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Axolotl Science 🧪

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I’ve always been interested in animal science. In high school I took several science classes including a  marine biology class. Keeping aquarium pets requires knowledge of biology, chemistry and ecology. I always hated the chemistry part.

Our aquarium has always been fairly easy to maintain but now that I have Axolotls they are a little more work keeping a balanced ecosystem.

I had been doing well, doing a water test every 3-5 days or so. Well last week I noticed my Axolotls were acting off. Thing 1 is usually a bit shy but Thing 2 was sluggish and hiding. I offered worms and they weren’t interested. I did a water test and there was a nitrate spike.

I was suspicious because my ammonia levels were just slighty off and the nitrites were fine. I tubbed the axolotls and did a 75% water change. Tested 24 hours later and no difference. Did a 50% water change and still 24 hours later no difference. The nitrate levels were high, but  amonia and nitrite were perfect. Out of curiosity  I tested the tap water and it had higher nitrate levels.  So the water change I did a few days before the spike may have contributed to the nitrate spike. I was adding nitrates from the tap water, even with dosing with prime. But we had a water main break a few weeks ago and I’m wondering if it has to do with the nitrate spike.

I did a 50% water change with spring water. Tested 12 hours later and again at 24 hours and levels were normal. I put the very stressed axolotls in their tank and tested 12 and 24 and 36 hours later with no changes. I think we fixed the issue, This is today’s water test

Amonia is extremely toxic to any creature, and any trace of it in your aquarium is dangerous. Nitrites break down the amonia but are also dangerous to your creatures, so again, trace amounts can be harmful. Nitrites are then converted into Nitrates. A low level of Nitrates is normal, but a spike in Nitrates can be harmful and even deadly.

Internet photo

Unfortunately one of the dangers of high nitrate, even short term, is damage to their gills. You can see they aren’t so fluffy right now. When aquatic fish and animals are subject to nitrate poisoning or shock it affects the oxygen levels in their blood. Basically suffocates them, by limiting the amount of oxygen their body’s are circulating. Thankfully I caught it quickly and they are ok.

We saw this the last two years in our pond when the algae blooms. It happens with no warning and pretty much overnight after the first really warm spring day. The first year we woke up to around 5 dozen dead fish floating in the pond. We were concerned and did some research and discovered why. We did what we could to prevent it the second year but we still had probably 30 fish die when the algae bloomed. We are hopping for less this spring.

I’ve ordered some Indian Almond Leaf for the axolotls which will help them heal. It can take a few days to a few weeks to be back to normal. I’ll be happy when they are fully recovered.

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