Department of Education

Animal Ethics

Animal Ethics



Axolotls should not be kept in aquariums with other species. They are aggressive and treat other aquarium inhabitants, including other smaller axolotls, as food. Axolotls are also quite fragile and fish may bite at and damage their gills.

An aquarium 600mm to 900mm in length and 300mm in width and height mm will house a pair of fully-grown axolotls. The water height should be 200-250mm.

Water is the most important component of the axolotl’s environment. Never house them in extremely soft or distilled water. Remove any chlorine, chloramines or ammonia that may have been added as part of water treatment. Commercial preparations are available for this purpose or water can be aged. Keep the pH between 6.5 and 8.0.

Axolotls thrive at cool temperatures: the optimum range is 15°C - 18°C and they should never be kept above 22°C. To prevent overheating, do not house axolotls where they are exposed to direct sun.

Axolotls prefer dim light. They have poor eyesight, their eyes have no eyelids and they are sensitive to light. Normal indoor lighting, without aquarium lights, is sufficient. If the tank is brightly lit for the benefit of live water plants, darker areas must also be established.

An aquarium lid is not necessary if the water surface is at least 70mm below the top. The tank should be aerated as axolotls extract oxygen from the water through their gills. In laboratory settings, a mesh or other suitable cover may be appropriate. Rapidly-circulating water is stressful and if filtration is used, the rate of circulation should be as slow as possible.

A clump of water plants or a rocky overhang provides a refuge from bright lights and from other axolotls.

Weekly partial water changes, involving removal of about one-quarter of the water, are recommended, using conditioned water of the same temperature. Regular removal of solid waste is necessary.

Bacterial scum that grows on the aquarium must also be removed regularly, as it can affect the axolotl’s skin and cause toe loss.

Once the water has been removed, the tank can be cleaned safely with a scouring pad dipped in a mixture of baking soda and salt at a 2:1 ratio. Rinse the tank gently and fill with conditioned water. Before disposing of the waste water, add a solution of one part bleach to five parts water. Pour the water down a toilet bowl. Untreated water should not be discarded into stormwater drains or septic tank systems.


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