One concern most new pet owners have at some point is this:
"Will an axolotl stink?"
"Will my house smell like a dead fish... sewage... or something worse?"
Today I want to help you learn if that is the case or not.
Do Axolotls Smell Bad?
In a properly maintained tank with a healthy animal, the answer is almost always a resounding NO.
Axolotls themselves do not smell bad.
To test this, owners have tried removing their animal from the water and giving them a sniff.
They report that they smell like... nothing.
Whereas dogs and cats can do a number on the aromatic atmosphere of your house, axolotls are one of the most scent-free pets you can have, when their environment is properly maintained.
(And unlike some residents of your house - they don't have smelly gas or morning breath.)
Axolotls, like other aquarium inhabitants such as fish or invertebrates, do create waste in the tank.
The good news is unless this is allowed to accumulate through neglect of regular maintenance of the aquarium, it should not result in an unpleasant aroma.
Identifying that Weird Tank Smell
If your fish tank stinks, it is may be due to several causes.
The type of smell can help point you to what it is that needs to be cleaned.
Yes, in most cases, something needs to be cleaned when your axolotl tank stinks.
- Hydrogen sulfide buildup gives a characteristic "rotten egg" stench. Some people are reminded of a pond. It can be a result of decaying food and waste building up in deep sand or gravel. Freshly submerged soil can also give this smell off as a sign of the presence of anaerobic bacteria. The solution is to perform a vacuum and reduce the depth of the substrate if necessary. Adding some invertebrates like shrimp or snails can help aid in the breakdown of organic matter and prevent the stinky rotten egg smell from developing. The roots of live plants can also help to penetrate in the substrate, aerating it and preventing gross spots from building up.
- Stinky dead fish smell can be the result of uneaten food decaying in the tank, or in rarer cases an actual dead fish. A dead snail is also often a source for stench. Dead snails generally smell much worse after being removed from the water in my experience. It is probably the worse smell you will ever smell in your entire life. If you have a sensitive stomach do not smell a dead snail - have someone else smell it for you, such as a loved one ??
- Rotting plants can result in a yucky off-smell. If you don't have a green thumb, all your new expensive plants may have turned into a soupy rotting mess. (Actually, this is pretty uncommon for a stinky tank as it takes a lot to turn all your plants into mush.)
- Seachem Prime water conditioner is notorious for having a sulfur smell that is repulsive to many nostrils. We do not know what are the exact ingredients in it, but it appears to have some kind of sulfur salts that have a very strong odor. It's a good water conditioner that is very useful, but I like opening the windows when I use this. It is also a good idea to wash the outside of the bottle to remove the crystals that may form from the dried leaked product.
- Gross filters that are behind maintenance can get quite nasty. Some filters require more frequent servicing than others and will make you suffer if you don't tend to them on schedule. Sludge and gunk that is trapped by the filter particles can get rotten and yucky. Every week or so it is a good idea to clean them out using old tank water (not tap water or hot water of any kind). Please don't cave in to the temptation to use bleach or other cleaning agents on your filter - you need the bacteria in them, just not all the mulm.
- Waste buildup should be removed periodically. If left to accumulate, it becomes a source for a bad smell. When your axolotl goes to the bathroom, you can use a turkey baster to perform spot cleaning and help the tank go longer between water changes. Leaving the waste in the tank can result in many cases in a buildup of organic matter in the water, which can increase the risk of your axolotl becoming sick with a bacterial or fungal infection. In most cases, a weekly vacuuming of the bottom of the tank will suffice.
When in doubt, doing a water change can go a long way to remove unwanted smells from the axolotl tank. Going from there, you can focus on not forgetting to do your maintenance in an effort to prevent the tank from smelling bad. Prevention is often the best remedy to maintaining a clean, disease free and odor free aquarium that becomes a beautiful, rather than repulsive, aspect of your home.
It can take a bit of detective work to figure out why your axolotl tank smells bad, but with a bit of elbow grease most smells are easy to reverse.
And with proper maintenance, they are entirely preventable.
So next time you wonder why your fish room smells funky, my suggestion is to clean that filter, perform a substrate/tank bottom vacuum and water change and you should be back in business.
Thanks for reading!