Are Axolotls Illegal? Often Misinterpreted…

14 min read

As an axolotl owner in a state where they are legal, I sometimes check on states I want to move to and often come across questions about whether or not axolotls are even legal to own as a pet.

It piqued my curiosity since I have a family to take care of, I don’t want to get into trouble, so I dug in and did some research. I was rather surprised at how outdated or uninformed many average joe websites are on the internet.

I really went above and beyond and here is what I found…

  • Axolotls are legal to own as pets in the U.S. except for California, Maine and New Jersey.
  • In California you can’t have an axolotl as a pet.
  • Zoo’s, aquarists, breeders and research institutes can posess axolotls in California, but they also need a permit.
  • It is legal to own a pet axolotl in New Mexico but illegal to import an axolotl unless you have a permit.
  • As of August 1, 2021, it is legal to import, export, sell, and possess Axolotls in Virginia.
  • Axolotls are legal in most countries, although like in the U.S., you may need a permit in certain parts of the country to posess or import an axolotl.
Axolotl862101 PetAquariums Are Axolotls Illegal? Often Misinterpreted…

Are Axolotls Illegal In California?

If you live in California and have become interested in owning an axolotl, maybe from the internet or your favorite Minecraft game, you may be wondering why you can’t find any in California?

There is a very good reason for this. I am in no way a lawyer, and this is not legal advice in any way, but the following is my best interpretation of the California laws regarding possession of an axolotl:

Axolotls (Genus Ambystoma) are illegal in California unless you have an approved permit from the California Fish and Game Commission. These permits are usually reserved for scientific research institutions, zoos, and public aquariums.

Here is a link to a copy of the restricted species laws and regulations for California:

This is exactly what the law states:

California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Excerpts

§671. Importation, Transportation and Possession of Live Restricted Animals

(a) It shall be unlawful to import, transport, or possess live animals restricted in subsection (c) below except

under permit issued by the department. Permits may be issued by the department as specified herein

and for purposes designated in Section 671.1 subject to the conditions and restrictions designated by

the department. Except for mammals listed in Fish and Game Code Section 3950 or live aquatic

animals requiring a permit pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 2271, no permit is required by this

section for any animal being imported, transported, or possessed pursuant to any other permit issued

by the department. Cities and counties may also prohibit possession or require a permit for these and

other species not requiring a state permit.

(b) The commission has determined the below listed animals are not normally domesticated in this state.

Mammals listed to prevent the depletion of wild populations and to provide for animal welfare are

termed “welfare animals”, and are designated by the letter “W”. Those species listed because they pose

a threat to native wildlife, the agriculture interests of the state or to public health or safety are termed

“detrimental animals” and are designated by the letter “D”.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

If you scroll down further in the laws and regulations, you will find the species that includes axolotls listed with the letter D:

(c) Restricted species include:

(C) Family Ambystomatidae-Mole Salamanders

1. Genus Ambystoma (nonnative tiger salamander group)-(D)

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Axolotls are from the Genus Ambystoma group of salamanders, which is why they are considered “detrimental animals.

Why Are Axolotls Illegal In California?

Axolotls (Genus Ambystoma) are currently illegal to acquire as domestic pets because they are deemed ‘detrimental animals’ and may pose a threat to native wildlife, agricultural interests, and public health or safety according to the California Fish and Game Commission. Axolotls are not considered normal domestic pets in California. Axolotl permits can be obtained, generally for scientific research, aquarists, or people who had a pet axolotl before 1992(axolotls can’t live this long) when these laws went into effect.

Since axolotls originated in lakes and live in the water, California could especially be affected, since they have such a long coastline and several lakes.

When an animal is introduced into an ecosystem, such as a lake, it can disrupt the natural order of things.

An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape,”work together to form a bubble of life. Ecosystems contain biotic or living, parts, as well as abiotic factors, or nonliving parts. Biotic factors include plants, animals, and other organisms.

National Geographic Society

Since axolotls are not native to California, scientists are worried that their introduction into lakes or even the ocean could disrupt entire ecosystems, which could wipe out other species or introduce harmful parasites or infections into the water.

Invasive species can wipe out entire populations of native plants or animals, which could affect the entire coastline of California and several if not all of their lakes.

Axolotls are also endangered in the wild, which ironically is not the reason they are somewhat illegal in California.

It is ironic because the very reason axolotls are illegal in California is why axolotls are endangered in the first place.

Axolotls once flourished in Lake Xochimilco and Lake Chalco in Mexico where they originated from.

They are now endangered because officials in Mexico City introduced large numbers of carp and tilapia fish into these lakes as part of a program to provide Mexico City with bountiful sources of protein-loaded food.

Since the carp and tilapia were foreign species to these lakes, they disrupted the ecosystem by almost completely wiping out the axolotl population.

These fish immediately ate any axolotl small enough to fit into their mouths and continued eating axolotl eggs as they were produced. With no eggs, eventually, the axolotl population would be wiped out. It hasn’t happened due to conservation efforts, but you get the drift.

The history of axolotls is a prime example of why they are being kept out of the ecosystems of California.

If axolotls are released into the waters of California, they may become fish food again, interbreed with other salamanders or even decimate an entire species themselves since axolotls are predators and will try to eat anything moving that will fit in their mouth.

There is no telling what could happen if axolotls are released into California waters.

That is why it is better left up to scientists.

Here is what California Law actually states as the reason:

§2116.5. Findings and Declarations
The Legislature finds and declares that wild animals are being captured for importation and resale in
California; that some populations of wild animals are being depleted; that many animals die in captivity or
transit; that some keepers of wild animals lack sufficient knowledge or facilities for the proper care of wild
animals; that some wild animals are a threat to the native wildlife or agricultural interests of this state; and
that some wild animals are a threat to public health and safety. It is the intention of the Legislature that the
importation, transportation, and possession of wild animals shall be regulated to protect the health and
welfare of wild animals captured, imported, transported, or possessed, to reduce the depletion of wildlife
populations, to protect the native wildlife and agricultural interests of this state against damage from the
existence at large of certain wild animals, and to protect the public health and safety in this state.

Can I Have An Axolotl As A Pet In California?

Axolotls are illegal to currently acquire as a domestic pet because they are deemed ‘detrimental animals’ and may pose a threat to native wildlife, agricultural interests, and public health or safety according to the California Fish and Game Commission. Axolotls are not considered normal domestic pets in California.

I know this may sound disheartening if you live in California but there are other pets out there.

Axolotls are already endangered so know that by not getting an axolotl as a pet, you are helping to save either the axolotl population or some other species that could be decimated if axolotls were introduced into California ecosystems.

Zoo’s or research facilities may have permits to move axolotls, but anyone who has a permit for a pet axolotl will need to get a new permit just to move it anywhere.

Axolotl862102 PetAquariums Are Axolotls Illegal? Often Misinterpreted…

Can Axolotls Be Shipped To California

Axolotls cannot be shipped to California as pets. They may be shipped to California for research purposes or Zoo’s/public aquariums but only after the shipper and receivers have acquired the proper permits.

The reason for this as explained above is because axolotls are deemed as ‘detrimental animals’ so the main purpose of the legislation of axolotls is to keep them from being released into the waters of California.

If axolotls are released into the waters of California they could disrupt entire ecosystems and lead to the extinction of entire species of animals or plants, which in turn could harm agricultural resources for people in California.

Are Axolotls Illegal In Virginia?

Virginia is a prime example of inaccurate and outdated information online, that is why it is important to only trust information that is verified or has sources. Especially when it comes to legal questions that can get you in trouble.

Virginia however is on the flipside. After doing a lot of research, I have some great news for Virginians!

As of August 1, 2021, it is legal to import, export, sell, and possess Mexican Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) in Virginia. This information is straight from the website:, which is the state department of wildlife resources website.

So, when it comes to Virginia, go get yourself an axolotl and check out the axolotl category on our website for all of your axolotl needs.

Are Axolotls Illegal in Maine?

Maine’s laws were a little hard to understand in regards to having an axolotl in possession but after a lot of reading through boring rules and regulations, this is what I understood from it:

Axolotls are illegal in Maine as domestic pets but different types of legal permits can be obtained for housing axolotls, mainly for research, education, or rehabilitation of distressed or endangered axolotls.

The following are excerpts from the actual rules and regulations…



7.01″”””” Scope of Rules

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is established to preserve, protect and enhance the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of the state; to encourage the wise use of these resources; to ensure coordinated planning for the future use and preservation of these resources; and to provide for the effective management of these resources.

Pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152 the commissioner has the authority to adopt rules necessary for the administration of wildlife in captivity, including provisions to ensure that all wildlife possessed under these permits receives humane treatment and proper husbandry and security, and to safeguard the interests of the wildlife and citizens of the State. Non-native wildlife potentially carries risks for the native wildlife resources and ecosystems of the State of Maine and the public at large. Collection of some native wildlife can be unsustainable and when held in captivity may pose risks upon release. With changing environmental conditions and the inherent adaptability of wildlife, the ability to predict the likelihood of a non-native wildlife species to survive in the wild is difficult. Therefore, these rules are established to protect Maine’s wildlife and people from the introduction or spread of diseases, the establishment of exotic species, and from bodily injury caused by dangerous native and exotic wildlife species. These rules are also established to govern trade in wildlife species that are rare or threatened in their native range and to ensure the proper care and welfare of all wildlife in captivity.

These rules are organized into general provisions applying to all permits under this Chapter, followed by specific provisions applying to each permit. The approval of permits shall be subject to the ability of the applicant to meet the provisions of these rules and other legal requirements.

These rules shall apply to:

1.”””””””” The possession, propagation, research, rehabilitation, or exhibition of any wildlife in captivity and to the importation of live wildlife from an area outside the state, including wildlife that has been hybridized, genetically altered, or reared in captivity, pursuant to 12″M.R.S. Part 13.

These rules do not apply to:

1.”””””””” The collection or use of any native wildlife from within Maine for personal, scientific or educational purposes as provided within 12 M.R.S. and department rule chapter 6; or

2.”””””””” The personal possession of any reptile, amphibian or invertebrate that is native to Maine and captured in Maine and is not listed by the department as threatened or endangered or of special concern. Possession limits for each species are provided within 12 M.R.S. §12152.

3.”””””””” The harvest of amphibians or nonmarine invertebrates for the purpose of export, sale or commercial purposes as provided within 12 M.R.S. §12159 and §12161 and as provided within department rule chapter 26; or

4.”””””””” The possession, propagation, and exhibition of fish which can be found within 12 M.R.S and as provided with department rule chapter 2; or

5.”””””””” The release of captive, raised, or imported wild animals or wild birds into the wild as provided within 12 M.R.S. §12156; or

6.”””””””” Importation permits issued to operators of commercial shooting areas specific to mallard ducks, quail, chukar partridge and Hungarian quail, which can be found within 12 M.R.S. §12102;

7.”””””””” The importation, capture or possession of raptors for hunting as provided within 12 M.R.S. §11159 and department rule chapter 4; or

8.”””””””” Savannah cats that are an F4 or higher generation; or

9.”””””””” The importation or possession of dead wildlife or wildlife parts that are legally possessed; or

10.”””””” The hunting or possession of wildlife within commercial large game shooting areas as provided within Title 7 M.R.S. §1342-A.

3.”””””””” Category 2 Restricted Species

Amphibia (Amphibians) – Captive Bred Origin Only

Caudata (Salamanders)Ambystoma mexicanum Axolotl

7.07″”””” Permit Types

1.”””””””” Importation Permit: The commissioner may issue an importation permit to a person or institution, pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152, to import wildlife in the State. No species of wildlife, except those listed by the commissioner as Unrestricted or those which are in continuous transit through Maine as provided within 7.11, shall be imported into the State of Maine without a Wildlife Importation Permit issued by the commissioner. For the purpose of this regulation, importation includes transporting or relocating into Maine either on a permanent or temporary basis, any regulated wildlife by any means including the subsequent possession of other vertebrates not subject to the wildlife definition pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §10001.

2.”””””””” Exhibition Permit: The commissioner may issue an exhibition permit to a person or institution, pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152, for the purpose of keeping or possessing wildlife (except wolf hybrids) in captivity for commercial exhibition, attracting trade, or for educational purposes.

3.”””””””” General Possession Permit for Category 2 Species: The commissioner may issue a general possession permit to a person or institution, pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152, to possess a Category 2 Species that requires special housing or care.

4.”””””””” Rehabilitation Permit: The commissioner may issue a rehabilitation permit to a person or institution, pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152, to possess debilitated or orphaned wildlife for the purpose of restoring them to full health and release to the wild, or to be humanely euthanized.

5. “”””””” Research Permit: The commissioner may issue a research permit, pursuant to 12 M.R.S. §12152 which allows the holder to import and possess wildlife that is endangered or threatened or presents a risk to humans or that requires special housing or care to conduct scientific research or to use for educational purposes.

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife

So, to sum it up, you shouldn’t expect to be able to keep an axolotl as a pet unless you are housing one that is distressed or if you are housing one for an educational or research institution, but they are more than likely going to house and care for the axolotl at their own facilities.

Are Axolotls Illegal In New Jersey?

Even though New Jersey seems to have the strictest regulations in place regarding Axolotls, it was hard to track anything down as far as laws and regulations that specifically mentioned axolotls, but when I did, the text was practically yelling at me.

New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife
Wildlife Permits Unit
Exotic and Nongame Species
26 Route 173 West
Hampton NJ 08827
Phone: (908) 735-5450
Fax: 908-735-5689

It is also illegal to sell or possess in New Jersey any species on the New Jersey Endangered Species List. Due to
difficulties in determining morphological differences among several species and the fact that these difficulties have
already produced problems, including but not limited to the following species CANNOT BE SOLD OR
POSSESSED in New Jersey: Gray Tree Frogs (all species), Dino Dogs, Larval Salamanders, Mud Puppies,
Water Dogs and Axolotls.

New Jersey Divisoin of Fish and Wildlife
Axolotl062603 PetAquariums Are Axolotls Illegal? Often Misinterpreted…

Are Axolotls Illegal in New Mexico?

Axolotls are legal to own in New Mexico but if you want to have an axolotl imported to New Mexico, you have to apply for a special use permit at least four weeks before the axolotl is imported and it costs:

One time use: ……………………….$20.00
Class 1: 1 to 5 animals………………$25.00
Class 2: 6 to 99 animals…………….$75.00
Class 3: greater than 100 animals…$300.00

Most online websites will say that it is illegal to import axolotls to New Mexico, but you may be able to get a permit. They just like to keep track of the imported axolotls in case axolotls end up being released into the wild and cause ecological problems.

Are Axolotls Illegal In Canada?

Axolotls are completely legal in Canada except for B.C. where you are required to have a permit.

Axolotls were originally imported to Canada in large numbers because they are used for medical research.

They are used for medical research because of their ability to regenerate limbs.

Known as the real-life ‘Pokemon in Canada, axolotls are growing in popularity.

Are Axolotls Illegal in Japan?

Axolotls are legal in Japan to the point that they are even bred for food. They are infamous in circles for being served up as a deep-fried exotic treat.

At iZoo, a facility in Kawazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is devoted to reptiles and amphibians, visitors can interact with the creatures. Kept in a small pond with a depth of about 15 centimeters, axolotls are particularly popular among children and their guardians–even though they are basically sedentary.

Axolotls became famous in Japan in the 1980s when they were featured in a commercial for UFO brand cup noodles.

Are Axolotls Illegal In China?

Axolotls are legal in China but are critically endangered and may not be very popular since they are known as “dinosaur fish with six horns.

Are Axolotls Illegal in the U.K.?

Axolotls are legal in the U.K. as long as you purchase one through an appropriately registered establishment.

Here is a good reference:

Appropriate Establishments

To import live Caudata (salamanders and newts) into England and Wales from outside of the UK, you need access to a registered appropriate establishment. An appropriate establishment is a facility under the supervision of the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI), where the animals can be quarantined for up to 6 weeks after the import.

To apply to register an appropriate establishment, you need to complete a”BSAL1″application and produce a”quarantine and biosecurity measures plan.

Submit both to the”FHI”allowing a minimum of 15 working days to process the application and complete the registration, an inspection may be required.

Apparently, salamanders are regulated in the U.K. because of the spread of the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans.

Are Axolotls Illegal In Australia?

Axolotls are legal in Australia, except for Tasmania where you need a permit to have an axolotl. All other salamanders are illegal in Australia.

Axolotls have some popularity in Australia as they are sold in local pet shops.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to cut it short here because there are too many countries left on the list where the legality gets kind of murky.

If you live in a country not included in our article try to find a local fish and wildlife organization to contact.

If you live in California, New Jersey, Maine, or New Mexico I would contact your local fish and wildlife department just to be on the safe side of the law.

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Pet Aquariums

Have you any questions?