Do Goldfish Change Colors?

The intriguing colors of goldfish make them an extremely popular aquarium pet. However, it is often said that their colors could change over time. In fact, goldfish keepers often notice their fishy pet to turn white, black or orange from their original colors. So, do goldfish really change color in the course of their life span? Is it normal for them to change color?

Most goldfish change color over the course of their life. This change primarily happens in the first two years of their life. In fact, baby goldfish often appear black or brown, thanks to the presence of melanophores or pigmented cells beneath their scales. Subsequently, they may continue to change color. This change, however, depends on a number of factors.

If you are planning to bring home some goldfish, you may have a few questions about their color. For instance, you may want to know why or when they change colors, what to look for when they change color and how to maintain or enhance their colors. This article aims to address all your questions and also offers interesting insights that might help.

Why do goldfish change color?

Most breeds of goldfish change color as they age because they are genetically wired that way. However, genetics is not the only reason for their color change. In fact, they can lose their colors due to inadequate lighting or poor water quality. In addition, their diet can play a role in the color change. More importantly, sometimes they may experience color changes due to illness, such as bacterial infections. 

Is the gradual color change in baby goldfish clearly visible in distinct phases?

The color change in a goldfish fry gradually begins from the lower regions of the body and moves up to the dorsal region. In fact, you can witness this process if you keenly observe the fry from the sides. However, from a distance, you will only witness the changes in the later stages. The speed of the change depends on several factors, such as water quality, genetics and of course the food you offer to your pet. The phases therefore are not clearly noticeable.

When do goldfish turn gold?

Typically, goldfish are not born with a golden color. In fact, baby goldfish are either gray or metallic black. The darker shades of gray or black actually help them hide from predators. However, they gradually change color as they age. In fact, most goldfish will turn orange or gold by the time they reach the age of one year. However, some fish may continue to remain black or gray even to their adulthood.

Can a goldfish turn white?

Yes. A goldfish turns white usually when it does not receive enough sunlight. Low-carotene diets can also result in discoloration.  Other reasons can be sickness or old age. However, in case of sickness, you’ll notice muted coloration as opposed to complete whitening

Can stress cause discoloration in goldfish?

Yes, your goldfish may lose colors due to stress. For instance, stress due to drastic changes in water temperatures or high chlorine levels in the tank water could result in discoloration. Apparently, introducing a new fish into a tank that already houses goldfish can also add to their stress quotient and cause discoloration! So, consider seeking professional advice before you add a new fish to your goldfish tank.  

Can my goldfish regain its original color?

Well, in some cases, your goldfish can regain its original color naturally. Meanwhile, you can take some steps to help restore its color. For instance, you can expose the fish to diffused sunlight and add carotene-rich foods in its diet. You’ll also find fish foods that contain color enhancing nutrients. Despite the best of efforts, however, a complete color change may not be possible. For instance, if your goldfish has lost its colors due to sickness or aging, a reversal to original colors may not be possible. However, partial color changes, for instance, where the body remains white but the head turns back to golden, can occur. These are known as lemon-heads and are in high demand.

Can goldfish turn black from orange?

Yes, a goldfish can gradually turn black from its bright orange or golden hue. If that happens, something is clearly wrong with the aquarium water. In most cases, fish waste and rotten food inside the tank pollute the water. In fact, these substances release ammonia, which causes burns on the skin of goldfish. Although the burns do not show up, the skin, when heals, gives rise to black patches. So, make sure you keep the fish tank clean and avoid food wastage.

What food options could stop turning my goldfish black?

Proper nutrition can help your goldfish retain its original colors. To that end, you can give them gel foods. First of all, gel food is moist and replicates the natural diet of a goldfish. In addition, leftover gel food easily dissolves into the tank water. So, unlike other dry foods, gel food does not pollute the water. If, however, you want to use solid dry foods, such as flakes and pellets, consider soaking them in water for some time before adding them to the tank water.   

How do goldfish get its color?

Typically, genes of a goldfish are responsible for its color. Depending on their genetics, different breeds of goldfish may contain different color-producing cells, AKA chromatophores. Simply put, chromatophores contain color pigments, which reflect light to make a goldfish look red, black, white or yellow. For instance, one type of chromatophores called erythrophore makes a goldfish look red, while another type called melanophore is found in black goldfish.

Why is my goldfish turning red?

While a goldfish can change its color to red naturally, it might not be the case always. Sometimes, your goldfish can turn red due to illness or bacterial infections. For instance, high pH levels in the aquarium could cause ammonia poisoning, resulting in red patches on the body of your goldfish. In addition, diseases like septicemia can also turn your goldfish red. So, if you notice your pet turning red suddenly, consider consulting a vet.  

Why is my goldfish turning yellow?

As you already know, a goldfish changing color is a common phenomenon. So, don’t panic, if your pet is turning yellow. However, they could change colors due to illness. So, check if your pet is behaving normally. If not, then you should check the quality of tank water. Also, make sure your aquarium is big enough to accommodate all your fishy pets. And, never forget to clean the fish tank once every three to four days. Remember, using chlorine-free water for your fish tank is absolutely essential.

Do goldfish change color when they sleep?

Your goldfish can go into periods of deep slumber from time to time. You will know your fish is asleep when it hovers around the bottom of the fish tank for a while. When asleep, their color appears to have faded a bit. This is a completely reversible change. In fact, this color change is a defense mechanism of your goldfish to protect itself from predators while they are asleep. Pale colors allow easy camouflaging and offer potent cover.

When do color changes signal ill health in goldfish?

Look out for red streaks on the body and blackish tinges on the fins. In addition, there are other signs to look out for. A sick fish will most often float upside down, refrain from eating too much or perhaps not eat at all. In fact, when your goldfish is sick, it could choose to remain towards the bottom of the fish tank for most parts of the day. So, it is always a good idea to take pictures of your goldfish from time to time for checking on any signs of sickness.

What can I do to enhance goldfish colors?

While you cannot change the natural colors of your goldfish, you can definitely take steps to enhance their colors. For instance, you can give them foods that contain organic pigments, AKA carotenoids.  For example, consider including carrots and peas in their diet. Also, it is important to ensure and maintain proper water chemistry in the goldfish tank. In addition, make sure your goldfish are getting enough exposure to sunlight. However, you should keep them away from direct sunlight. Instead, consider using diffused lighting, so that the water in the fish tank does not become too warm.

What are some uncommon colors seen in goldfish?

Apart from golden, red, orange and yellow, you’ll find goldfish in bronze or even blue color. In fact, some goldfish may have an interesting mix of colors and patterns. So, these different color variants are often a result of genetic combinations formed while breeding. However, when you are starting out, the common goldfish is the best bet as it happens to be the hardiest too. You can choose from various color options in the common variant, including orange, red, yellow, golden and even black.