Why Is My Goldfish Turning White? Causes and Treatment

Goldfish come in all sorts of colors, but it can be alarming when their colors turn from their usual vivid colors to a stark white. This was its color, to begin with, sudden changes like these can leave you worried and perplexed.

So, do you have a problem with your hands? And how do you solve it?

We totally understand your concerns, and have come up with a list of common reasons why goldfish turn white, and what you can do about them. Read on, and we promise you’ll feel better by the end of the article!

Do White Goldfish Exist?

white gold fish in blue background
Image Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Before we delve into reasons why a goldfish can turn from gold to white, it’s important to clarify that yes, white goldfish exist. These unique specimens are actually born white, with one or both parents that were also white. In most cases, they will take on a different coloration over time.

This might seem like a trivial point, but it makes all the difference when determining what’s causing this change and how you can treat it. Moreover, understanding the genetics behind coloration will allow you to prevent this condition from affecting your fish in the future.

Why Do Goldfish Turn White?

There are a couple of reasons why a goldfish can turn from its natural color to white. In most cases, it’s not life-threatening and doesn’t affect the fish’s health at all.

Let’s take a look at some common reasons why this occurs.

Poor Water Quality

Plants and fish in the aquarium with cloudy water

This is one of the main culprits when it comes to loss of color in goldfish, and it’s also preventable! The water quality in your aquarium must be pristine if you want your little buddy to stay healthy and vibrant – this means keeping ammonia levels as low as possible.

When the water quality is poor, your pet will try and protect itself by releasing a substance called “otoliths” into its bloodstream. This substance acts as a backup food supply, which prevents starvation even if food isn’t readily available. Unfortunately, it can also cause irreversible damage and discoloration to its body.

The Solution:

In order to get rid of discolored blood cells, you must improve your water quality and get a good filtration system in place for your aquarium. A simple 20-minute water change every day should be sufficient in most cases. Be sure to use conditioned water for optimal water quality.

You can also add iodized saltwater to your tank, which will facilitate a speedier recovery from discoloration. You will need to purchase saltwater mix and dissolve it in a ratio of one tablespoon of salt for every gallon of water in the tank. Leave it overnight and perform a 50-percent water change the next day.

Decrease in Water Temperature

Just like with us humans, a shift in goldfish’s habitat temperature can have a big impact on their health and coloration. In fact, many experts recommend keeping your aquarium at a temperature of between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

In some cases, a significant drop in temperature can cause your pet to lose its color completely. In this case, the blood cells will also change color as a result of decreased water temperature. This is because the amount of oxygen passing through the bloodstream is directly dependent on the surrounding water temperature.

The Solution:

We recommend keeping your aquarium at a consistent temperature of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and checking the water heater for any leaks or malfunctions.

A good tip is to keep the tank away from outside temperatures – sun exposure can have a big effect on health! If you can’t find a way to prevent this from happening, try purchasing an aquarium chiller.

Genetics

Microscopic visualization of chromosomes.

One of the biggest reasons goldfish change color has to do with their genetics. This is perhaps one of the most important factors – everything from the fish’s original color to any changes in color over time has a lot to do with the genes it inherited from its parents.

Genetics are heavily influenced by the breed of goldfish you have selected for your tank. While the average goldfish is orange, there are many different breeds of goldfish with varying colors. You can find colors such as gold, orange, red, black, and more.

The same thing goes for white colors in goldfish – some fish start out with a normal color such as the ones mentioned above, but may surprise you later on!

The Solution:

Genetics in goldfish coloration is not entirely within your control. However, you can simply avoid breeding specimen that have gone through color changes if they aren’t supposed to be white, or if these changes look like discolored spots.

Your safest bet is to only breed individuals that have been raised together from a young age, which will give you an idea of the color changes to expect.

If you mix species or varieties as adults, their offspring will be less predictable as far as coloration goes – and can turn out to be very surprising. The good news is that genetic color changes are typically harmless, and you can enjoy them as a novelty!

Illnesses and Diseases

This symptom might also indicate a health problem. This can be caused by a variety of bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections – and it’s important to seek treatment from a professional as soon as possible!

Goldfish are particularly vulnerable to ick, which causes them to change colors to white. Malawi bloat is another common condition that affects them, which can cause similar symptoms. 

It’s also possible for your fish to have an internal bacterial infection if they are turning white. All of these problems require expert attention in order to prevent them from spreading or worsening!

The Solution:

If your fish is constantly turning white, you’ll need to approach this problem from a few different angles.

First, make sure your aquarium is properly cycled and well-maintained. If any problems arise, they should be relatively easy to fix with the right equipment.  Next, you’ll want to look for warning signs of diseases or infections.

We’ve already mentioned ick and bacterial infections – but there is a myriad of other diseases that could also be making your fish sick. If you have any reason to suspect a disease or parasitic infection is present, consider seeing a professional as soon as possible!

Toxic Medication

Tosakin Goldfish

A big part of pet ownership is dealing with them falling ill. If you are treating your pet with medication, it’s important to closely monitor its health at all times. Make sure that the medication is appropriate because the wrong type of medicine can have grave consequences for your fish. 

In some cases, goldfish will turn pale after being given a toxic medication. This is because the chemical changes their bloodstream’s pH level and causes red blood cells to lose their luster.

The Solution:

Make sure that you use the right dosage of the medication, and try performing partial water changes once or twice a day. You should also add aquarium salt, which can be purchased at most pet stores. Learn more about the different types of salt here.

If your pet stops eating and starts losing its color, you may need to consider buying a new medication. If the problem persists, however, you should stop treatment immediately – otherwise, it could turn completely white.

Poor Diet

Another factor causing this phenomenon is a poor diet. Most aquatic creatures require certain vitamins to remain colorful. Fish require a carotenoid-rich diet as these are the pigments that give them their vibrant hues.

When your goldfish chow does not contain the nutrients your pets need, their colors will begin to fade. For example, your orange fish may turn from bright orange to white or pale orange. You will likely also notice a similar trend in species that have a bright gold color.

The Solution:

Feeding your pet a healthy diet doesn’t require you to craft a tailored diet from scratch. The best way to provide these nutrients is by feeding them a balanced diet consisting of plant matter, meaty foods, and vitamins.

One fish food ingredient to look out for is color enhancers. You can find these in the aquatics section of your local pet store or supermarket. These will give your fishy friend that extra special something they need to remain colorful.

Lighting

All Glass Aquarium Fluorescent Strip Light Installed in an aquarium

Finally, insufficient light levels can cause your goldfish to turn white. Coloration is driven by cells known as chromatophores, which produce pigment in response to light hitting them.

If there isn’t enough light for these cells to function properly, they won’t be able to produce the colors you see on your pet’s scales or fins.

Excess light can also cause the same problem. This is particularly common with aquarium lighting that has been set too high, or if you have lamps close to your aquarium.

The Solution:

If you suspect that incorrect lighting is causing these problems, you need to take action right away. Whether your fish is facing a lack of light or too much exposure to light, the problem is relatively easy to fix.

A lack of UV light can be easily remedied by providing your pets with sufficient exposure to sunlight. Making sure they are in an aquarium that gets at least some direct natural sunlight. Artificial lights such as house lights and LED lights can also work.

On the other hand, make sure that your pets aren’t receiving too much extra light. Dim the artificial lighting in your tank, and move the tank away from direct sunlight if this is the case.

White Goldfish: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing the Problem

Whether your pet has turned completely white, or it’s starting to lose its color, you should always try the gentlest solution first. If that doesn’t work, move on to something more drastic.

Step 1: Partial Water Change & Conditioning

Young man changing water in aquarium using siphon.

If your fish is losing color due to poor water quality, you can start by performing a partial water change. Make sure the new water you add has been conditioned and is safe for your pets to swim in!

To condition your tap water, simply leave it out overnight so that the chlorine will evaporate. Alternatively, you should buy a product such as Tetra AquaSafe for Goldfish which can be used to remove chlorine and other impurities from tap water.

Step 2: Fish Medication

If you suspect your fish might be ill, it is important to act quickly. While this is unlikely to fix the problem, these medications will often cure the illness if caught in time.

You should combine this medication with a product that removes chlorine and other impurities from water. This will eliminate any trace of chlorine or harmful chemicals in your tank.

Step 3: Fish Vitamins

If neither of these methods has improved the coloration of your fish, you should try adding some vitamins to their diet instead. There are many products available that can do this for you – just look at the ingredients list to see if it contains color enhancers.

Step 4: Feeding Your Pets Plant Matter

Anubias Barteri
Image Source : flickr.com

If your goldfish is turning white, you can try feeding them plant matter to restore their natural pigment. Some vegetables like carrots are full of healthy vitamins that can work wonders. You should also consider adding spinach or other dark-green leafy vegetables to your fish’s diet.

Step 5: Discontinue Use of Color Enhancers

If your fish is losing color due to age, the best thing you can do is discontinue using color enhancers in their food. These chemicals are often unnecessary and will only cause problems for your pets in the long run. This will give them a chance to regain their natural pigmentation without the use of dangerous chemicals.

Step 6: Add Live Plants to Your Aquarium

close up image of landscape nature style aquarium tank with a variety of red stem aquatic plants inside.

Finally, if you are still having problems with your pets losing coloration, you should consider adding live plants to your tank. These can have a number of benefits for your goldfish. For one, they will increase the oxygen levels in your tank, and for another, they will provide them with a more natural environment.

Conclusion

It can be alarming for goldfish keepers to notice a loss of color in their beloved pets, but thankfully, there are lots of simple solutions and remedies for the problem! Remember that fish are sensitive creatures, and you should always move slowly when addressing any problems they might be having.

We hope you found this article helpful! Don’t forget to share it with a fellow hobbyist who might benefit from our tips, and drop us a comment below to let us know your thoughts. Thanks for reading, and may you have happy and healthy goldfish!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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