A picture of an axolotl between two rocks

The axolotl or the “Mexican Walking Fish” as it’s commonly referred to, is a unique and fascinating creature. With one look at these amphibians, it’s easy to tell why these animals are popular for research and the pet trade. With over 1 million axolotls being kept as pets and in laboratories to research their amazing regenerative abilities. Let’s explore some fun facts about the Axolotl.

Fun Fact #1: Axolotl Origins

The axolotl roughly translates to “water monster” in the ancient Aztec dialect of Nahuatl. The name “axolotl” was inspired by the Aztec god of fire and lighting, Xolotl, who can turn into a salamander. The axolotl is pronounced AH-show-LOAT in the Nahuatl dialect instead of the commonly pronounced ACK-suh Lah-tuhl.

Fun Fact #2: Axolotl Unique Features

These features are what make the axolotl recognizable. Although axolotls develop lungs as adults they live most of their adult lives underwater and rely on their gills to breathe.


Fun Fact #3: Axolotl relatives

The axolotl is a type of salamander. They are closely related to the Tiger Salamander and are a part of the mole salamander group.

Fun Fact #4: What Do Axolotls Eat?

Axolotls are carnivores and nocturnal hunters. They tend to munch on worms, insects, mollusks, and small fish. Axolotl’s do not develop teeth, so they rely on a suction method to consume food. If food is not available or insufficient an axolotl might resort to cannibalism, biting off and eating a fellow axolotl’s appendage. The amount of food eaten by the axolotl is dependent on their age. A juvenile can eat once a day, while adult axolotls often feed 3 to 4 times a week.

Fun Fact #5: Axolotl Genome

The axolotl has the second-largest genome in the animal kingdom. Their genomes have around 32 million base pairs. Ten times larger than a human genome. The largest genome in the animal kingdom is the lungfish with 43 million base pairs. “By comparing the sequences of genomes of different organisms, researchers can understand what, at the molecular level, distinguishes different life forms from each other.”

Fun Fact #6: Axolotls are neotenic

Axolotls are neotenic, meaning they keep their juvenile appearances into adulthood. Unlike most salamanders that go through a metamorphic change and live on land, axolotls never outgrow their juvenile appearance and continue to live in the water.

Fun Fact #7: Axolotl in the pet trade.

In some U.S. states like California, Maine, and D.C. it is illegal to keep an axolotl as a pet, while in New Mexico and Hawaii, a permit is required. This is due to fears that they might be released or escape into the wild and can be poised as an environmental threat to their local environment and salamander species.

Fun Fact #8: How do Axolotls live?

In the wild, the axolotls are solitary animals. They live and roam by themselves until breeding season. In captivity, axolotls can live with each other.

Fun Fact #9: Axolotls at risk?

In the wild, Axolotls are critically endangered. Due to the pet trade, habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species in their habitat near Mexico City, their wild population has declined. According to some estimates, the wild population was calculated to be less than 100 axolotls left in the wild.

Fun Fact #10: Axolotl Reproduction

The axolotl reaches sexual maturity at 1.5 years old. In the wild, they only breed once a year and their spawning season is in February. Each season, they normally lay between 200 – 1000 eggs. The eggs hatch in two weeks and then have to survive on their own. In the wild, the life expectancy of an axolotl is 5-6 years; axolotls can live up to 15 years in captivity.


About the Author: Dustin Nguyen is currently a graduate student pursuing a degree for Fine Arts in photography. He’s an artist and photographer and his work has been featured in galleries and exhibitions across the continental United States. He has recently won and received the John Beck Scholarship Award. Dustin is an intern in the WonderLab Marketing and Communications department.


National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/facts/axolotl

National Geographic Kids: https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/animals/amphibians/facts/mexican-axolotl

Deep Sea World: https://www.deepseaworld.com/animal-behaviour/23-axolotl-facts-for-kids

San Diego Zoo : https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/axolotl

Britannica : https://www.britannica.com/animal/axolotl

PBS: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/blog/axolotl-fact-sheet/

CNN: https://www.cnn.com/2024/03/16/americas/axolotls-pop-culture-endangered-conservation-mexico-scn/index.html#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20International%20Union,in%20Mexico%20City%20in%20February.

Wild Hope: https://www.wildhope.tv/profile/axolotls/#:~:text=Worldwide%2C%20more%20than%201%20million,brain%2C%20and%20even%20entire%20limbs.

Tree Hugger: https://www.treehugger.com/things-you-dont-know-about-axolotl-4863490