Keeping axolotls with other fish requires careful planning. These unique creatures are both predators and prey. Their sensitive gills are also tempting snacks for some fish.
So, choosing the right tankmates is crucial for a harmonious (and fin-tastic!) cohabitation. Because, yes, you can mix together axolotl and fish, but you have to be careful and make the right choices.
But today I am here to help you with that by sharing everything you should know about pairing axolotls and fish.
Sharing a Tank: Friend or Foe?
Axolotls have specific needs that differ from most fish, particularly in terms of water temperature and environment.
They thrive in cooler water, usually between 60-64°F (16-18°C), which is cooler than what most tropical fish prefer. Make sure to also check out the article about the Best Cold Water Plants for Freshwater Aquariums to see what options you have.
Also, axolotls are known to be somewhat clumsy eaters, which can lead to competition and stress if fish decide to snatch their meals.
Therefore, even a great pair for an axolotl will require you to have a pretty large aquarium (100 liters or 25 gallon and above), that is not overly populated.
Related reading: Best Algae Eaters for Freshwater Aquariums.
What Makes a Good or Bad Tankmate for Axolotl?
Here is what you should have in mind when it comes to choosing tankmates for your Axolotl.
- Chill and peaceful: Opt for fish that won’t nip at your axolotl’s gills or fins. Think white cloud mountain minnows, zebra danios, or guppies.
- Similar water needs: Keep a cool temperature in mind (around 64°F), as both axolotls and these fish have to thrive in cooler water.
- Large enough: Ensure they’re too big to be swallowed by your axolotl, but ideally not bottom feeders as they will then compete for food.
- Nippy or aggressive: Avoid fish known for fin nipping. They’ll stress your axolotl and damage its delicate gills.
- Warm-water lovers: Tropical fish like bettas or angelfish need warmer temperatures, clashing with your axolotl’s needs.
- Bottom feeders: Don’t add corydoras catfish or even shrimp. Axolotls might see them as a tasty snack!
Now, with all these in mind, let’s check out some examples of the best fish and livestock to pair with axolotl, as well as the worst options you have.
Best Axolotl Tankmates
- White Cloud Mountain Minnows: Peaceful, small, and cold-water loving.
- Zebra Danios: Active and lively, adding a touch of fun to the tank.
- Guppies: Colorful and easy to care for, but keep an eye on their playful nipping – if it becomes a problem, they must be moved away.
- Dojo Loaches: Bottom dwellers that won’t bother your axolotl and help clean the tank.
- Apple Snails: Scavenge for leftover food and add a touch of whimsy.
- Other Axolotl: you can definitely hold multiple axolotls in the same tank, as long as it is large enough.
Worst Axolotl Tankmates
- Goldfish: Often thought of as cold water companions, they’re actually quite messy and can grow too large, plus they can become aggressive.
- Betta Fish: Their need for warmer water and aggressive nature make them unsuitable.
- Cichlids: Known for their territorial behavior, they’re a definite no for axolotl tanks.
- Neon Tetras: While small and peaceful, their requirement for warmer water and small size make them risky.
- Plecostomus: Although they prefer cooler water, their size and potential to suck on the axolotl’s slime coat make them bad tankmates.
Signs of Stress or Incompatibility in the Aquarium
Monitoring the behavior and health of axolotls and fish is crucial for detecting stress or incompatibility issues early. This is crucial especially in the first few days after introducing new tankmates.
Here are signs to watch for – and look at both your axolotl and the recently introduced livestock:
- Lethargy: If axolotls or fish are less active than usual, it may indicate stress or discomfort in their environment. (Read more on Why Are Fish More Active with Light Turned Off)
- Loss of Appetite: A sudden decrease in appetite is usually a sign of stress or illness.
- Physical Damage: Look for signs of fin nipping, scratches, or bites on the axolotls’ gills and body, or on the fish. Such damage often results from aggressive interactions and can lead to infections. If these signs appear, you should separate the fish and axolotl ASAP!
- Gill Flaring: Axolotls might flare their gills more than usual when stressed or feeling threatened, indicating discomfort with current tankmates.
- Erratic Swimming: Fish swimming erratically or darting around the tank can be a sign of stress, too.
- Changes in Coloration: Both axolotls and fish may exhibit color changes when stressed. Fish might lose their vibrant colors, becoming paler, while axolotls may show less brightness in their skin tone.
- Frequent Hiding: While some hiding is normal, excessive hiding by either axolotls or fish suggests they feel threatened or stressed by the presence of certain tankmates.
While you can have both axolotl and fish in the same aquarium, most tropical fish out there – and even those that thrive in cold water – are still not good choices, due to their aggressive behavior.
Choose compatible fish, maintain good water quality, and monitor the interactions closely – especially at first, to make sure that both the fish or other tankmates, as well as the axolotls are safe.
You can continue learning about aquariums by reading my previous article detailing how to create hiding spots in an aquarium.
Have you ever paired axolotls with other fish not mentioned in this article – and did so successfully? Let us all know about your experience by commenting below.