Do Axolotls Need A Bubbler?

Axolotls are a type of amphibian from Mexico. Most amphibians spend the initial stages of their lives underwater. They then undergo metamorphosis and become land-dwelling creatures.

Axolotls are different. They don’t undergo metamorphosis, nor do they move onto land. Instead, they spend their entire lives underwater.

Evidently, the quality of the water axolotls live in is very important. Parameters such as temperature, pH, salinity, hardness, and oxygenation levels all need to be optimal to promote good health and happiness. When it comes to oxygenation, owners often wonder if pet axolotls need a bubbler.

Here’s what I’ve observed:

An axolotl tank bubbler – or airstone – is a piece of porous stone designed to oxygenate the tank water by gradually diffusing air into it. However, most filters (such as Hang-On-Back filters or sponge filters), will also oxygenate the water whilst simultaneously filtering out unwanted particles and chemicals. So, if your tank is equipped with a filter, it’s unlikely that your axolotl will need a bubbler.

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Benefits of Using A Bubbler in Axolotl Tank

A bubbler – or airstone – is a piece of porous stone designed to oxygenate the water in an aquarium by gradually diffusing air into it.

Bubblers come in many different shapes and sizes. They’re connected to an air pump via a section of plastic tubing. The air pump resides outside of the tank and supplies the bubbler with a continuous flow of air.

This airflow is then broken up into a stream of tiny air bubbles as it passes through the micro-pores of the bubbler’s porous material.

Bubblers offer a number of benefits.

Improves Oxygenation

The primary benefit of installing a bubbler in your axolotl tank is improved oxygenation. The air that’s pumped into the bubbler by the air pump contains oxygen.

The thousands of tiny bubbles increase the contact area between the air and the water, improving the gaseous exchange and the dissolution of oxygen into the water.

Moreover, as the bubbles rise to the surface, they break the surface film of the water. This further encourages gaseous exchange – whereby carbon dioxide (CO2) is released into the air and oxygen (O2) is absorbed into the water.

Promotes Biofilm Breakup

In aquariums in general and axolotl tanks in particular, a thin film of algae – or biofilm – can begin to grow on the surface of the water. If not removed, or broken up, this film can hinder the natural gaseous exchange explained above.

The film can act as a lid, trapping CO2 in the water and preventing O2 from entering the water. The film can also trap heat inside the tank. Axolotls like their water to be cool, so biofilm growth should be tackled before it becomes an issue.

As seen in the previous paragraph, when the bubbles generated by the bubbler rise to the surface of the water, they break the surface film of the water. In doing so, they also break up the thin layer of biofilm and prevent the issues which it creates.

Creates Water Flow

Bubblers are also great for creating a current inside the tank.

Whilst axolotls do not like strong currents and don’t necessarily need a water flow, they can benefit from a very gentle flow of water around the tank. A gentle current can help circulate water around their gills, which they use to extract oxygen from, and release carbon dioxide into, the water.

A gentle current (the emphasis here is on the word gentle) can also help the axolotl stay mildly active. Indeed, the current will provide a little resistance when the axolotl swims against it – thereby giving your axolotl a very gentle workout and making it a little stronger in the process.

It can be useful to add a simple valve to the plastic tubing that’s feeding air into the bubbler. This will help you adjust the airflow. Reduced airflow will result in a reduced number of bubbles, and a weaker current inside the tank. Doing so can also make your bubbler more silent.

Can Axolotls Live without Air Pump?

While axolotls need oxygen to breathe and survive, they don’t necessarily need an air pump or a bubbler.

In particular, you shouldn’t need an air pump if you:

  • Have a filter in your tank.
  • Keep live plants in your tank.
  • Do regular water changes
  • Keep your water temperature cool.


If your axolotl tank is equipped with a filter, such as a Hang-On-Back Filter (a.k.a HOB filter) or a sponge filter, then an air pump and a bubbler are redundant.

Indeed, a hang-on-back filter will suck water up through a siphon, circulate it through different filtering media and then cascade the “clean” water back down onto the surface of the water. In the process, the cascading water will break the surface film of the water, and encourage gaseous exchange.

A sponge filter functions somewhat like an airstone in the sense that air is pumped into it via an air pump. The rising bubbles create an inward current toward the sponge (the sponge starts to suck in water), which traps the particles and some undesired chemical compounds present in the water. As the bubbles escape the sponge filter and rise to the surface, they break the surface layer of the water and encourage oxygenation.

Live Plants

Live plants – especially in conjunction with a filter – help to oxygenate the water. Indeed, during photosynthesis (which is how green plants synthesize foods from carbon dioxide and water), plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

So, having a number of live green plants in your tank will promote higher oxygenation levels and alleviate the need for a bubbler.

Water Changes

Doing regular water changes helps to introduce “fresh” water with higher levels of oxygen into your axolotl’s habitat.

Doing regular water changes will alleviate the need for a bubbler.

Controlling Water Temperature

Oxygen levels tend to be higher in cooler water temperatures. And, that’s perfect because we also know that axolotls love cooler water.

So, keeping the water temperature within the recommended range can help maintain healthy water oxygen levels.


Axolotls don’t need a bubbler, especially if you have a filter and/or live plants in your tank, change the water regularly and keep the water temperature within the recommended range.

However, bubblers do offer some benefits such as improved water oxygenation, biofilm breakup, and the creation of a current in the tank.

Therefore, whilst not mandatory, your axolotl may benefit from the addition of a bubbler to provide a gentle flow of bubbles in its tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Axolotl Tanks Need Oxygen?

Axolotls breathe oxygen through their gills and their skin. Therefore, there needs to be oxygen in the water in their tanks.

Do Baby Axolotls Need an Air Pump?

Baby axolotls can benefit from the presence of a bubbler and air pump. But, if their tank s equipped with a filter and/or live plants, the water is regularly changed and kept cool, then an air pump and bubbler are redundant and not necessary.

Do Axolotls Need Water Flow?

Axolotls do not need a water flow and can live without a current in their tank. While a very gentle current can help circulate water around their gills, and also help to keep them mildly active, strong currents will stress your axolotl and also potentially cause them to drift and bang into things (risk of injury).

How Does Oxygen Get Into the Water?

Oxygen gets into the water via a process called gaseous exchange where oxygen is absorbed into the water, and carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.

Can Air Bubbles Stress My Axolotl?

Air bubbles have the potential to stress your axolotl, especially if the flow of bubbles is too strong. You should consider an air pump with an adjustable flow rate, or adding a valve to the plastic tubing that feeds the bubbler with air.

Do Axolotls Need a Filter?

Axolotls need a filter to help with the nitrogen cycle of the water, remove undesired particles and chemicals, and promote oxygenation.

Do Axolotls Need Air?

Axolotls don’t need air. However, they need the oxygen that’s present in the air to breathe. Therefore, even though axolotls don’t breathe air directly, it’s important not to completely seak your axolotl tank as this will prevent the gaseous exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the tank water and the ambient air and essentially suffocate your axolotl.


Hello and welcome to Pets From Afar. I'm Glen. My daughter Siri and I are mad about axolotls. I created this website to document our findings and experiences, as we learn more about these amazing amphibians. Follow along and enjoy the fun!

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