Guppies are probably the type of fish I’ve kept for the most extended period. Over the years, I had great success in growing and breeding them. However, once in a while, I noticed that they appear white, gradually losing their colors. Since I got worried about the phenomenon, I began researching the topic quite extensively.
Guppies turn white as a result of a disease, such as Ich, Dropsy, and Hexamitiasis. Whitish colors could also indicate a bacterial infection, as in fin and tail rot, or mold accumulation, particularly in poorly maintained tanks.
As we move forwards, I will elaborate on how to treat guppy fish that had turned white and how to prevent that phenomenon from recurring. Following these steps would ensure that your guppies live longer and healthier lives.
Why do Guppies Lose Their Color and Turn White?
Guppies are strong creatures, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Like other livebearing fish, they can survive in tanks with water that differs from their ideal conditions and parameters. That being said, there is a limit to what they can tolerate. If you fail to care for them, their health will suffer.
That is why they turn white on occasion. However, keep in mind that it isn’t a natural occurrence. If your guppies are losing their color, something has gone wrong. You must resolve the issue before it leads to fatal complications.
Yet, this is only possible after you identify the cause. Guppy fish will lose their color for a variety of reasons, including:
1. Fin and Tail Rot
Fin and Tail rot isn’t hard to diagnose. Rather than the whole guppy going pale, the tail will take on a whitish, yellowish hue. Fin and tail rot starts with either a bacterial infection or fungal growth. The fungus only becomes a factor when your guppy’s fins have been nipped.
The injury will encourage fungus to grow, leading to rot. Though, sometimes, the quality of water and ammonia are to blame. Ultimately, it is a question of what you see. If you haven’t observed any injuries or burns, then the bacteria is at fault.
Otherwise, ammonia poisoning and poor hygiene are probably to blame. This condition doesn’t just turn the tail and fins white. If left untreated, they could fall off. That is why you are encouraged to identify the cause and treat it immediately, as I will explain later on.
2. Ich Disease
The presence of Ich causes white spots to appear all over your guppy’s body. In the result of an ectoparasite, your guppy will tell you that Ich is to blame for its white spots by repeatedly rubbing against the hard objects in its tank.
The condition causes itching, and your guppies will behave just as humans do. The issue becomes more severe once the guppy is rubbing against sharp edges. That could rip its fins and lead to fin rot. Fortunately, this illness can be treated if you act quickly.
Keep in mind that ich disease could also turn your guppies black, as I’ve elaborated in this article. It is really worth reading if this is your case, mainly because I mentioned there a few easy steps that could save your guppy’s life.
3. Mold Development
Water mold can turn your guppy white. Some people call it mouse fan gas disease. It starts with a fungus that invades the guppy through a wound. Once it grows and spreads, besides turning the body white, it will also make the fish sick. Yet, it is treatable.
It is worth noting that fungi are presented in most fish tanks, although it spreads widely once the conditions are not proper. That includes poor water quality and hygiene. Thus, as you will see later on, the first step would be taking care of your tank’s environment.
4. Dropsy Disease
Dropsy is a fairly common illness that starts with a bacterial infection. It targets the liver, which is why the guppy’s abdomen distends. Dropsy will also discolor your fish. It will begin to lean towards white in appearance.
In some cases, the guppy’s colors simply appear distorted. Guppies with dropsy will also fail to swim appropriately. You can blame this on their bloated bodies. Stress can cause this condition, not to mention a diet that is saturated with blood worms.
5. Hexamitiasis (Hole in the Head)
This condition, also called ‘Hole in the Head’, is caused by a parasite. Among other issues, it leads to a loss of appetite. A guppy with the disease will also become pale as its colors fade. This makes it easier for fish owners to realize that something has gone wrong with their guppies.
I have previously discussed that disease in the context of color-changing among Oscar fish. If you own that species or plan to get a few in the future, I recommend checking this article. It could save you a lot of trouble since Hexamitiasis is a pretty prevalent disease.
How to Treat a Guppy That Has Turned White?
If your guppy has turned white, don’t be so quick to panic. There are ways to treat it. Though, the steps you take will depend on the cause of the transformation in your guppy’s colors. For instance:
1. Tail and Fin Rot
If you identify a case of tail and fin rot, quarantine the sick fish. Depending on the symptoms manifested by the other fish, you might have to isolate the entire tank. You can overcome tail and fin rot with antibiotics like tetracycline.
But you shouldn’t expect similar results with a fungal infection. If fungus is the cause, you should find medicines that specifically tackle fungal infections. That is why I would recommend turning to a vet immediately after isolation, for a second opinion.
2. Ich Disease
Ich comes from an ectoparasite. If you can see the white spots it causes, you should act fast. Some people will encourage you to raise the temperature to 84 degrees F. Yet, you should probably start at 80 degrees. Either way, make this transition gradual.
You can raise the temperature higher or lower, depending on the response from your guppies. You can also add some salt. A teaspoon per gallon is sufficient. Yet, don’t expect immediate results. Maintain these conditions for four days, possibly even a week. Eventually, things will begin to change.
Even though I haven’t tried it myself, you may also try the Seachem Laboratories ParaGuard (link to Marine Depot), as mentioned in the video above. It seems like its working, and the relatively low price definitely worth checking it out.
3. Water Mold
You can reverse the effects of water mold diseases by placing the guppy in a medicine bath – do this as soon as possible. The symptoms caused by the disease will begin to dissipate. Though, you might have to pursue this treatment for a few days to get the right results.
Also, don’t forget to change the water. The frequency and the amount will depend on the illness. When your guppy starts to turn white, you don’t have to treat the entire tank. Unless advised otherwise, you should quarantine and then treat the sick fish separately.
Though, there are situations that require you to treat the entire tank. Be careful when adding salt; it has its advantages, but some fish species cannot tolerate it. This is why you are encouraged to consult an expert. They can guide you on the best way to treat your guppies without killing the rest of the aquarium.
4. Dropsy Disease
If your fish is bloated and discolored because of dropsy, it might be too late, especially if a bacterial infection was the cause. But you can try improving the water conditions, eliminating toxins like ammonia, and providing a variety of nutritious foods.
Some people believe that adding two tablespoons of Epsom salt (per gallon) to the tank can help, but only if you keep the guppy in the water for half an hour or so. This method requires the use of a separate container. Don’t add Epsom salt to your community tank.
Because dropsy is so challenging to treat, you should instead focus on preventing it. You can do that by keeping the stress to the minimum. Achieving that can be done by providing your guppies with the ideal water conditions.
Stress doesn’t sound like such a severe issue. But even the smallest of elements can have a drastic impact on fish if it goes unchecked. Anxiety, on its own, won’t turn your fish white. But it will compromise their immunity, leaving them vulnerable to diseases.
If you want to treat the illnesses turning your fish white, start by identifying and eliminating all potential stressing sources (including aggressive tankmates). Add more plants and decorations were necessary to give your guppies a modicum of privacy.
You should also avoid overcrowding. Don’t keep more guppies than your tank can handle. Eventually, ensure that the creatures are fed nutritiously and on time. Such actions will make any treatments you pursue more potent.
5. Hole in the Head
You can use metronidazole to treat this condition. You can either add the medicine to the water or use medicated food. Use it once a day for three days or more (250 mg for every ten gallons).
Yet, keep in mind that in these conditions, your guppies should present holes in their head or bodies. If the only thing you’ve noticed is their whitish coloration, hole in the head is probably not the cause for the phenomenon.
How to Prevent Your Guppies From Turning White?
The best way to help your guppies is to prevent them from turning white in the first place. This isn’t nearly as difficult as you might think. Just do the following:
1. Stick to the Right Water Parameters
This has to be your primary concern. You need to keep the parameters in your tank within the appropriate range. That means maintaining the temperature between 75 and 82 degrees F and the pH between 7 and 7.2.
Guppies survive and thrive in particular conditions in the wild, and you must replicate those conditions in the tank. This will make them more durable and less likely to suffer from diseases that will turn them white.
The most crucial factor is probably the temperature. For that reason, I highly recommend checking out my aquarium heater recommendation. That is the particular heater that I use with great success for a couple of years now.
2. Feed Your Guppies Adequately
Make sure that you feed your guppy fish well. Again, the goal is to make the guppies strong, healthy, and less susceptible to diseases. For that, you should give them a mixture of plant and animal matter. That is because guppies are omnivores.
Ensure that you give your guppies enough food to satisfy their hunger. Yet, avoid overfeeding them. That will ruin their health, leaving them vulnerable to other diseases. It is also worth noting that overfed fish produce a lot more waste, and that makes their tanks challenging to maintain.
Regarding quantities, you should pour them the amount of food they can consume within two minutes. If you see leftovers after this period, you’ve probably fed them too much. If they have finished their meal faster than that, you should give them a bit more.
3. Maintain Hygiene
Keep a pristine tank. One consequence of overfeeding your guppies is that a lot of the food you add will go uneaten. It will rot, producing toxins like ammonia. The same thing will happen if you fail to remove dead plants, fish, and waste.
On top of adding a filter and performing water changes, take the time to remove elements that will corrupt your water. Dirty tanks attract diseases. If you have a dirty tank, you will have a much harder time determining the cause of the white colorations in your guppies.
4. Quarantine Sick Fish
If you have one guppy that has already turned white, take it out of the tank. Place it in a separate aquarium from where you can observe, diagnose, and treat it. If you permit the guppy to remain in the tank, it will infect the other fish.
You should also do the same with new fish. Don’t be so quick to add them to your aquarium. Keep them aside and observe them. Otherwise, they might introduce unexpected illnesses to your aquatic environment.
A proper quarantine for new fish should last three or four weeks. This gives you plenty of time to identify troublesome warning signs. You need to keep an eye on all your guppies. If you can catch the symptoms of illness early, you can treat them before your fish starts turning white.
Most of the time, guppies turn white due to an underlying disease. Dropsy, Ich and fin rot should be among your first considerations. Once you’ve noticed this, you should isolate the sick guppy as soon as you can.
After being quarantined, you should act to diagnose the cause and treat it accordingly. You may also consult a veterinarian if you feel lost. Either way, provide high maintenance to the rest of the tank and ensure that no other fish has been infected.