The safest and healthiest method of housing axolotls is in a filtered freshwater aquarium with an established nitrogen cycle. However, sometimes that isn’t always possible! Maybe you purchased an axolotl before cycling the tank, perhaps your aquarium’s nitrogen cycle stalled and crashed, or maybe your axolotl contracted a disease and you need to separate the sick axolotl from others in the tank. In certain instances like these it may become necessary to temporarily house your axolotl outside of its filtered aquarium. Removing your axolotl from its aquarium and housing it in a smaller temporary container is referred to by hobbyists as “tubbing”. This guide is intended to give instructions on how best to tub an axolotl!
The first thing you’ll need are two suitable containers with lids to house the axolotl in. You want them to be big enough for the axolotl to stretch and turn around comfortably in, but also small enough that 100% daily water changes won’t be a massive chore. An ideal container is something like this 6-quart Sterilite Storage Container. Ensure that the containers are clean and sterile. Don’t use any containers that you know were used to store chemicals. Food grade storage containers are also ideal to prevent plastic leaching into the water.
Water Conditioner - The second thing you need is a good water conditioner. Avoid water conditioners that contain aloe vera and look for a water conditioner that removes chlorine and chloramines from water and also detoxifies ammonia and nitrite for up to 48 hrs.
You’ll need a turkey baster for spot cleaning any waste out of the tub as the axolotl produces it. This will help keep ammonia levels down.
For carefully transferring the axolotl in and out of the tub.
Just to make the tub a bit more homey for your axolotl!
API Freshwater Master Test Kit
To ensure your axolotl’s water is staying clean with minimal ammonia build up!
- Axolotls require cool and clean water to thrive in! So the first thing you need to do is fill both tubs with cold water and then condition both with your water conditioner!
- Ensure the water in both tubs is somewhere between 60 and 68 degrees. Ideally, you want this water to match the temperature of the water that your axolotl is being removed from so it doesn’t get stressed from the rapid change in temperature.
- If the water is warmer than it needs to be you can use frozen water bottles (plastic label removed and adhesive scrubbed off) or ice made from conditioned tap water to keep the water cool.
- Use a mesh net to carefully and gently place the axolotl in the tub. Reduce how much you are feeding the axolotl by half to decrease how much ammonia the axolotl will be producing as waste. Use the turkey baster to spot clean any waste that you notice your axolotl producing! Use the lids for the tubs to prevent the axolotl from jumping out.
- Regularly test the water in the tub each day to monitor ammonia levels and perform water changes as necessary. At minimum it should be changed out 100% twice a day, morning and evening. However, older axolotls produce quite a bit of ammonia and it may be necessary to perform more than two changes a day. Go by the ammonia readings and use your best judgment!
For the water changes, you can simply move the axolotl from one tub into the second tub with a mesh net. Ideally the water in this tub will be at the same temperature as the first to reduce any unnecessary stress caused by two drastically different water temperatures. Then, you can pour out the water from the first tub and prepare it again for the next time a water change is necessary!
Considerations and Concerns
It should be noted that tubbing an axolotl should only be used sparingly and in emergency situations. While an axolotl can live almost indefinitely in a tub, it is not recommended as a long term method of keeping an axolotl for several important reasons:
Ammonia tends to build up too fast without a cycled biofilter for the water, this can cause permanent damage to the axolotl’s gills, severely inhibiting its ability to breathe, and render the axolotl vulnerable to opportunistic diseases.
the axolotl will be stressed from how often it is being moved around for water changes. This can lead to inappetance, lethargy, and illness.
the axolotl can become depressed from not having a larger aquarium to live in.
Ensure that when you choose to tub your axolotl, you are doing it because you have no other options. Even when an axolotl falls ill, having a hospital tank to keep it in will be much more effective in aiding with treatment than tubbing the axolotl.
Now you know how to successfully tub your axolotl! This is an important method to be familiar with as an axolotl owner, just in case you should ever find yourself in a situation where your tank is no longer a safe environment for your pet! To learn more about how best to care for your neotenic friend, read our Bulletproof Axolotl Care Guide! If you don’t yet have a cycled aquarium to put your axolotl in or are currently considering purchasing an axolotl, please read our Aquarium Cycling Guide which will teach you all you need to know about setting up a healthy nitrogen cycling in your tank!