Why Is My Goldfish Turning White? All Possible Causes

If you see your goldfish turning white, you probably have a lot of questions.

Why is it happening? Should you be worried? Is there anything you can do about it?

And we totally understand.

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’re not alone!

Fortunately, this guide will clear everything up. You’ll learn why this happens, how to find out the cause, and if there’s anything you can (or should) do.

Should You Be Worried?

Seeing your goldfish turn white can be alarming. But, it’s not always an immediate cause for concern.

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Contrary to popular belief, most types of goldfish are not naturally gold-colored in the wild. They’re one of the first domesticated fish in history, and selective breeding has done a lot to shape the fish into what we know of today.

As a result, color changes are more common than you think. In fact, one of the most common color changes for goldfish is to turn white!

A goldfish in the later stages of turning white

That said, if your fish suddenly goes pale you can’t rule out the possibility that the cause could be a health issue. Truth is, there are a lot of reasons why this could be happening.

The key is to consider all potential causes and keep a watchful eye on your fish. From there, you can decide if you need to take action.

Potential Causes For Turning White

The possible causes for a goldfish turning white vary widely. Some are innocent enough and don’t require any immediate action whatsoever, while others can be solved with a few simple changes in the way you care for your fish.

And of course, there’s also the possibility that it could be an underlying health problem.

But hold on! Before you send yourself into a tizzy wondering why your goldfish is turning white, consider some of the potential causes to help you learn more about why a color change is happening.

1. They’re Getting White With Age

The simplest answer could be that your fish is simply getting older. If you purchased your fish as a juvenile, there’s a good chance that their color will naturally morph as they transition to adulthood.

Author Note: This is pretty common with “designer” breeds like the Ryukin.

For example, many multi-colored goldfish tend to evolve a bit during their first few years of life. It’s possible with solid-colored fish, too. It really all depends on their parents!

If you have the chance to get some more information about the parent stock, do so! This will give you a better idea of what to expect as your fish ages. Of course, this isn’t always possible. As a result, your goldfish turning white might be a surprise.

There are some things you can do to determine if aging is the cause. A good method to tell if this is a natural transition is to monitor the rate of change.

Many juvenile goldfish will turn white slowly during the first couple of years of life as they grow in size. As long as the whitening didn’t happen suddenly, it’s most likely a sign of growing up.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you might notice your fish going white as they get older. Goldfish can live quite a long time. Your average goldfish can live up to 15 years.

Some specimens tend to start to look pale as they reach their final years of life. This is normal. Think of it as a human going gray!

2. Environmental Changes In Their Tank

Another common culprit is a change in the environment. Goldfish are known for being pretty hardy and highly adaptable.

But the reality is that they’re quite sensitive to changes in their habitat.

This could include things like pH level, temperature, and even hardness. pH balance, in particular, is known to make goldfish lose their luster a bit. Use a water test kit to see how the water conditions are.

If they’re out 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 start turning a bit white.

Interestingly enough, goldfish can also respond to very small changes that don’t even have to do with water conditions! We’re talking about new decorations or new tank placement! These fish are quite astute and know when something is not right.

Even adding new fish into the tank can cause your goldfish to slowly turn white! There’s not much that you can do to address this change. It may take a couple of months, but your fish should get comfortable with the changes and brighten back up.

3. Lighting

Did you know that goldfish have pigment in their skin? This pigment can react to UV light in some fish. So, your goldfish could turn white due to both a lack of sunlight or too much sunlight.

In the case of too much light, fish usually respond to the dramatic change. Say, for example, that your fish is used to getting a certain amount of light each day. Maybe you have the in-tank lighting set on a timer.

Suddenly, you decide to move the aquarium to a spot next to the window with some sun exposure. That extra light may trigger the fish to turn white. The longer they are exposed the brighter they will become.

A goldfish turning more white and pale due to lighting conditions

The same can be said about a lack of light. Think of their skin pigmentation as getting a tan. Without ample light exposure, they’ll go pale!

Author Note: Many seasoned goldfish owners address this by giving their fish some time to “bask” in the sun. It’s said that exposure to sunlight every once in a while can make a goldfish’s color more vibrant. This might even work with black goldfish or multi-colored fish!

4. There’s Not Enough Oxygen in the Water

Here’s a cause that requires immediate action to keep your fish healthy. Sometimes, goldfish will take on a translucent white color when there’s not enough oxygen in the water.

As a general rule of thumb, freshwater fish like the goldfish need 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 turning white, you know that oxygenation levels are really bad.

As always, test the water to make sure.

Generally, low oxygen levels are going to accompanied by strange behaviors. For example, your fish might look lethargic. If you pay close attention to the gills, it might look like your fish is struggling to breathe, too.

Perform a 60 percent water change to improve conditions. You might also want to introduce air stones into the aquarium to improve oxygen levels.

5. Genetics

As we mentioned earlier, some goldfish just naturally start turning white as they get older. In this case, it all comes down to genetics.

Goldfish are a type of carp. This means their natural color in the wild is usually closer to olive green than gold!

Gold, as well as most of the other popular color morphs of goldfish, were actually created through selective breeding. Genetically, those colors are notoriously unstable.

Author Note: Black is one of the worst when it comes to this. Many black goldfish lighten up dramatically as they age.

This isn’t something you have to worry about from a health standpoint. Sure, your goldfish might not look the same as they did when you first brought them home. However, no major health issues are coming into play if the color change is caused by genetics.

6. Diet

Like any other fish species, goldfish need a balanced diet full of vitamins to stay vibrant! Their diet plays a huge role in their overall appearance. Thus, it’s a great way to ensure that your fish is getting everything they need (read this guide to learn how often you should feed them).

The easiest way to make sure that your fish is getting the nutrients they need is to pick up some high-quality commercial dry food. Many products are specifically marketed to improve color vibrancy.

If you’re 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.

There are obviously no guarantees, but those foods have been known to help fish reach their full color potential!

If you suspect that their 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 enjoy.

7. Illness

This isn’t something that any aquarist wants to think about, but changes in color could be a byproduct of disease.

Goldfish can turn white and pale when they are suffering from illness. No specific ailment causes color changes directly. It’s simply a symptom that can come with any disease.

You’ll know that the color change is from a disease if your fish is exhibiting other symptoms. They may have difficulty swimming. You might also notice signs of lethargy and weakness.

Whatever the case may be, test your water first. Poor water conditions from unusually high levels of ammonia and nitrates will make your goldfish sick pretty quickly (and potentially shorten their lifespan).

If water conditions are ruled out, consult with a vet that specializes in freshwater fish. They may be able to diagnose the problem and recommend a proper treatment option.

Is It Possible For Them to Reclaim Their Original Color?

This all depends on the root cause. If your goldfish turned white due to something benign like lighting or diet, it is possible. Some fish can become rejuvenated and start showing off their bright gold color again!

However, there are no guarantees. Sometimes, the issue is permanent. This is especially true with changes caused by genetics, old age, and even some illnesses.

As long as you address any health or comfort issues, a lack of pigmentation is not a huge deal. Your fish can still live a healthy life while being pale! Treat is as a new physical quirk!

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!

Stick to our guide, do the necessary tests, and follow the recommended course of action. Most of the time the solution is actually rather simple.

If you’re still stumped there’s no shame in contacting your vet just to be safe. They’ll help you figure out if you should be worried, and what to do next.

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