So, if you want to find out all about axolotl morphs, continue reading below!
Table of Contents
- List of Axolotl Colors [Axolotl Morphs]
- Axolotl Colors
- Final Thoughts
List of Axolotl Colors [Axolotl Morphs]
Basic / Common Axolotl Colors (Common Morphs)
Wild Type Axolotl
The first axolotl on our list is the wild axolotl. It is dark grayish-green in color with black-olive colored mottling. This color of the axolotl is actually the same as the most common type of axolotl found in the wild. For that reason, this axolotl has been given the name wild axolotl.
Despite now being bred in captivity, they can also have a beautiful speckled appearance with a light golden-colored belly.
The first wild species of axolotl were taken to Europe in 1863 making them the oldest in the axolotl pet trade. This type of axolotl thrived in the wild for a long time thanks to its ability to blend in with muddy lake beds.
Leucistic Axolotl (Lucy)
The leucistic axolotl (or lucy for short) is a lot more popular than the wild axolotl. This is in part due to their unique appearance. They are translucent white or pinkish in color, have pink or red gills, and have dark brown or black eyes.
The leucistic morph is super rare in the wild. This is because they are easily spotted by predators as they stand out against the darker colors of the bottom of the lakes they dwell in. However, they are one of the most commonly bred axolotl morphs in captivity.
This species of axolotl looks very similar to albino axolotls. To differentiate between leucistic axolotls and albino axolotls, you can take a look at their eyes. A leucistic axolotl will have dark eyes whereas an albino axolotl will have white, pink, or red eyes.
Speckled Leucistic Axolotl
The speckled leucistic axolotl largely resembles their leucistic cousins but in addition feature dark green, brown or black speckles on their heads, legs, back, and tails.
However, it’s worth noting that most speckled leucistic axolotls will have less speckling than other varieties such as mosaic axolotls or piebald axolotls.
Distinguishing between a leucistic axolotl and a speckled leucistic axolotl can be quite tricky. This is because the speckled leucistic starts out looking almost identical to a standard leucistic.
It is only later in its life, when its pigment cells begin to mature, that the speckling and freckled pattern on this axolotl begin to change and differ from the normal leucistic type.
White Albino Axolotl / White Axolotl
You will almost certainly have seen a white albino axolotl before (sometimes simply called white axolotl). This type of axolotl is almost at the opposite end of the color spectrum to the black melanoid axolotl.
These axolotls have pure white skin with red gills and white, pink or red eyes. The only other color seen on a white albino is sometimes the golden patches on their gill stalks.
Interestingly young juvenile albino axolotls are almost see-through, especially in the area around their belly. As they develop, their belly becomes less translucent, the rest of their body remains a pure white color and their gills become a darker red color.
Due to a lack of pigment in their eyes, this type of axolotl tends to have poorer eyesight and is a lot more sensitive to light.
Golden Albino Axolotl / Golden Axolotl
They range in color from pure white to peach, yellow, or orange/gold. This absolutely adorable type of axolotl has reflective spots and speckles all over its body, with white, yellow, pink, or light brown eyes and peach, yellow, or orange/gold gills.
When young, the golden albino axolotl is hard to distinguish from the white albino axolotl. As the golden albino axolotl matures, it begins to turn a beautiful golden color. They also have a similar sensitivity to bright lights as white albino axolotls.
Black Melanoid Axolotl / Black Axolotl
The black melanoid axolotl (sometimes called black axolotl for short) is now pretty common all around the world.
The black melanoid is the opposite of albino axolotls. They have fewer iridophores and more melanophores.
Ranging from dark grey to completely black in color, the black melanoid axolotl can also have dark purple gills and a lighter gray belly. Some black melanoid axolotls have a similar appearance to a darker wild axolotl but the lack of a golden iris helps distinguish the two.
An interesting thing to note about the black melanoid is that it will tend to get darker with age.
Heavily-Marked Black Melanoid
The heavily-marked black melanoid axolotl is an interesting and unique variation of the black melanoid axolotl. The main difference between the two is that the heavily-marked axolotl has light yellow and green patches. Other than that they both look very similar.
This type of axolotl also has black and purple-gray spots just like the common black melanoid.
There isn’t much known about this type of axolotl and it has only been seen a few times. This axolotl morph has only been seen a couple of times because it is impossible to predict when or if two melanoid parents will produce a heavily-marked melanoid axolotl.
Uncommon Axolotl Colors (Uncommon Morphs)
The copper axolotl is one of our favorites!
What makes copper axolotls so special is that they have a certain form of albinism that produces light, medium, to dark copper colors with reddish eyes.
In certain cases copper axolotls take on a tannish hue, in other cases, their color is closer to caramel.
Their gills tend to be a similar color to their body. Certain copper axolotls also have copper-colored freckles.
Whilst albinism is pretty frequent in axolotls, copper axolotls are much rarer.
White in color with red gills and dark eyes, this axolotl almost looks like a leucistic axolotl onto which large black spots and patches were painted onto its face, head, and along its back.
Occasionally these markings will continue down the sides of the axolotl and along its legs. This is pretty rare though.
As the salamander gets older its colors tend to get darker and spread. This can lead to the axolotl being black and white in color – almost like certain types of dairy cows!
Green Fluorescent Protein Axolotl (GFP Axolotl or Green Axolotl)
In normal lighting, this type of axolotl doesn’t look much different from any other axolotl. However, when exposed to UV light (sometimes referred to as “black light”) this axolotl glows a vibrant fluorescent green color.
This color is completely invisible in normal lighting but mind-blowing under UV light.
The gene that makes this axolotl glow a green color was first found in jellyfish. It was then artificially introduced into the axolotl genome. If you want an extremely unique axolotl as a pet this could definitely be the one for you.
Lavender Axolotl / Silver Dalmatian
The lavender axolotl has a beautiful light purple color and grayish-red gills. Thanks to their body being covered in gray spots, they are also known as the silver dalmatian.
Most lavender axolotls remain purple in color as they get older but it isn’t uncommon for them to start turning a gray or blue color.
Lavender melanoid axolotls are also available occasionally but this can be quite rare. A lavender melanoid hybrid axolotl has darker purple skin and no spots.
Unfortunately, lavender axolotls have only been bred a couple of times in the U.S. which is a shame because they are a highly desirable breed of the axolotl.
Rare Axolotl Colors (Rare Morphs)
The mosaic axolotl is another weirdly wonderful type of salamander. They are mottled with white, golden, and black flecks. Their gills may have red and purple stripes and their eyes can be multicolored.
Typically, a mosaic morph is created when there is a combination of melanistic and albino parents. Two eggs must fuse into one, displaying colors from each parent.
As this is a very rare occurrence, mosaic axolotls can not be bred in captivity. This means they are not usually sold so if you’re lucky enough to stumble across one in a pet store you might want to take it home with you.
The chimera axolotl is so rare that many people debate whether or not it should actually be classified as an axolotl morph at all. Amazingly, chimera axolotls are split right down the middle.
Each half of the axolotl is a completely different color from the other. When chimera axolotls have been successfully bred they have been half-albino and half-wild axolotl.
This type can only be hatched when two developing eggs are fused together into one. Most fail to hatch because the eggs didn’t fuse together properly. As this type of axolotl is hatched accidentally and not created using genetics, it is impossible to selectively breed them.
The next type of axolotl on our list is artificially created and developed by Lloyd Strohl. Lloyd Stohl used embryonic graphing to create the firefly axolotl.
This has caused a lot of controversies because embryonic graphing was originally used to study limb regeneration. Many people believe it shouldn’t be used to produce pets.
This very rare type of axolotl has a similar color to a wild salamander but also has green fluorescent protein and albino tails. They were called “fireflies” because only part of their body glows. Under a backlight, only the tail on this axolotl will glow just like that of a firefly.
You will struggle to buy a firefly axolotl as a pet but even if you do, it may be a controversial choice.
The enigma axolotl, as its name suggests, is one of the most mysterious axolotls in existence.
It is dark gray in color with a pale white belly and toes. It also has beautiful golden eyes, and light red gills and is covered in cool shiny gold patches. These patches may also appear green in color.
This variety of axolotl was originally discovered by a breeder from the U.S. This one-of-a-kind salamander is ultra-rare with there currently only one which is properly documented.
Not much is known about its heritability or genetics so it could be a while before any of us can have one as a pet.
Check out our dedicated post about Enigma Axolotls for more information, such as average price, where to buy them, lifespan, requirements, etc.
Mythical Axolotl Colors (Mythical Morphs)
To find out the truth behind the rumor make sure to read our dedicated article Are Blue Axolotls Real?
You may also have heard rumors about an extremely rare type of axolotl called the purple axolotl.
What Determines An Axolotls Color?
The color of an axolotl is determined by the chromatophores in its skin. Chromatophores are cells that produce and contain color pigments.
Axolotls possess three different types of chromatophores:
In combination with each other, these pigment cells produce the beautiful color arrays that axolotls are so cherished for. Below, we will take a closer look at each type of cell and the influence they have on axolotl coloration.
Melanophores are a type of chromatophore that produce and store melanin and in particular a type of melanin called eumelanin.
Eumelanin exists in black and brown forms and is the pigment responsible for an axolotl’s dark coloration. The concentration of pigment within the cell will determine the intensity of the color.
Eumelanin serves as protection from UV or ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Xanthophores are a type of chromatophore which contains a yellow pigment that is typically a carotenoid. This type of chromatophore is especially found in fishes and crustaceans.
Iridophores are a type of chromatophore that reflect light, thereby causing iridescence and a gleaming, brilliant sheen.
Based on my research axolotls do not possess erythrophores (red pigments). Therefore, it is impossible for axolotls to be red.
Based on my research axolotls do not possess cyanophores (blue pigments). Therefore, it is impossible for axolotls to be blue.
The absence/presence of chromatophores is itself determined by the axolotl’s genes, and in particular the alleles they possess (one of two or more alternative forms of a gene).
Axolotl Genetics and Color
The features and characteristics of an axolotl such as its size, weight, predisposition for certain diseases, color and patterns etc. – also know as traits – are determined by the genetic information contained in its Deoxyribonucleic Acid (or DNA for short).
It is worth noting that some of the animal’s traits are determined, or at the very least influenced, by the axolotl’s environment – but that is a topic for a different day.
DNA is contained in the nucleus of almost every cell in an axolotl’s body. Moreover, almost every cell in the axolotl’s body has a copy of its entire DNA.
DNA is passed down from one generation to the next. In other words, the axolotl’s genetic code is inherited from an axolotl’s parents. To be more precise, axolotls inherit half of their DNA from their father and the other half from their mother.
Inside the nucleus, DNA is organized in chromosomes. We, humans, have 46 chromosomes – 23 of which we inherited from our father and 23 from our mother. Axolotls have 14 chromosomes, 7 of which were inherited from their father and 7 from their mother.
DNA itself is comprised of genes. Each gene can be seen as a segment of DNA that contains instructions. These instructions can tell the axolotl’s cells to make proteins. In turn, these proteins play a role in expressing a trait.
Alleles are one of two or more alternative forms of a gene that arise by mutation and are found at the same place on a chromosome. They are effectively alternative forms – or variants – of a given gene.
Certain alleles are said to be dominant, and others recessive. A dominant allele will effectively overrule the other (recessive) allele.
In the DNA of the axolotl, combining alleles results in a change in the number of chromatophores of each color type that are created in the skin, which influences the overall color and looks of the axolotl.
For example, consider the instance of an albino axolotl. As seen above, we know that melanophores are responsible for the creation of a blackish-brown skin tone. When an axolotl is devoid of these melanophores, it appears white or very pale in color.
The allele that codes for the absence of melanophores is said to be recessive. It is not possible for an axolotl to be albino if it carries one albino allele and one non-albino allele. To be albino, an axolotl must have two copies of the albino allele.
Another example is the black axolotl, also known as melanoid axolotl. These axolotls have alleles that promote the synthesis of melanophores, resulting in skin that is nearly black.
Breeding Axolotls For Color
When it comes to breeding for certain colors, some can be harder to get than others, making some of the animals rarer.
Breeders carry out an artificial selection of individuals to breed together, based on their genetic material – and in particular which alleles they carry for a particular gene.
Axolotl Mutations & Coloration
Many morphs are created as a result of a mutation in the usual color alleles, which results in the production of an unexpected hue or pattern.
Leucism is one such example of a mutation. Leucism causes reduced pigmentation and overall pale color or patches of reduced coloring. Leucism is sometimes mistaken for albinism. However, albinism implies a total lack of melanin production in an animal’s skin, whereas leucism is partial.
This recessive mutation was identified in the early 1960s and is now fairly common. Melanoid species have more melanophores and fewer iridophores making them a dark black color.
Mutations also frequently occur in snakes. For a single mutant individual to develop into a color morph, selective breeding and a significant amount of time are necessary.
As you can see from our extensive list, there is a huge variety of axolotl to choose from when it comes to color. Though most axolotls may look quite similar in size, weight, and behavior, their skin color, patterns, and genes vary massively.
Some axolotls are white or black in color with a few patches of color, whilst others are extremely colorful and vibrant demonstrating different patterns. Some even change color depending on their age or exposure to light.
Unfortunately, some types of axolotl are almost impossible to get hold of because they can’t be bred or are simply far too rare. Others are found everywhere around the world, making them a great option if you’re looking for a pet.
Though finding the type of axolotl you want can be hard, hopefully, our list has made things a little easier for you. Now you have a good idea of what’s out there and which types of axolotl are harder to get hold of than others, why not do some more research?
By doing some research of your own, you can start to understand exactly what you need to care for the axolotl you choose.