Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Which Aquarium Filter is Best for Axolotls?



Axolotls are one of the cutest but messiest animals I’ve ever kept in an aquarium, which means you need really good filtration to keep their water clean. But axolotls also get stressed out by strong currents, so what is the best filter to use?

Filtration Basics 101

So just in case you’re new to keeping aquariums, let me quickly cover the 3 basic types of filtration.
  • Mechanical filtration is like a coffee filter, but you use a sponge or filter pad to strain out any debris in the water.
  • Biological filtration refers to beneficial bacteria or live aquarium plants, anything that can consume the toxic ammonia and nitrogen compounds that come from axolotl waste. “Biological media” refers to bio rings, porous rock, and other stuff the beneficial bacteria can grow on.
  • Chemical filtration, such as activated carbon or Purigen resin, isn’t necessary but can be used to remove medications or other impurities from the water.

Top 3 Filters for Axolotls

Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics of aquarium filtration, what exactly do axolotls require? Because they produce so much waste, they need really good filtration. However, bigger, more powerful filters usually have very strong flow, which axolotls hate. Too much current can cause your axolotl to get stressed or even sick!

The trick is to get just enough water turnover in your tank so that you don’t have any stagnant areas for debris to collect. And you also want enough biological filtration to consume the ammonia and nitrogen coming from the axolotl’s waste. So here are the top 3 filters most commonly used with axolotls:

Sponge filter for axolotl tanks

Sponge Filter: Cheap and Easy

A lot of axolotl owners swear by the sponge filter, which I can understand because it’s cheap, won’t break down on ya, is very reliable, has very gentle flow, and provides both mechanical and biological filtration. I would say the cons are: it takes up a lot of room in your tank (since you’ll need a larger sized sponge or even two sponges to handle an axolotl), it won’t pick up the smaller particles in the water, and you’ll have to clean the sponge very regularly to remove all the waste it collects or else it’ll clog up.

Hang-on-back (HOB) Filter: Versatile and Reliable

AquaClear HOB filter for fish tanks
HOB filters like the AquaClear series are probably my top vote for a beginner axolotl keeper who is just getting into the aquarium hobby. You can completely customize the media compartment with anything you want – sponges, bio rings, activated carbon, you name it. And they’re really easy to clean because most of the filter is outside the aquarium, and all you have to do is remove the filter media, swish it around in some tank water, and put it back!

The AquaClear filter has an adjustable flow rate so you can set the current to all-the-way slow. If you want it even slower, you can put some decoration right underneath the waterfall output area or even attach a DIY baffle using a plastic soap dish or sponge like some betta fish owners like to do.

Fluval canister filter for fish tanks

Canister Filter: Powerful and Pricey

On the good/better/best scale, most people think canister filters are king. They’re a lot more powerful, they’re customizable like the AquaClear, and you can baffle the outflow using a spray bar. Plus, they’re super silent like a ninja. The only downsides are they’re usually more expensive if you get a good, UL-rated one, and they can be a little more hassle to clean than a hang-on-back filter.

Bonus Tip: Don’t be afraid to add some fast-growing beginner plants, because they can suck up ammonia and nitrogen like nobody’s business! Now you will have to account for lower temperatures and lower light, but people have had luck with anubias, java fern, java moss, aquarium lilies, and floating plants. And if you want to try an easy plant that grows outside the tank, stick the roots of a pothos plant into your HOB filter, and it will work wonders for your water quality.

There are a ton of other filters I didn’t cover, like under-gravel filters, sumps, UV filtration, etc. so do your research and I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you. Question of the day: what filter do you like best for axolotls and why? Comment below to share your experiences with the axolotl community. Take time to enjoy your aquariums, and I'll see you next time!

Related Links
Axolotl Care Guide
The Best Filters for Axolotls and Other Amphibians
Housing Axolotls in Captivity


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