Published February 25, 2013
One of the most enjoyable parts of owning an aquarium is watching your fish thrive and grow. If you care for your fish properly and maintain a healthy tank environment, you should have relatively few problems. In some cases, however, aquarium hobbyists find that their fish either fade in color over time or simply fail to achieve their maximum potential coloration. If you are experiencing this problem, take the time to learn what causes fish to fade in color and what you can do to prevent or repair it. You may also want to look into certain species of fish that are naturally colorful.
What Causes Color to Fade?
There are a variety of factors which may contribute to fading color in freshwater aquarium fish. Unfortunately, fading color is often a consequence of multiple factors so it can be tricky not only to identify the problem but to fix it as well. One of the most common causes of fading color in aquarium fish, however, is inadequate diet. Inexperienced aquarium hobbyists often assume that commercial flake foods or pellets will meet all of the nutritional needs
of their aquarium fish. While these foods are formulated to provide fish with most of the nutrients they need, aquarium fish are not likely to reach their full potential for health, size and coloration when fed a diet of commercial foods alone. In order to improve fading color in aquarium fish it is important to offer a varied diet of live, frozen and freeze-dried foods that are full of the color-boosting nutrients aquarium fish need.
Another possible cause of fading color in aquarium fish is inadequate tank lighting. If you are an experienced aquarium hobbyist you probably understand the connection between tank lighting and the growth of aquarium plants. Live plants are photosynthetic organisms that require light in order to grow and thrive – while this may not be true for aquarium fish, lighting still plays a role in the development of healthy coloration. Certain species like goldfish and koi actually require exposure to natural sunlight in order to develop the pigments in their skin which enables them to show healthy color. Though inadequate aquarium lighting
can have the effect of fading the coloration of your fish, lighting that is too intense may also be a problem. This phenomenon is most commonly seen in saltwater environments but it can also be a problem in freshwater tanks where the lighting is too intense. Species of fish that are naturally found in low-light environments may fade when kept in a brilliantly-lit aquarium. To prevent or remedy this problem, try reducing the lighting in your tank or simply provide your fish with places where they can hide from the bright light when they want to.
The third possible factor contributing to fading color in aquarium fish is water quality. As you are probably aware, water quality plays an incredibly important role in determining the health of your fish and of your tank environment as a whole. If the water quality declines, your fish are likely to become stressed and may even become more susceptible to disease
. Aquarium fish that are stressed or ill are unlikely to display their optimal coloration and they may even fade in color as a result of stress. In order to prevent this from happening in your tank it is important to keep up a regular maintenance routine
to ensure high water quality. Perform weekly water tests using an aquarium water test kit to check the pH and chemical levels in your tank and record those results so you get a feel for the “normal” levels in your tank. It is also wise to replace your filter media on a monthly basis and to perform weekly water changes of 10% to 20% of your tank volume. Doing these simple tasks will have a significant effect on the water quality in your tank.
In order to help your fish achieve their optimal coloration you need to provide them with a healthy diet. Recommended diet will vary according to species because some fish are carnivorous while others are herbivorous – they key is to provide a variety of foods that will meet the nutritional needs of the particular species you have in your tank. Check your local pet store for a color-enhancing commercial fish food formula that will provide basic nutrition for your fish. While commercial foods should not be the sole source of nutrition for your fish, they are a good choice for a staple diet. Once you’ve selected the staple diet for your fish, supplement it with live foods, frozen foods and vegetable matter depending on the preference of the species you have in your tank.
When it comes to live and frozen foods
, some are better than others for enhancing the coloration of aquarium fish. Crustaceans like brine shrimp are a great way to enhance coloration, as are frozen or freeze-dried foods like Mysis shrimp, krill and other crustaceans. Saltwater organisms like scallops and fish are great options for carnivorous species, especially as part of a prepared frozen food that has been supplemented with pigments and essential vitamins. Fresh vegetables like spinach, broccoli and romaine lettuce are also healthy sources of vitamins and minerals that will help your fish to achieve their natural coloration.
Be careful when purchasing color-enhancing commercial foods because some foods will be better for your fish than others. Some fish food manufacturers bulk up their products using filler ingredients that do not provide your fish with much nutritional value. When evaluating commercial fish foods that are formulated to enhance the coloration of your fish, look for things like carotenoids, omega-three fatty acids and vitamin C. Not only are these nutrients essential for maintaining healthy coloration, but they are often missing from the diets of aquarium fish. In addition to purchasing color-enhancing fish food, you may also want to consider soaking your fish food in an additive or supplement that will provide extra nutrition.
Other Tips and Tricks
In addition to diet, lighting and water quality there are other factors which may contribute to enhancing the coloration of your fish. Certain species of fish are more social than others and may be more likely to thrive in a school than on their own. Some fish will not only fail to behave naturally if not kept in schools, but they may also never develop their full coloration. Some types of fish that should be kept in schools include tetras, angelfish, barbs, danios and guppies. In addition to the schooling factor, the other fish in your tank could also play a role in determining coloration. If one or more of your fish is territorial or aggressive, it could have an effect on the other fish in your tank. Aggressive tank mates can be very stressful for aquarium fish and may actually prevent them from developing their full coloration.
Believe it or not, the way you decorate your tank can also have an impact on the coloration of your fish. Decorating your tank to imitate the natural habitat of your fish can have a significant impact on improving their coloration. Some fish prefer dark substrate over light substrate, for example, based on their natural habitat. Providing enough hiding places in the form of rock caves and live plants can also impact the coloration of your fish – if they do not have anywhere to hide when they feel threatened your fish may become stressed and may lose color as a result. You may also be able to decorate your tank
in such a way that the decorations provide a contrast for the color of your fish, thus making them appear more colorful.
It is also important to keep in mind that the color of your fish may change over time. Juveniles of many species are naturally less colorful than adults and females are often duller in coloration than males. As your fish grow and mature, they may naturally develop more intense coloration depending on the species. Your fish may also change in color during certain periods of time. During mating seasons, for example, male fish may develop more intense coloration to attract a mate and females may become more colorful as they begin to produce eggs. If you plan to breed your fish, feeding them a healthy diet will not only encourage healthy coloration but it will also encourage breeding behavior.
Naturally Colorful Species
Some aquarium fish are naturally more colorful than others so if you want to stock your tank with brightly-colored fish, try out some of these species. If you are interested in keeping a species tank housing only one type of fish, the betta fish or Siamese fighting fish is a great option. These fish come in a variety of vibrant colors and they also exhibit many different tail types. In terms of community fish, guppies are known for their bright colors, as are other livebearers like mollies, platies and swordtails. As for slightly larger species, many gouramis are known for their unique color like the kissing pink gourami and the dwarf gourami. The cichlid family is home to more than 2,000 different species, many of which are some of the most colorful species of freshwater aquarium fish. Discus fish, a type of cichlid, have actually been described as some of the most colorful freshwater fish, exhibiting a variety of colors and patterns including bright blue, yellow, orange, red and even pure white. There are countless species of aquarium fish to choose from and, by doing a little research, you can find many choices that are naturally colorful.
Maintaining healthy coloration in your aquarium fish is a multi-stage effort. Not only do you need to maintain a healthy aquarium environment but you also need to provide your fish with a varied, nutritious diet. You should also be aware how the setup in your tank as well as the types of fish you are keeping can have an impact on the health and coloration of your fish.