Why do goldfish change color?

Goldfish colorHave you looked at your goldfish recently and thought that it looked a different color?

Have you compared old photos of your goldfish to now and noticed that your fish’s color used to be brighter?

You may even have noticed your goldfish gradually turning white!

Don’t worry, you’re not going crazy! It’s actually perfectly normal for goldfish to change color over the course of their lives.

(Ok, maybe not quite as much as in the picture! If your goldfish goes that color then consult a vet!) 

Read on to find out why goldfish change color…

Why do goldfish change color?

The main reasons that goldfish color changes are:

  • Maturing to adulthood – goldfish are actually brown when they’re born, and develop their adult color later!
  • Diet – some goldfish foods bring out color in goldfish more than others (you’ll often see commercial goldfish foods that claim to do this)
  • Amount of sunlight – goldfish in a pond or an aquarium that gets some sunlight will be more brightly colored than goldfish kept in darker conditions
  • Poor water quality – you should get a test kit to check your water quality. Make sure that you’re using a suitable aquarium filter and doing enough water changes, as poor quality water can make goldfish color fade (and is bad for your fish’s health of course!)
  • Illness or disease – again, check your water quality and look for other symptoms of disease
  • Genetics – some goldfish change color as they age, simply because goldfish can live a very long time and that’s what their genes program them to do!

If your water quality is good and your fish is getting enough sunlight, then don’t worry about any gradual change in your goldfish’s color. Your fish could be changing color for any of the above reasons, or perhaps other reasons, and it’s almost certainly nothing to worry about.

However, if you notice your fish change color very suddenly, or only in localized areas of their body (small white spots for example) then you should consult a vet or search for the symptoms online. It’s possible that your fish could have a disease such as “Ich” (also known as “white spot disease“).

Read more in our Goldfish Info series! 

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  • Jane

    I had no idea that goldfish change color throughout their lives! I thought this was going to be another article about genes and manipulating genes to make different calico colored goldfish and such. Cool read here! Never even thought of this.

    • TheGoldfishTank

      Thanks Jane. At least now you won’t be too surprised (or worried!) if your fish start to change color! :)


  • Marsha Jewell

    My first fancy goldfish was a little baby oranda with black and orange stripes for color. He got dubbed “Tiger” for his markings. As the months passed, he grew bigger and his dark began to fade slowly. One weekend I’d been gone and came back to an orange Tiger! At first I thought my kids had swiped out Tiger for an all-orange oranda while I was gone, thinking I wouldn’t notice. But he knew to hurry over when I came in the room, and everything else about him was the same. That was when I first learned about color change! I’m glad I didn’t mention my suspicions to my kids!

    • TheGoldfishTank

      Ha, that must have been quite confusing! And we thought it was adults who replace fish without telling the kids… not the other way round!! :)


  • Marecat

    I was really starting to get worried about one of my goldies until I read this. I have two comets and a common, and when I got the common I picked it because it looked like it had a beard (all orange body, except its black tail, dorsal fin, and little outline around its mouth). Since then, its midsection has started to develop a black ring, almost like a black and orange clownfish. Interestingly enough, my goldie’s also gotten significantly more social and active, considering that when I first got it, it would refuse to eat along the surface and would constantly run into the glass of my aquarium, but now I see it swimming around and being more social with my comets.

    Also, one of my comets (at least a year younger than my orange comet) has started to change from a mucky brown (which I actually thought was pretty cool) to a more golden/yellow/orange color. Who knew?

  • Jasmine

    My oranda goldfish started changing color about a week ago its was all orange and its tall is all black and his face was black spots on his face. But i recently added a new oranda goldfish about to weeks ago it the new fish is acting weird could it be that my old fish got something from the new fish and thats why hes turning black?