Axolotls come in a wide variety of colors which makes them very attractive.
The color type or morph as it is called, is decided by a combination of 4 or 5 different genes. If there is a dominant gene it will show itself in the color of the axolotl, but if there is a recessive gene it will only appear if there isn’t a dominant gene.
Let’s take a look at the axolotl morphs that are out there.
This axolotl is the natural color that you will find out in the wild.
It is a combination of black, green and brown and has speckles of shiny gold iridophore pigments. This means that they absorb or reflect any colors of the spectrum.
Wild types are not all exactly the same color; some can be lighter or darker than others.
They have very interesting eyes which are dark with a gold ring around the pupil.
The gills are a purple and gray color.
Leucistic axolotls are a pink and white color and sometimes have black markings on their backs.
Their eyes are navy or black and their gills, red.
Many leucistics will develop freckles.
Some have a shiny ring around the pupil of the eye and shiny skin patches.
Speckled leucistic axolotls are very similar to ordinary leucistics, but they have a lot more black freckling on their face and upper body.
The amount of freckling ranges from light to heavy and can increase or decrease as the axolotl grows.
Surprisingly, if your axolotl is kept in a tank with a dark substrate, it will become darker, while if the substrate is light-colored, the black color will become less pronounced and may even completely disappear.
As would be expected of an albino the body is usually white, although it can be a delicate shade of pink.
The eyes are either clear or red and the gills are red.
Because it is an albino it won’t develop any other coloration except that the fingers become dark as the axolotl reaches sexual maturity.
The melanoid axolotl is very similar to the wild type in that it is dark.
However, because it has a large amount of dark pigment it is not shiny at all nor does it have a shiny ring around the eyes.
The belly however is lighter-colored.
Melanoids never have any shiny patches.
Juvenile black melanoids are affected by the color of the substrate in their tank. If the substrate is black they will become black. If it’s light-colored they will change to a light gray color. It can take just an hour for them to change color.
As they grow to maturity they turn black and don’t change color again.
The golden albino is, as the name suggests, yellow.
When they are first hatched they are white and you would think that they were white albinos.
However, as they grow up the yellow color takes over.
Their eyes are pink or red and they have a shiny ring around the pupil of their eyes.
In addition they have shiny patches all over their bodies.
Melanoid Golden Albino
The melanoid golden albino is not quite as yellow as the golden albino, but is not white like a white albino.
Its color could be described as light cream and sometimes they do have yellow patches. Because they are melanoid they don’t have any shiny patches.
Copper axolotls are actually a type of albino.
They come in a range of different shades of copper from light to dark.
Their eyes are reddish and they lay white eggs.
Sometimes they have darker spots on their backs.
The initials GFP mean green fluorescent protein which is a morph that was first introduced in a lab setting.
The purpose of this was for cancer and regeneration research.
However, the gene is now passed down from GFP parents to their offspring although not all of them will inherit the gene.
If you put a backlight on these axolotls they will glow a bright green. However, backlight stresses them out so don’t leave it on for more than a few seconds.
Occasionally they will have a greenish tint under normal lighting.
If you have non-albino GFPs you will find that their eyes glow green.
The piebald axolotl is very rare.
They are heavily spotted with the marks going all the way down the body and sides.
They are often mistaken for leucistics. However, a piebald is a lot darker than a leucistic and has more black spots.
It is genetically inheritable unlike chimeras and mosaics which are formed through a genetic accident. These axolotls are quite common in New Zealand, but are rare elsewhere.
A chimera is another rare axolotl and is produced in a very strange way. Two eggs fuse together and each side grows like the egg it came from.
You will have a very unusual pet as the two sides will look completely different. You could have an axolotl that was half wild and half leucistic and what an appearance that would be!
Chimeras can’t be produced by breeding. They are caused by accident so you cannot predict that you will get one.
The mosaic is similar to a chimera in that it is the result of two eggs forming together, but in this case the colors aren’t split down the middle. They are mixed over the whole axolotl.
Mosaics, like chimeras can’t be reproduced through breeding. Many of these axolotls are infertile anyway.
The firefly axolotl was produced by Lloyd Strohl from Indiana in 2016. They have been produced by embryonic graphing and are not genetically modified.
The darker axolotls have a lighter tail, while the lighter axolotls have a darker tale.
As can be seen, there is a great variety in colors in axolotls so you will have a big decision to make as to which you get.
What do Axolotls Look Like?
At 18 – 24 months axolotls are mature and they can be any length from 6 – 18 inches (15 – 45 cm). The most common length is 9 inches (23 cm). They have external gills and a caudal fin which is another word for tail fin.
Axolotls have wide heads and lidless eyes. Their limbs aren’t properly developed and they have long and thin digits. You will find that females are wider because of their capacity to carry eggs.
Axolotls in Captivity
The axolotl is a very popular pet and there are probably more of them in captivity than in the wild. They need to live in a tank with the temperature set between 61 – 64 degrees F (16 – 18 C).
Generally this is room temperature so heating won’t be necessary. Both lower and higher temperatures can result in your axolotl dying.
Chlorine in the water is bad for axolotls so you will have to dechlorinate the water with an agent which you can buy in any pet store.
You can put an adult axolotl in a 10 gallon tank, but they do produce a lot of waste so you might be better considering a 20 gallon tank.
The tank should have a secure lid as axolotls have been known to jump out of their tanks. As they need to be in water all the time, this could be fatal.
They don’t need any special lighting. Remember that lights can produce extra heat which isn’t good for your axolotls. It is a good idea if you can add something to the tank which allows them to get away from daylight if they want; perhaps a flower pot laid on its side.
You will need to put gravel on the bottom of the tank but make sure that it is coarse otherwise they could ingest it while feeding.
Some people don’t put anything on the bottom of the tank, but this could stress the axolotl as it would be difficult for it to get a grip on the bottom of the tank.
Axolotls eat a variety of foods in captivity including trout and salmon pellets and frozen wax worms, earthworms and bloodworms.
You can give them live worms if you wish. However, avoid giving them live fish because of the risk of parasite infection.
With a properly balanced diet they won’t need vitamin and mineral supplements.
They are hardy creatures and are relatively tame. However, you can’t interact with them as they have to be in water all the time so you can just watch them as you would fish.
They are basically just display pets. They should not be handled unless it is absolutely necessary. They are not social so it is better to just have one per tank. They can have cannibalistic tendencies so could try to eat each other.
Axolotls live for about 10 years in captivity although there are records of some living to 20 years. Whatever, they are a commitment so you need to be sure that you can look after them for so long.