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The Pet Directory Aquarium Article - Caring For Your Axolotl

Caring For your Axolotl article supplied by
Dr Alex Rosenwax BVSC MACVSc ( Avian Health)
Bird and Exotic Veterinarian Green Square - Waterloo

As published in The Pet Directory NSW & ACT Edition

The majority of all common health problems are related directly or indirectly to tank or pond conditions. These include poor maintenance of water quality, inadequate frequency and volume of water changes, inadequate quarantine of axolotls and plants, overfeeding, and misuse of chemical medications.


Water Quality
1. House in freshwater between 15o-20oC with non-iodinised salt (eg rock or sea salt) added at a concentration of ½ to 1 gram/litre of water.

2. Amphibians may be more toleratant of nitrates but nitrates lead to bacterial and fungal infections and are mainly removed in tanks by doing 15-20% water changes per week- as aquariums dont have enough plants to utilise the nitrates especially since axolotls dont usually allow plants to survive in their tanks
Use a low flow filter, preferably external, and a gentle flow air stone.

3. Over cleaning filters, tank accessories and the sides of the tank removes beneficial bacteria. Lightly scrape with an algae scraper and gently rinse in old aquarium water.

Axolotls are very sensitive to aerosol sprays and tobacco smoke.

4. A source of ultraviolet light, either through exposure to unfiltered, natural sunlight, or an artificial UV light, is necessary to help prevent Vitamin D deficiency and skin and bone disorders. Remember to replace the light regularly (every 6-12 months) as it will lose strength, even though the light still works.


Feeding
1. Never overfeed your axolotl. Uneaten food will spoil and increase the amount of faeces produced leading to a high bacterial load and poor water quality.
2. Feed small amounts once to twice daily. Only give as much food as can be consumed within a few minutes.
3. Axolotls should be fed a balanced selection of bloodworms, mealworms, shrimps, small whole fish (cut into pieces) and crickets.
4. Axolotls will eat anything that looks like food so avoid using small rocks and gravel in your tank.
5. The pellets available in Australia are generally of unknown quality and should only provide 10-15% of your axolotl’s total diet.


Quarantine:
1. A minimum quarantine period of 4 weeks is recommended for new axolotls.
2. Plants may also carry disease in the form of parasites and should be quarantined separately from axolotls for a similar period of time.


Health Care:
1. Worm every 6 months.
2. Book a yearly health check to check faeces and detect general health problems eg parasite infestations and bacterial infections.
3. Annual blood screening &/or bacterial cultures are recommended for certain pet axolotls.
4. One very common problem is “new pond syndrome”. Ammonia, produced as a waste product by amphibians, is normally utilised as an energy source by bacteria found in the water and on the surface of filters. In this process it is converted to nitrite which, if allowed to accumulate in the tank, is toxic to amphibians. In an established tank, other bacteria convert the potentially harmful nitrite into nitrate, which is tolerated by most amphibians or is taken up by plants. New tanks and ponds require several weeks for this bacterial population to become established and during this time high levels of all these products can occur.

Consequently, new tanks and ponds must not be overstocked and numbers should be built up gradually.

The same problem can still occur in established tanks if the bacterial population is depleted through water changes of greater than 20-30%, filters are over cleaned, or the stocking density of the tank is too great. Routine monitoring of water quality in terms of pH and the levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate is therefore essential. A variety of home test kits are available and are generally quick and easy to use.


Photos supplied by Aquarium Industries Pty Ltd
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