Can Angelfish Change Colors? (With 7 Examples)

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So frequently, I’ve noticed my angelfish didn’t look the way they used to. To make sure it wasn’t merely in my head, I took pictures and followed their appearance. Indeed, on some occasions, they became pale. In other cases, it seemed that their colors were much stronger. Can angelfish change colors? Well, let’s dive right into it

Yes, angelfish can change colors due to the melanosomes presented in the dermis layer of their skin. When the angelfish are under stress or asleep, their colors may fade. On the other hand, they will present intense colors when they are adequately nourished, and the water conditions are proper.

However, distinguishing between natural factors and inappropriate growing conditions could be challenging. Later on in this article, I’ll provide a few viewing aspects to make sure your angelfish aren’t under stress, and their health isn’t compromised.

Also Read: Facts About Angelfish

Can Angelfish Actually Change Colors?

Yes, angelfish can change color. The freshwater variety that people keep in tanks gets its name from the fins on its body, which look like angel wings. According to some experts, when these fish are turned head-down, they cast a silhouette that is reminiscent of an angel.

Whether or not that is true, everyone agrees that angelfish are colorful creatures. While they are often silver in the wild, the colors of the varieties you find in shops tend to vary wildly. One trait that many of the types share is the vertical lines cutting across their bodies.

These bands, which are typically black, fascinate people because they say volumes about the angelfish’s mood, health, and attitude. This can be imputed to their penchant for fading or growing darker from time to time. But it isn’t just the bands that change color.

Some angelfish will experience variations in color all over their bodies. This is a source of concern for new breeders who cannot help but wonder whether the color change is a sign of trouble.

And in some cases, you have a good reason to worry. But in other scenarios, the color change is either benign or elicited by a factor that isn’t quite as alarming as some people presume.

How Do Angelfish Change Color?

Angelfish have two layers of skin, namely: the Dermis and the Epidermis. The dermis has chromatophores, which are cells that play a role in the development of scales.[1] 

Chromatophores are found in various animals, such as reptiles and amphibians. They are related to skin and eye color, and they are typically grouped into sub-classes based on their color. 

Angelfish have melanophores, a subclass associated with black and brown. Chromatophores work in tandem with reflective cells called iridophores to give angelfish the multitude of colors for which they are known.

Their ability to change colors is attributed to melanosomes and melanin. Melanosomes are concerned with the synthesis of melanin. Melanin is a substance that absorbs light.

By controlling the movement and storage of melanin, melanosomes can control the color of angelfish. When their stripes fade, it is because the melanosomes have been distributed throughout the melanophores. The further the melanosomes are spread, the lighter the bars become until they disappear entirely. 

The time such changes require will vary. Some angelfish will lose their color in mere minutes. In other fish, this transformation can happen gradually. Regardless of whether the cause is harmless or dangerous, you should know that it is entirely natural for angelfish to change color.

What Causes Angelfish to Change Color?

Various factors can trigger a change of color in your angelfish, for instance:

1. Fear & Stress

Angelfish appreciate tanks with plants because they use the foliage to hide from predators. This is one of the purposes the stripes serve. They enable the fish to blend in with the plants. In other words, for angelfish, safety, security, and peace of mind are essential.

As such, if your angelfish are severely frightened, they may turn pale. In some cases, they may also lie flat at the bottom of the tank, seemingly unconscious. Don’t let this alarm you.

Though, no one would blame you for thinking that your fish is dead. Once the coast clears and the source of the perceived danger is removed, your angelfish will revive, and its color will return.

You can probably guess that stress isn’t good for angelfish and that it can cause their color to change. This is why some of the angelfish you purchase from a local store don’t always look the same when they reach your tank.

Also Read: Stress In Angelfish

The transition from the store’s tank to your tank can be jarring, especially if you fail to take the right approach. It is also worth noting that the conditions in some pet stores are horrible. 

As a result, once the fish arrives in your tank and is exposed to more favorable conditions, what you thought were naturally pale colors will grow darker, manifesting a change in the creature’s quality of life.

Because stress isn’t necessarily a good thing, even though color alterations are typical, you should still investigate them to ensure that the cause isn’t a negative aspect.

There are people whose fish changed color because they took too many plants out of the tank. You also have people whose fish changed color because some of them had started to spawn, and this was causing all manner of aggression.

While color alterations shouldn’t cause panic, they should encourage you to do some investigative work. You should only rest on your laurels once you have a good reason to believe that you have identified the cause of the color change.

To make sure your angelfish isn’t under stress, I’ve written a whole article about why angelfish stripes fade. In there, I mentioned six crucial points you should follow to ensure the well-being of your fish.

Also Read: Angelfish Water Current

2. They Might Be Asleep

People don’t know for sure whether or not angelfish sleep. But the consensus at the moment is that they can enter some sleep-like stage during which they are inactive, either completely immobile or drifting slowly in the water. In such cases, you will find that the color drains out of their bodies, especially if you’ve turned the lights off.

This is another scenario that makes amateurs think that their fish are dead. But once you turn the lights back on, your fish will gradually revive. This, in turn, will compel the color in its body to grow in strength. Again, no one knows whether this is real sleep. But everyone agrees that this stage causes the color in angelfish to fade.

If that topic interests you, feel free to read an article I’ve written on the sleeping habits of angelfish. I also mentioned there are a few useful signs you can use to determine whether or not your fish is sleeping.

3. Hierarchy Establishment

If you have multiple angelfish of different varieties and sizes in the same tank, you will notice that the color of the smaller fish fluctuates when the larger angelfish are close by. To be more specific, the color of the smaller fish fades. 

This isn’t a cause for concern, either. It is an issue of dominance. The smaller fish are merely showing a healthy amount of deference and respect to their stronger counterparts. Such situations also have an element of stress.

Keep that in mind when stocking your tank. There is nothing wrong with having dominant angelfish in an aquarium. As was mentioned above, the color alterations are natural. They do not cause any harm.

4. Food & Diet

A poor diet can cause your angelfish to lose their color. Flakes and pellets are quite popular among fish owners. Some people argue against them, but professionals agree that they have all the nutrients that an angelfish requires to thrive. 

However, if the color of your angelfish is fading, the diet could be the culprit. 

In such cases, you are encouraged to add some live or frozen food to their meals. The goal is to boost their nutrient intake. There is no magic dieting formula that will ensure that the color in your angelfish stays vibrant and appealing. This is because no one can identify the specific dieting deficiencies responsible for discoloration in angelfish.

Yet, a diet that is generally poor and lacks of nutrients will cause your angelfish’s colors to fade. However, some well-fed fish also manifest a similar problem. You just have to experiment until you find a dieting scheme that allows the colors to thrive.

As with stress, discoloration from poor dieting is a problem. This is another reason to investigate the issue. Sometimes the cause is innocent. Other times, you have every right to be concerned.

Also Read: What Do Angelfish Eat?

5. Light Conditions

There is a lot of speculation surrounding this topic but no concrete information. Some people believe that the lighting in the tank can affect the color of your fish. They base this on the fact that fish like koi and goldfish require natural light to develop the pigment in their skin. 

You also have situations where an angelfish stripes will fade in a dark room only to return to their original state when the lights are switched back on. 

But, as was mentioned above, this topic doesn’t have any definitive information to support the speculation it generates. If all the assumptions are to be believed, then the color of an angelfish will fade if you expose it to harsh light (especially if the tank has no plants or decorations to provide shelter). 

6. Poor Water Quality

Angelfish are hardy creatures. However, they require their water to be maintained within a specific temperature and pH range to stay active and healthy. If the water deviates from this range or if elements like ammonia and nitrates corrupt the water, your angelfish will suffer the consequences. 

The resulting stress can cause discoloration. Diseases are also an essential factor in this conversation. This is why it is vital to change the tank water. It is the only way to improve and maintain the quality of the water.

Also Read: Angelfish Water Parameters

7. The Question of Age

Some people think that their fish are changing color when, in truth, they are merely growing into their proper coloration. This happens a lot with people who buy immature angelfish from a fish store. 

They do not realize that the fish in question haven’t reached their adult coloration, which is why they sometimes seem so pale in the beginning. If that is your case, you may read another article I’ve written about when angelfish reach full size. I also provided a few tips to ensure your angelfish reaches its full potential.

Also Read: Are Angelfish Difficult to Keep?


Color changes among angelfish aren’t a rare phenomenon. Sometimes you may see it after purchase. In other cases, you may see them change colors as they grow. The benign instances are those that happen when the growing conditions are proper. If the temperature, pH, and food are adequate, there is no reason to worry.

However, if your tank is crowded or the water hasn’t been replaced for months, the discoloration could be an indicator that something is wrong. Take advantage of the warning signs your angelfish presents to you. Only then, you may lay down, knowing your fish merely present natural behavior.