Can Axolotls See in the Dark?

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You may have already heard or seen that your axolotl has a pretty bad sight. They don’t see that much, and their sight is pretty blurry. Instead, they use smell and vibrations to navigate and move around the tank.

Unfortunately, axolotls cannot see in the dark. They have very bad vision and rely on other senses of smell and touch to navigate the tank and move around.

Throughout the years of development, they have gotten used to dim environments with not a lot of light. This means that they can be quite vulnerable to bright lights, which is why you should avoid putting them in such a scenario.

In their natural habitat, they usually find themselves in areas where the light is dimmed. That can be as a result of the growth around their habitat, and there are also often leaves on the surface of the water.

As such, the axolotl have had to adapt. They stopped relying too much on their eyesight and they will use other senses to move around instead. Smell and vibrations are two primary senses that help the axolotl survive.

How Do Axolotls Sense their Surroundings?

One of the main ways that axolotls navigate around the tank is with the help of smell and touch. Yes, axolotls do smell, even if they spend most of their time underwater. Even underwater species use smell to get around and move around.

However, the majority of their movement is influenced mainly by their touch. Normally, they would sense if there’s an animal nearby with their touch feel, as they are likely to feel vibrations in the water.

They don’t distinguish their surroundings with their eyes, though (at least, not to a very big extent). Most of their moving around is done with the help of other senses.

But even if they don’t see that well, there are some things to keep in mind when you keep axolotls in your tank.

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is that they don’t like to live in a tank where there’s a lot of light. But more of that later on.

Axolotl’s eyes are actually developed very slowly, and how well they see is conditioned by various factors.

If they mutate rightly, then they can see more than some other axolotls. However, some mutations can cause them to lose their eyesight and even their eyes.

It’s a very interesting fact to know about axolotls.

Do Axolotls Need Light?

Axolotls need a special lighting setup when you own them in your tank. They prefer dim lighting, although they still need to have enough light to survive. 

In any case, avoid having strong light in your axolotl tank. They will get stressed by strong light and might suffer as a result, which can lead potentially to health problems and unusual behaviors.

And we know that excess stress is a common risk factor for the axolotl to contract various diseases, as their immune system will weaken. They will also get irritated and will likely swim or move around the tank rapidly.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if you plan to have plants in the tank, make sure you only pick low-light plants. These plants will adapt to the surroundings much better and won’t require you to have strong lighting in the axolotl tank.

You need to do everything you can to keep the lighting levels as low as possible in the axolotl tank, and make sure that no bright light is directed into the tank. Sun can also cause the axolotl to be stressed, so keep it somewhere where it’s dim.

Do Axolotls Sleep?

Yes, axolotls will sleep, but they don’t have an eyelid so you won’t have a way of knowing clearly if they are asleep or not.

A good way to tell if they are asleep is when they are not moving around and they just seem to be floating in the water. Although it’s likely that when they sleep, they will find themselves in the lower parts of your aquarium.

You cannot tell if your axolotl is asleep just by looking at their eyes, which is similar to some fish species that sleep with their eyes “open”. That’s because they don’t have eyelids, though.

How Much Darkness do Axolotls Need?

In addition to keeping dim lighting in the tank, you need to make sure the axolotls get enough darkness throughout the day. 8 hours of darkness per day at least should do the trick.

However, they won’t mind if you have them in the dark for longer than that. Some owners keep them in the dark most of the day, and only expose them to dim light for a few hours per day. Either way, they prefer living in darkness rather than living in bright lights.

However, you can still keep a good balance of keeping them in full darkness and keeping them in dim light. For example, you can keep them in the darkness during the night, and when you wake up, you can add dim lighting to the tank to make them feel at ease.

Can You Keep Lights On All the Time?

No, you should not keep lights on all the time. Constant light will stress the axolotl and you should only keep lights on for portions of the day.

As I’ve said, keeping them in darkness for at least 8 hours per day is necessary. That’s why you should avoid keeping them from the lights throughout the entire day, even if it’s dim lighting only.

You need to make sure they get enough darkness throughout the day (at least 8 hours), or they will become stressed. They need resting time, like most animals do, and they rest easily when there is darkness.


To conclude, axolotls cannot see in the dark. Instead, they use other senses to move around, as their eyesight is not the best. They will use touch and smell to move around and get a good feeling of their surroundings.

Updated: August 30, 2022

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