I think it’s fair to say that owning an axolotl comes with a list and range of responsibilities. You likely already know that you will need to provide them with a suitable enclosure and food, and as aquatic amphibians, they live their captive lives in water. But how do they remain hydrated? Does an axolotl drink the water it lives in, or have any special water requirements? In this article, we are going to explore everything you are going to need to know and consider regarding their water needs.
So, do axolotls drink water? Axolotls don’t drink water the way that people and many other animals do. Instead, axolotls live almost entirely underwater and absorb the water their body needs through their skin. This makes them very sensitive to the water around them and makes providing the proper aquarium water a critical task for axolotl owners.
Essentially, the water you keep your axolotl in is crucial.
Not only does it need to be adequately clean (from debris), but it also needs to be at the right temperature and at the right chemical balance and consistency, too.
It can be pretty overwhelming to ensure it is optimal.
But thankfully, there is equipment out there like filters, thermometers, and chemical testing strips for that.
But more on that later.
First, let’s continue to explore the amazing ability of an axolotl to acquire the water they need for their essential life functions.
How Do Axolotls Get Water?
Axolotls, along with other amphibians, absorb most of the water they need through their skin! Because axolotls live nearly their entire life in water, this means that their water needs are met by the same water that they live in day in and day out. As axolotl owners, we can take care of their health simply by giving them the right water for living in.
Axolotls have sensitive and very important skin that does more than just protect the amphibian from harm.
The skin of an axolotl helps it to absorb oxygen from the water it lives in and allows water to pass, as needed, through to the axolotl’s body.
Axolotls also take in nutrients from the water they live in through their skin.
Axolotls and other amphibians are often considered to be “indicator species” in natural habitats because they are very sensitive to changes in the water quality in places where they live.
A sudden decline in the presence of amphibians in an area can be a sign to scientists that the water has changed or may not be healthy.
For this reason, making sure that the water in which an axolotl lives is well suited to meet their needs is very important.
As an axolotl owner, it is smart to educate yourself on what types of water you should provide for your axolotl to dwell in, as we shall now explore in the next section.
What Kind Of Water Do Axolotls Need?
Axolotls need water that has a mix of salt and minerals without a ton of added chemicals. Water that is not overly acidic or wide-ranging in its pH level is also important. In a perfect world, an axolotl would live in cool, brackish water (fresh water with a bit of salt) with a pH between 7.4 – 7.6 reading.
Before using well water, make sure to have the water’s mineral content and pH levels tested.
If the pH level of the water is unbalanced, it can be harmful to your axolotl. The pH of a water sample can be tested at home with special test strips.
These are the ones I buy from Amazon; they’re great value and incredibly accurate!
It may surprise you that one of the best types of water for an axolotl is store-bought bottled water.
This water is typically collected from fresh water springs or rivers before being treated and then has certain salts and minerals placed back into the water.
The careful balance of fresh water, minerals, and low chemical levels make bottled water a good option for housing axolotls.
Be certain to read the label of any bottled water you plan to use in your aquarium to make sure you are using water that contains vitamins and minerals but does not include carbonation, flavoring, or other unnatural chemicals.
Waters To Avoid
Waters that should be avoided if possible are rural well water and distilled water.
Distilled water is not a healthy choice for your axolotl.
This water is strongly purified and tastes good to people who drink it, but it does not contain any of the vitamins and minerals your axolotl needs to get from the water it lives in.
Without a healthy amount of vitamins and minerals to absorb through their skin, your axolotl may not thrive.
Otherwise, if your well water is too high in certain minerals such as iron, your axolotl could have health difficulties.
Many times local water facilities will test water samples for a small fee to let you know the mineral and chemical makeup of water drawn from a well or other local source.
Water that is high in iron needs to be aerated through the use of a bubbler or other aquarium air device and be checked regularly for safe mineral levels.
Can Axolotls Survive In Tap Water?
Axolotls can typically survive in tap water, so long as you take a few precautionary steps, such as checking it for chlorine and other chemicals (and clearing them should they be too high). You’ll also need to optimize the temperature of tap water prior to use.
If you’re like me, you can’t really imagine filling your entire aquarium with bottled water after every major cleaning.
The good news is that you can usually use tap water in your axolotl’s tank.
Optimize For Chemicals
The important thing to remember with tap water is that it often has higher levels of chemicals such as chlorine than your axolotl will find safe for living in.
For this reason, if you use tap water, you will need to buy chlorine clearing conditioner. This is the kind of thing you need to buy from Amazon.
These drops help clear chlorine and other chemicals out of your water, making it safer for your axolotl.
The number of drops needed may vary by brand and will also depend on the amount of water being treated.
Be sure to know how much water you are adding to your aquarium and read the dosing guide for your specific drops of choice.
Optimize For Temperature
Another important consideration for using tap water is temperature.
When changing out portions of your aquarium’s water, you want to be certain not to add water that is too warm.
Axolotls prefer water temperatures in the mid-60s Fahrenheit.
Water that is too hot can cause your axolotl stress, make them unlikely to eat, or even cause death.
Always check the temperature of the water you are adding to your aquarium from the tap.
How Much Water Does An Axolotl Need?
Axolotls need at least 10 gallons of quality water (each) in order to thrive. But while 10 gallons is enough water to support an axolotl, a 20-gallon tank is suggested for most owners because it will be easier to keep clean and well balanced for longer periods of time.
By aquatic animal standards, axolotls create a lot of waste.
This means that the ammonia and nitrate levels in their water can fluctuate quickly in small tank environments.
High levels of waste mean a high chance for axolotl illness.
If you have your axolotl in a basic 10-gallon tank, be prepared to make very frequent water changes.
By increasing your tank size to a 20-gallon tank, you are giving yourself some more wiggle room with waste buildup and will be able to spend more time viewing your axolotl and less time switching out water.
You can have more than one axolotl living in the same tank (it isn’t necessary, though), but for each axolotl you add, you will want to increase the total water amount by 10 gallons.
So, if you are housing two axolotls together, the recommendation is for 30 gallons of water.
This ensures that your axolotls have plenty of personal space to grow and thrive.
Even if your axolotls choose to spend time close together, the option to spread out should be given to them.
How Often Do Axolotls Need Water Changes?
The frequency with which you must change the water in your axolotl’s aquarium depends on the size of your aquarium and the number of axolotls you have. With one aquarium and a 10-gallon tank, you will want to consider doing weekly changes of about 25% of the tank’s water. If you opt for a larger tank (assuming you don’t add any more axolotls), you can lengthen the time between water changes in relation to the size of your tank. When setting a schedule for water changes, it is better to change the water ‘too often’ as opposed to not enough.
Waste material and other chemical buildup in your axolotl’s water is very bad for its health.
The main reason for changing out tank water is to lower the waste toxins in the tank’s water.
A very basic and small tank will need frequent changes – about once a week – of at least 25% of the tank’s water.
Once a month, you should plan on a larger change of 50% or more of the tank’s water to help clear out waste products.
If you want to spend less time cleaning out your axolotl’s tank, you will want to make sure your tank has a strong filter system.
The filter system will run water through and help to maintain water quality between changes.
You can also increase the size of your tank.
A larger tank has more water to help offset the concentration of waste products and can go a bit longer without needing a full water change.
If you have more than one axolotl in a tank, it will need more frequent water changes.
With more amphibians comes more waste.
Instead of doing 25% water changes, it would be smart to go ahead and do frequent 50% changes.
It is important to remember to test the chemicals of your water and dechlorinate any tap water used in water changes each time you add water to your tank.
It is not advised to drain 100% of your axolotl’s water.
This is because, along with bacteria that need to be removed when we clean, the axolotl’s environment will also develop certain good bacteria that we want to maintain.
By leaving behind some water, we help the good bacteria to stay in the aquarium environment to support our axolotl’s wellbeing.
Providing an axolotl with the right water is the number one thing we can do for their health and happiness.
Proper water provides oxygen, nutrients, and a relaxing living environment.
By making sure they have at least 10 gallons of clean, chemical-free non-distilled water, we are ensuring our axolotl’s needs are covered and ensuring they can thrive and reach or surpass their life expectancy in our care
Interested in learning more about axolotls? Then my other guides may be of interest:
- Do Axolotls Make Noise?
- Do Axolotls Move A Lot?
- Do Axolotls Like Light?
- Do Axolotls Glow In The Dark?
- Do Axolotls Lay Eggs?
- Do Axolotls Sleep?
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.