FREE SHIPPING ON ALL AXOLOTLS
50% OFF WILD TYPE AXOLOTLS FOR A LIMITED TIME ONLY! USE CODE 50WILD AT CHECKOUT

Axolotl Aquarium Maintenance

How to Cycle An Aquarium

Last Updated: July 9, 2021

Introduction 

Caring for axolotls is quite easy, if you know what you’re doing beforehand. Before you purchase your first axolotl, it’s essential that you have a few things prepared ahead of time for your pet. In this article, you will learn step by step how to set up a brand new axolotl tank, establish a Nitrogen Cycle, and prepare a home for your new aquatic companion.

What Does it Mean to “Cycle” Your Tank? 

If you were to study a body of freshwater like a lake or pond, you would most likely find hundreds of different kinds of animals living there. Fish, frogs, snails, and many other species call these environments home.

However, there are other residents of these freshwater locales that are so small, you can’t even see them. Millions of microscopic bacteria live in the water too! Don’t worry, these aren’t the type of bacteria that will make you sick. Instead, these are good bacteria that eat the waste and other decaying organic material floating in the water and recycle it to keep the water healthy for the other animals to live in.

This process is called the “Nitrogen Cycle.” It is simply the conversion of ammonia in the water into chemicals called nitrites, and then into chemicals called nitrates. “Cycling” your axolotl tank means treating the water in your aquarium so that those same healthy bacteria that live in lakes and ponds will be able to grow.

As you feed your axolotl, its waste will cause the ammonia levels in the water to increase. If the ammonia levels get too high, it can be toxic to your animal. However, if you have a properly cycled tank, the healthy bacteria will break down the ammonia and keep the water clean and safe for your pet.

What Are the Ideal Water Parameters for My Axolotl?

Maintaining good water quality and chemical parameters in your axolotl’s habitat is essential for keeping your animal happy and healthy. These parameters are very easy to test using a freshwater test kit, which you can purchase online or from your local Petco, PetSmart, or fish store. For this purpose, we recommend using the Freshwater Master Test Kit by API. Simply follow the instructions on the kit and you’ll be able to test your water in minutes.

pH – Ideal: 7.4-7.6 | Acceptable: 6.5-8.0

Ammonia – 0 parts per million

Nitrates – Less than  40 parts per million

Nitrites – 0 parts per million

Temperature – 65–70°F; no higher than 72°F

Cycling Your Aquarium 

There are several ways to properly cycle your aquarium. Some methods work quicker, while others take more time. In our experience cycling hundreds of aquariums for our axolotls, there are two methods that have worked best for us: Instant Cycling and Fish-In Cycling.

Method 1: Instant Cycling

Summary: 

Instant cycling is by far the fastest, easiest, and most efficient way to establish a healthy Nitrogen Cycle in a brand new aquarium. Despite its name, the Instant cycling process can take up to two weeks to complete. However, if you follow these instructions carefully, most aquariums will achieve a healthy Nitrogen Cycle in about seven days.

Materials: 

  • Aquarium 
      1. 20 Gallon Long – Minimum size for juvenile and sub-adult axolotls
      2. 30-40 Gallon Breeder – Minimum size for adult axolotls
        • NOTE: Many sources online will claim that a 20 Gallon Long is an acceptable size for an adult axolotl. However, axolotls can grow to lengths of 12 inches or more! Since a 20 Gallon Long tank measures only 12 inches from front to back, larger adult axolotls will be unable to move freely in their habitat, which can cause them stress and other health problems. The more space you can provide for your pet, the happier and healthier they will be!
  • Filtration – There are many different filtration systems available for your aquarium. We have listed some of the most common types below; any of them will do just fine for your axolotl.
      1. Sponge filter
      2. Internal filter
      3. Hang-On-Back filter
      4. Canister filter
  • Starter Fish – When you add water to a new aquarium, you also need to supply some starter fish as well. The fish produce waste, which will catalyze the Nitrogen Cycle in your water. For this purpose, you can use guppies, zebra danios, or any type of small freshwater fish that you can find at a local pet store. For a 20 Gallon Long tank, we recommend adding six (6) starter fish; for a 30-40 Gallon Breeder, add eight (8).
  • Seeded Media – Seeded Media are materials that have been pre-saturated with beneficial bacteria for your water. If you have one, you can also use a seeded sponge filter from an existing cycled aquarium to achieve the same result. You can purchase seeded biological media online or at your nearest Petco, PetSmart, or fish store.
  • Bottled Nitrifying Bacteria – Adding a bottled treatment solution will provide an immediate source of healthy bacteria to your aquarium.

Instructions

  1. Fill your aquarium with conditioned tap water. You can purchase water conditioner from your local Petco, PetSmart, or fish store. To condition your aquarium’s water, simply follow the instructions on the bottle, and call us if you need assistance!
  2. Place your filter in the water, and turn it on.
  3. Add your seeded biological media and/or a pre-seeded sponge filter from an existing cycled tank.
  4. Acclimate your starter fish to the aquarium by placing the bag from the pet store directly in the aquarium without opening it, then waiting 15 minutes to allow the water temperature of the bag to equalize with the temperature in the aquarium.
  5. Remove the starter fish from the bag using a net and place them in the aquarium. Be careful not to spill any of the pet store water from the bag into your new aquarium.
  6. Add nitrifying bacteria to the aquarium water according to the instructions on the bottle.
  7. Allow your aquarium to run for at least one week, while regularly testing your water parameters to ensure they are at optimal levels. Feed your starter fish a small amount of food once per day. If things go well, they should show signs of health such as frequent movement and good appetite.
    • NOTE: If your water parameters aren’t where they need to be, you will most likely need to wait another week or two for your aquarium to stabilize. If they still aren’t right after that, it’s time to investigate what is causing your water problems. Common factors in these situations include: the size of your aquarium, the number of fish in it, the frequency of feeding, and your water change schedule can all affect your water parameters.
  8. If your starter fish are still healthy and your water parameters are in order, you are now ready to purchase your axolotl! Visit our shop page or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our experts in person!

Method 2: Fish-In Cycling

Summary:

While the Fish-In method of cycling a new tank is not as fast as the Instant cycling method, we understand that not everybody has access to seeded media for their water. The only difference with this method is that you will not need to purchase seeded media.

Materials:

For the Fish-In cycling method, you will need all the same materials as for the Instant cycling method except for seeded media.

Instructions: 

  1. Fill your aquarium with conditioned tap water. You can purchase water conditioner from your local Petco, PetSmart, or fish store. To condition your aquarium’s water, simply follow the instructions on the bottle, and call us if you need assistance!
  2. Place your filter in the water, and turn it on.
  3. Acclimate your starter fish to the aquarium by placing the bag from the pet store directly in the aquarium without opening it, then waiting 15 minutes to allow the water temperature of the bag to equalize with the temperature in the aquarium.
  4. Remove the starter fish from the bag using a net and place them in the aquarium. Be careful not to spill any of the pet store water from the bag into your new aquarium.
  5. Add your nitrifying bacteria to the aquarium water according to the instructions on the bottle.
  6. Allow your aquarium to run for at least two weeks, while regularly testing your water parameters to ensure they are at optimal levels. Feed your starter fish a small amount of food once per day. If things go well, they should show signs of health such as frequent movement and good appetite.
    • NOTE: If your water parameters aren’t where they need to be, you will most likely need to wait another week or two for your aquarium to stabilize. If they still aren’t right after that, it’s time to investigate what is causing your water problems. Common factors in these situations include: the size of your aquarium, the number of fish in it, the frequency of feeding, and your water change schedule can all affect your water parameters.
  7. If your starter fish are still healthy and your water parameters are in order, you are now ready to purchase your axolotl! Visit our shop page or schedule an appointment to meet with one of our experts in person!

Conclusion 

Getting your first axolotl is without a doubt a very exciting experience. They are extremely fun pets that can bring you more than a decade of joy when cared for properly. Once you have a properly cycled tank, you are ready to begin building the perfect habitat for your new pet. To learn more about creating the perfect environment for your axolotl, check out our article on Setting Up an Axolotl Tank.

Axolotl Planet is the world's largest breeder of the amazing species of neotenic salamander known as the Axolotl! Our focus is to raise the healthiest, strongest, most beautiful axolotls possible and bring them to pet owners across the planet.

Our long-term goal is to preserve and ultimately replenish the critically-endangered wild axolotl population to it's former glory.

Enter your email address below to get periodic updates from the Axolotl Planet team, including news, giveaways, and more!

Copyright © 2021 Axolotl Planet. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Nativz.
Read our Privacy Policy, our Terms of Service, and our DOA Policy.
crossmenu