Axolotls are unique amphibians that are most closely related to salamanders.
These amphibians are well known for their feather-like gills and unique colors.
The body of an axolotl can come in many unique colors and patterns. They have four primary colors of white, black, gold speckles and fluorescence.
Their gills can also come in different shades of red or pink.
Axolotls make cute pets and their unique morphs are one of the main reasons why they are so popular. Keep reading to learn about all the different types of axolotl colors.
All About Axolotl Colors
An axolotl is an unusual species of amphibian that can only be found in freshwater lakes around Mexico City. It is believed that there are as little as 50 to 1,000 individuals left in the wild.
In the wild they come in only a few colors.
Typically wild axolotls range in color from dark black to a mottled brown. This is mostly as a natural adaptation to help them avoid predators like herons and introduced predators like larger fish.
These unusual amphibians are also kept as pets, they make a very unique choice!
Many breeders will try to develop new types of colors, patterns and morphs. Through captive breeding different morphs have become increasingly common. There are now over 20 different axolotl colors with some of the most popular being albino and leucistic types.
There are also rarer axolotl colors such as the GFP, enigma and firefly morphs which are more colorful than chameleons.
Axolotls get their color from the combination of pigments in their skin. Pigments are materials that are found in the cells that determine color. Depending on their genes, they produce a specific amount of each pigmentation.
The more of one pigment they have in a certain area, the more similar they will appear to the characteristic of that pigment. The three pigment cell types are:
- Melanophores have the pigment eumelanin (black and brown).
- Xanthophores have pteridines, carotenoids, and flavins (bright red, orange, and yellow).
- Iridophores have crystallized purines (gold sparkles and reflective appearance).
These amphibians not only have pigment cells throughout their bodies, but also in their gills.
This means their gills can also come in different shades of red or pink.
Occasionally they can develop unique colors through mutations. In some cases these mutations can cause pigments to not be produced at all. This produces morphs like albino and melanoid.
Some axolotls can have a genetically modified gene that gives them the ability to glow in UV or black light. Species that contain this unique protein are known as GFP or RFP morphs, because they contain the “green” or “red fluorescent proteins.”
A-Z List Of Axolotl Colors
|Albino||White and pink||Common||3|
|Black (Melanoid)||Black, gray and dark purple||Common||2|
|Chimera||Black and white||Extremely rare||13|
|Copper||Copper, olive, brown and gold||Uncommon||7|
|Dirty Lucy (Speckled)||White, gray, black and brown||Common||15|
|Enigma||Yellow, green, brown and white||Rare||12|
|Firefly||Has greenish-glowing tail||Rare||8|
|GFP||Glows green in the dark||Rare||9|
|Golden||Gold, yellow and white||Uncommon||1|
|High Iridophore||More iridescent||Rare||16|
|Lavender||Lavender, gray, silver and pink||Rare||11|
|Leucistic (Lucy)||White, gray and pink||Common||4|
|Mosaic||Black, gray, purple and white||Rare||6|
|Piebald||Black, gray and white||Rare||10|
|RFP||Glows red in the dark||Extremely rare||14|
|Wild-type||Black, brown, olive and white||Common||5|
Albino axolotls are very similar to all other albino animals.
They usually have all white or translucent skin with light pink to red gills.
Individuals with this morph are completely unable to produce melanophores. In other words, there will be no traces of black, brown, or any other dark pigmentation.
There are two main type of albinos, white and xanthic.
The only difference is that xanthic albinos typically show a yellowish tint in their skin, while white albinos are pure white.
Black (melanoid) axolotl are very similar to the wild type morph but are generally much darker.
Individuals are generally one solid color that is a shade of black or dark gray.
Their gills also end up being gray or dark purple in color.
These amphibians produce lots of melanophores which give them black and brown pigments to showcase their dark colors.
Black axolotl do not produce any iridophores, which are responsible for the shiny reflection. Due to this these morphs do not have the characteristic shiny reflection that most types of axolotl have. They also do not have any golden sparkles or other patterns.
Chimera axolotls are very unique.
This morph can only occur when two axolotl embryos fuse together during the initial periods of development. This usually leads to a defective egg or an axolotl that does not pass infancy.
However, in the rare chance that the axolotl does survive it develops into a chimera morph.
This morph looks like two axolotls that were split in half and stitched to the other. For this reason, it is also known as the split-mosaic morph.
These amphibians are typically half black and half white.
Unfortunately this morph can have many health problems. Because of the two different genomes they may grow at different rates and have genetic disorders.
Copper Axolotl (Olive)
Copper axolotls are a type of albino morph.
This species has albinism, but with a gene that allows for a tint of color to appear. This tint is usually copper or olive in color which is what gives them their name.
They also have specks of light brown, gold, and pink that give them an earthy appearance.
Even though these morphs are not fully albino, they have all the same characteristics as one. This includes reddish eyes, translucent skin and pink gills.
These axolotls do not have any dark tones like black, brown, or gray because they are a form of albino.
The dirty leucistic morph is also known as a speckled Lucy.
This axolotl is mostly white throughout its body with a few dark spots.
These dark black or brown spots are a result of clumps of melanophores being produced in certain areas. This gives them the appearance of being “dirty.”
Leucism is similar to albinism because it reduces the amount of melanophores produced. The difference is that a leucistic axolotl can still produce some black or brown spots, while an albino one will not produce any.
Dirty leucistic species can also produce iridophores which give a shiny appearance to their face and body.
The enigma morph is an extremely rare type of axolotl.
It was originally developed by a single American breeder and not much else is known about its origin.
Enigma morphs are most well-known because they change color and pattern as they age.
These morphs begin with a very solid black color that changes to a yellowish-green.
As they age they develop more green spots and eventually become mottled in green and yellow. They typically keep the well-known pink gills.
Fireflies are some of the most recently bred axolotl morphs and are by far one of the rarest.
These morphs first appeared in Indiana around 2016 through a very unique process known as embryonic graphing.
This means that while these axolotls were still in early embryonic development, scientists manually replaced their tails with a tail that produces green fluorescent proteins.
Their one distinct feature is that they have a fluorescent tail.
This makes them look very similar to fireflies. These morphs are very difficult to find because they cannot be bred and instead must be modified during embryonic development.
Firefly morphs can have any type of body color.
GFP morphs are axolotls that have green fluorescent protein.
These axolotls are very unique because the protein that they produce gives them the ability to glow in the dark. Green fluorescent protein makes certain parts of their body-glow, usually the body and head.
The GFP was first bred by scientists to help better study the axolotl’s unique ability to regenerate limbs. After its use in research this axolotl type was put in the hands of private breeders.
Nowadays GFP morphs are relatively common and can be bred from any color morph.
Gold is one of the most common naturally occurring types of axolotl.
Golden morphs have spots or stripes of very reflective colors with the rest of their body appearing a shade of gold.
They are typically albino individuals that have high amounts of iridophores (gold sparkles).
Gold individuals will not begin to show their deeper gold colors until they mature.
They are born completely white, but as they age, they begin to produce more iridophores. This gives them their distinctive gold body.
High iridophore morphs are individuals that are much brighter than other morphs as they produce a much higher amount of iridophores.
Iridophore pigment cells are responsible for the shiny iridescence appearance that can be seen on the skin of an axolotl.
Their reflective appearance gives them a much brighter color in comparison to other axolotl colors.
These bright spots are very random and can appear anywhere on their body. They can even have dense areas of iridophores throughout their tail and backs.
High iridophores can be wild-type, copper, or any other type of morph.
Their gills usually remain a similar color to their primary morph.
Lavender (silver dalmatian) morphs are very rare axolotls.
These axolotls are typically entirely lavender or light gray.
This very light purplish color is contrasted by the silver to dark gray spots that speckle its entire body. The spots are what give it the name silver dalmatian.
Lavenders can have very light-colored limbs with darker shades of gray towards their body. They typically have dark-colored eyes and dark-spotted gills.
A leucistic, or Lucy for short, is a very popular type of axolotl.
Most of the well-known images of axolotls are Lucy morphs.
They typically have black or dark blue eyes and bright pink gills.
This morph produces less eumelanin, which typically would give them a brown or black appearance. The reduced eumelanin results in small dark spots that only appear around their face and body.
Most leucistic individuals are typically much lighter than dirty leucistic morphs.
Lucy morphs are one of the most popular in the pet trade and are typically within the $50 to $75 price range.
Mosaic axolotls are one of the more fascinating and popular morphs on the market.
These individuals have very unique winding patterns of dark whirls that typically have no rhyme or reason to them.
Each mosaic morph has a one-of-a-kind pattern that is different from any other mosaic.
The mosaic is usually a darker shade of either black, gray, purple or even pink. An interesting fact is that the mosaic pattern can also continue in its gills.
The piebald is another type of morph which is similar to the mosaic, its patterns are very random and unique.
Piebalds are typically all white with dark-colored dots and streaks throughout its body.
They commonly have pink gills and dark blue or black eyes like a Lucy morph.
Piebalds are easy to spot from other axolotl morphs because their dark spots are typically bolder and much larger. Typically piebalds have many more spots on the top half of their body, but it is possible for the spots to travel as far as their back legs.
An axolotl with red fluorescent protein is similar to one with green fluorescent protein. Instead of glowing green, they glow red.
These axolotls can be of any morph, but they will glow an orangish-red under UV light.
Red fluorescent protein is produced from a genetically modified gene that was developed in a laboratory. The Ambystoma Genetic Stock Center at the University of Kentucky is one of the largest breeders of RFP axolotls.
There is very little known about RFP morphs because they are almost solely used for research.
The wild type is arguably the most common axolotl morph and is the typical color of wild axolotls.
Wild type axolotls have an olive tint with white, black, or yellow spots.
More likely than not, they look like any wild axolotl that uses its dark earthy colorations to blend into its environment. They typically have dark eyes and a deep purple coloration for their gills.
These individuals can produce all three pigment cells in varying levels. This gives them a varied color and pattern. They can show varying levels of iridescence and spot density.
How Many Colors Do Axolotls Come In?
Axolotls come in over 20 different colors and patterns that can be combined together to breed morphs.
There are a few colors that are the most common such as earthy tones like black, brown, and olive, as well as lighter tones like white, pink, and gray. Most morphs are a combination of these colors.
Axolotls can also have different colored eyes and gills depending on their morph.
Their gills are either pink or dark purple and their eyes can be any shade of blue or black.
Genetics, mutations, and artificial genes are all carefully bred through artificial selection to produce more and more colors.
Professional breeders selectively breed axolotls to create new morphs, but axolotls are not as frequently bred as other popular pets like Leopard Geckos.
What Is The Rarest Color?
The rarest axolotl morphs are those that are difficult to breed because the trait is not inheritable. This is true for the chimera morph.
The chances of a chimera morph being born and surviving into adulthood are approximately 1 in 10 million.
A chimera happens only by chance when two embryos fuse together during development.
The same fusion that gave them their unique pattern can also lead to numerous health issues and reduces their chances of surviving to adulthood.
Axolotls are fascinating amphibians that come in many unique colors and patterns.
Their color is normally determined by the production of three main pigment cells.
Most wild type species are earthy tones like black, brown, and olive. Some of the rarer morphs are combinations of black and white or glow green under UV or black light.
There are some morphs that show spots or streaks while others have patterns of dark whirls. Some individuals are completely albino while others are melanoid black.
All axolotls are amazing amphibians with great visual traits that attract many exotic pet owners.
Let us know your favorite color below!