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Embryo Photo Log


In the late 90s I bred axolotls for the first time. This page presents a daily photographic log of the development of the eggs laid by a female melanoid albino (fathered by a golden albino which carried the melanoid gene), from the day of laying to the day of hatching.

The eggs are white due to the mother being an albino (normal axolotl eggs are dark brown). They were removed from their parents' aquarium and hatched over a two week period in a small 45x25x20 cm tank (18x10x8 inches). The water temperature was maintained at a little over 20 °C and very light aeration was provided at one end of the tank by a small airstone with airpump.

The photos are of the same four embryos over the two week period.

Day 1: Pictured to the right are four 10 hour old eggs (now better described as embryos).
Day 2: Here are the embryos at 34 hours old. They should be near or past the blastula stage at this point (note the gas bubbles stuck to the egg jelly) - it's hard to be certain of their developmental stage because the embryos lack pigment.
Day 3: Here are the embryos at 58 hours old. There is a barely discernible shape difference in the embryo nearest the top right corner (slightly flattened above). This indicates that the embryos are at late gastrula stage. Some embryos are further along than this (not pictured).
Day 4: The same embryos at 82 hours old. The embryo on the right is infertile and cytolysing. The other embryos are neurulating and clearly developing well.
Day 5: The embryos at 106 hours old. The areas of the embryo are clearly defined to the naked eye and the embryos are at late tailbud stage.
Day 6: The embryos at 130 hours old. The buds of the external gills are just visible.
Day 7: 158 hours old. Pigment is apparent with the use of a magnifying glass.
Day 8: 178 hours old. Notice that the infertile egg seems to have compacted in on itself. The gills have developed so that they are easily visible to the naked eye. The head of each axolotl is beginning to widen.
Day 9: The embryos at 202 hours old. As you have probably noticed, the embryos have changed position over the last few days. They now move suddenly every once in a while, but the movements are quite sudden. There is also a steady rotation of the embryo within the jelly, but this is only noticeable over a long period of time.
Day 10: The embryos at 224 hours old. A slightly coloured spot is barely visible on the ventral side of each embryo. It's the heart and liver.
Day 11: The embryos at 250 hours old. The left eye, and heart and liver area of the left embryo are clearly defined in the photo. There are xanthophores clearly visible on the dorsal parts of the embryos, giving them a yellowish tinge.
Day 12: 274 hours. Some of the larvae have hatched but have yet to become free-swimming. They are still digesting their yolk.
Day 13: 298 hours. About 50% of the larvae have hatched. The larvae in this photo log are among the last left in their jelly. Xanthophores are clearly visible on the heads of the top and left embryos and the heart and liver area of the bottom embryo is well defined to the naked eye.
Day 14: The embryos in previous photos have now all hatched.

If you would like to learn more about breeding axolotls, please take a look at the Breeding Page. And for rearing larvae, please see the Rearing Page.