An Axolotl morph is an Axolotl with a distinct type of color pattern that has mainly been created through selective breeding in captivity. Due to Axolotls being such great pets there has been a lot of breeding of them and this is why there are so many different morphs. There could be as many as 20 different color patterns for Axolotls but generally there are considered to be 15 main types of Axolotl morph. A morph is created by the genes passed down from parent to offspring, artificially in a lab or as a genetic mutation. It is the combination of pigment cells within each gene, and the way the genes from each parent are combined, which creates the specific type of morph. A few morphs do have different physical features or traits but the primary difference between each morph is the colors, some are rarer than others because of the way that genes combine and how rare each gene combination is. Below is a list of the 15 common morphs and their characteristics.
The Chimera morph just like the Firefly combines the genes of two other morphs, however, unlike the Firefly it is naturally occurring. The two morphs – usually Wild Type and Albino – in the Chimera are split right down the middle of Axolotl giving it its highly unique appearance. This is caused by the fertilization of two eggs which then fuse together to produce one offspring. It is an extremely rare phenomenon and part of the reason for this is that the chimeric trait cannot be passed down from parents to offspring.
The Copper morph is a less severe form of Albinism and so they can have darker eyes and a rusty to orange/pink coloration all over their bodies with darker spots. They are highly prized as pets and for this reason have many different variations that have been bred which have different shades of color or types of markings.
The Enigma morph has only ever been bred by one person in the United States of America and is widely considered the rarest of all Axolotl morphs. It has Wild-Type coloration and pink gills with a large number of gold flecks and patches giving it a truly remarkable appearance. It is also aptly named as not much is known about it such as if it can pass on its genes to its offspring.
The Firefly morph is unique among Axolotls in that it is created in a lab using embryonic grafting. The morph was created in order to study pigmentation in Axolotls and was not created to be kept as a pet. This unique process combines the genes of a Wild Type Axolotl with a lighter Leucistic morph. The result is a dark body with a light tail which gives the ‘firefly’ effect or alternatively a light body with a dark tail.
The GFP is created in a lab by genetically modifying the Axolotl genome with a green fluorescent protein. The modification was originally created for medical research purposes but now they are available as pets. It can look like a Wild-Type or any other morph until it is exposed to UV light and then its green color is unmistakable. The lighter the morph type, the stronger the green coloring will show under UV light. Interestingly, even though they were originally created in a lab, the GFP morph is passed down from parent to offspring. However, because they are genetically modified organisms, they are illegal in certain parts of the world depending on a country’s laws.
A variation of the White Albino, the Golden Albino has striking colors which can range from very pale peach to gold or even yellow. The color tone is usually uniform with a varying amount of golden flecks and peach gills. Just like the White Albino it has poorer eyesight, and its toes turn a darker shade when reaching sexual maturity. When young they are indistinguishable from White Albinos and only get their golden color as they mature.
The Heavily-Marked morph is a unique variation of the Black Melanoid. It differs from the Black Melanoid in that it has light green and yellow patches of color. This morph is very rare and so little is known about it. Its rarity comes from the fact that there is no way to tell if two Black Melanoid parents will create a Heavily-Marked offspring.
The Lavender Axolotl is light in color that ranges from silver to purple with red to gray gills. It also has spots across its back which can either be dark or gray. This morph is highly desired among people who keep axolotls as pets, however, it is very rare with most being found in the United States of America.
Leucistic morphs are transparent white in color and can have a light pink hue due to the blood being seen through the translucent skin. They have also been known to have golden or shiny markings on them. This morph is the most common and highly prized by people who sometimes refer to them by the name ‘Lucy’. Interestingly though, they are a morph that can occur naturally in the wild, however, it is very rare because their white skin provides poor camouflage in their natural habitat.
The black melanoid, sometimes just called melanoid morph, ranges from dark green to dark coal black in color with black or purple gills. Some can change their color depending on how light or dark their surroundings are. The lighter the surroundings, the lighter the shade of the Axolotl and vice versa. Once they reach a mature age their toes and underbelly turn pale in color.
The same process which creates the Chimera also creates the Mosaic morph. The Mosaic morph’s appearance is different to the Chimeras as there is no even split down the middle in color but rather a more even mix throughout the body. Even though the appearance between the Chimera and Mosaic may be different, one thing that is similar is their rarity. The mosaic is just as rare, and its traits cannot be passed on by breeding.
The Piebald Axolotl is a Leucistic variation. It has dark patches all along its body, concentrated on the top half. Sometimes, the markings are symmetrical making for a striking appearance. As they age the coloration can darken resulting in a black and white Axolotl. This morph is very rare and often mistaken for a Speckled Leucistic. The difference with the Piebald is that the markings are darker, more concentrated and appear on the bottom half of the body as well as on the sides. Rarely, there are even markings on the legs of the Piebald.
Like the Leucitic morph, this speckled variation develops spots all over its body but mainly concentrated around the face. The spots can be anywhere from dark green to black. Their eyes are also a darker color to the Leucistic morph. The Speckled Leucistic will only develop spots as it matures and so when young it will look identical to the normal Leucistic morph. Just as the Leucistic morph can be known as a ‘Lucy’, the Speckled Leucistic is sometimes known as a ‘Dirty Lucy’ or a Harlequin Leucistic.
The White Albino morph is pure white with pink gills and similar to the Leucistic they might have a light pink hue due to blood flow. They have pink or clear eyes, and this is the best way to tell them apart from Leucistic morphs who have darker eyes. When reaching sexual maturity, the White Albino develops darker coloration around their toes but otherwise remain completely unmarked. Like many other species with Albinism this morph has poorer eyesight than other Axolotls and this may cause it to struggle to hunt.
As the name suggests the Wild Type is a morph which most closely resembles an Axolotls natural color when found in the wild. The color can range widely but it is always a dark shade and can be green, gray, black, tan or a combination thereof. A highly valued feature of the Wild Type is its dark purple to gray gills. It has been known to be a hardier morph which eats more and grows faster than other morphs.