“What size tank do I need for my axolotl?”

It’s a question that comes up frequently.

And a good one 🙂

But the problem is…

… The answers are all over the map.

You may have heard any of these answers thrown around:

  • 10 gallons for 2 axolotls
  • 10 gallons per axolotl
  • 15 gallons per axolotl
  • 20 gallons for the first axolotl and 10 gallons for each additional
  • 20 gallons per axolotl
  • 20 gallons minimum water volume + 200 square inches of floor space for the first axolotl + 10 gallons + 200 square inches for every additional axolotl
  • 40 gallons for one axolotl
  • 55 gallons for two axolotls
  • The biggest tank you can afford

Yikes!

Well, no wonder this can be a confusing topic.

Today I want to help clear things up and look at things from a scientific and logical perspective.

What is the Minimum Tank Size for an Axolotl?

I’m not going to immediately give you a hard and fast rule.

Even the word “rule” implies that breaking that rule will always result in disaster.

(Of course, as you can see from the section above, there are many conflicting rules already that all give different numbers, which is confusing and reveals there is no scientific basis to the numbers, because science is based on actual data.)

In the case of axolotl tank size, this isn’t always the case.

So it’s not just a simple calculator equation.

Why?

It depends too much on a variety of factors, such as…

  • Filtration
  • Water change routine
  • Substrate type and care
  • Whether or not you have live plants
  • Feeding amount, type and frequency
  • How efficient your ecosystem is at nutrient recycling
  • How big your specific axolotl will actually grow

See:

Broad-brush answers don’t take into account all of the factors above.

Depending on your situation, you may need a bigger tank than what is commonly recommended to keep your axolotls healthy and happy.

Or, you could be fine with higher stocking ratios.

Again, it really depends.

With that out of the way:

If you want a suggestion…

… And it’s a suggestion, not a law…

… A minimum of 10 gallons of water for one adult axolotl is commonly recommended, or 20 gallons of water for one or two adults.

So, 10-20 gallons per axolotl is a number you can keep in mind.

These guidelines are typically generous enough to allow most full grown axolotls to live their full life comfortably, without being excessive.

Now:

You can also go bigger than what is advised just to be on the safe side if you want.

There is no limit on how big of a tank you are allowed to have.

(Hypothetically speaking, anyway.)

It’s your tank, and your rules.

More water volume will give you more flexibility when it comes to stocking and maintaining your aquarium.

But you don’t have to have a swimming pool to be a good axolotl owner either 😉

Now:

A word on the size of the axolotl itself…

Not all axolotls will grow to be huge.

There are axolotls that are dwarfs, and axolotls that are minis.

Because they do not reach their full size potential, they do not need as much room as the average axolotl to feel comfortable.

There are also some axolotls that grow to be quite massive, above the average length.

So these ones may need more space than the average lotl.

Some people wait to upgrade as the animal gets bigger, which isn’t a bad thing.

Granted, it can be more expensive doing it this way, if you are buying new tanks each time, but a lot of people use more inexpensive plastic totes and such until they can invest in their final real aquarium.

So this can be taken into consideration when picking out your axolotl aquarium.

Also:

It’s okay if you don’t start out with full capacity right away, especially if you have a baby axolotl that still has a ways to go.

Read More: How Big do Axolotls Get?

Best Size Tank for a Baby Axolotl

Baby axolotls usually do not follow the same guidelines as adults when it comes to stocking your axolotl aquarium.

Why?

For one thing…

A baby axolotl that is only a few inches long will pretty much disappear in a 20 gallon tank.

It can also be more difficult to feed them when they are so tiny (and babies need more frequent feedings).

So having a smaller tank or tub for the baby can make life easier until they get big enough to hold its own in their aquarium.

Keep in mind:

A baby axolotl does grow quite quickly – approximately an inch a month until they reach 8 months – so you may find that you will need a full size aquarium sooner than you thought.

But they can do just fine for a time in an “undersized” environment.

Some people also make use of a breeder box to contain their baby until it is big enough to go in the main tank.

This can also be useful if you want your small one to catch up to a larger one.

Things to Consider When Choosing Your Tank Size

When it comes to picking out the tank size that’s right for you, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Maintenance

Having a larger tank can help you go longer in between water changes.

So if you are the kind of person who lives a busy life and is looking for ways to reduce the amount of time it takes to service the aquarium, a bigger tank may be a better fit for you.

This is because the larger water volume helps dilute the toxins and waste byproducts produced by the animal and the biological filter.

In most cases, this will be nitrate buildup.

In general, smaller tanks require more frequent attention.

Now, it should be noted that all of what I said above depends heavily on the factors talked about at the beginning of this post.

Simply changing one of those factors can actually flip the situation.

For example:

You may get a tank that is quite large, but if your filtration is weak or nonexistent, maintaining that large tank may be MORE work than maintaining a smaller tank with a really good, powerful filter.

So, it isn’t always the case that larger tanks are less work, but in general it is a plus for reducing maintenance.

2. Floor space

It’s true:

Axolotls spend a lot of time walking or standing in one spot – not usually as much swimming.

For that reason, having a tank with more floor space will allow them more room to walk around, meaning not as tall.

(After all, they are called the Mexican walking fish for a reason!)

There are even some aquariums called lowboys that are much shallower and wider than regular fish tanks, which can make good homes for your axie.

But if for some reason you aren’t able to get an aquarium that has as much floor space, there are ways to make up for this to some degree with decorations.

Providing fun things to crawl on like hides, hammocks, large rocks and other objects converts more of the height space into walking space.

In fact:

This may be more interesting for the animal than simply further to walk on a plain, flat surface.

So you can often make use of what you have and just be creative 🙂

Final Thoughts

I hope this post helped you understand why axolotl tank size isn’t always a one-size-fits-all answer.

But there are useful guidelines you can follow that can get you started in the right direction.

Thanks for stopping by and reading through this post 🙂