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Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Water Garden & Feature Q & A

Why are my goldfish changing color?

Water Gardens & Features Q & A

Q: Why are my goldfish changing colors? – Emily in New York

A: Whether you have a traditional goldfish in your pond or one of the many fancy varieties, you may notice their colors change over time – don’t worry. It doesn’t necessarily mean your fish have some sort of disease! In most cases, it’s normal for goldfish to change color. So before you start dumping antibiotics in your pond, first consider these possibilities:


Goldfish naturally change color as they age. Though most do so during their first year or two of life, others change throughout their lifetime. Fish experts have identified two different types of color changes in fish: physiological and morphological.

Physiological changes occur when the pigments in the cells either spread out, which makes the colors more pronounced, or when the pigment clusters in the center, which makes the colors more muted. Morphological changes occur when the actual number of pigments in the cells increase or decrease. An example of a morphological change is when a black goldfish starts to turn orange or a young goldfish loses its black markings as it ages. In this case, as the fish matures, it’s losing its black pigment cells.

How and when their colors change really depends upon their individual genetic makeup. Inexpensive goldfish whose parents are unknown can change in unpredictable ways, while expensive show-quality fish will be a bit more predictable.

Color-Enhancing Foods

Certain types of food, like Pond Logic® Growth & Color Fish Food, can accentuate subdued colors in goldfish, too. Sometimes, a dull orange goldfish can be made a deeper shade of red with these specially formulated diets, which contain natural color-enhancing supplements like spirulina, beta glucan, vitamin E and vitamin C.

Keep in mind, however, that some of these color-enhancers may affect other colors, too. White areas on calico orandas, for instance, may take on an orange hue – which may not be the look you’re going for.

Illness, Poor Water Quality

If your goldfish’s color becomes very dull or it starts to become inactive, that could be a sign of illness or poor water quality. Use a test kit, like the Pond Master Test Kit, to check your water quality, including your pH, ammonia and nitrite levels. Then, if necessary, add a broad-spectrum medication, like Pond Care’s Melafix or Pimafix, to treat parasites or bacterial infections your fish may have.

POND TALK: Have your fish changed their “spots?”

31 Responses

  1. I also don’t know how old he is because I got him from a friend whose tank broke, he said he’d had this comet goldfish for a couple years

  2. Hi- My fish, that I recently had gotten, has been turning black on his scales and on the edges of all of his fins. When I got him, he already had some black on his top fin.

    I’ve tried everything to figure out what his deal is. I tried to find his correct species, but it seems like he’s a total mix of breeds. I’ve tried to see if it was the water quality, but nothing changed. Now I’m seeing if he has ammonia burns. However, I’ve been thinking that it could be just his pigment turning black. I’ve looked at my food brand and what the food flakes do (TetraFin Goldfish Flakes).

    The good thing is, though, he’s showing perfectly good signs in his tank. (20 gallon). He’s the only one in there too. He’s swimming everywhere, chasing his reflection on the sides of the tank, always eating his two flakes that I feed him once day, his removing waste regularly, and his physical appearance except for the black stuff on his scales.

    What could this indicate??

    • Hi Morgan- If this “black stuff” is just coloring and not an actual build up on the scales and your fish is acting normal in every other way then I would just say it is coloring. However you are doing well to be diligently watching your fish, especially since he is new to the tank. I would continue to monitor water quality for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates to be sure these are not causing the fish any stress.

      • Thanks for the advice. I wasn’t sure at all. Before I got my fish, I had two goldfish in the past that stayed the same color, (gold) but then passed because I never took care of the water and I fed them way too much. (I’m sorry, fish lovers).

        Anyway, I am starting to see that my fish is beginning to grow black all over much more. Just a couple of days ago I went to PetSmart to maybe get some bottom feeders and some Dalmation Molly so my fish can have more company, and because I wanted a community tank.

        The lady that I talked to about my fish said that if there is ammonia, then the fins can start to look rotten and torn up, like fish rot; but I wasn’t sure if that was the case because my fish was showing no signs of fish rot nor torn fins. She concluded to me that I should get some all in one care bottle for my fish to clear anything that could supposedly be bad. But again, my fish is showing perfectly healthy signs.

        So, just to be safe, I bought some ammonia reducer fizz tabs to reduce ammonia, if any. I put two in my 20 gallon tank, because the directions said to put in 1 each 10 gallons. I have no idea if it helped or not, because my fish is still growing black spots.

        Based on your information, I think I’m settled on the fact that now that it’s just coloring. Thanks.

  3. Ok this was helpful cause my gold fish went from gold with a black stripe to orange I was worried

  4. hi Im not very experienced with the fancy goldfish cause i started when i was 14 yrs n now im gonna be 16 soon so not much experience .last week i bought 4 fancy goldfish 2 gold vieltail and 2 calico their about 2 inches in size.one of the calico got followed alot by one viel tail.im not sure its mating or bullying. the calico which was mostly white with other spots is some how looking red .it has no fin or tail rips n no missing scales. just worried about it.

    Hamza LK

    • Hi Hamza – The best you can do is to continue to monitor your fish. If there are changes in behavior you can test the water quality, increase oxygen through aeration, and also add Stress Reducer to help build the fish’s slime coat.

  5. Only one of my goldfish are changing colors I have the black big eyed goldfish and the smaller one I have it’s changing a orange sliver color does this mean they are different sexs?

    • Hi Jennifer – Color change is not really an indicator of sex. Color change has more to do with environment and growth of the fish. If you are interested in finding out if your fish are male or female you will need to look closer at their body structure. Males tend to have a more slender body while females more rounded. Watch next spring and find that fish doing the chasing will be male, and the fish being chased are female. Here is an article on determining gender. While this is geared towards koi many of the same traits are used for determining gender in goldfish.

  6. hi I have so many questions. I have two goldfish and I need help on caring on them. one has turned white and the other is still gold.

    • Hi Ashley – It is not uncommon for fish to change color, just make sure you have good filtration and are feeding them a balanced diet. You may want to read though our learning center for more fish care tips but feel free to contact us or e-mail pondhelp@thepondguy.com with more questions.

  7. I have an apricot blush goldfish in an outdoor ornamental pond. Back in April, I thought a raccoon got it because it totally disappeared -nothing but orange, orange/white, orange/black and calicos in the pond, including over a complete cleanout where I saw every fish individually. Now, 3 months later I suddenly have a blush fish again. Is it possible it changed colors because it was carrying eggs?

    • Hi Janet – The biggest reason for color changes is stress or genetics. If a predator did visit your pond, the fish may have changed due to the stress of the incident. It’s hard to be 100% certain when it comes to color changes.

      • Hmmm. I did have to add about 6 to 7 inches of water to my pond a few days ago- maybe enough city water to affect the pH? I’ve long known that goldfish colors change with age, but have never seen one change overnight like this blush goldfish. I’ll have to keep an eye on it and see if it happens again- evaporation is a big problem when the temps are over 100 degrees most of the day and it doesn’t drop below 80 at night.

      • Are you using a dechlorinator or water conditioner when you fill up using city water? The chlorine and other additives in city water can cause stress on your fish.

      • Usually I don’t add dechlorinator when I’m only topping it up a few inches-I’ve checked chlorine, nitrates and pH in the past, and haven’t needed to unless I’m adding a much larger amount of water. This is about 1800 gallons total with good aeration and gravel bog filtration system. But given the extremely hot weather coupled with about 20 goldfish that have grown quite large (6-8 inches) it may have been on the edge. I’ll check my water quality today and see if it has swung too far out of normal range. Thanks for the response.

  8. Our pond goldfish, that we have had for several years we’re cheap feeders that started breeding last year. We now have babies of different sizes. Most are orange and white like the parents but a few we’re dark. Over the last week, one went blotchy, then completely orange. My bf thought I was crazy. He thought I was mistaken, but thanks for showing me I’m not! I know what my fishies look like lol

  9. thanks for the information, I have 4 pond goldfish, cheap ones I saved in the 10 for $99cents from being fed to a snake or reptile. One is getting a big white spot, and another turned mostly white in the past week; I had a very dark pond and was treating for algae. All 4 seem active; so its a relief this is normal.

  10. My goldfish, Scout, will be 8 years old this June. I won him at a carnival. A few weeks after I brought him home, he changed from silvery gold to orange. Then just the other week he started turning black. At first I was really worried until I read this article. Thank you for clearing that up for me!

  11. My goldfish went from black and orange to solid orange to white and orange….

    • mine too. what should we do!!!! my fish turns black then back orange. i still don’t understand please help me!!!

      • Hi Destiny – Goldfish can change color for a variety of reasons. Color changes in goldfish are common as they age. Inexpensive goldfish, whose parents are unknown, can change in unpredictable ways while expensive show-quality fish will be a bit more predictable. Choosing fish foods that enhance their color will make them more vibrant. You can read a little more on the topic in this article: Why Do Koi (and Goldfish) Change Color?.

  12. I have a cheap goldfish that’s about 21/2 years old. It was originally a bright orange but it has become white with orange splotches. What does that mean! Is it dying?
    Thanks! Serena

    • Generally, color changes in goldfish are common as they age. Inexpensive goldfish, whose parents are unknown, can change in unpredictable ways while expensive show-quality fish will be a bit more predictable. Choosing fish foods that enhance their color will make them more vibrant. You can read a little more on the topic if you hop over to one of our previous articles: http://wp.me/pgZB4-eA.

  13. My gold fish is white is that ok ?

    • Hi Lisa,

      Goldfish come in many different colors and it is possible for even a white one, colors may also change depends on sunlight exposure and diet.

      • my fish had colors on it and now its all white its lossing all it colors why?

      • Hi Yami – Fish can change color due to a variety of reasons. During the winter, it can often happen due to stress from the environment. Often times their genetics play a big part in their developing colors. Their exposure, or lack of, to sun can cause a change in the intensity of their colors. Their fish food may be fine as a feed, however it may not contain the “extras” that brighten and maintain their color. Look for foods that contain color intensifiers and vitamins in them. Be sure to only feed your fish this high quality food when your water temperatures are above 50°. Here is another blog article that may help explain the color change: Why do Koi (and Goldfish) Change Color?

  14. can betas change colors too

  15. We have a small pond about 4 years old which has both Koi and Goldfish in the 8-14 inch range. Last year one of the goldfish completely lost all orange pigment throughout the season. It is a healthy fish , just changed color .

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