Is Your Axolotl Morphing? Risk Factors You Should Know About

In the world of axolotls, there is a phenomenon known as “morphing.” This is when an axolotl changes its form, usually in response to environmental changes. For example, an axolotl may morph into a land-dwelling form if exposed to dry conditions.

a kid looking down at an axolotl

If you’ve been keeping up with the axolotl trend, you might wonder if your axolotl is morphing. While it’s true that axolotls can undergo a metamorphosis process, it’s not something that happens overnight. 

In fact, there are a few risk factors you should be aware of before you make any decisions about your axolotl’s future. All of those factors will be addressed in this article. 

How Do I Know My Axolotl Is Morphing? 

If you own an axolotl, you may be wondering if it is morphing. There are several changes that occur during metamorphosis, so it can be tricky to tell. Here are some signs to look for: 

  • Your axolotl’s gills will start to disappear
  • The tips of its toes will start to web
  • Its eyes will become larger and more prominent
  • Its tail will start to thin and become less muscular
  • It will start to develop lungs and air sacs
  • It will become more active and start to explore its surroundings
  • Its appetite will increase, and it will start to eat more
  • It will become more aggressive and territorial
  • Its coloring will change as it starts to develop camouflage
  • Finally, it will metamorphose into a land-dwelling salamander

If you notice any of these changes in your axolotl, then it is most likely undergoing metamorphosis. It is important to provide a suitable environment for your axolotl during this time, as it will be more sensitive to changes in its surroundings. 

Make sure the water is clean, the temperature is stable, and provide hiding places and plenty of food.

Can Axolotl Morphing Be Induced by Humans? 

In some cases, people have been known to inject axolotls with chemicals or hormones in order to change their appearance. Also, some owners have claimed that their axolotls started morphing after a sudden accidental increase of iodine in the water they live in. 

Some people believe that axolotls have the ability to absorb the energy of those around them and that this can lead to changes in their appearance. Others believe that axolotls are simply very good at camouflage and can change their appearance to match their surroundings.

However, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that axolotl morphing can be induced by a human. There are some anecdotal reports of people who say they have witnessed this phenomenon. 

Though it’s a rare phenomenon, in most cases of axolotl morphing, it occurs naturally because of the change in environment and water when they’re kept captivated in aquariums or small ponds.  

What Are the Risks Associated with Axolotl Morphing?

As pets, axolotls are often subject to morphological changes that can be induced by changes in their environment, diet, or husbandry. Some of these changes, while seemingly innocuous, can actually be quite risky for the animal. 

If you want to know more about the whole process of axolotl morphing, especially the risks, you can find a comprehensive guide in this article about axolotls. But in summary, let’s take a quick look at some of the risks here:

1. General Health Risks 

As with any animal that morphs, there are risks to the axolotl’s health during and after the morphing process. 

There is the risk that the axolotl will not adapt well to the new environment and will not be able to eat or drink properly. Then there is the possibility that the axolotl’s body will not accept the new limbs and will reject them. Also, they may be too stressed and injured in the process. 

Stress can lead to several problems, including a weakened immune system, which can, in turn, lead to infection. Injury can occur during the morphing period or during the recovery period when the axolotl is adjusting to its new limbs.

2. Loss of Eyesight 

Morphing can also cause problems with the axolotl’s eyes. When an axolotl morphs, its eyes may change shape and size. This can lead to problems with vision, as the axolotl may not be able to see as well. 

3. Drowning

Axolotls breathe via their gills while they are in the water, but as they begin to change, the gills vanish into their body. They risk drowning since they can no longer breathe underwater. 

Axolotls use their fins and webbed feet for swimming. However, as they change, the fins go away, they grow large legs, and they lose their webbing, making it difficult for them to swim and get to the surface for air, which can cause them to die.

4. Skin Infections

Another risk factor associated with axolotl morphological changes is the development of skin infections. Because axolotls are constantly shedding their skin, they are especially susceptible to fungal and bacterial infections. You may identify these infections by redness, swelling, or discharge coming from your axolotl’s skin.

5. Deformities

One of the most common risks associated with axolotl morphological changes is the development of deformities. Some deformities may be minor and cause no significant problems for the animal. But in some cases, deformities can even cause the animal to become completely non-functional. 

While most deformities are usually not life-threatening, they can make it difficult for an axolotl to move around and eat, and they can also be a source of stress.

6. Respiratory Problems

Respiratory problems are common in axolotls that have undergone a metamorphosis. This is because their lungs are not fully developed at this stage, and they are not able to take in enough oxygen from the air.

7. Digestion/Metabolic Complications

When an axolotl morphs, its intestines change shape and size. This can lead to problems with digestion, as the axolotl may not be able to properly digest its food. 

Additionally, the change in intestine size can also lead to blockages, which can be life-threatening. In some cases, the intestines may even rupture, which can also be fatal.

Also, when axolotls undergo metamorphosis, their metabolism changes drastically. This can lead to a few complications, including organ failure, electrolyte imbalance, and death.

8. Dehydration

When an axolotl morphs, its skin changes and becomes more permeable. This increased permeability can lead to dehydration, as the axolotl will lose water more quickly. 

9. Behavioral Issues

When axolotls are kept in captivity, they may not have the opportunity to interact with other axolotls, and this can lead to problems. The morphing process can cause changes in the axolotl’s temperament. 

In the wild, axolotls are shy and reclusive, but in captivity, they may become aggressive. This is because they are not getting the social interaction they need, and they may feel threatened by the presence of humans.

Also, they are not used to their new bodies. They may exhibit a number of strange behaviors, such as biting, aggression, and withdrawal after morphing.

10. Shorter Lifespan

In the wild, axolotls can live up to 15 years, but in captivity, they often die much sooner. One reason for this may be that captive axolotls are frequently exposed to stressors that trigger the process called metamorphosis, in which the axolotl loses its gills and develops lungs, as we mentioned earlier. 

While it’s not always life-threatening, there is much evidence that morphing shortens the axolotl’s lifespan to around five years. Their reproductive system is also impacted in the process! 

How Can You Prevent Your Axolotl from Morphing?

Though it’s mostly a natural process, there are a few things you can do to prevent axolotl morphing if you’re worried about the risks: 

  • Keep your axolotl in a tank with plenty of hiding places and a low water level. This will reduce the stress that can cause morphing. 
  • Don’t overfeed your axolotl. Axolotls that are overweight are more likely to morph. 
  • Don’t expose your axolotl to too much light. Bright light can trigger the morphing process. 

Can Axolotls Morph Back to Their Original Form?

Yes, axolotls can morph back to their original form if you bring them back to their natural environment. 

However, it is a difficult and lengthy process. It can take up to two years for an axolotl to fully revert. During this time, the axolotl will slowly lose its ability to regenerate lost limbs and other body parts.

Additionally, Axolotl’s body will slowly shrink in size. Ultimately, the Axolotl will revert back to its original form, but it will be a shadow of its former self.

How to Take Care of a Morphed Axolotl

If you have a newly morphed axolotl that is still healthy, congratulations! Among other things, these unique creatures make great pets that are ideal for pet photography

Here are some tips on how to take care of your new friend: 

  • Take your pet axolotl out of its aquarium and give it a spacious home. They won’t be able to survive in the water anymore, as they lose some of the features they would need, such as gills, fins, and webbed feet. Put it in a shallow tank, making sure the water doesn’t come up over its body so it can breathe easily.
  • Filtration is important to keep the water clean. Morphed axolotls are very sensitive to changes in water pH and temperature. You can use a canister filter or an under-gravel filter. Keep the water temperature in the tank between 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Give them some granular landmass to climb up to, as they’ll now often try to escape the water. Also, provide hiding places for your axolotl using rocks, driftwood, or plants.
  • Feed your axolotl live food such as earthworms, crickets, or minnows.
  • Handle your axolotl gently and carefully. They’re delicate creatures.

By following these simple tips, you can provide a happy and healthy home for your new axolotl friend.


There is no doubt that axolotls are fascinating creatures. However, when you adopt one, you risk it transitioning into an adult salamander through morphing.

By being aware of the risks associated with axolotl morphological changes, you can ensure that your pet remains healthy and happy. 

If you are considering keeping an axolotl as a pet, it is important to research their care requirements carefully. Make sure you are prepared to provide them with the environment they need to thrive so they can live a good life.

Krystal | Sunny Sweet Days
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