What You Should Know About Axolotl Morphing

morphing axolotl (2)

How to care for your axolotl if they start to morph.

Axolotls are one of nature’s most adorable and interesting creatures. More and more people are now keeping them as pets and facing a challenge when trying to keep their axolotl healthy and settled in a new home. Here is a quick guide on what to do if you see the signs of your axolotl morphing.

What is axolotl morphing?

All animals go through some form of metamorphosis in their lifespan, including humans. Some of the changes that a creature goes through can be quite small, such as growing from a baby to a toddler. There are some metamorphoses in the animal kingdom that are much more dramatic.

Axolotl morphing is one of nature’s most curious and impressive metamorphoses. Their body may undergo significant changes through some stages of the process, including changing colour. They can lose their fins and tail as part of the process which affects how they swim. This can make having an axolotl as a pet both thrilling and challenging.

“Morphing” refers to your axolotl changing from their young aquatic form with gills and slightly webbed toes, into a land animal ( the adult form). Most amphibian species morph, living out their adult lives on land, only returning to water to breed. Axolotls do not naturally morph.

Look here for the ultimate guide on axolotl morphing that has in-depth information on what causes axolotl morphing, and what you need to know if you are looking after one. These fascinating and incredibly cute creatures are fun to have as a pet, but you do need to be aware of their needs.

What are axolotls?
What are axolotls?

Is my axolotl morphing?

Morphing usually occurs in the juvenile or adult stages of an axolotl’s development. The changes it undergoes can be both physical and behavioural and could last around a month. There are many signs that you can look out for that will indicate your axolotl is morphing.

Keep an eye on the dorsal fin of your axolotl. A common part of their metamorphosis is a disappearing dorsal fin. It will slowly reduce in size as if being worn away and will often disappear completely. This is a notable change to the axolotl’s body and easy to recognise.

Their tail, tail fin, and gills may also shrink during a morph. This is also common in axolotls. The reduction in the size of its fins, gills, and tail can make swimming suddenly difficult for your axolotl. When you notice signs of morphing make sure there are shallow spots in the water to rest.

Your axolotl’s eyes will also change a lot during a morph. Typically they begin to bulge out from their normal position. This can look painful for the axolotl but is a normal part of their metamorphosis. As their eyes bulge you should notice eyelids forming. Axolotls do not have eyelids unless they morph.

The behaviour of your axolotl will change too. You may notice them spending more time on the surface of the water, poking their snout above the water. They may also spend more time out of the water, so have interesting spaces and hiding places in their tank for them to explore.

Morphing axolotls will usually eat less. The stress of the morphing reduces their appetite despite the energy it takes to morph. You may notice a slight reduction in their weight, but their appetite will return after they finish morphing.

Signs of Morphing in Axolotls

  • Bulging eyes.
  • Back legs getting stubbier
  • Skin changes color
  • Webbing disappears in feet
  • Gills start to shrink
  • Receding Fins
  • Changes in behavior

Can you force an axolotl to morph?

This can be done, but it is not recommended. There has been a lot of scientific research on axolotls and similar creatures to study their regenerative abilities. Through this research it was discovered that axolotls can be forced, or induced, to metamorphasize. It can reduce their lifespan, however.

Forcing an axolotl to morph can be done accidentally. In the natural morphing process, a hormone stimulates the axolotl’s body to begin changing. This hormone can be produced if the axolotl is exposed to excess levels of iodine, which can be present in some farmed insects and even in some tap waters.

Live-feeding insects to axolotls is a common way to provide a pet axolotl with food and something interesting to do. Axolotls must be fed insects with a higher level of iodine consistently over weeks or months to accidentally force a metamorphosis. By varying your axolotl’s diet, and your source of live insects, you can help reduce the chances of this happening.

All water has a slightly different chemical composition. The water that comes out of a tap will vary greatly across the country, and mineral waters each have a unique composition of minerals which is where the name comes from.

You can test your tap water for the presence of iodine, but tap water can also contain chlorine which is harmful to axolotls. If you do use tap water in your tank, test for iodine and allow it to stand in a separate container for 24 hours before adding it to your axolotl’s environment.

What is a morphed axolotls lifespan?

Unfortunately, metamorphosis itself can be fatal for some axolotls. The process can be incredibly stressful, and when combined with other stresses such as disease, excessive handling, or a lack of heat, can cause the death of the axolotl.

When the morphing process is complete axolotls can have a reduced lifespan, often only a few months. This is most common in axolotls that morph into a terrestrial creature. This is a huge change for the axolotl, but also for their owners. Terrestrial axolotls will require a lot more food than before and will behave differently.

Axolotls may change their eating habits after morphing even if the physical change is more subtle. If your pet axolotl is morphing, you should stock up on a varied range of foods for them and use trial and error to find out what interests them. It can get expensive but eating well does extend the lifespans of morphed axolotls and increase the chance of surviving a metamorphosis.

Axolotls are beautiful creatures and can be incredibly cute pets. Looking after one is not that complicated as long as you know the warning signs of morphing. Keeping your axolotl well-fed in a clean environment is the key to giving your pet a longer and healthier life.

Some axolotl owners keep them with the intention of morphing them, sometimes forcing them to morph intentionally by using iodine. This is not recommended and is a cruel way to treat these innocent creatures. Take loving care of your axolotl and allow them to morph naturally if they morph at all.

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