If you’ve noticed your little orange friend turning white in recent days, you are probably concerned. Is that normal? Do goldfish change color naturally? Should she do that? Is she ill? Why is my goldfish white!?

They do come in many colors, naturally, and some of them are naturally white. But if your goldie start out that way, these concerns and questions are good to look into. There are many reasons why this might be happening, but not all of them are bad.

Let’s take a look.

goldfish turning white

Why Do Goldfish Turn White?

Here’s a list of the majority of reasons why did my goldfish turn white. Take a look through each, see what coincides with your aquarium or other symptoms of your little goldie, and see what can be done to help your fish.

Your Goldie Isn’t Getting Enough Sunlight

One of the most common reasons that for your goldfish losing color is simple: she’s not getting any sunlight. It’s a well-known fact with breeders that goldfish that live outdoors in ponds where they get sunlight have brighter, more vibrant color. Inside, our fish miss these benefits, especially since we’re actually told not to keep aquariums in direct sunlight for various reasons.

Full spectrum LED lights can help (and is needed for other reasons), but it’s not the same as natural sunlight.

Some goldfish keepers have given their goldfish some “sunbathing rights.” By this, I mean they’ve moved their indoor goldfish into sunny areas short-term to help improve their sun exposure.

You can do this by putting them outdoors on sunny days in goldfish bowls for a few hours at a time. This does not need to be done every day (in fact, should not be) and should not be done during hot days. The water in the bowls will heat up too quickly and may cause harm to your fish if the temperatures are not monitored. Use a thermometer to keep track.

You also need to keep the water aerated while they are in the sun, to help avoid overheating your fish as well as providing the necessary oxygen.

If your fish has turned completely white, sunlight will not likely restore color.

Your Goldfish’s Diet Isn’t Cutting It

Another reason your goldfish could be turning white is a lack of vital nutrients. The right diet greatly affects the color of your fish, not just the health of your goldie.

Make sure that your goldfish is not only getting gel food (flake and pellets are nearly always loaded with fillers that may harm your fish), but supplemental foods as well, like Spirulina and algae wafers. Koi keepers have also learned that ingestion of Bentonite Clay helps to enhance the coloration of carps.

Your Goldfish Has the Genetics to Turn White

Another reality? Your goldfish may simply have the genetics to turn white instead of staying bright orange. It might seem odd, but genetics in goldfish coloration is complex and variable. Some colors are notoriously unstable, like black, for instance.

You really can’t do much about the genetics of your fish unless you breed them for yourself, selecting those that have displayed certain desirable attributes.

orange and white goldfish in a tank

Your Goldfish Is Getting Older

Another common issue isn’t an issue at all, it’s just facts. Goldfish tend to lose their color as they grow old. If you look at the world’s oldest goldfish, you’ll notice none of them have orange coloring. They’re all white. It’s a bit like humans and other mammals who lose their hair pigment and go gray in their later years.

Your Goldfish is Ill or Stressed

One of the biggest reasons you should be concerned about your goldfish turning white is the potential of illness and/or stress. Typically, the other issues are what’s going on (age, lack of sunlight, genetics, etc.), but if other things start happening, your goldfish could be in trouble.

If you notice that your goldfish losing scales turning white, you’re definitely looking at an ill fish.

Or if you notice that the colors are muted but not turning white, per se, then you’re also likely dealing with a sick fish. If black is a muted or soft brown, for instance, or yellow looks cream, orange is turning pale orange or pink – your guy is in distress.

It is possible that your goldfish turning white and dying could happen. Immediately check with a vet if you notice any of the symptoms of illness, especially scales falling off or muted colors, distended belly, et cetera.

Other symptoms to look out for include a fish taking a long time to swim up and down the aquarium or lacking in appetite. If your little goldie normally gobbles up her food but doesn’t have much of an appetite lately, you need to get her checked out.

If your fish is helped in time, he will recover and his coloring should return with good health.

It should be noted that stress can also cause paling of color, especially if the fish was shipped recently or moved from one house to another. The color will return for the stressed fish, as well, once the stress has been reduced.

The Aquarium May Have Low Oxygen Levels

If your goldfish is turning translucent white, this is another cause for concern. This likely means that there is too little oxygen in your fish tank. This could lead to severe illness or even death for your little friend.

To see what’s going on with this, test your water. There are testing kits that will allow you to see oxygen levels. Check the numbers against what they should be for your type of aquarium and size.

If your oxygen levels are too low, you need to start with a large water change of at least 60% ASAP. Acting immediately could save your goldfish’s life and give him a chance to recover.

You should also then add in an air stone, powerhead, or other form of aeration to keep the oxygen levels high enough that this doesn’t become a concern again.

orange and white goldfish

Can Your Goldfish Ever Get Back Its Color?

Now that we’ve answered why is my goldfish turning white, let’s look to see if your goldfish will ever get its color back.

The reality is this isn’t a straight answer. Some goldfish will regain their color. Some will not.

When your goldfish will regain color:

  • Corrected diet
  • Getting enough sunlight
  • Recovery from illness – most situations, they will recover their color
  • Improved oxygen levels – may or may not recover the color

When your goldfish won’t regain its color:

  • Aging
  • Genetics
  • Low oxygen levels – generally they will, but depending on situations, they might not
  • Some illnesses – some illnesses affect their permanent looks

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