Noticing your goldfish has changed color can feel a bit concerning for many owners, but in lots of cases, color change is a natural progression as your fish start to age.
Lighting levels and environment can hugely affect the type of changes you see, but it’s important to be aware there are other more serious factors to consider.
Should I be worried?
Color change is often natural and doesn’t always mean you need to be alarmed, with the most common change in color being a move from a bright gold color, to white.
There are however some serious health issues that can lead to your goldfish turning white, so it’s important to consider all the options before you sit back and assume it’s a natural and healthy change for your fish.
We’ve created a list of some of the most common reasons for a goldfish turning white to try and help you work out what the issue may be, but as always, if you have any immediate concerns about the health of your fish, it’s always worth seeking the advice of a local professional.
Natural change as they get older
Depending on the breeding of your goldfish, you may see huge changes in color or pattern as they begin to mature. Most of the changes will happen in the first year or two of their life, and the more ‘selective’ the breeding process, the more likely it is you’ll be able to estimate what your fish will look like when they are fully mature.
If you have a more expensive fish, it’s likely that their color change will reflect that of their parents, so it’s easier to work out if the changes are natural.
If you have a goldfish that suits a tighter budget, however, it’s very unlikely that you’ll know what color and pattern change to expect as they develop. This can mean it’s harder to work out if the color change is natural, but it’s still very possible.
Levels of light
Lighting levels can make a big difference to the color of goldfish, as they have pigments in their skin that react to natural sunlight, and this is what can make them change color.
In a similar way to how people tan if they spend time in the sun, fish begin to lose their color if they are exposed to higher levels of light. Keeping your fish in a darker area can sometimes mean they will keep their color for longer, but do remember that a reasonable level of light is a key factor in keeping your fish happy and healthy.
Changes in environment
A whole host of environmental factors can cause a fish to change color, and not all of them are particularly obvious, even for a keen fish owner!
Changes in water type or temperature are very common causes for color changes in goldfish, but so are more subtle things like changing the placement of your tank in your room, or even adding new fish to your aquarium.
If you’ve recently made changes to the environment your fish are living in, it’s likely you don’t need to be concerned, but it’s still worth doing a few checks of your tank (keep reading for information on what checks we suggest) before you put it down to these more harmless environmental differences.
Sign of illness
If your goldfish is unwell, it’s likely that color change will not be the only symptom you notice – they may also become less active or responsive in your aquarium.
If you think your fish may be unwell, the first step is to test your water. You should consider checking the PH balance, Ammonia levels, and Nitrate levels to see if there’s an issue with your water quality that may be affecting the health of your fish.
If you do find an issue with your water, you’ll need to rectify this fairly quickly – water changes and proper cleaning will help, but seek advice from a local professional if the levels in your water are particularly alarming.
Low oxygen levels
If your fish is turning a translucent white color, this is more of a cause for alarm, as this could be a sign they are very low on oxygen and are becoming very ill.
You can test your water, and if you find the oxygen levels are too low, you should start a large water change of at least 60% as soon as you can. Acting quickly may mean your fish has a chance to recover.
If you’re still concerned about low oxygen levels in your tank, you may want to consider getting hold of an air stone to help increase the levels.write
Because fish have limited ways of letting you know if there is a problem, it’s often a case of eliminating any potential issues where possible, to give your fish the best chance of a healthy and happy life.
Although it can be a bit of an expense to start with, having a good set of water testing equipment to hand is the quickest and easiest way of deciding whether there is a serious problem in your aquarium.
If you’re lucky enough to have a larger aquarium with several fish, you should also look to see if just one fish is affected by a color change (which is more likely to be a natural cause), or whether more than one fish is suddenly affected (which should start to sound alarm bells!).
While color change is often a natural part of development and maturity for goldfish, if you do think there may be a health concern, the most important thing is to act as quickly as you can…goldfish are very sensitive to changes in their water and environment, so a fast diagnosis of the issue could even save the life of your pet.