Can Axolotls Live with Fish? (Best Axolotl Tankmates Guide)

Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: June 7, 2024
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Axolotls, recognized for their distinctive appearances and delightful expressions, make an uncommon and visually attractive option for a pet.

One of the most fun things about creating an axolotl tank is deciding which other freshwater creatures you want to add as potential tank mates.

While there are plenty of good tank mates out there, there are also several species of incompatible fish.

Ever asked the question of “Can axolotls live with fish?” read on for the answer to this and many other questions about these fascinating animals.

Article Summary

  • Axolotls can live with other fish but may attempt to eat them if hungry, so compatibility is essential.
  • Good tank mates for axolotls include other axolotls, certain freshwater shrimp, minnows, guppies, and certain snails.
  • Aggressive, territorial, and warm-water fish, as well as those with protruding features, should be avoided as tank mates.

Some Axolotl Background

Leucistic Axolotl
Leucistic Axolotl

Before we find their ideal tank mates, let’s get to know the axolotls first.

Originating in the warm water caves of Mexico, the Axolotl is also known as Ambystoma mexicanum or the Mexican Walking Fish.

Despite this name, the axolotl is not a freshwater fish at all but rather an amphibian most closely related to the salamander family.

In place of dorsal and pectoral fins, these amphibians have fully functional arms and legs that they use to move about on the bottom, along with a broad flat tail used for propulsion and steering.

While they may appear cartoonish and move slowly at first, axolotls can move quite fast when in search of prey or avoiding aggressive behavior.

Axolotls in the wild are critically endangered, leading to a slowing in the aquarium trade. Keeping axolotls for aquarists and stores is probably the main way that many people will be able to see these beautiful creatures.


Unlike most other salamanders, juvenile axolotls never undergo the full transformation required to live on land and remain in the water for their entire lives.

Axolotls are referred to as paedomorphic because they retain their characteristic gills through their entire lives, from the larval stage through being juvenile axolotls and into adulthood.


The retention of these adolescent traits throughout their lifespan is thought to be a product of spending their life cycle including birth and mating in the aquatic environment.

The adult axolotl is notable for its pink-white skin coloration and broad, exposed gills that wave in the water and pick up precious oxygen that it needs to survive a life underwater.

They also come in darker colorations with gray-brown skin and black spots.

How To Gender Axolotls

When it comes to differences in gender axolotls can be somewhat difficult to tell apart on first glance.

Female Axolotl

Female axolotls are generally larger and longer, while male axolotls usually have a longer cloaca slit and wider spread legs.

Here’s a quick informational video that can help with identifying the gender of your axolotl…

How to Gender Your Axolotl


While normally a quiet, calm species, wild axolotls live in environments where they need to hunt prey actively to survive.

They will not hesitate to eat baby guppies, baby cold water snails, small fish, or even resort to cannibalistic tendencies.


Cannibalism is rare however, and mainly seen in juveniles and extreme circumstances.

Axolotls are actually quite playful and calm when not searching for food, and will swim by the glass to see you when they notice you watching.

Along with their classic smiling faces, they can make for a friendly aquarium pet.


It’s key to keep your axolotls fed regularly, every 2 to 3 days to ensure that they don’t attempt to make a snack out of other fish in the tank!


Axolotl Smiling
Axolotl Smiling

Axolotl lifespan average around 10 years in captivity.

In some cases, however, they’ve been known to live as long as 20 years!

All of this is of course dependent on the quality of care that the animal receives, as a poorly cared for axolotl is less likely to live a long, happy life.


While a wild axolotl may grow larger, those in captivity grow up to around 10 inches in length. They have been known to reach a maximum of 12 inches, but being kept inside will limit their growth beyond this level.


Wild axolotls are voracious eaters in hunting mode that thrive on a varied, protein rich diet of small fish, invertebrates such as mini snails, and even other smaller axolotl!

They are avid hunters, and will capture their prey by chasing them down and catching them with the axolotl’s mouth.


An axolotl eats relatively infrequently compared to many other aquatic animals, and will require regular feeding every two to three days.

In the home environment, good protein sources include blood worms, brine shrimp and specially formulated foods such as salmon pellets.

Can Axolotls Eat Moving Foods?

Axolotl Eating
Axolotl Eating

Moving foods such as live fish or mice can be a poor choice as they can potentially carry diseases or parasites which can make your axolotls sick.

Use tweezers to hold the food in front of them, or drop sinking pellets near them so they can locate it easily. Manual feeding also helps prevent leftover food.


As a general rule of thumb in helping your axolotl live safely, remove any leftover food within a half an hour after feeding. Uneaten food can quickly spoil and release harmful ammonia, leading to toxic shock for your sensitive axolotls.

Tank Selection

Axolotls prefer a relatively large tank size, and we recommend that if you have the space for a larger tank that’s always the best way to go.

A minimum of a 10-gallon tank should suffice for most axolotl tanks, but a 20 freshwater aquarium or bigger is a good bet when considering a tank mate or two.

Water Parameters

Considered a cold water species, axolotls prefer cool water temperatures from 60-64 degrees Fahrenheit which can be room temp in some homes but may take proper placement or a heating element or cooling.

With their thin, permeable skin they are incredibly sensitive to extremes in both temperature and shift in temperature in the tank water, so extra care should be taken to make sure that things stay consistent.


Using an aquarium test kit is a great way to keep track of how conditions stand in your tank. Couple this with regular water changes to keep your aquarium clean and you’ll see a happy, healthy axolotl for years to come!

Can Axolotls Live With Other Fish?

Axolotl Swimming
Axolotl Swimming

The answer to this is potentially yes, axolotls can live with other fish species but may attempt to eat them if hungry.

While we may want to make our choices based on whichever tropical fish or freshwater fish looks best in our axolotl tank, there’s a bit more to it that we need to consider when choosing axolotl tank mates.


Certain territorial fish such as betta fish will obviously make for a bad choice, as they will see your salamander as a threat and bully them.

These fish may need their own separate tanks in order to thrive best.


Axolotls are typically known as solitary, slow-moving bottom feeders, rather than vibrantly social community creatures that live with fish.

They do still make a good pairing for other tank mates, especially given their quiet nature.

Other bottom-dwelling fish species such as the cory cats may be difficult tank mates when trying to get your axolotls to live with fish, as they may compete with them for space on the bottom of the same fish tank.


The unfortunate fact of the matter is that those pretty, flowing axolotl gills that are exposed outside of their bodies can often look like a source of food to larger fish and an easy target for a bite to eat.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on all the fish in your axolotl tank and make sure that nothing dangerous is happening between your axolotl tank mates.

Good Choices for Other Fish in the Same Tank as Axolotls


What are suitable tank mates for your pet axolotl?

There are a wide variety of good axolotl tank mates that will make great tank buddies for your pet.

Good choices include other peaceful fish that will not worry about where your axolotls are swimming or compete with them for food.

Axolotls live with fish in their natural environment, but keep in mind that they are predators in the wild.


Other axolotls can be a great pairing in the same tank, but you’ll need to keep an eye on behavior to make sure that they don’t get aggressive towards one another.

Bonded pairs often make for great long-term axolotl partnerships, and have the added bonus of providing baby axolotls!

Another point to keep in mind is that axolotls themselves are predators, and will attempt to eat small fish, shrimp and invertebrates that can fit in their mouths!


Avoid choosing feeder fishes if you don’t want to lose a few, especially slow species that can be easily caught and eaten by your salamander.

What Fish Can Live With Axolotls?

Other Axolotls

A great option is to have more than one axolotl in a tank with lots of room.

They are naturally fans of solitude, and you should provide lots of nooks and crannies for your two adult axolotls to give each other space in order to avoid confrontation and gill nipping.

Juvenile or young axolotls have been known to engage in cannibalism amongst one another, but this tendency seems to lessen greatly as they reach adulthood.

But aside from axolotls, What species can be great tank buddies with axolotls?

Small Shrimp

Amano Shrimp
Ghost Shrimp

Certain freshwater shrimp such as ghost shrimp (also known as amano shrimp) can work double-duty for axolotl owners.

Not only will they help to keep your axolotl’s tank clean of algae, but they can provide a quick snack for your axolotls in a pinch! Ghost shrimp really like to hide in plants, especially a gravid ghost shrimp, but they will likely be found due to the axolotls great sense of smell.


White cloud mountain minnows in particular, with their lack of spines and sharp features, can make a good mate for axolotls.

White cloud mountain minnows are easily eaten, but are also highly active swimmers and will have a much higher chance of getting away than slower-moving fish.


As with minnows and amano shrimp, guppies make for another great tank mate/snack combo. These feeder fish reproduce quickly (assuming you have at least two fish), and have no sharp edges to harm your axolotls.


While small, soft-shelled snails such as bladder snails may be a good tank mate, ones with harder shells such as ramshorn snails and apple snails are not a good mix.

Just as axolotls eat fish, they will also attempt to eat the invertebrates like bladder snails, ramshorn snails, and apple snails in your tank. You need to choose and size these accordingly as they can cause problems to the axolotl’s digestive system when eaten.

Bad Tankmates For Axolotls

Aggressive Tank Mates

Fish with aggressive or territorial habits make for poor tank mates. Aggressive fish may see your axolotls as a threat and attempt to harass or injure them in an attempt to assert dominance. Some fish might even attack your axolotl’s gills.

Additionally, those with warm water fish or warmer aquarium water temperature requirements pair poorly with axolotls, as they are cold water animals.


Due to the threat of impaction axolotls should not have any fish or invertebrates larger than they can potentially digest in the tank with them.

Saltwater Fish and Axolotls

It should come as no surprise seeing as they’re freshwater creatures, but axolotls and salt water fish do not mix!

There are very few fish that can make this type of scenario work including certain shark species, but again this is not ideal. It’s easier to have a freshwater tank.

Protruding Fish

Pleco on a Tank Decoration
Pleco on a Tank Decoration

Fish with sharp spines or other protruding features that may damage your axolotls on contact should also be avoided, as their thin skin is easily punctured which can lead to infection.

Additionally, bottom feeders can potentially compete with your axolotl for space and should be avoided.


While a popular choice for many aquarists, gold fishes can produce high amounts of waste which can be dangerous for the health of your tank.


As spiny bottom-dwellers, cory catfish will not only compete with your axolotls for space on the bottom of the tank, but cory catfish can potentially harm them with their protruding spines on their pectoral and dorsal fins.


Throughout today’s article, we’ve looked at answering the question of “Can axolotls live with fish?”

The answer is yes, there are plenty of good tank mates out there for your axolotl!

Choosing a companion in the same aquarium just takes a bit of care and consideration to make sure that the fish or invertebrates you’re deciding upon are properly compatible with axolotls.

Feel Free To Share!

Were you able to choose the best tank mate for your axolotl?

As always, we hope that this post has helped answer your most important axolotl care questions when it comes time to choose a tank mate.

Feel free to share this info with any other fish fanatics you may know, and we wish you the best of luck on your aquarium adventures!

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