Can Goldfish Lose Their Color? (Why And How To Avoid It)

Image of evaporating colors

Goldfish are an excellent pet to have because they are simple to care for. Their golden scales are also lovely to look at, and you might think that they’ll never change. However, sometimes certain factors can influence their color. So, can goldfish lose their color?

Yes, goldfish can lose their color. Goldfish are a type of carp. Their golden color is due to selective breeding. Because gold is not their natural color, goldfish are susceptible to color loss if anything in their life changes. The main reasons for goldfish losing their color are:

  1. Growth,
  2. Lack of sunlight,
  3. Illness,
  4. Environment changes, and
  5. Genetics.

Let’s take a close look at each of these now…

Why Goldfish Lose Their Color?

The most common change in a goldfish’s color is from gold to white. Although other color changes can occur as well.

There are several reasons why a goldfish changes color. These include:

  1. Growing up,
  2. Changes in light,
  3. Change in environment,
  4. Sickness, and
  5. Genetics.

Let’s talk about each one of these now.

1. How Growth Affects Goldfish Color?

Your small goldfish will eventually grow up.

During the course of its growth, the goldfish might change colors several times.

But eventually, it will land on its true color.

However, this isn’t an overnight change and can be difficult to track.

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2. How Lack Of Sunlight Affects Goldfish Color?

There is a pigment in goldfish’s skin that reacts to light.

As a result, when their skin is deprived or has less exposure to light, it affects their skin hue.

And over time, they tend to lose their color.

This is one way by which you may end up with a white goldfish.

But it’s possible to have the fish return to its original color by returning it to the lighting it originally had.

3. How Diseases Affect Goldfish Color?

Although highly unusual, a goldfish can turn black because of a disease too.

The culprit is usually water snails who carry a disease called black spot.

Eggs from this parasite burrow into the fish’s skin.

And to protect themselves, they form a hard, dark cyst. This results in dark patches on the fish’s skin.

This disease doesn’t really affect adult fish badly. It merely irritates them.

To prevent this disease, you can remove the snails from the aquarium.

4. How Environment Changes Affect Goldfish Color?

Ammonia in the tank can affect a goldfish’s skin. It is a byproduct given off by rotting food and fish waste.

Ammonia burns the fish’s skin.

The burns themselves don’t show. However, when the ammonia levels fall, and the skin heals, it grows back in black color.

You can prevent this by not giving your fish more food than what they can eat and keeping their tank clean.

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5. How Genetics Affects Goldfish Color?

Just like you probably resemble your parents, a goldfish resembles its parents too.

If you have a great looking goldfish, then the chances are that its parents would also be the same.

An inexpensive goldfish whose parents had lost their skin color would have a higher chance of losing color.

While the goldfish whose parents have not lost their skin color would be less susceptible to color changes.

This is how genetics plays a role in goldfish losing their color.

What Colors Can Goldfish Display?

Bright colors are what a goldfish is all about.

But to understand colors, you first need to understand goldfish scale types. There are three types of scales:

  1. Metallic Scale,
  2. Nacreous Scale, and
  3. Matt Scale.

1. Metallic Scale

On the bottom side of a metallic scale is a solid coating of a substance called guanine.

This is a crystalline pigment that refracts light. The guanine will make the scales opaque and give them a shiny metallic look.

Metallic scaled goldfish can display these colors:

  • Orange/Red,
  • Yellow,
  • Black,
  • Metallic blue,
  • Brown, and
  • Bronze.

Solid colored metallic scaled goldfish are often called self-colored.

2. Nacreous Scale

Both nacreous (also called calico) scale and metallic scale have the same three-color pigments (black, red, and yellow), but they express the colors differently.

This is due to the difference in the amount of guanine.

As a result of those differences and the placement of the guanine, the nacreous scale can have three different appearances.

  • Transparent,
  • Metallic, and
  • Pearlescent.

Because of the different pigments shining through the scales, nacreous has some beautiful colors like:

  • Blue (like a blue jay),
  • Red/Yellow/Orange,
  • Or in combination with black, appears purple,
  • Brown and other hues.

3. Matt Scale

Unfortunately for the goldfish, a matt scale fish’s color is poor or non-existent. Matt scales have no reflective guanine.

This scale is transparent. But some of the transparency is lost as the goldfish ages.

This is due to scale thickening and ossification.

These fish don’t have any red, yellow, or black color pigments.

Because of their lack of color, young goldfish with matt scales are often called pinkies.

A goldfish’s color intensity is influenced by its environment and diet. In dim lighting, the colors of your goldfish will be less intense.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Where Did Goldfish Come From?

Goldfish were one of the first fish ever domesticated.

They originally were wild carp used for meat in China. They were known as Chi and were the most eaten fish in China.

They have not always had the bright orange and red scales we know today. In fact, they were a silver/grey color.

When there was a genetic mishap, and a carp had a bright orange or red color, it was quickly eaten by predators.

Eventually, Buddhist monks discovered colorful carp and put them in a pond at a temple to be safe from predators.

This became a tradition, and breeding goldfish began.

Are There Different Breeds Of Goldfish?

Because of generations of selective breeding, there are hundreds of different types of goldfish.

However, they can be narrowed down to fifteen species. Below are the most popular in the world.

  1. Common: This is the one you’ll find in most homes.
  2. Comet: Often mistaken for the common goldfish.
  3. Shubunkin: This fish is 25 percent blue and white. Also has some orange and black spots.
  4. Wakin: A common goldfish mostly found in Asia, especially Japan.
  5. Japanese Ryukin: Is bred almost exclusively in Japan.
  6. Fancy Fantail: Best feature is their fantail.
  7. Veiltail: Very unique. Usually comes in light orange and yellowish colors.
  8. Telescope: Really a neat one. Its great feature is its massive bulging eyes, but has very bad vision and should not be kept outside.
  9. Black Moor: Looks a lot like a Veiltail goldfish but with protruding eyes like a telescope goldfish.

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Do Goldfish Live In The Wild?

Yes, goldfish can live in the wild. They like fresh water, which is 50°F to 76°F.

Although most goldfish live in aquariums and small domesticated ponds, some do live in the wild.

They like slow-moving rivers, lakes, and ponds. They eat plants and insects.

Just like carp, wild goldfish are usually olive green.

Only the domesticated ones are colorful. The colors are due to selective breeding.

Never dump a domesticated goldfish in a river, lake, pond, or any natural water.

Goldfish are extremely invasive. They tend to be carnivorous and will feed on native species’ eggs.

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