Goldfish Turning White? Possible Causes and Treatment Guide

Dr. Mollie Newton
Published by Dr. Mollie Newton PHD| Senior Editor
Last updated: July 6, 2024
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Goldfish come in a wide variety of vibrant forms, colors, and types. They might be Comet goldfish or more elaborate breeds such as the Ryukin, Red Cap Oranda, or Bubble-eye. No matter the breed, they are certainly a beloved aquatic pet for both novice and experienced fish keepers. Sometimes, one may notice a shift from their initial bright hue to a dull white, raising concerns about whether this change is something to be worried about.

I know I felt the same way the first time it happened to my goldfish. I scrambled to read everything I could about it. Surprisingly, the answer was simpler than I thought. If you’ve ever had this happen and wondered about your goldfish turning white, worry not! In today’s article we’ll discuss the different causes for this color change, so read on to learn more.

Article Summary

  • Goldfish can naturally change color as they age, and turning white is a common occurrence.
  • Factors like age, genetics, stress, sun exposure, environment, water quality, and diet can all influence a goldfish’s color.
  • Goldfish can often return to their original color with proper care, including clean water, a healthy diet, and, in some cases, medication.

What Does It Mean If My Goldfish Is Turning White?

Fancy Goldfish
Fancy Goldfish

While our first reaction upon seeing our fancy goldfish change to a different color may be to panic and call our local vet, remain calm! Color changes as fish age are more common than one might think, and are perfectly natural.

In fact, white is one of the most typical colors for a goldfish to change into.

As a matter of fact, many different species of fish are known to change color, whether due to this being a part of their natural life cycle or induced by outside influences such as stress or disease.

Original Breed

Interestingly enough, most of the original breeds from which goldfish are descended such as wild carp and koi are not normally gold at all in the wild!

This specific color was bred for over hundreds of years as it became prized by collectors and breeders alike, and still contains hues of white, soft brown, a bright gold color, and many other varieties.

Selective Breeding

Considering goldfish were one of the first domesticated fish, professional goldfish keepers have had many years to determine just what keeps their fish healthy.

Selective breeding comes with challenges in reducing the dangerous effects of inbreeding and preserving the fish’s genetics.

Koi keepers in particular have excelled at the art of creating beautiful orange goldfish with healthy genes and long lifespans of over 5 years.

Why is My Goldfish Turning White?

There are a number of different reasons that your goldfish may be changing colors from its original pigment to a more white or even fully white coloration.

Some species simply change color naturally as they age, while others can be expected to remain a constant color and therefore a change is more worrisome.

Check Water Quality

Some of the key factors when seeing a goldfish turn white are listed below, but we recommend looking at the water quality within your tank as a first place to start whenever something changes for your fish.

Any change in the parameters such as pH levels, ammonia level, or salinity can induce undue stress, and provoke a reaction such as a change in the goldfish’s color or even more severe health effects such as toxic shock.

What Causes Goldfish Turning White

Here’s a quick clip of a pet owner showing his goldfish that turned white. ..

help!!! My Goldfish lost their colour!

While some fish species are naturally white goldfish, there are a few other reasons why this may happen to the orange fish in your aquarium tank.

Seeing a goldfish turn white may be a sign of an underlying health problem, there is often a simple solution for getting your fish back to its normal, healthy coloration.


The most common reason for goldfish (and many other fish species, for that matter) turning white is old age.

As our fish ages, they undergo the natural changes in their lives from juvenile status through adulthood, their color may naturally morph from one pattern to another.

This is more normal in some species than others, as many common goldfish varieties can show a white-ish color.

Genes and Aging

A good way to determine whether a new change in color is the natural byproduct of aging or something more concerning is to note the breed and look at the fish’s parents.

Oftentimes the breeder or pet store fish expert from which you purchased your fish will have a record of what the parents looked like, giving you a good idea of what the normal range for your goldfish should be and why they have turned white.


One of the more important things in determining overall health and well-being is stress.

This can come from a multitude of different sources, from changes in water parameters such as temperature, pH, or salinity, to introducing new tankmates, extra light on the fish tank, to the amount and quality of food that the goldfish is getting.

The main thing to keep in mind with stress is preventing it in the first place. Try to keep stressful encounters between your fish and their tank mates to a minimum.


If you notice that your goldfish is not getting along with its neighbors for whatever reason, it may be a good time to consider a secondary tank.

Effects of Stress

Along with the obvious changes in attitude and behavior (such as odd swimming patterns, eating sporadically, etc) too much stress can cause harmful physiological effects as well.

These include lowered metabolism, stress on internal organs and tissues, and even early goldfish death if the stress is too high.

Sun Exposure

Fish Bowl Placed Outdoors
Fish Bowl Placed Outdoors

Much like their human companions, goldfish require exposure to UV light for the pigment cells in their skin and scales to become active.

Without proper exposure to light, these pigments will remain largely inactive and your fish will remain dull and pale. Therefore, aquarists use a UV sterilizer for aquariums in their fish tank environment to ensure the health of their goldfish.

In the wild, this exposure comes from direct sunlight which we may need to mimic indoors with artificial lighting.


Using an aquarium light timer with artificial lights can be an effective way of making sure that your goldfish doesn’t get too much sunlight and begin turning white.

On the other hand, too much light can trigger a change in color as well!

When your goldfish is used to extra sunlight and UV exposure, moving it from one place to another can cause it to change color unexpectedly.


There are quite a few environmental factors that can cause your fish to change color from its normal pigment to pale or white, these include:

Water Quality

If the quality of the water in your goldfish’s tank is low, it can lead to all kinds of health problems that may cause it to turn white

We recommend scheduling a regular weekly water change to keep things fresh, as well as ensuring that you have the proper amount of filtration in place for whatever fish you have in your aquarium.

Underpowered filters, or having too few, can be a quick road to a dirty, unhealthy tank.

Signs of Poor Water Quality

Fish Near Filter Tube
Fish Near Filter Tube

A key sign of poor water quality is a cloudy fish tank and the presence of olive green particles floating in the water itself, as this indicates that the filters are not doing their job properly and removing this waste.

When your goldfish turns white, it may indicate that the quality of water has deteriorated to dangerous levels.

Having too many fish in the same tank can have a serious impact on your goldfish’s life.

While one fish can be easy to monitor and keep in good health in a smaller tank, a bigger tank of at least 5 gallons is required for two goldfish or more, with 1-3 gallons of tank size per each new fish after that.


High amounts of waste, decaying food, or the presence of dead fish in the tank can all lead to high levels of ammonia.

This is particularly dangerous for your goldfish because it can lead to toxic shock, a condition that can quickly overwhelm the fish and kill it.

Regular water changes, the use of water conditioners or drops can all be an effective remedy to high ammonia levels.

It’s important to make regular water changes a high priority, as this will allow the beneficial bacteria in your tank to fix nitrogen properly.

Out of the different types of domesticated fish, goldfish tend to produce more waste on average. As such it’s very important to factor in fish tank size and filtration when keeping more than one goldfish.


As a cold water fish, goldfish prefer the water temperature to be around the 50-60 degree range but can tolerate some variance.

However if things swing too far from this range, or move too fast, this can stress your goldfish out severely.

Effects of Wrong Temperature

The typical way this manifests at first may be as a change in coloration, followed by changes in behavior, health issues, and eventually death if the temperature is not returned to ideal levels within a few hours.

Seeing your bright orange gold fish become more of a pale orange as the seasons change is not uncommon, but may mean that the water temperature is either too low or too high and that it may soon show other symptoms.

Oxygen Levels

Goldfish Swimming Towards Aquarium Surface
Goldfish Swimming Towards Aquarium Surface

When dissolved oxygen levels get too low, usually due to the presence of too much algae, live plants, or ammonia in a tank, things can get really difficult for your goldfish.

They will likely find it difficult to breathe properly, and may visibly “gasp” or swim to the surface in search of more air.

Low oxygen levels can lead to fish turning white as the blood in their systems is not able to oxygenate properly, and can happen overnight if levels drop too quickly.

Providing enough oxygen can repair your fish’s ability to function properly, helping them return to their normal color. Always do water changes to prevent ammonia buildup and when putting live plants or vegetation to your goldfish tank, be sure not to put too much to keep the tank oxygenated.

Water Parameters

Measuring the parameters within your tank on a regular basis, along with monitoring for signs of excess algae growth, are great ways to keep oxygen levels right where they should be.

Consider the use of additional aeration tools such as air stones or bubblers if the levels are low.


Proper food suited for the fish’s diet is key to preventing color changes. While the betta fish is typically a strict carnivore, goldfish can have some flexibility when it comes to offering different sources of proteins, fruits and veggies.

Seeing a white goldfish can be a sign that they’re getting a poor diet, and that the fish’s health is dysregulated.


Providing bentonite clay can aid with the problem of color change, as it aids the goldfish’s ability to digest and slows the amount of waste they produce

The use of specific color enhancing food can remedy a goldfish turning white, but is no substitute for a properly balanced goldfish diet in the long run.


Many illnesses, including swim bladder disease and ich, can lead to goldfish turning white.

A sick fish will usually display both physical and behavioral symptoms, and requires immediate care and consideration to keep them from getting worse.


After noticing a white goldfish or otherwise sick fish, a good first step is to remove them to a separate quarantine tank to prevent further exposure to other fish in the tank.

Seek medications from a qualified professional when attempting to treat your fish, and consider changing the water in the tank several times to remove disease-causing bacteria.


It may take several days for the fish to show signs of recovery and this is a delicate time, so treat them gently.

Sick goldfish can be notoriously unstable and need to be handled with care!

Can Goldfish Return To Their Original Color?

In most instances, yes

Goldfish keeping can be a challenging hobby, but with a close eye on their health and conditions you can hopefully catch what’s going wrong before it becomes too serious to change.

Providing clean water quality, a healthy diet, and in some instances medications can all lead to your goldfish regaining its beautiful coloration within as little as a day to up to several weeks depending on severity.


Throughout today’s article, we’ve looked at reasons why our goldfish can turn white. While there are several natural causes that shouldn’t be reason for concern, several such as illness and bad water quality should be taken care of immediately to prevent further harm to the goldfish.

The key thing is to keep a close eye on your goldfish over time, so that you can spot a change before it has the chance to develop into something drastic.

Feel Free To Share!

As always, we hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s article on goldfish health and that you’re found the information helpful. Feel free to share with any other aquarium enthusiasts you may know.

We wish you the best of luck on your journeys in the underwater world!

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