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Home > General > Are Axolotls Blind? Here’s What Science Says

Are Axolotls Blind? Here’s What Science Says


Axolotls are the flamboyant superstars of the salamander world. People are fascinated by their alien-like appearance, showy gills, beaming smiles, funny faces, and googly eyes—as a result, Axolotls are an incredibly popular aquarium pet. One question that’s been playing on the minds of many animal lovers is: are Axolotls blind?

Some owners say their Axolotl doesn’t really react to their presence—and this may lead many to believe that they cannot see. Well, the answer is not completely straightforward. Axolotls can see light and movement but not as well as humans. So, sit back, buckle up, and let’s dive into their anatomy, abilities, and how their vision stacks up against humans.


Do Axolotls Have Eyes?

First things first, let’s sink our teeth into some science. These lil’ salamanders have peepers, but they’re not exactly like our human eyes. Located on the top of their head, these sense organs are small and round—they look kind of like little black beads or stick-on eyes. Although functional, these eyes are pretty basic: able to detect light and movement, but nowhere near as advanced as our eyes. So, basically, you could say that Axolotls have limited vision—but these eyes do everything an Axolotl in the wild needs them to do to facilitate hunting and predator evasion.

So, What Can They See?

Just because they don’t have the best eyesight doesn’t mean they’re completely blind. In fact, they’re able to navigate their underwater habitats well. These beady little eyes can detect brightness and motion, which is pretty dope when you’re trying to avoid getting eaten. They also help in predation—Axolotls are carnivores and their less-developed eyes still do play an important role in hunting.

In addition to security and nutrition functions, Axolotl eyes help these cartoonish-looking buddies structure their days. Axolotls can see subtle changes in light levels and use that information to regulate their circadian rhythm—meaning they can use light to tell whether it’s night or day and know when to rest and when to wake. What they are missing out on is colors or fine details. There’s no way that we can perceive and appreciate a beautiful underwater landscape in the same way we can.

Image Credit: KinEnriquez, Pixabay

Do Axolotls Have Eyelids?

In their larval stage, Axolotls do not have eyelids. This unusual lack of an eyelid does not seem to hinder the Axolotl’s vision too much; they are still able to see without eyelids. In terms of eye health and protection, their eyes are protected by a slimy layer of mucus. This helps potentially damaging dirt and debris slide right off their smiling faces. But remember, we said only larval Axolotls are lidless. So, let’s talk about what happens to the eyes of an Axolotl during metamorphosis.

During metamorphosis, their googly eyes—and the rest of their bodies—undergo several changes to help them adapt to life on land. These changes very rarely happen in aquariums—this tends not to be something pet owners will ever observe. Big changes occur—including the development of eyelids! This is a huge shift from the life they’ve lived so far as a larval salamander, and it allows them to further protect their eyes from harmful stuff like dust and sand on land.

But these little guys also experience increased muscle tone in limbs, the absorption of gills and fins into the body, and a reduction in the skin’s permeability to water, so they can stay hydrated on land more easily. Finally, the lungs of an Axolotl develop further during metamorphosis: they’re able to breathe air much more efficiently.

Are Some Axolotls Born Without Eyes?

You may not have heard about the eyeless Axolotl. It’s a mutant variation of the regular Axolotl that was first discovered as a spontaneous mutation. This means that this type of Axolotl was observed to have arisen naturally in a stock of salamanders without genetic intervention by scientists. These Axolotls lack eyes due to a developmental defect.

But here’s the really cool part—remember how Axolotls can regenerate body parts? Well, scientists have been able to restore vision to eyeless Axolotls, but transplanting eyes from a regular Axolotl at an early developmental stage. That’s right, the nerve fibers from the transplanted eye can find their target areas, even though the paths they take can differ from animal to animal. The once-blind Axolotls can then perceive where objects are located—which is incredible!

This is just another crazy example of the incredible adaptability and resilience of these creatures. We can learn a lot from studying them. It’s fascinating to see how their bodies can create and compensate for major changes, and their abilities open up a lot of possibilities for future research in regenerative medicine.

Image Credit: artem-lysenko, Pexels

Do Axolotls Make Good Pets?

So, let’s talk about whether or not Axolotls make “good pets.” They’re popular among aquarists, but they may not be the best pet for everyone. First, Axolotls require specific living conditions to thrive. They need cold water with minimal light and a filtration system to keep the water clean. These needs set a high bar for their maintenance. This can be a challenge for some pet owners, especially if they’re new to keeping aquatic animals.

Another thing to consider is that their poor eyesight means they don’t respond well to much visual input or commands from humans. Many other pets—even other lizards—will begin to recognize and react to their owners quickly. But in contrast, Axolotls are not the easiest pet to interact with. This means that they may not be the best choice for someone looking for a more interactive and responsive pet.

Axolotls are fascinating creatures: but they may not be the best pet for everyone. And they are a huge time investment: they live up to 15 years! It’s important to carefully consider their specific living conditions, their nature as solitary creatures, and their poor eyesight before deciding to keep one as a pet.

If you’re thinking about getting one, keep in mind that they need a tank with plenty of hiding spots and a low light level. You’ve gotta work with and not against their true natures. This will help them feel comfortable and secure.



Axolotls are not great at seeing, but not completely blind. If you compare them to us, their sight can be judged as pretty weak overall. Their vision is very different from humans, but they can still see and perceive their environment.

Although their sense of sight is quite different from other animals, it remains effective in their environment. With proper care, they can thrive in captivity, but they don’t make the most interactive pet. So, if you’re thinking about getting an Axolotl as a pet, be aware that their limited vision plays a role in making them seem “boring” to many. If you do get one, remember that they are super cool and worthy of love and attention—even if they don’t reciprocate much.

Featured Image Credit: LaDameBucolique, Pixabay

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