needed aeration of the water, so the fish can breathe. A filter also cleans the water of debris and removes the toxic build up of ammonia and nitrates. The same needs apply for an axolotl kept in a tank.

Do Axolotls Need a Filter?

Yes, they do. It is highly recommendable to provide your Walking fish with a filter. Filtration is not that necessary for an axolotl as it is needed for fish but you have to be willing to change the water almost daily, if you choose to skip the filter. This can turn into an engagement that you have to fit in your daily schedule and can soon become tiresome.

Most hobbyists prefer to include a filter than changing the water frequently to save time and effort.

There are a number of options, including:

  • under-gravel filters
  • internal power filters
  • external “hang-on-the-tank’ filters
  • canister filters
  • new filters
  • cycled filters

Why Do Axolotls Need a Filter?

The purpose of a filter in any tank is to provide two things – aeration and purification.

In nature, all aquatic animals are provided with oxygen by the natural movement of waters through currents, waves, waterfalls, raindrops, water movement caused by the wind and splashing into stones and shores. Through its movement, waters pick up drops full of oxygen from the air and bring it back to the water. Thus, a must have for the axolotl’s oxygen supply is provided. This natural movement also cleanses the water and washes away all the waste.

Artificial establishments such as ponds and tanks do not have the ability to cycle the water on their own and this is where the role of the filter comes. “

A filter literally inserts air in the water, thus ensuring the provision of oxygen. It also provides water movement that makes the different layers of the water more dynamic and waste does not have the chance to settle at one place and create stale water. A sign that the filter is working is by seeing bubbles coming out of the pump.

Axolotls, just like any other water creature, respond to the exact same conditions to lead a long and healthy life – oxygen and cleanliness. If you leave your pet’s water unchanged for too long, waste will start to gather, which can be lethal for your axolotl. If you decide not to have a filter, then you will have to change the water almost daily.

Together with this, you will have to provide enough plants to encourage aeration and some water movement since natural movement is not present. Generally, more experienced axolotls hobbyists prefer to skip the filter. If you are a beginner, however, it is better to install the device.

What Filter Should I Use For My Axolotl

There are several types of filters on the market. Let’s explore each one of them and see how they are good or bad for your axolotl.

1. New Filters and Cycled Filters.

The difference between the two is that a new filter is a one that is brand new and has never been used. Cycled filter means that it has been used in the past and proven successfully to purify water.

There is a term used for filters called maturing – maturing the filter requires installing it on the tank and making it work with a source of ammonia such as fish food or liquid ammonia. The point of this is for the filter to start working and get used to actually purifying the water. Once it works, then it is safe for an axolotl to enter and have clean water guaranteed. The end result is receiving a cycled filter.

Most people ideally prefer a cycled filter for their axolotl aquarium – it greatly reduces the workload on maintaining a healthy aquarium. You have to guarantee your axolotl clean water; otherwise as it keeps excreting, ammonia will be piled up to dangerous levels.

If you do not manage to obtain a cycled filter, you may want to consider “tubing” your axolotl. You will have to keep your axolotl in a tub for a while and change the water frequently. This is a bit easier than changing the entire water of the real tank. You have to keep “tubing” the axolotl until you have given the filter enough time to become cycled.

This type of water filtration is called “biological filtration” – beneficial bacteria break down ammonia and nitrite and transform them into nitrate, which is much less toxic. Biological cleanliness is vital for the axolotl’s survival.

2. Canister Filters.

Canister filters are mechanical aquarium filters. They are most suitable for medium and large sized tanks (more than 40 gallons). They are placed outside the tank and provide very good mechanical, chemical and biological filtration. They are suitable for heavy loads and numerous aquatic inhabitants at one place.

On the downside these filters are very difficult to take apart for cleaning and maintenance and they are difficult to restart after once stopped. Also, they are best for large aquariums in restaurants, hotels, entertainment centers, and theme parks and alike. Having said that, this is not the best option for your axolotl as the tank will be much smaller and you want to avoid such big maintenance issues.

3. External “Hang-On-The-Tank” Filters.

External “hang-on-the-tank” filters are basically filters attached on the outer side of the tank. They are very common and provide excellent mechanical and biological filtration. They are also suitable for tanks with limited space as they hang outside of it.

These filters use a pump to suck water up a supply tube from the aquarium. The water then flows through a series of compartments with various media and back into the tank via an overflow. “They come in all ranges of size.

This is probably the best and easiest to maintain option for your axolotl tank. Just bear in mind that they are larger and more powerful than most internal filters. This can create strong water current which can be stressful for the axolotl.

4. Under-Gravel Filters.

This is one of the most popular filters. It is a plastic plate that covers the bottom of the aquarium. The plate has many small holes and slots on it. On top, the under-gravel filter is covered with aquarium gravel. It functions as a biological but not chemical filter.

On the downside it can catch and retain solid particles that get stuck between the holes and eventually this starts working against the effective biological filtration. This problem can be solved by using a separate mechanical filter to remove many of the particles before they become buried in the gravel bed, and by cleaning the gravel when doing water changes.

You may consider this filter for your axolotl. Since it will be the only inhabitant the chances of solid particles to fall into the holes are smaller and the filter is likely to last longer.

5. Internal Power Filters.

This option is also very suitable for an axolotl tank. Internal filters are also called box filters. A very popular choice for home aquariums. They are very affordable and are suitable for small tanks of 20 gallons or less. This type of filter is very simple – it requires an air pump and an air line to produce the necessary movement of water. They create air bubbles and enhance chemical and biological filtration.

Internal power filters are perhaps the best option for your axolotl tank.

Other options for aquarium filters include diatomic filters, fluidized bed filters, power filters, sponge filters, trickle filters. These filters are more specific and are usually installed when a specific problem occurs such as pollution with algae or very small particles. They are best suitable for big and densely populated establishments and are not necessarily adaptable for home use.

The top 3 best filters for your axolotl tank are:

1. Internal Power Filters.

2. External “Hang-On-The-Tank’ Filters.

3. Under-Gravel Filters.

When you are at your local pet shop, remember to ask the consultants how strong of a current each filter creates and what/if it requires maintenance.

Also, try asking for a filter with an adjustable rate valve to help you control the flow. Axolotls are very calm and slow swimmers and do not like being carried away in all directions too quickly.

Ideally, the filter for an axolotl should have biological, mechanical and chemical filtration. “Mechanical filtration removes the larger particles in the water. After that, the water will go through the biological filter, where certain chemicals will get removed, and beneficial bacteria will be produced. Finally, there should be a chemical filter to remove any toxic chemicals, such as ammonia and nitrites produced by waste.


Long story short, it is better to install a filter for your axolotl. Otherwise, you have to change its water almost daily to ensure a clean and fresh environment. This is better done by experienced enthusiasts. A filter will save you a lot of time, effort, stress and anxiety.

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