When setting up your axolotl tank for the first time, a question you might have is...
Do Axolotls Like or Need Light?
It might be helpful to remember what an axolotl would experience if it lived in the wild.
The axolotl's native environment in Lake Xochimilco and the canals and waterways of Mexico City.
The waters are relatively shallow, which allows lots of sunlight in, but shade from aquatic and floating plants helps keep it from being too bright.
(There are also rocky areas for the axolotl to swim in to hide.)
So they are generally comfortable in moderate light, provided they have dark hides they can hang out in when they want a break from the light.
It is also important not to leave the light on all night, which can disturb their natural sleep cycles.
This is important:
Axolotls are easily startled.
As nocturnal creatures, axolotls are averse to very bright lighting.
They have small, sensitive eyes.
But for a variety of reasons, there are some reasons that you may wish to have a light on your tank.
Why Have a Light on the Tank?
With axolotls seeming to be pretty happy without light, you may wonder why bothering to have one at all on your tank?
After all, it might seem like one more unnecessary expense.
Well, there are a few reasons you may want one:
1. The Better to See them With
First, it makes viewing your axolotl much more interesting and enjoyable.
Good lighting on your aquarium helps to illuminate the view and bring out the colors.
In other words... it looks beautiful.
So, we might want to have one for our own pleasure.
2. Growing Healthy Plants
Would axolotls normally have plants in the wild?
In nature, plants would be an important part of the axolotl's natural environment.
Because much of the native habitat has been destroyed by people dumping wastewater into the canals and waterways of the axolotl's original home, it is useful to look into historical accounts to learn about the fauna and flora of their habitat in the wild.
Basically, what it was like before so much was destroyed.
"There are a few accounts which give us a glimpse of the axolotl and its habitat during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. José Velasco published a paper in 1880... he affords us some interesting glimpses of the axolotl in its native habitat. He tells us, for instance, that at that time, lakes Chalco and Xochimilco were permanent lakes and the water was of very good quality.They were largely covered by floating vegetation and many plants also grew on the bottom. The axolotls were usually found at a depth of about one and a half meters or less, [about 5 feet] and, during the night only, near the surface." - (Source)
Live plants have numerous advantages for the ecosystem of your axolotl's little world.
They can help to purify the water, as well as provide coverage and fun places for your axolotl to hang out.
When grown near the surface, they can also help provide much needed shade to the inhabitants below.
Surfaces of real aquatic plants provide lots of good microorganisms that help with the tank's stability and good bacteria that can out-compete disease-causing ones.
And, of course...
... They make the tank look more natural and beautiful.
Without proper lighting, most aquarium plants will, at best, fail to thrive.
At worst, they will die.
The right kind of lighting can also make or break your success with plants.
Some lights just aren't meant to support the needs of plants - they are just for viewing pleasure.
So, the plants like light.
The axolotl doesn't.
What are we to do?
Well, when both are considered, it actually equalizes the problem.
Plants like light and help filter it to be less bright.
Axolotls aren't as fond of light, and find protection and shade from plants.
Do you HAVE to have plants to keep an axolotl?
You can use artificial ones if you desire.
But though you don't need to worry about having a green thumb for them to be green, they are less environmentally friendly and don't have many of the benefits of real ones.
3. Natural day/night cycles
Day and night cycles are an important part of biological functions in many living things.
The axolotl is not exempt.
Changes in light duration and day/night cycles especially play an important role in the reproductive cycle of the species as well, which is something that pertains more to breeding axolotls than it does to the average hobbyist, but is still worth noting.
Which Light is Best?
In our opinion, the ideal light for an axie tank will:
- Provide full-spectrum lighting with the proper intensity for optimal plant growth
- Provide gradual adjustments to lighting
- Be able to function with or include a timer feature
- Not generate too much heat, keeping the tank's temperature from rising
The tricky part with axolotls and light we have found is they do not like it when bright artificial lights come on suddenly.
This is common with standard aquarium lights.
Such lights generally just have an on/off switch - there's no in-between.
It can be hard to find a unit that does all of the above...
We've been very impressed with the Hygger adjustable planted tank light for our axolotl setups.
It fits the bill for the ideal light.
Even if you don't grow live plants, users (and their axolotls) can appreciate the natural light cycles in gradually changing from dark to light, and from light back to dark.
The best part?
In 24/7 mode, the light turns on VERY gradually over the course of three hours in the morning, then off over the course of three hours at night, with a sunrise/sunset color effect each time.
The axolotls in our breeding colony really seem to appreciate the gradual change.
We'd encourage you to check it out and see how much it can do for such a good price.
While a light is certainly not a hard must for your lotl, it can come in useful to achieve the above purposes for which you may wish to have one.
Finding a good light can make your experience setting up and appreciating your axolotl's tank that much better.
We hope you enjoyed this article!