What is an Axolotl ?

What is an Axolotl? The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is a paedomorphic salamander related to the tiger salamander. The species was originally found in several lakes, such as Lake Xochimilco, underlying Mexico City. Axolotls are unusual among amphibians in that they reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis.

Axolotl for sale

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls are not commonly found in reptile and pet stores because they require temperature conditions that are somewhat different from what is required by most snakes and lizards. However, axolotls are widely available from private breeders and axolotl enthusiasts. They may also be available at reptile shows and expos.

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls come in many different colors and patterns, called morphs. Think of these morphs like dog breeds—they’re all axolotls, but each morph is unique and special. Some axolotl morphs are common, like a Wild Type axolotl, while others are extremely rare, like a Piebald axolotl.

:small_blue_diamond:Even within the same morph, genetic anomalies occasionally occur during breeding. These one-of-a-kind axolotls are the rarest and extremely valuable to enthusiasts.

Axolotl planet

:small_blue_diamond:At Axolotl Planet, we have many different morphs available for sale. We take great care to track the lineage of each of our axolotls, which helps to keep a high degree of genetic variation in our stocks. In the long run, this is very good for the axolotls because it means that there will be a very large gene pool, which helps to reduce the chance of disease and genetic defects in each animal.

Axolotl biography

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), salamander of the family Ambystomatidae (order Caudata), notable for its permanent retention of larval features, such as external gills. The species is found only in Lake Xochimilco, within Mexico City, where it is classified as a critically endangered species. The name axolotl is also applied to any full-grown larva of Ambystoma tigrinum (tiger salamander) that has not yet lost its external gills.

Axolotl population declined

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotl populations have declined considerably due to a combination of habitat loss (largely driven by Mexico City’s continued urbanization), water pollution, and invasive species (such as carp and tilapia, which compete with axolotls for food and prey upon them).

:small_blue_diamond:Ecologists estimate that fewer than 1,000 axolotls exist in the wild, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has classified the axolotl as a critically endangered species since 2006.

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls can be bred in captivity, where they are used for food and sold as pets. Captive populations have been introduced on occasion into remaining habitats to supplement wild populations.

What is an Axolotl?

:small_blue_diamond:This goofy little animal is an inhabitant of Mexico, and its name comes from the Aztec god of fire and lightning, Xolotl. According to the stories, Xolotl transformed himself into an axolotl in order to avoid being sacrificed. While his ruse didn’t work, and he was eventually slain, the axolotl continues to be an iconic animal that has fascinated humans for centuries. The amphibian defies natural laws like metamorphosis and can even regenerate lost body parts, making it an important research subject in labs worldwide.

Axolotl is the specie of salamander

:small_blue_diamond:The axolotl is a species of salamander. Salamanders are a type of amphibian, which is a group that also includes newts, frogs, and toads.

:small_blue_diamond:Amphibians need water to reproduce (although there are a handful of species that have evolved some ingenious methods to get around this). They’ll lay their eggs in water, and then larvae will hatch out and gradually metamorphose into the adult form, which can live on the land.

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls, however, never really grow up. They are ‘neotenous,’ which means that – unlike most amphibians – they do not metamorphose into lung-breathing, land-living adults. Instead, they retain juvenile features such as gills, tails, and a preference for living in the water.

What do axolotls look like?

:small_blue_diamond:With their bald heads, button eyes, and gummy smiles, axolotls are undeniably cute… and weird. Adult axolotls measure about 30cm in length, from the tip of their nose to the end of the tail, with the biggest individuals achieving up to 45cm in length. They can tip the scales at around 300 grams.

:small_blue_diamond:Aside from their chunky bodies and comically short limbs, they sport some seriously outrageous headgear in the shape of six feathery gills that frame their adorable babyfaces.

:small_blue_diamond:Those gills – which can also be seen in other species of young amphibians – allow them to extract oxygen from the water so that they can breathe. Along with their gills, axolotls have very reduced lungs, and they are occasionally seen taking little gulps of air at the surface.

Where do axolotls live?

:small_blue_diamond:The axolotl is native only to Mexico City’s Lake Xochimilco. This is a high-altitude region with a water temperature that rarely rises above 20°C. They used to live in Lake Chalco as well, but this was drained in the 1970s to prevent flooding. Their numbers are decreasing due to pollution and the expansion of Mexico City encroaching upon their habitat. As a further ■■■■, introduced freshwater fish eat the axolotl eggs and its preferred insect prey.

Are axolotls endangered?

:small_blue_diamond:The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists axolotls as critically endangered. According to a paper published in BioScience in 2015, axolotls have experienced a catastrophic collapse over the past couple of decades. In 1998, researcher Dr Luis Zambrano Gonzá■■■ counted 6,000 axolotls per square kilometre. By 2008, just 100 of the amphibians were found per square kilometer. More recent data suggests there are fewer than 36 per square kilometer.

:small_blue_diamond:Meanwhile, captive populations are thriving in labs worldwide, and the endearing amphibians also make popular pets. In recent years, millions of gamers have gotten to know these animals after they were introduced as playable characters in Fortnite in 2020. The following year, axolotls popped up in the lush caves biome of Minecraft.

How can we save the axolotls?

:small_blue_diamond:“The first consideration is that we cannot save the wild axolotls without restoring their habitat. Therefore, to protect the axolotls in the wild – before thinking about reintroductions – it is necessary to restore the wetland. All the attempts to introduce axolotls failed because of that,” says Zambrano Gonzá■■■.

:small_blue_diamond: “We are working on restoring the habitat, which is intrinsically linked with the pre-Columbian culture. For that reason and others – such as reducing genetic diversity and introducing axolotl diseases – it is not advisable to generate a program of captive-bred reintroduction.”

:small_blue_diamond:According to research carried out by Zambrano Gonzá■■■ and others, the crucial first step in developing refuges for the axolotls is improving water quality. This change would benefit native species like the axolotl but would also be better for the crops, making it an attractive option for farmers.

Why are scientists interested in axolotls?

:small_blue_diamond:These weird animals have fascinated scientists since they were first brought to Paris from Mexico in 1863. Researchers have found that animals have an extraordinary ability to regrow whole limbs, eyes, heart tissue, bits of brain, and spinal cord segments when injured, restoring the body parts to full functionality. They will even readily accept transplanted limbs from other individuals.

:small_blue_diamond:It is possible to induce an axolotl to undergo metamorphosis by exposing it to thyroid hormones. However, this will hinder the animal’s ability to regenerate and may also affect its microbiome, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2018.

:small_blue_diamond:A study published in Nature sequenced the axolotl’s genome to 32 billion base pairs – 10 times bigger than the human genome. At the time, it was the largest genome of any animal, but the lungfish have since overtaken it with 43 billion base pairs. Its genome revealed specific sequences that may be responsible for limb regeneration.

What do axolotls eat?

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls will eat pretty much anything they can fit into their mouth! In the wild, their diet includes worms, freshwater insects, crustaceans, and small fish. They are also cannibalistic animals and will take bites out of each other if there is insufficient food available.

:small_blue_diamond:Axolotls kept as pets or in the lab will be fed worms, shrimp, or bits of fish. As the animals have undeveloped teeth, they go for the ‘vacuum’ method of feeding, sucking anything small enough into their mouths.

What color is an axolotl?

:small_blue_diamond:The ‘wild-type’ axolotls tend to be a greyish-green color. This is quite different from the animals that you’ll find in the pet trade, which are generally pinkish with red gills and black eyes. Selective breeding, thanks to the popularity of axolotls as pets, has led to several different color morphs, including albino, golden and speckled.

What does a baby axolotl look like?

:small_blue_diamond:Just like frogs, axolotl embryos are surrounded by a jelly-like substance. The developing baby axolotl is visible through the goo and will take around 14 to 30 days to hatch out, depending on the water temperature. When the baby axolotls emerge, they have feathery gills and a long tail like the adults, but they are lacking legs. By about a month old, they’ll have their legs and will look just like a miniature adults.


Axolotls are not commonly found in reptile and pet stores because they require temperature conditions that are somewhat different from what is required by most snakes and lizards. However, axolotls are widely available from private breeders and axolotl enthusiasts. They may also be available at reptile shows and expos.

Amphibians are not often considered charismatic. The axolotl is different

:small_blue_diamond:With its ear-to-ear grin, pink feathery headdress of gills, and frantic underwater dance, this amphibian has captivated generations of admirers. Once revered by Aztecs, today, the axolotl appears in many forms. It is a symbol of Mexican national identity in anthropologist Roger Bartra’s book La Jaula de la Melancholia (The Cage of Melancholy); Mexican muralist Diego Rivera includes axolotl swimming near a male figure’s ■■■■■■■■—the center of creation—in his mural “Water, Origin of Life.”

:small_blue_diamond:You may have heard of the axolotl because its image is so ubiquitous—and so, it seems, is it. Millions of the creatures thrive around the world. The axolotl is a popular pet, particularly in Japan, where they are bred so widely that they are also served deep-fried at some restaurants. They are also distributed so commonly to labs for research that they are basically the white mice of amphibians, thanks to their unique genetic profile and their potential to unlock the secrets of evolution and regeneration.

:small_blue_diamond:But few realize that, in nature, the axolotl is in peril. It is native only to Lake Xochimilco, a UNESCO World Heritage site outside Mexico City, where it has long played a role in the Mexican tradition. And there, it is on the brink of extinction.

:small_blue_diamond:In 2006, the species was declared critically endangered due to habitat degradation and the pervasiveness of invasive fish in the lake, introduced decades ago in a well-intentioned attempt to create fisheries and alleviate food insecurity. In 2009, experts estimated that the axolotl population had fallen 90 percent in the past four years, a decline further exacerbated by urbanization. In 2015, scientists briefly believed that the critter might have gone fully extinct in the wild—only to find one a few weeks later.

The research about Axolotl

:small_blue_diamond:When Luis Zambrano started working with the axolotl in 2002, he knew only a little about the curious critter’s cultural significance to Mexico and its popularity worldwide. Zambrano, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), had previously focused on fish food webs; he started working with axolotls when fellow researchers in his lab asked if he would help them find axolotls in his by-catch. He was eventually instrumental in designating the axolotl as a threatened species and is now the leading expert on their conservation.

:small_blue_diamond:At first, Zambrano dreaded working with the amphibians. Axolotls are frustratingly difficult to catch (besides that, there are very few left), and the local people initially didn’t seem keen to work with him, he says. But as he learned of the animals’ rich cultural and biological significance, he quickly grew entranced by the amphibians. He even connected to his prior research: as aquatic predators, axolotls are highly important in food webs. Zambrano started to explore how they interact with different species, how they predate, and how they are preyed upon.

:small_blue_diamond:According to Zambrano, axolotls face various threats in their natural habitat. They are only found in Lake Xochimilco, but Lake Xochimilco is suffering. The lake system is highly eutrophic, meaning it is so rich in nutrients from agricultural runoff that the prosperous plant life kills the endemic species by depriving them of oxygen. Invasive Asiatic carp and tilapia, introduced by the government to increase food security in underserved communities, have now supplanted the axolotl as the top predators and are known for picking off the scrumptious juveniles.

:small_blue_diamond:Strong storms can cause the city’s sewer system to overflow and release human waste into Lake Xochimilco. With their permeable amphibian skin, axolotls are particularly vulnerable to ammonia, heavy metals, and other toxins carried by human ■■■■■■■■■.

:small_blue_diamond:At the same time, Mexico City is rapidly expanding, and outlying areas like Xochilmilco have become hotbeds for legal and illegal development. Developers view places like Xochimilco opportunistically and have been grabbing up permits for large-scale developments in critical areas. As people migrate to Mexico City for work, those who cannot afford to live in the central regions look for places to live on the outskirts. Zambrano has observed that not only is the axolotl stressed by noise, but the rapid urbanization also presents untold threats to its only habitat.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding What is an Axolotl?

Q1: Where do I get axolotls?

However, axolotls are widely available from private breeders and axolotl enthusiasts. They may also be available at reptile shows and expos. You can order them over the internet, or you may be able to get one special order from the exotic pet store in your area.18

Q2: How long can axolotl survive out of water?

No, axolotls definitely cannot live out of the water! As an amphibian, they possess both lungs and gills for breathing. But it has seldom been seen out of water for a prolonged period of time, and it is simply not natural for them to be living out of the water.

Q3: How long can axolotls go without food?

Axolotls in the wild can go for up to 2 weeks without food as they are opportunistic eaters! Feed it up and then get the temperature down to 15-16 (obviously only if possible) to lower its metabolism, and he/she should be fine!

Q4: Can axolotls regrow their head?

They can regenerate the front portion of their brain, called the telencephalon. You can crush the spinal cord, and in about three weeks, all of the spinal cord machinery will reconnect, and the tail and the legs will work again. They can regenerate impressively.

Q5: Can axolotls change color?

Axolotls can change the color of their skin and gills. They will naturally vary color depending on various environmental and developmental factors such as their genetics, the food they eat, the status of their health, and even their level of activity, Tank Origin reported.

Q6: How fast do axolotls grow?

Your axolotls will grow to full maturity within six months. This means that they’ll need to be quickly sold or separated into different tanks. Remember: axolotls are solitary creatures, and they don’t always tolerate others in their space.

Q7: How many worms should my axolotl eat?

Once they are 8 months old, you will be able to feed them the full-sized worm of the mixed pack, and they will happily eat 2 or 3 good-sized worms a day, but remember, just because they eat it does not mean they want it. As long as your axolotl eats two worms a day in the first two years of its life, then all is good.

Q8: How much do axolotls cost?

An axolotl costs between $30 – $75 for a basic but healthy one. If you’re looking for something more exotic like a piebald axolotl variation, it will cost about $100. Some rare specimens can cost a few hundred, but these are generally extremely unique variations that only serious collectors tend to purchase.

Q9: Can axolotls feel pain?

Although axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum, also known as Mexican salamanders) are classified in a different family and order from newts and frogs, respectively, pain receptors are likely conserved within the class.

Q10: How long can axolotls live?

Axolotls can grow on average to a length of 9 inches (20 centimeters), but some have grown to more than 12 inches (30 cm) long. In captivity, the salamanders live on average for 5 to 6 years, but some have lived for up to 17 years, according to the University of Liverpool’s The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database.


:small_blue_diamond:A 2019 assessment by the International Union for the Conservation of Species found only between 50 and a thousand axolotls are left in the wild—and their populations are dropping.

:small_blue_diamond:Development for tourism and residential housing, in addition to agricultural and industrial pollution, has drastically reduced the species’ population. So has the introduction of tilapia and other invasive fish, which eat baby salamanders and compete with adults for food.

:small_blue_diamond:The Mexican government, as well as many nonprofits, are trying to save axolotls, in part by restoring parts of their freshwater habitat and offering ecotourism for people to see the quirky salamanders in the wild.

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