Why Do Goldfish Change Color or Turn White? - PetHelpful - By fellow animal lovers and experts
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Why Do Goldfish Change Color or Turn White?

Susannah's husband asked if he could have a fish. She didn't realize he meant plural. 8 big fish tanks later, she knows too much about fish.

If you bought your goldfish for its colour, you may be disappointed.

If you bought your goldfish for its colour, you may be disappointed.

Goldfish are a common household pet. Although less popular than dogs or cats, fish come in a close third because they are relatively easy to care for and don't require a lot of attention, space, exercise or training.

Because they don't leave their aquarium, they don't create a mass of housework, and they are also allergy-friendly for people who can't have a hairy pet.

However, something unusual can happen to goldfish. Over time, you may notice a change of colour. The most common change in color is from gold to white, although other changes can occur as well. Read on to learn what may be causing the change.

Goldfish haven't always been orange.

Goldfish haven't always been orange.

Goldfish, like koi, are a type of carp. And just like wild carp, wild goldfish are usually olive green. Red, black, orange, white, yellow and brown goldfish have all been created through selective breeding.

Because of the selective breeding process as well as environmental factors, it's not uncommon for a goldfish to change colour. The change can be to a similar color, a different shade or even a pattern.

Goldfish were one of the first domesticated fish. However, they did not always have the bright orange and red scales that we are familiar with today.

Orange goldfish (Carassius auratus) were in fact bred for the color. Originally, they were an olive green like the fish shown on the left.

Orange goldfish (Carassius auratus) were in fact bred for the color. Originally, they were an olive green like the fish shown on the left.

So what makes a goldfish change or lose its original color?

So what makes a goldfish change or lose its original color?

There are plenty of reasons that goldfish can change colour. Here are a few of them:

  • Change in environment.
  • Change in water type.
  • Water temperature.
  • Amount of light.
  • Introduction of other fish or goldfish into the aquarium.
  • Newborn transitioning into adult colouration.
  • Old age.

Goldfish have pigment in their skin that reacts to light. When their skin is deprived of light or they have less exposure, this impacts on their skin. Over time, they can lose their colour and turn white.

Think of it this way: When people go outside a lot, they get a tan. If instead, they stay inside, they become paler. Sunlight works in a similar way on goldfish.

Goldfish have pigment in their skin that reacts to light.

Goldfish have pigment in their skin that reacts to light.

Comments

Charlotte on August 31, 2020:

I now have one gold fish and when my other we’re still there she started turning white and yesterday my others died and it looks like she turning back please help idk if she’s ok or not

Joshua on July 29, 2020:

I have 4 goldfish. One I got all White except for one spot. When we where on vacation, he somehow turned ALL WHITE! My other fish had a tinny bit of white on their fins. My oldest fish, who has been with is for 3 years, GOT SICK AND GOT ALL WHITE ALL OVER!!!!!!! He has the Fin Rod, or the disease that makes him puffed up because he swallowed air. Plz help

Connie on July 18, 2020:

I have 3 gold fish they turned white, could it be due to the tank being cold or is it due to the allergy remover iv put in water??

CW on April 09, 2020:

I have a fish and it’s turning white. I was worried it was dieing. It’s a gold fish.

BK on March 24, 2020:

I have had 4 Goldfish since the fair 8 years ago. The one is much larger than the others and has changed color from golden green to orange and now it is turning white. the others are still orange, actually brighter than they were when I got them. Q: how long do they live. They are kept in a clean filtered tank and every now and then I add iodized salt water to the tank (13 Gal.) at around .1%. It seems to keep them very healthy. The tails are beautiful and they are well trained.

i have 6 goldfish on March 18, 2020:

one of my goldfish is white he is 4 years old in human years so that's probably it but I think he is sick

Owner of goldfishes on March 17, 2020:

I got three goldfishes, I keep them in a filtered tank and they get plenty of sunlight every day, there is a lot of plant life in the tank and my water condition is very good, but now all three of the goldfishes is changing color, two of them is kind of white-golden now, and the other one red-golden, they are all just about two years old, I want to know why they changed color.

Pava Kava on November 14, 2019:

I watch Jaiden Animations and her goldfish golddie turned white but, it was a sickness not your ideas. she learned that in Chemistry Class but, when she was little and did not know she renamed golddie rainbow.

... on November 14, 2019:

My gold fish is 4 years old now and has been pretty slow and losing its black color to white why is he Turing white?

Terry Harris on November 01, 2019:

I have 5 fantail goldfish about 4 to 7 inches long about 3 yrs old. One turned white last year and acts like it can not see has a hard time locating the food. During summer we have a small pond with a fountain outside when it starts to get cold I bring inside to tank. No heater in tank as we heat with wood and normally warm in house so to try to keep water temp steady after being outside. I now see one of the bigger fish scale are turning white. Do they need to have a light over the top. I thought the tank would be light enough as it was 90 degrees to a south facing window. Possible they need some minerals added to the water. I filled the tank with well water same as pond outside. No iron and not very hard. What should I do.

Marcia stewart on October 01, 2019:

Have had my 2 goldfish for 6 years.. got them from the feeder tank at Walmart. They were slivers now they are very big. Keep them in a filtered tank. Best way to keep fish.

Hi on July 02, 2019:

My fish is dead

What do I do

I’m not flushing him

He was turning white

Is this normal

Pls help

Teigan on June 21, 2019:

Why is my goldfish turning grey and only on its tail and top fin

Lacey on June 09, 2019:

Why is my goldfish turning white

Jada Lefevre on May 30, 2019:

My gold fish used to be gold/orange but slowly turned silver or white❤️

Beverly Gay on March 04, 2019:

I have a 39 gallon tank with 3 gold fish. My sister advised me to get some bottom feeders to help keep the tank clean. The goldfish are rather large and I was surprised that the 3 bottom feeders were constantly attacking the goldfish where ever they went in the tank.. Finally, it was apparent that the goldfish had enough and one day the 3 fish joined forces and butted the feeders to death. I couldn't believe what I saw since I didn't think the fish were capable

of this type of behavior.

Rosia on January 15, 2019:

My goldfish have had about 1000 babies in our pond and only the smallest ones are gold

Tammy Black on November 19, 2018:

My son had a jet black shibunkin in a tank we added him to our Koi pond about 6yrs ago and this last year he has turned white now getting orange spots on top starting to look like the koi

Is this normal he his about 10 years or more and about 12 inch long

wayne price on November 06, 2018:

my goldfish ahas turned white and his skin is peeling off what can i do to make him better.

Hand e on October 31, 2018:

My gold fish is gray!!!!

Ian on September 18, 2018:

Our class goldfish is turning white my classmate Ethan says his skin is peeling off is that true what should I do

ruby sanchez on September 15, 2018:

I have about 4-5 goldfish one of my goldfish was white and I thought that was normal at first but then my other goldfishes started to turn white what should I do?

Morgan Sargent on September 08, 2018:

I've had goldfish for as long as I can remember and up until I bought the small $.25 feeder goldfish I've never had a goldfish completely change color.. no matter what they always turn orange. usually dull but I always buy an assortment and no matter what they all end up looking the same.

I did buy tropical fish food for the first time as I got some tropical fish and now I do notice the goldfish becoming a more bright vivid color and a more reddish. I do not know if that's what it causes but for me that's what happened. Tropical food makes a red toned pigment appear in goldfish.

bete on July 19, 2018:

is the a way for goldfish to get their colour back?

Elise on July 17, 2018:

Thank you for your information. My goldfish ( who is three ) was starting to turn white and i was freaking out! Thank you for your help in putting me out of misery. By the way anyone who is thinking about getting a fish, i reccommend a fantailed goldfish they com in all differing sizes and colors, they are pretty, but not fragile. They last a really long time if they are taken care of. Anyway thanks.☺

Lizzy on June 29, 2018:

My goldfish of 8 years turned from orange to white within 2 days of changing her gravel from red to white. She has plenty of natural light. She changed to camoflage herself in her new environment.

Help on June 08, 2018:

I had a grey goldfish that started to turn orange, and I do not want it orange. What should I do?

Dalton on May 13, 2018:

I kept a goldfish in the dark for a week as an experiment for biology. It went from Orange with a white bottom to a almost completely white fish.

David on April 12, 2018:

I'm pretty sure owning one goldfish for seven years hardly qualifies you as an expert on fish. There are so many variables involved you cannot say that light is the sole determining factor in your one fish changing color or lack of color change. There is a thing called scientific method where past studies have shown light can be a factor despite your carefully controlled testing... Just for the record.

Teresa Metzler on March 07, 2018:

I won a fish at a carnival seven years ago, she has always been exposed to direct sunlight due to the location of her tank and the many skylights and 9-foot glass doors. She was originally bright orange with a white saddle, a few years ago she turned completely white (which I like) so your theory about light and colour holds absolutely no credibility... Just for the record.

Caroline on March 04, 2018:

my gold fish turn white and floated at the top why

?

Jean on February 19, 2018:

my goldfish are all in the same tank & are feed the same food & were all bought at the same time & all get the same amount of sunlight & I have 2 that turned white & 2 that are still gold....so I have a hard time believing the sunlight thing caused them to loose color.

Rolanda on December 14, 2017:

Do they get their color back if you put them to light?

Emely on December 02, 2017:

One of my fish just died. We left him in the tank and other fish are turning white, too. I think because of less exposure of sun. R.I.P. No name .

Sophia on November 19, 2017:

I've had two goldfish for over 10 years. About two years ago, one of them turned white and unfortunately passed away. We thought it was sick because it would lay upside down, and then flip right side up. It did this for about 6 months to a year. My other goldfish is still alive, after 12 years of having him. He showed no signs of being sick, but he did seem gloomy when my other goldfish died. I was wondering why he never turned white or became extremely sick as well. Also, my brother has a goldfish that's about a year old. But my brothers' goldfish lives in a different tank. I was questioning if joining the two fish into one tank, was a good idea, or since my fish is so much bigger, that he'll bully my brothers' fish. My fish is about 9'' and my brothers' fish is about 3'' long. Would joining the two fish into one be good for my fish, since he's depressed my other fish, and his buddy for 10 years, passed away. Or will he potentially kill my brothers' little fish?

Sunset2017 on October 29, 2017:

Goldfish need UV light to keep their colors .... I quarantine my new Goldfish indoors with only house lights on and off . They temporary fade out indoors. The first time my goldfish faded out I panicked because they are gorgeous show fish quality that I paid a lot of money for. I realized it was only temporary. It immediately happens indoors and the black goes obsolete. They change colors according to light. Take them outside and Voila! The color immediately comes back vibrant and rich. If your goldfish fade out it’s because your not giving them any UV lighting. If they are kept without UV light they will permanently change and or lose their color. Give them some outdoor light by a window, in a screen room on your patio or buy a UV light bulb for indoors tanks and they will stay pretty.

pondwatcher on August 16, 2017:

I bought feeder goldfish for my pond. They grew and bred in there with no additions for three years. This year I have an all white one from the same parents. I live in Canada so when the ice melted from the surface this Spring, there it was, pure white. Strange!!

Sam on July 14, 2017:

I just bought 12 feeder fish to pUT in my pond there was not one brown one in the bag and when I put them in my pond one of them turned completely brown that's crazy what. Caused it to do that ?

Yummy Twinkie on July 10, 2017:

mine turned pale when i used crappy food

MAINEvacation on July 08, 2017:

Thanks for the imformation!

ava on July 03, 2017:

Please respond~ I just got a new goldfish, she had a beautiful black, yellow, and brown markings, and even a black dot above her mouth that made her look like a cat! Her colors are fading drastically and it's only been 2 days! Please help! ( she is in a small tank with another goldfish. They have a filter and LED lights)

Carla on June 29, 2017:

My 12 year old calico has completely lost his black coloring in just a couple months.

Nig on May 19, 2017:

Thanks for the info

Jess on May 15, 2017:

I bought a goldfish the other day that looks like a bass any idea how this is possible

Jeanne on April 30, 2017:

Todd, I had to read your comment three times, then I realized it was just a horrible racist joke. I am horribly offended and request it be removed.

Gen on April 19, 2017:

Wilber, your fish may have a disease whom'a symptoms include white spots on the fish.

Jane on April 05, 2017:

Is there a particular type or brand of fish food that will help my fish regain their gold colour? I've only had them a week and they're losing their bright orange hue!!!!

Isabella on March 24, 2017:

I have a black goldfish and now it's starting to go gold. What is happening??

Martyn on January 27, 2017:

What can I do to try and get the gold colour back

ethan on January 05, 2017:

hey guys I just want you guy know that we used to have a killer fish and the goldfish ate it!

ethan on November 30, 2016:

hi,again i want you to know my i got my fish 3 years ago and it turn white

Chris on November 23, 2016:

I have had 3 pond gold fish that stay in a pond and overwinter in an aquarium as it is only 2 feet deep and the winters can freeze that deep here. One of the three turned stark white with the second year in the pond. The others stayed gold. Also the pond has become a breeding ground as they have had..15+babies. All various colours 3 olive. There were 4 but th e last one has not made it out of the pond as it is extremely difficult to see to catch. I wonder if the white one is perhaps female and due to hormonal changes caused it to go white..

carmen on August 22, 2016:

we have our gold fish in an outdoor pond. we overwinter them inside. they are large they were originally feeder fish and have grown just beautiful. gorgeous fantails on them. 2 of them are turning white. pond is partially shades with plants. three frogs came and stayed this summer. they are 8 years old. thank you

Stevie on June 27, 2016:

I have two gold fish one has been white for ages and one is brighter orange than ever

wilbur on June 03, 2016:

my goldfish, Mister Buttocks was brilliant orange but ive just noticed he has white patches all over him. Please tell me I dont have to throw him in the canal?!

Sarae on May 31, 2016:

I have six fish and this is the first time I'm noticing that my orange fish has change color

Lorenzo on May 16, 2016:

I raised fishes for many decades, since the 70's. My favorite have always been goldfish.

However always had the same problem of buying some beautifully colored "red" goldfish. And after a short while, only a few months, they would lose their deep red color, to become a plain pale orange.

Is there a main fish food ingredient that maintains their deep red color.

For example everyone who breeds birds, especially canaries, know that enhance the red coloring of the Red Factor canary breeds, there are specific foods such as carrots and tomatoes. Otherwise the Red Factor Canaries very often will turn white. Also now many fine pet shops now carry some beautifully colored "red" goldfish. And most all become a pale orange after a short while.

The employees at those pet shop are clueless as to the reason why, because most are just new to goldfish. Lucky if they have at least 5 experience, which they naively consider a long time.

There must be something that the fisheries do to enhance the deep red coloring of goldfish, before they ship them to the pet shop warehouses.

Madison Burke on May 02, 2016:

hi. Well on my 7th birthday I got 2 goldfish of my friend and then 2 weeks later one of them died of red spots . The other one mango is still alive but he is 6 years old and is turning silver on his stomach and the top and bottom of his tale . I think it may just no old age or the food I give him. There is also a weatherloage in the tank it's like a water snake but the lady at pets at home said it was perfectly fine .

Madison on May 02, 2016:

My goldfish mango is 6 years old and he was orange yesterday and I woke up and saw white on his belly and the top and bottom of his tale . At first I thought I was dreaming but then I woke up and he was actually white .

Tanya on April 01, 2016:

My goldfish is turning white - I don"t love him as much. I'm not usually racist - what should I do.

Brandon Fisher on March 31, 2016:

My Goldfish (Daniel and Mr. Krabs) were orange one day and i got home and they were starting to lose their colour. I thought they were ill and might die. Thank god they haven't and i now have had them for 4 years!

Thanks for this page.

Brandon

Ellen on March 03, 2016:

Bubbles my goldfish was red one night and he looked sick.in the morning I woke to see he had a white tail which hadn't been there before.hes 1-2 years old.why is this happening?i was thinking old age but he's only 1-2 years.why?

John on February 09, 2016:

My 3 yr. old goldfish 1 a Black Moore turned Orange and my 2 fancy tail goldfish, one turned all white & the other is on her way to turning white but all are happy & healthy

Gavin on January 02, 2016:

I got my gold fish a while back he was brownish grayish and hr slowly turned silver i didnt notice then his belly turned yellow and yellow crawled up his body and just bout a week ago he had a dark gray stripe down his back now he yellow

adan on November 24, 2015:

i have 12 gold fish but all of them are white and some black

Cam on May 30, 2015:

I had one which changed between black and orange every two weeks for about six months.

zahid Nabi on May 22, 2015:

among 2 golden fishes one fish color turning white

its happened since i change the water of my home equarium. Although previous i have changed water every 3 month.

chow the fish on May 08, 2015:

My goldfish chow, kills any other fish in the tank . We started off with two gold fish chow and superman we put them in the tank chow turned black and then superman died we replaced superman and same thing happened. So we tried a sucker fish chow turned black and the fish died. Then we put two sucker fish in the tank same ending . Now chow is all alone and his head is white

Sindiso on April 26, 2015:

I have 2 gold fish. Orange and Yellow. The Orange 1 is starting to change colour so I was terribly worried coz ive only had them for 3 months. Thanks for the article

Jimmy on March 23, 2015:

My goldfish stinks

Einar Erik Volsung on January 17, 2015:

My daughter won a gold fish at school..Goldie the gold fish.I put it in our 20 gal.tank with live plants and a good light source super awesome filter system and the few other fish who have been there for over a year now and now Goldie will have to change her name to WHITE LIGHTING or Goldie the not so gold ,gold fish....thank you for the info

jadi on January 10, 2015:

i have a goldfish, well its color is brown and a belly part of golden yellow. but some of its part turns red? i did some research about this but it appears that gold fish can have color changes on their skin with blue, yellow and white but no red? side of its eyes are red unto its tail. any reasons why?

kezza on October 29, 2014:

I,ve had my goldfish for 14 years now he only as orange on the top of his body the rest turned white, I just think it is there age as I have another in with him and he,s 4 but still the same colour as when he was a baby.

Bethany on August 18, 2014:

My gold fish has been white for the past 3-4 weeks or so, and i was sooo confused. But now I know y, so thnx for that and ima try putting it in the sun for 1 week and ima c what happens. Hopefully it changes colours!!!

amy on April 02, 2014:

my gold fish is brown

Keith on December 20, 2013:

My fish is about 3-4 years old and started getting white patches on him. I always thought he was really sick! All the other fish he was born with had white, so maybe its just his genetics :)

Hi on October 20, 2013:

My goldfish is white

Nekia on June 07, 2013:

i have a goldfish and its white why is that is something wrong with the fish

Poison ivy on May 26, 2013:

my goldfish is about 7 years old and he is changing colour to patches of silver white he was two colours at first but he is rapidly changing to all silver the only thing I have changed is that I now put fresh weed into the aquarium he has a companion who is about 2 years old who is still very orange with no changes to colour he seems well enough and the position of the aquarium is not in full sun and has not been moved I feed the same food as always but wondered about his colour

Scottie Wesson from Verbena, Alabama on May 07, 2013:

Ok, so I have a white and gold goldfish and he is turning yellow. Anyone know why?

arun on November 10, 2012:

geez, i went to petland today and they had fish the size of...... fish. this other fish was what um red and white. kinda looked like the american flag. i asked the guy what happened, and he said temperature changed. that still haunts me how the fish looked like. uuuggh

Marion Clements on September 02, 2012:

My 'Black' Goldfish has started to develop spotted, blue with white and a touch of orange on the top of its head, and over the last few weeks these markings are continuing down the back of the fish, there are 3 fish in the pond with these markings already (Cherbunkins?) Its a reasonable sized fish and has been in the pond for 2/3 years. There are several other goldfish of varying sizes and shades, and also Ghost Carp, and all appear healthy.

kainat on August 10, 2012:

Its just so amazing on they change from orange to white

Rosalinne on January 21, 2012:

Today I woke up and my man goldfish died... :'( I Won Him At The Fair &&' The Women Goldfish Is Still Alive...

Tish on January 19, 2012:

one of my golfish turned white too. i was so worried because i thought something was wrong with him, i thought he was sick or something...how do i get his original colour back? will exposing him to a little more sun help? is the other one also going to lose its colour, it hasn't yet. help

Kaylene Stevens on January 13, 2012:

My gold fish has turned white and i now know why, but after fixing this problem will his colour eventually come back

hi on October 17, 2011:

what about temperature and he color of goldfish

Rehana Stormme on September 10, 2011:

Can you imagine! I always thought gold fish were orange. This is a very interesting article!

Clawdeen on August 27, 2011:

my goldfish is turning white i have had for it about 6 months