Axolotls are fascinating animals that are easy to keep. They’re adaptable and make a great addition to an aquarium.
However, they do have a few shortcomings that can lead to trouble if not addressed early on.
One problem with Axolotls is that they are prone to morphing when exposed to environmental stressors.
These creatures are sensitive by nature and require all the attention they can get.
With the right knowledge and timely precautions, you won’t have to give up on keeping one as a pet anytime soon.
In this post, we will review some tips on how you can prevent an Axolotl from morphing.
What Is Axolotl Morphing?
Axolotl is also known as Mexican water dogs or New Mexican walking fish. It is a type of salamander that can live up to 15 years. It’s native to Mexico but is now widely available across the world.
Axolotls are often kept in aquariums but can also be kept in outdoor ponds. They have actually become trendy pets among aquatic hobbyists.
Morphing is a rare but not unheard of mutation that occurs in axolotls.
When this happens, the Axolotl will look different from its original form.
Axolotl morphing is the process whereby the Axolotl changes from its usual aquatic form into a terrestrial form.
This article contains the most in-depth guide to the process if you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole.
The most common form of morphing is called “undulating,” where the Axolotl grows new skin color on its body.
The transformation usually occurs between 6 and 8 months, or when the Axolotl is about 15 centimeters long. However, the exact period may vary from one individual to another.
The mutation can be caused by stress. Sometimes it occurs naturally when an axolotl is exposed to certain chemicals or radiation during development.
At other times, it’s caused by overcrowding or poor conditions in captivity.
When morphing occurs, it can reduce the lifespan of your axolotl, so preventing the process can help preserve the pet’s life.
What Are the Common Signs of Axolotl Morphing?
Pets can be beneficial for children with disabilities but you need to understand how to take care of them properly.
For instance, if you keep an Axolotl, it’s vital to understand the signs that your pet might undergo before or during the morphing process.
In general, morphing axolotls will have a reduced appetite and will stop eating altogether. Due to this, they will begin to lose weight and become skinnier.
Additionally, they will stop growing, and their legs may atrophy. In terms of appearance, you will also notice that the Axolotl will appear to be “bloated” and have a swollen stomach since they are retaining water.
The Axolotl may also start wasting away and losing its color. What’s more, your Axolotl may become sluggish and unresponsive.
If it starts hiding in the corner of its tank, this could be another sign that the animal is morphing. You might also notice peeling or flaking skin and the presence of sores or lesions on the skin.
Axolotls usually have thick, slimy skin. You should also notice changes in the texture or color of the skin and take them seriously. Other common signs might include:
- Bulging of eyes.
- Bigger head.
- Shrinking of tail and fins.
- Loss of gills.
- Legs become thicker.
- Less frog-like legs.
What Causes Morphing in Axolotl?
The key to preventing Axolotl morphing is knowing the cause and taking precautions.
Axolotl morphing is a natural process triggered by stressful conditions. In other words, it depends on the animal’s environment – its new habitat and diet.
Morphosis occurs when a mutation causes a change in the gene responsible for axolotl growth and development.
Scientists believe it may be caused by an infection, poor diet, or incorrect living conditions.
Other causes of morphing are genetic defects, stress, and a lack of vitamin A.
However, the exact cause of Axolotl morphing is the thyroxine hormone produced in the brain.
The thyroid gland can naturally stimulate the production of the thyroxine hormone.
It can be triggered by iodine toxicity in the aquarium environment where you have kept the Axolotl.
The amount of thyroxine hormones produced depends on the amount of iodine in their environment.
If there is too much iodine in your tank, it can cause death to the Axolotl.
Furthermore, the “purer” your Axolotl is, the more likely it is to morph spontaneously.
If you notice that your Axolotl is morphing, you must take action immediately.
The only way to prevent morphing is to create an ideal environment for the animal.
What Do Axolotls Become When They Morph?
Axolotls can morph into one of two things – a neotenic or a terrestrial creature.
Neotenic axolotls are still aquatic and can remain in their water-filled environment.
Neotenic axolotls are more as they are bred in captivity and they don’t have to adapt to a new environment and can remain in the water.
On the other hand, terrestrial axolotls morph out of their aquatic environment for good.
They are salamander-like creatures that walk on their hind legs and have a shorter lifespan than their aquatic counterparts.
Terrestrial axolotls also have lungs, which is why they are out of the water.
However, they are not as efficient as bird or mammal lungs and must take breaks.
Moreover, terrestrial axolotls like to dig in small trenches and also rest and burrow under rocks or plants.
Morphed Axolotl require crevices and hiding places to hide in. If you don’t provide these for them, they will develop other behaviors, such as digging up the ground or climbing out of the tank.
If you see an axolotl on land with holes dug into the ground, it might also signal that it is time for a move.
Axolotls have been known to climb out of their tanks, so this is not something that you should take lightly.
5 Tips to Prevent Your Axolotl from Morphing
It is important to take appropriate measures to prevent iodine contamination in their aquarium environment. Y
ou can do this by using the appropriate test kits and having a clean, filtered water source.
Iodine toxicity is a severe concern for axolotl keepers, and it’s the most considered trigger for morphing.
- Change the Water Weekly
The water used to keep the Axolotl healthy is also necessary to prevent morphing.
If the water is dirty, the animal will be exposed to many bacteria that can cause disease and even death.
The best way to avoid this is to change the water in the tank once a week. It will keep the water clean and prevent any buildup of harmful bacteria.
Use a UV sterilizer on your tank every day. It prevents harmful bacteria from growing in your tank, which could cause unwanted mutations in your Axolotl if not dealt with quickly enough.
- Right Water Temperature
The water temperature is a crucial factor that determines the water quality. The ideal temperature for the water is between 18 and 22 degrees Celsius. Anything outside this range can cause your Axolotl to morph.
Therefore, taking care of the temperature is crucial because it influences the water quality. If the temperature is too low, the water will be very cold, making it difficult for the filter to function properly.
If the temperature is too high, on the other hand, the chlorine in the water will be released and cause the animal to morph.
- Axolotl Feeding
Breeding axolotls and feeding them on worms might seem a good way to save money, but it isn’t.
Most pet stores feed their axolotls on crickets, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, but also contain a high calcium level.
If you are feeding your Axolotl to worms, you must change the water at least once a week to keep it clean.
Worms contain a high level of calcium, which will build up in the water and make it hard to get rid of.
- Test Tap Water for any Iodine Contamination
The tap water in many urban areas is contaminated with high levels of iodine, which can cause the Axolotl to morph. Your best option, therefore, is to use deionized water.
However, if that isn’t possible, you can test the iodine levels in the water, and if it’s high, you can filter the water to remove the iodine.
It will ensure that there is no excess iodine in the water and that your Axolotl will be safe from accidental poisoning.
The Axolotl is also susceptible to other chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals.
Ensure that you use non-toxic products when decorating their tank or cleaning their substrate.
- Leave Tap Water Standing to Reduce Chlorine Levels
You will also have to remove as much chlorine in the water as possible.
The best way to do this is by leaving the water to stand. The chlorine in the water will evaporate while the water is standing.
When you use it, the chlorine will have reduced to a level that isn’t dangerous for your Axolotl.
Axolotls are exciting and beautiful creatures that make great pets. However, they are susceptible to morphing under the wrong temperature and water conditions, so take necessary measures by applying the tips discussed in this article to prevent morphing in Axolotl.
Luciana joined our team as a mum blogger in 2020. A dedicated mum to a lively daughter and a dog, Luna, Luciana brings authenticity and passion to every post. Her expertise in parenting and lifestyle topics offers practical, relatable advice for real-life situations.