An Overview Of The Many Different Color Morphs Of These Enchanting Creatures
Axolotls feature a wide range of unique colours due to the variety of genes that are found in their wild population. Depending on the genes present in an axolotl, they can range from white, black, yellow, tan, brown, albino, green and even neon-colored.
The particular cells responsible for the axolotl colors are known as chromatophores, of which there are three types. These are melanophores, xanthophores, and iridophores. Each of these has 14 pairs of chromosomes and different colors are created depending on the specific mix that an individual receives from its parents.
Here is a breakdown of the different Axolotl colors you may find across the species.
Different Axolotl Colors
Golden Albino Axolotl
Golden Albino Axolotls have a golden/yellowish body color with pink, white or gold reflective flecks or patches. The shade of their body can also have a peachy colored hue, and they have peach/pink gills. As you would expect from an albino, their eyes are very sensitive, and share a similar light color to the rest of their body. Their belly is usually a lighter shade, pushing toward cream or white.
It is the lack of melanophores that is mostly responsible for the color of the golden albino, and they only start to develop this color as they reach maturity. As juveniles they are very similar in appearance and color to the while albino axolotl. This variety of axolotl are quite common.
A Melanoid Axolotl is typically black or dark brown/green in color, sometimes with yellow, green, or white patches ,and usually with a lighter pale grey to purple belly. They can sometimes look similar to wild axolotls but tend to have more pigmentation in their skin.
Their feathery gills can range from a dark purple to solid black, and they also typically have black eyes which is another difference that sets it apart from the wild axolotl.
Leucistic (pink) Axolotl
A leucistic (pink) axolotl has pale pink or white skin with black, blue, or golden eyes. Its body is usually spotted and its gills are usually brightly colored. Its limbs are sometimes a shade more pink than the rest of their bodies.
The leucistic axolotl is often mistaken for an albino because of their pink gills and pale skin, but they are indeed a different variation. You don’t spot these axolotls often in the wild, but they are actually one of the most popular colors found in captivity as pets.
The leucistic axolotl also comes in a speckled form, known as you might expect, as the speckled leucistic axolotl. In this variety, they have light speckling across their face in either black, dark green or brown. The speckling may carry on down their backs or limbs but it is sparse.
White Albino Axolotl
White Albino Axolotls have a bright, creamy, almost translucent white color, with pink, almost clear or dark red eyes. They often appear to glow, especially when they are under direct light. Their skin is transparent enough that you can sometimes even see their internal organs and bones, particularly when they are young or baby axolotls. They occasionally have golden specks on their gill stalks.
Remember those color determining chromatophores we mentioned before? Well the albino axolotl has a lack of xanthophores and melanophores, with iridophores confined to the gills which gives them their pink color in this area.
Wild axolotls are typically a grey or green color with mottled green or black and specks of yellow-green or gold along their bodies and fins. They may also have occasional patches of dark brown or black along the sides of their heads, backs, and on their legs.
Axolotl Color Morphs
Some axolotl colors are not generally found in the wild, but are the result of selective breeding and genetic engineering. Some of these color variations end up as ‘morphs’ where there are many colors present in a variety of patterns. These are usually much more rare due to the selectivity required to generate them. Here is a selection of the axolotl morphs.
Axanthic Axolotl Morph
Axanthic axolotls don’t have any xanthophores in their body, which is responsible for yellow pigmentation. They also lack iridophores, and this gives their skin a distinctive coloration. They generally have more purple or grey coloration which can span from light to darker shades, or even melanoid pigmentation. Unless they are melanoid, they will have blotches of black, and sometimes purple and grey, scattered across their body.
Chimera Axolotl Morph
A Chimera Axolotl Morph typically has a unique color pattern with two or more distinct colors. It may also have patches or stripes of darker or lighter color. Morphs of chimera are one of the rarest types of axolotl, with the most success being found between albino and wild, or leucistic and wild varieties.
The chimera effect is brought on when two eggs morph prior to hatching. This provides a unique genetic mix which generates sharp, contrasting colors that often split down the middle of the whole body. Unlike most morphs, these axolotls can not be guaranteed by selective breeding, and happen as a matter of chance. Attempting to force eggs to fuse usually results in failure.
Copper Axolotl Morph
Copper morph axolotls are similar genetically to albinos, in fact their coloration comes from a milder form of albinism. They have very low levels of melanin and pteridines, but they are not completely absent as they are in full albinos. These are quite a rare variety of axolotl to find.
They generally have a ‘sandy’ color with a lighter creamy white underside, though they can be a bit darker with more of a ‘rusty’ tint, or even a grey color with copper speckles. Their gills tend to have more of a darker red hue, and they have grey eyes.
Enigma Axolotl Morph
The Enigma axolotl is potentially the rarest axolotl color type, and also one of the most expensive axolotl to buy. They have a very distinctive almost moss-green to grey color to their skin, with a lighter belly, red feathering to their gills, and shiny gold to light green patches across their body.
The enigma axolotl originated from specimens of the wild type with very high levels of iridophores. So far, this axolotl lives by it’s name, there is only one in existence making it a true enigma.
Firefly Axolotl Morph
Firefly axolotls are another rare morph variety, that can only be created artificially in a lab, through embryonic graphing. They are kind of similar to chimera axolotls, mixing the wild and albino types. The difference being that rather than the left and right side being different colors, the firefly axolotl will have either a light head and dark tail or vice versa.
They have a green fluorescent protein in the lighter part of their bodies. So those that have an albino tail and darker head will have a green glowing tail when lit up under a black light. This is where they get the firefly in their name.
Green Axolotl Morph – Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP Axolotl)
While the firefly axolotl mentioned above has a green fluorescent protein in half of their bodies, the green axolotl morph or GFP axolotl has a green fluorescent protein throughout their whole body. This is another color type that was created artificially in the lab. The protein was introduced to the genome to benefit medical science, particularly research into the movement of cancer and other cells within the body.
Under normal light conditions these axolotls look like any other type, with rich pigmentation around the gills, and they can have any of the normal skin colors. It is only when under a UV black light that they will glow fluorescent green. If they have a darker skin color, like the wild type, they will glow less brightly than those with a lighter skin tone.
These are not as rare as the firefly type of axolotl, but are still uncommon. While they originated in the lab for medical science, there is now a market for them due to their unique characteristic. Though they can not occur naturally, only with genetic manipulation.
Mosaic Axolotl Morphs
The mosaic axolotls are a wonder to see. No two will ever be the same, and they have an almost fractal appearance to their skin. They get this mosaic pattern from two eggs fusing into one, similarly to the chimera axolotl. Instead of the pattern splitting down the middle like the chimera, they get a mottled appearance with patches of color from both parents uniquely distributed across their body.
Most mosaic axolotls are a mix of melanistic and albino axolotls, but can also be of the leucistic type too. As with the chimera, these axolotls occur by chance, and the genetic effect can not be forced.
Lavender Axolotl/ Silver Dalmatian Axolotl Morphs
Lavender axolotls have a very distinctive coloring, with hues of purple and silver in their skin, and a rich violet to purple feathering on their gills. They tend to have a creamier color to their belly, and typically have black eyes. This variety get the nick name Silver Dalmatian because of the distinctive and numerous grey spots they have across their whole body, like the Dalmatian dog.