The axolotl is endemic to an area in central Mexico less than 10km² on the southern edge of Mexico City.
The axolotl is native only to central Mexico, on the southern edge of Mexico City, in canals and wetlands in the general vicinity of Xochimilco, including outside the Xochimilco city limits and around the Chalco wetland. Its area of ccupancy is less than 10 kilometers² and includes an ancient system of water channels made up of deepwater lakes, natural and artificial canals, and abundant aquatic vegetation.
The axolotl was originally found in Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco, and presumably in the connecting lakes Texcoco and Zumpango, but it has disappeared from most of its range. The vast wetland upon which Mexico City was founded, and which once provided a rich and productive habitat for the axolotl and other endemic fauna, is now reduced to a handful of small, isolated patches surrounded by development. Of these, the area called ‘Lake Xochimilco’ is the largest, covering just over two square kilometers. It, too, is no longer a lake, having been fundamentally altered by the development of the sophisticated ‘chinampas’ agricultural system, which started in pre-Aztec times. This consists of raised fields of mud and vegetation coralled by rectangular plantings of the water-loving willow, Salix bonplandiana, which has reduced most of the lake to a series of canals of varying widths, approximately 182 kilometers in total length.
The axolotl are not homogeneously distributed through their range and congregate in particular places. Records from close to downtown Mexico City in the Chapultepec Lake could refer to either this species or Ambystoma velasci, and require confirmation.