Are Axolotls Blind? [And, Can They See You?]

As I’m sure most axolotl owners will tell you, there’s a pretty steep learning curve associated with adopting axolotls as pets. When we got our first axolotl, we were horrified by the sight of it bumping off the glass walls of its tank or crashing into plants, decorations, or even tank mates. We also noticed that it sometimes struggled to see the food we fed it. Our initial reaction was to ask ourselves if axolotls are blind.

Here’s the short answer:

Axolotls are not blind. However, they have very sensitive eyes and their eyesight is relatively poor. They have two small eyes at the front of their head which allow them to see – albeit not very well, both underwater and on the very rare occasions when they venture onto land.

Axolotls use their eyesight to:

  • Navigate around their habitat.
  • Scavenge for food.
  • Identify prey, ambush it or hunt it down.
  • Identify predators and hide, camouflage themselves or escape.
  • Identify a mate of the opposite sex and breed.

However, as you will read in the next section, their eyesight isn’t the only sense axolotls rely on to do all of the things listed above.

Table of Contents

Are Axolotls Blind Featured Image

Do Axolotls Have Poor Eyesight?

Axolotls have poor eyesight. As a matter of fact, it’s VERY poor. This can be explained by a number of factors. Thankfully, axolotls can rely on other mechanisms to offset their blurry vision.

Sensitivity to Light

Axolotls are very sensitive creatures. They can become stressed and even physically ill if any of the parameters of their habitat are sub-optimal.

Such parameters include but are not limited to :

  • Water temperature.
  • Chemical composition of the water.
  • Presence of tank mates.
  • Lighting.

Lighting in particular can have a massive impact on the mood, behavior, and even physical well-being of these animals. They strongly dislike bright, direct lighting.

Their natural habitat has a lot to do with this!

You see, axolotls are native to the dark, murky waters of the lakes and canals of Mexico City. They are predominantly bottom-dwelling animals and thrive in dim, shaded environments.

Their eyes have evolved accordingly and developed the ability to see in low-light environments. So, they get easily “saturated” when the light intensity is turned up a notch.

This can be a problem for pet axolotls. Indeed, our homes tend to be much more brightly lit than the native habitats of our axies. As a result, the eyes of pet axolotls are at constant risk of light saturation and discomfort.

What’s more? Axolotls have no eyelids, which compounds the problem!

Lack of Eyelids

A surprising fact about axolotls is that they don’t have any eyelids. Yes, that’s right – their eyes are always wide open. That must be exhausting, perhaps even painful, if you ask me…

As a result, they can’t shut their eyes if it becomes too bright. Also, their eyes are exposed and unprotected, unlike animals with eyelids.

The lack of eyelids worsens the axolotl’s sensitivity to light.

Alternative Sensory Systems

Because axolotls evolved in a habitat that isn’t favorable to the visual sense or the development of sharp eyesight, axolotls have honed the ability to use other sensory systems to achieve their goals.

As a matter of fact, they primarily use their sense of smell and touch to find food for example.

Olfactory System

The olfactory system is the system that serves the sense of smell.

Axolotls use their sense of smell to analyze the water around them. Like dogs smelling the air, they can ascertain if food is nearby, and what type of food it might be.

Lateral Line System

The lateral line system – or lateralis system – is a system found in aquatic vertebrates to detect movement and pressure changes in the water. It is akin to the sense of touch or tactile system. In axolotls, the lateral line system consists of mechanoreceptive neuromasts and electroreceptive ampullary organs.

Based on the strength and frequency of the vibrations, and the speed and intensity of the pressure changes detected by the lateral line system, axolotls can sense if something is moving, what it is, in which direction it’s traveling, at what speed, and how close it might be.

Axolotls use this lateral line system in combination with their olfactory system, to offset their poor eyesight and achieve most of their goals.

Frequently Asked Questions

Axolotls cannot blink. Indeed, they don’t have eyelids so are unable to blink or shut their eyes.

Can Axolotls See Their Owner?

Whilst it’s almost impossible to know if axolotls can see their owner, or precisely what they see when they look at them, it’s possible that certain axolotls are able to recognize their owners.

A lot of this could be put down to what’s known as Pavlovian Conditioning and the Pavlovian reflex. The crux of the idea is that an animal can be trained to react in a certain way when regularly exposed to a given stimulus.

For example, if every time you feed your axolotl you follow a set number of steps (walk into the room, approach its tank, lift off the lid, drop food into its tank, replace the lid, etc.), then the chances are that it will think you are going to feed it even when you simply walk into the room or approach the tank. Because it thinks it’s about to be fed it might come out of its hide, get all excited or even come to the surface. This activity can be misinterpreted as your axolotl recognizing you, when it fact it’s not the case…

Are Axolotls Color Blind?

As suggested in Amphibian Biology by Duellman and Trueb, it would appear that caudates – amongst which axolotls – can somewhat see certain colors. Here’s the precise quote from the book:

“”All experimental evidence indicates at least a limited distinction of different wavelengths of light, but so far there is no solid evidence for the ability to perceive the differences in color evident in so many species of anurans or the breeding coloration in male newts (Triturus).”

Are Albino Axolotls Blind?

Albino axolotls are believed to have the same poor eyesight as other axolotl morphs. The eyes of albino axolotls tend to be pink or red, and a re likely even more sensitive to light than axolotls with darker colored eyes.

Can Axolotls Regrow Their Eyes?

Axolotls have amazing regenerative abilities and can regrow many of their limbs and organs, including their eyes. There have even been documented cases of axolotls regrowing their eyes in odd places, such as inside their mouths!

What Color Are Axolotl Eyes?

Axolotl eyes can be brown, black, grey pink, or red. Certain axolotls have shimmery golden or bright colored rings around their eyes.


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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