If you see your goldfish turning white, you probably have a lot of questions.
Why is it happening? Should you be worried? Is there something you can do about it?
And we totally get it.
In fact, «why is my goldfish turning white» is probably one of the most common questions we see from owners (of all experience levels). So don’t worry, you are not alone!
Hopefully, this guide will clear everything up. She will learn why this is happening, how to find out the cause, and if there is anything she can (or should) do.
Should I be worried?
Seeing your goldfish turn white can be alarming. But it’s not always an immediate cause for concern.
Contrary to popular belief, most types of goldfish are not naturally golden in nature. They are one of the first domesticated fish in history, and selective breeding has done much to shape the fish into what we know today.
As a result, color changes are more common than you think. In fact, one of the most common color changes for goldfish is turning white!
That said, if your fish suddenly turns pale, you can’t rule out the possibility that a health issue is the cause. The truth is that there are many reasons why this could be happening.
The key is to consider all potential causes and keep an eye on the fish. From there, you can decide if you need to take action.
Potential causes for turning white
The possible causes of a goldfish turning white vary widely. Some are innocent enough and don’t require any immediate action, while others can be resolved with a few simple changes to the way you care for your fish.
And of course there is also the possibility that it could be an underlying health problem.
But wait! Before you get nervous wondering why your goldfish is turning white, consider some possible causes to help you learn more about why a color change is occurring.
1. They are turning white with age
The simplest answer might be that your fish is simply getting older. If he bought his fish when he was young, there is a good chance that his color will transform naturally as he grows into adulthood.
Author’s Note: This is quite common with «designer» races like the Ryukin.
If you have the chance to learn more about breeders, do it! This will give you a better idea of what to expect as your fish ages. Of course, this is not always possible. As a result, your goldfish turning white might come as a surprise.
There are some things you can do to determine if aging is the cause. A good way to tell if this is a natural transition is to monitor the rate of change.
Many juvenile goldfish will slowly turn white over the first few years of life as they grow in size. As long as the whitening doesn’t happen suddenly, it’s most likely a sign of growth.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you may notice your fish turning white as it ages. Goldfish can live for quite a long time . Your average goldfish can live up to 15 years.
Some specimens tend to turn pale as they reach their last years of life. This is normal. Think of it like a human turning gray!
2. Environmental changes in your tank
Another common culprit is a change in the environment. Goldfish are known to be quite hardy and highly adaptable.
But the reality is that they are quite sensitive to changes in their habitat.
This could include things like pH level, temperature, and even hardness. The pH balance, in particular, is known to cause goldfish to lose their shine a bit. Use a water test kit to see what the water conditions are like.
If they are outside of the comfortable range for your goldfish, make the necessary changes. Goldfish prefer neutral waters that are between 68 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything outside of this range could cause them to turn a bit white.
Interestingly, goldfish can also respond to very small changes that don’t even have to do with water conditions. We are talking about new decorations or new tank placement! These fish are quite cunning and know when something is wrong.
Even adding new fish to the tank can slowly turn your goldfish white! There is not much you can do to address this change. It may take a couple of months, but your fish should get comfortable with the changes and light up again.
Did you know that goldfish have pigment in their skin? This pigment can react to ultraviolet light in some fish. Therefore, your goldfish could turn white due to both a lack of sunlight and too much sunlight.
In the case of too much light, fish often respond to dramatic change. Let’s say, for example, that your fish is used to receiving a certain amount of light each day. Maybe you have the tank lighting set on a timer.
Suddenly you decide to move the aquarium to a place by the window with some sun exposure. That extra light can turn the fish white. The longer they are exposed, the brighter they will become.
The same can be said for the lack of light. Think of your skin pigmentation as getting a tan. Without ample light exposure, they will pale!
Author’s Note: Many experienced goldfish owners address this problem by giving their fish some time to «bathe in the sun.» It is said that exposure to sunlight from time to time can make a goldfish’s color more vibrant. This could even work with black goldfish or multicolored fish!
4. There is not enough oxygen in the water
This is a cause that requires immediate action to keep your fish healthy. Goldfish sometimes turn a translucent white color when there isn’t enough oxygen in the water.
As a general rule of thumb, freshwater fish like goldfish should have a tank with 8.3 PPM of dissolved oxygen. Goldfish can tolerate levels as low as 5.0 PPM. So when they start to turn white, you know the oxygenation levels are really bad.
As always, test the water to make sure.
Low oxygen levels are often accompanied by strange behavior. For example, your fish may appear lethargic. If you pay close attention to the gills, it can look like your fish is struggling to breathe as well.
Perform a 60 percent water change to improve conditions. You may also want to introduce air stones to the aquarium to improve oxygen levels.
As we mentioned earlier, some goldfish naturally begin to turn white as they age. In this case, it all comes down to genetics.
Goldfish are a type of carp. This means that their natural color in the wild is usually closer to olive green than gold.
Gold, as well as most other popular goldfish colors, were actually created through selective breeding. Genetically, those colors are notoriously unstable.
Author’s Note: Black is one of the worst when it comes to this. Many black goldfish lighten dramatically as they age.
This is not something you need to worry about from a health standpoint. Sure, your goldfish may not look the same as when you first brought them home. However, no major health issues are involved if the color change is caused by genetics.
Like any other species of fish, goldfish need a balanced diet full of vitamins to stay vibrant. Your diet plays a huge role in your overall appearance. So it’s a great way to make sure your fish are getting everything they need (read this guide to find out how often you should feed them).
The easiest way to ensure your fish is getting the nutrients it needs is to eat a high-quality commercial dry food. Many products are specifically marketed to enhance color vibrancy.
If you are creating your fish’s diet from scratch, you can even add some foods that are known to improve color. Many goldfish owners use spirulina algae and bentonite clay.
Obviously, there are no guarantees, but those foods have been known to help fish reach their full color potential!
If you suspect your diet is to blame, take this opportunity to create some positive changes. Add some variety to their diet and stick with nutrient-rich foods that they like.
This is not something any hobbyist wants to think about, but the color changes could be a byproduct of disease.
Goldfish can turn white and pale when they are sick. No specific ailment causes color changes directly. It is simply a symptom that can accompany any disease.
You will know the color change is due to disease if your fish exhibits other symptoms. They may have difficulty swimming. You may also notice signs of lethargy and weakness.
Whatever the case, test your water first. Poor water conditions due to unusually high levels of ammonia and nitrates will make your goldfish sick fairly quickly (and possibly shorten their lifespan).
If water conditions are ruled out, consult with a veterinarian who specializes in freshwater fish. They may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend an appropriate treatment option.
Is it possible that they recover their original color?
This all depends on the root cause. If your goldfish turned white due to something benign like lighting or diet, it’s possible. Some fish can rejuvenate themselves and begin to show their bright gold color again!
However, there are no guarantees. Sometimes the problem is permanent. This is especially true with changes caused by genetics, old age, and even some diseases.
As long as you address any health or comfort concerns, lack of pigmentation is not a big deal. Your fish can still live a healthy life while pale! Treating is like a new physical quirk!
It’s time to get to work!
Now that you know the possible reasons why your goldfish is turning white, it’s time for you to diagnose the problem!
Follow our guide, run the necessary tests, and follow the recommended course of action. Most of the time, the solution is quite simple.
If you’re still stumped, there’s no shame in contacting your vet just to be sure. They will help you determine if you should be concerned and what to do next.