Axolotls Easy Axolotl Tank Cycling Guide!

Cycling a tank is very important and crucial to the health of your new little aquatic friend. In a closed environment, waste produced by the axolotls will become ammonia over time, which can cause ammonia burn and will eventually be fatal. In order to prevent this, a cycled tank is extremely necessary. We have provided a step-by-step guide below. For these instructions, we will be using Dr. Tim’s Ammonium Chloride Solution and API Freshwater Master Test Kit. You can pick both of these up here: and

Want to speed up cycling your tank? 

FritzZyme 7 Nitrifying Bacteria for Fresh Water Aquariums
 Fritz Aquatics 80209 FritzZyme 7 Nitrifying Bacteria for Fresh Water Aquariums, 16-Ounce

Rapidly Eliminates Toxic Ammonia and Nitrite. Allows for Safe and Immediate Introduction of Livestock. Establishes and Maintains a Healthy Biofilter.

Kordon #37344 Methlyne Blue- General Disease Prevention Treatment:

      If you have added your axolotl WITHOUT completely cycling your tank and is suffering from ammonia burn please order this product and start treatment IMMEDIATELY.

   Methylene blue is effective against superficial fungal infections of fishes and axolotls. Used as a general treatment for sicknesses such as nitrate poisoning and ammonia. Always separate axolotl into a separate tub while it is being treated. The drug may be used as an alternative to malachite green for the control of fungus.

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DISCLAIMER: Do NOT try to cycle a tank with a live axolotl inside of the tank. We do not recommend this because it poses a serious risk of death for the axolotl.

What is a cycled tank?

A cycled tank means there’s a good amount of beneficial bacteria present in your filter, whether it’s a hang-on-back filter or a canister filter, that will consume ammonia and convert it to nitrites. Another group of bacteria will now consume nitrites and turn them into nitrates. Nitrates are the final product of this cycle, and far less toxic than ammonia and nitrites. In a fully-cycled tank, ammonia and nitrites levels should be 0, and nitrates are the only thing you need to worry about because the nitrifying bacteria that has been cultivated over time will keep all water parameters safe for your axolotl.

Cycle Summary: Ammonia ➡ Nitrites ➡ Nitrates

How do I start cycling my tank?

To start the cycling process, we recommend purchasing an API test kit and Dr. Tim’s Ammonium Chloride. Depending on the size of your tank, the amount of ammonia needed will change accordingly, but the rule is to start off with 2-3ppm of ammonia in the tank water (which you can check by using the API test kit). Remember to set up your filter before you start the cycling process because it’s where all the beneficial bacteria will be housed.

First Stage

The first stage of the cycling process will go rather slowly. Start by adding 2-3ppm of ammonia chloride solution bottle in the tank water. Test the water using the API test kit by adding 8 drops each of the Ammonia Test Solution Bottle #1 and #2 to make sure ammonia levels are at 2-3ppm (For further instructions, follow the guide book in the test kit itself). You’ll most likely not see any changes in the ammonia levels within the first week or 2. Test the ammonia levels every 3 days or so to see if ammonia has gone down or not. If at any time you see ammonia decrease at any level, move on to testing the nitrate levels. Before this point, nitrites should’ve been 0, but if you see traces of nitrites, it means that the first colony of nitrifying bacteria has developed and converted some ammonia to nitrites, and we can move on to the second stage of the cycling process.

First Stage Summary: ⬆Ammonia 0 Nitrites 0 Nitrates

Second Stage

From this point on, keep ammonia levels at 2-3ppm by feeding your tank with ammonia daily to make sure your bacteria have a constant source of food, but be careful not to have any more than 3ppm of ammonia at all times or it might slow down or completely stop the cycle. You’ll see ammonia levels decreasing and nitrite levels increasing everyday. This is a good thing. It might take a few more weeks for nitrites to go down, but when it does, it’ll be almost overnight. When you see nitrite levels go down, test nitrates to see what level it is at. If you see traces of nitrates, it means that you’re moving on to the last and final stage of the cycling process.

Second Stage Summary: ⬇Ammonia ⬆ Nitrites 0 Nitrates

Final Stage

In this final stage, just keep the ammonia level at 2-3ppm by feeding the tank with Dr. Tim’s ammonium chloride solution every day, and test all 3 parameters daily. When you see ammonia and nitrites being completely consumed within 24hrs (meaning if ammonia and nitrites become 0 the very next day), then it means your tank is cycled and you can now welcome your axolotls into their new home! Just do a 70% water change to bring nitrates down before putting the axolotl in (because it’s probably sky high right now). In a cycled tank, ammonia and nitrites should always be 0, and nitrates should be kept below 40ppm. The only way to get rid of nitrates is by doing water changes, but it can easily be managed by doing 25% water change weekly! We hope that this helps a lot of you prepare yours forever home for your axolotls! 

Final Stage Summary: 0 Ammonia 0 Nitrites ⬆ Nitrates (<40ppm)

More information about Axolotl ownership can be found below! 😊

Live Axolotl Care Guide

Basic Axolotl Starter Equipment List:

Ready to become an Axolotl parent? Click below to see the axolotl babies we have available!