Why do Angelfish Stripes Fade & Disappear? (With Solutions)

So many times, I’ve asked myself why do my angelfish stripes fade and sometimes even disappear. As years passed by, I have learned a few reasons for that phenomenon, and also found a few reversible measures you can take.

Angelfish stripes fade as a result of stressful conditions, such as threatening companions, surprising views outside the aquarium, excessive water replacements, and impaired health conditions. Also, stripes may fade due to inherited characteristics, derived from fish interactions and social standing.

It is imperative to understand the underlying cause since sometimes, you will be able to take the necessary measures to prevent the phenomenon. You should also look for warning signs, which may indicate your fish is suffering from a disease and treat it accordingly. 

Why Your Angelfish Lose Their Stripes

There are a few reasons why that particular phenomenon might be happening. Allow me to elaborate on a few which I found most prevalent.

1. Your Angelfish Are Under Stress

Stress is one of the underlying causes of why the stripes on angelfish can fade away, and sometimes even disappear. When the angelfish is calm, his bars are dark and easy to decipher. 

On the other hand, when angelfish are under stress, the stripes start fading and can disappear as well. The process can occur in as little as 2 minutes.

If you look into the biological phenomena, it is due to the spread of melanosomes. Melanosomes are organic compounds responsible for movement, storage, and synthesis of melanin. Melanin absorbs light. Melanosomes, therefore, control the color of the animal skin.[1]

Under stress, the melanosomes quickly spread out among the melanophores. Since the melanin is also, therefore, spread out, the fish loses its stripe[2]

The first change is that fading. However, if the melanin gets distributed further, the stripes can entirely disappear as well. 

The surprising fact here is that all of this can occur within a couple of minutes or less. It is difficult to observe this process of fading and disappearing in real-time unless you monitor the fish very distinctly.

Nevertheless, stress is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why do angelfish tend to lose their stripes. My angelfish suffered from prolonged periods of disappeared bars when other fish in the aquarium threaten them. If you do not remedy the situation, it may result in permanent disappearance.

2. Could be Related to Health Issues

Another cause of the fading stripes is the fish suffering from a medical condition or ailment. It can also be related to stress due to this situation. Frankly, it is hard to distinguish between the cause and the outcome. 

When it comes to detecting diseases or ailments in angelfish, the disappearance of stripes is one of the primary symptoms which you can look for. However, the absence of bars is not a specific issue.

Therefore, detecting a particular ailment in itself is not easy. However, if you notice the colors begin to fade, you should definitely look for other symptoms that may accompany diseases. 

Observe your angelfish and look for white spots, bloated appearance, or shredded fins. These could be related to angelfish ich/ick, dropsy, or fin rot accordingly.[3] If you notice no further issues, the fading bars could be an isolated problem in a healthy fish.

3. Apart of Cichlids’ Natural Characteristics

Angelfish are cichlids, and they may exhibit this behavior naturally.[4] The stripes are not entirely permanent in these kinds of fish. In fact, the dominant male among the cichlids usually features intense colors, while the others are more bright.  

The entire species of fish belonging to this group may exhibit the same behavior. That is why the fading or the disappearing in itself is not worrisome in all cases. It could be merely related to the natural balance between the fish sharing your aquarium.

4. Completion of Interaction

Stripes of angelfish are an indication of their social interaction with other fish. However, during communication, the bars are dark and distinct. If you notice the bars fading away after the social interaction, it is a normal reaction. 

The social interactions during which the stripes darken are:

  • Attracting females
  • Asserting dominance
  • Chasing other angelfish
  • Displaying aggression
  • Mating

In the absence of natural reactions or processes, the lines of the angelfish can fade and even disappear.[5] The good news is that these processes are natural, and any angelfish can experience it. That is why, if interaction with other angelfish is the cause for the stripes to darken and fades after it, there is no need to worry.

From time to time, your angelfish will experience at least one of those social interactions. However, if it becomes too aggressive to other angelfish, then only you need to think about isolation. 

5. Your Angelfish Are Frequently Surprised

Any time, the angelfish is surprised or startled, his/her stripes might go away. You might notice this most commonly when you turn on the lights.

Since the lights disperse around the aquarium in an impulse, the angelfish is often startled. The natural habitat of this fish, in the Amazon basin, exposed them to limited light.

The light conditions in their natural habitat did not vary much.

On the other hand, due to the light in the aquarium, the dispersal is quite sudden. The change in the brightness or the illumination levels is quite glaring, as well. Due to this very reason, they get startled and, therefore, under stress, which results in the absence of stripes.

In many cases, the surprise element can also be a sudden movement of another fish or other fish chasing them. In that case, you can isolate the other fish (mainly if this occurs too frequently). 

6. Changes in Water Conditions

If the water conditions change over time or suddenly, it can also fade the stripes of the angelfish and make them disappear.[6] You need to ensure that the pH level is between 6 and 8. Also, you have to ensure that the water temperature is around 80 F.[7]

If the fading of the stripes happens after you change the water, it might be an indication that the water is not ideal for the angelfish. PH testing and temperature testing will help you confirm the assumption. Thus, the changes in the water condition can be one of the primary reasons why the stripes of the angelfish disappear.

7. Social Standing

The disappearance or fading of the bars also depends on the level of aggression in that particular fish. If the fish is less aggressive, it is likely to have horizontal bars. You will notice faded bars most of the time in such fish, as the natural process of aggression in the fish is on the lower side.[8]

On the other hand, many cichlids show a territorial behavior. As a result, the aggression is on the higher side. In such cases, not only these fish display vertical bars but also their bars are dark and intense most of the time. Thus, the variation in the aggression levels from one fish to another can also lead to faded or disappeared bars.

Can You do Something to Bring The Stripes Back?

In the majority of the cases, you can take some action to bring the stripes back. I will share with you a few steps you can take in case the phenomenon is indeed reversible. It will also help you understand if you need to do something or just let things pan out.

1. Identify Stressful Scenarios

The causes of stress can be plenty. These can include:

  • Absence of protective plants and rocks behind angelfish can hide
  • Introduction of aggressive fish into the aquarium
  • Introduction of unfamiliar fish in the aquarium
  • Production of lots of fish in the aquarium (Overpopulation)

All of these causes are easy to remedy. That is why you have to figure out which one applies in your case and then fix it. If your tank lacks hiding places, make sure you add a few.

When it comes to angelfish, I recommend using plants with large leaves. These could both serve as a breeding surface and provide some shelter to calm the fish. 

Also, if your tank is highly populated, you might consider getting a bigger one. Another alternative would be splitting your community tank into two separate ones.

2. Look For Injuries

In case of an injury, you have to observe the angelfish. This way, you will be able to understand the problem better. If they are suffering from an ailment, it is essential to look out for any symptoms.

Most times, diseases and illnesses feature other visual signs, which make it easy for you to detect the underlying cause. After that, you should take a proper course of action to remedy the ailment or injury.

Sometimes consulting a fish veterinarian is inevitable.

3. Accept Irreversible Causes

As I mentioned above, if the stripes fade due to their hereditary behavior, there is nothing much you can do about it. You can be more confident about this reason if you see a dominant male with intense colors, while the others are more bright.

If that is the case, accept it is a natural phenomenon in cichlids. Similarly, if the bars disappear after the end of social interaction, it is an entirely natural reaction.

4. Isolate Aggressive Fish & Get More Gentle With Lights

In case the angelfish is often surprised by other fish who chase it, you need to think about isolating the aggressive fish in the aquarium. If the cause is light, there is a different solution altogether.

Make sure that the lamp isn’t directly lightning the aquarium. Instead, create an angle and let the fish enjoy the light from the sides of the lamp. You may also use a dimming light that features intensity control. 

Nevertheless, since most of us turn on the lights to feed them, the angelfish stripes will probably return after feeding. When they eat, their stress levels reduce, and the colors should return to the previous state.

5. Be Gentle With Water Replacement 

In case of replacements in water, you need to bring the water back to normal conditions, and the stripes will probably reappear. With the help of pH testing as well as temperature testing, you would know what needs to be done.

6. Manipulated Social Interactions 

In case of the cause being social standing, while you cannot change the level of aggression in angelfish, but you can surely increase the size of your aquarium. That, of course, if the fading of the stripes is due to territorial behavior.

If your angelfish cannot compete against others for territory, it will always be under stress, and the bars will disappear. Opting for a bigger aquarium will ensure that there is enough space for everyone.

If you cannot accommodate a bigger aquarium, you might need to think about reducing the angelfish population in your tank. It will ensure that once again, there is enough space for everyone.

Conclusions

The causes of the stripes of angelfish fading and disappearing are plenty. The good news is, you can prevent these causes up to a certain extent. Also, these are not necessarily harmful to angelfish, as most of them are due to natural processes.

So, not in all the cases, it is something alarming. You need to figure out the exact cause, and after that, you can decide how serious the problem is. In many cases, the solutions are not that difficult to implement.

If you’re wondering why do angelfish stripes fade & disappear, these are the most likely causes. With the help of my guide above, you can also take remedial measures to ensure that the stripes do not fade. However, if it is a natural reaction of the fish, there is nothing much you can do about it.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanosome
  2. https://ezinearticles.com/?How-to-Prevent-Angelfish-Stripes-From-Getting-Faded&id=4662289
  3. https://smartaquariumguide.com/angelfish-diseases-parasites-remedies/
  4. http://www.aquariumadvice.com/forums/f12/why-does-my-angelfish-stripes-disappear-most-of-the-day-233994.html
  5. https://www.reddit.com/r/Aquariums/comments/a0xy3x/how_does_my_angel_fish_look_and_why_do_his/
  6. https://www.myaquariumclub.com/one-of-my-angelfish-is-striped.-well-striped-one-minute-and-not-the-next.-i…-2493224.html
  7. http://www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/amazing-angelfish-full-article.htm
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3778878/

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