angelfish colors fading

Why Do Angelfish Change Colors?

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 11:39 am

People with aquariums love angelfish due to their variety of hues, so you’ll enjoy an assortment of vibrant shades that add more color to your home.

Angelfish change colors due to age, illness, unhappiness, stress, aggression, mating behavior, and the room’s brightness. The vertical stripes don’t change color but often appear, reappear, and fade.

Angelfish can go months without changing color. Other times, depending on the circumstances, they’ll change once or twice daily. Sometimes, angelfish will subtly change color, meaning you won’t notice.

Color changes are only concerning when coupled with odd behaviors and other physical changes.

How Can Angelfish Change Color?

Angelfish have chromatophores, which are cells that contain pigments and reflect light.

Chromatophores are found in many animals, including:

  • Reptiles.
  • Fish.
  • Crustaceans.

Chromatophores are responsible for the skin and eye color of cold-blooded creatures. However, angelfish have more freedom with their chromatophores, meaning they can change colors.

Chromatophores require energy to control the hue of the fish on a day-to-day basis.

The resulting lack of energy will show in its colors if the fish is ill, under stress, or malnourished. This color can be regained by sleeping, eating well, and remaining stress-free.

When Do Angelfish Change Colors?

Some angelfish will change colors in a matter of minutes, while others have a more gradual alteration. It depends on the fish and their circumstances.

Seeing a once vibrant fish slowly turn pale can even be anxiety-inducing. However, you can identify the reason for the change, whether serious or trivial. Just look for these signs – and their meanings.


When angelfish sleep, they often lose their color. This happens because, like any living organism with tissues and cells, angelfish get micro tears all over their brains and muscles as the day progresses.

When they sleep, their body can concentrate on regenerating these microtears, which is why so many living organisms need sleep.

This process takes energy when an angelfish is restoring any micro tears. Instead of using the energy to keep the skin’s pigment vibrant, the color usually becomes dull when the angelfish sleeps.

Once awake, the skin returns to its natural, vibrant self. This process is usually quick, and the angelfish doesn’t take long to go from dull to colorful.

It may become difficult to know when exactly angelfish are asleep.

They don’t lie down at the bottom of the tank and stay still, as expected. Instead, they enter a sleep-like state where they swim slowly and are generally inactive.

It requires less energy than swimming normally, allowing the angelfish to replenish its energy. Once the angelfish gets its natural color back and seems livelier, it has awoken.


The color of an angelfish becomes more intense when they are fighting. They use this tactic to:

  • Establish dominance.
  • Frighten their opponent.
  • Confuse the senses of other fish.

When something in a fish’s field of view is particularly bright, it catches their eye and makes them wary. It can’t concentrate when overwhelmingly bright colors dominate its vision. So, if you notice that:

  • Your angelfish’s color suddenly becomes bright
  • It swims rapidly around other fish

This is usually a sign of aggression. In this case, consider separating the aggressive angelfish from the others.


When an angelfish is hungry or has a poor diet, its color will fade. This usually happens slowly, but you can catch it before the fish becomes unhealthy.

Avoid over-feeding the other fish in the tank by just pouring more fish food into the water.

Instead, wait and observe if the angelfish can reach the food before it’s all out. If not, temporarily separate the angelfish in a different tank so the sickly fish can focus on eating and getting better.

An angelfish’s skin will also become more vibrant to catch your attention because it’s hungry. This change can happen quickly, usually when people pass by the tank.

do angelfish change color as they age?


Sick angelfish lose their color. This depends on their illness and how fast it’s eating away at their life. As such, the color change may happen very quickly or very slowly.

If you are unsure that your fish is sick, observe and see if it’s also behaving strangely. Aside from fading color, you should notice the following:

  • Unusual swimming patterns.
  • A lack of appetite.
  • Holes, bulges, or spots.
  • Torn fins.
  • Protruding or lost scales.
  • The angelfish getting attacked by other fish in the tank.

A sick fish won’t have the energy to maintain its cellular operations, which will prevent the body from controlling the hue of the fish. As the body deteriorates, so do the cells and, thus, the chromatophores.

Water Quality

To live a healthy life, angelfish have specific needs for their water. Everything from the pH levels to the water temperature should be perfect. Otherwise, the fish in your tank will get sick and stressed.

How fast will an angelfish’s color change? This depends on how bad the situation is in your tank.

The fastest change happens when the oxygen levels are low because the fish will begin swimming to the water’s surface to breathe.


It’s easy to tell when something is wrong (or right) because of how its color changes. When stressed, your angelfish will fade in its hues. The more stressed it is, the faster this happens.

  • If it’s caused by aggressive behavior from another fish, the angelfish will pale very quickly.
  • The change might happen slowly due to parental stress in pregnant angelfish.


Angelfish will fade in color because of physical injuries. It takes lots of energy for the cells to regenerate because the body may forgo the cellular procedures responsible for maintaining color and focus on regenerating tissue.

Mating And Breeding

Male angelfish will become very bright in color when trying to impress female angelfish. According to the University of Leiden, cichlids choose their mates based on color. Bright color means the male is:

  • Strong.
  • Dominant.
  • In good health.

In a fight for dominance, a frightened angelfish will try to hide. This is done by fading its colors and blending in with the background. As such, dull colors mean weakness.

Once angelfish choose their mate and are paired, they will continue to have bright coloring. This will intimidate other fish from getting close to their mate or eggs.


Vivid color in an angelfish indicates good health. This brightening is usually slow, especially if a fish is recovering from an illness.


As angelfish grow, they become stronger, resulting in more colorful scales. The opposite happens when an angelfish is old because it may not be able to maintain its scales like it used to.

Food Quality

Poor-quality food may lack certain nutrients, making your fish have dimmer colors. After changing the type or brand of fish food, it’s common for the fish to change hues as they adjust.

However, if the angelfish’s color seems dull after changing brands, the food quality could be causing the change. All fish need:

  • Fats.
  • Fiber.
  • Carbs.
  • Minerals.
  • Protein.
  • Vitamins.

While some fish foods are rich in one category, they may be lacking in others.


Angelfish are very sensitive to their environment. As chromatophores absorb light, the brighter the room, the more colorful the angelfish.

When asleep, an angelfish’s color will fade faster with the lights off. This change happens relatively quickly because of how light-absorbent chromatophores are.

Is your tank in a busy part of the house? Does the light keep getting turned on and off? Then, it’s worth moving the tank to a more secluded area.

In nature, changes in illumination don’t happen as quickly or often. Changing color is completely natural for angelfish. However, frequent, artificially induced changes in color can harm your fish’s health.

Why Do the Stripes on Angelfish Fade?

Angelfish fade their stripes to blend in with plants and hide from predators. An angelfish in an aquarium will fade its stripes even more if no plants exist.

This will be paired with hiding at the bottom of the tank. It may try to match its stripes to the color of the rocks and sand, and it’ll stay there until it feels the danger has passed.

The more frightened the angelfish is, the more the stripes will fade. Sometimes, the stripes will disappear completely. Of course, this means that the fish is going through unimaginable stress. If this continues for multiple days, you must intervene before the stress permanently alters the fish’s physical health.

Angelfish Color Meanings

Do certain colors have specific meanings? While it’ll vary from fish to fish, a few generalized meanings exist. Keep an eye out for these shades, and then compare them to environmental factors. It may help you improve the life of your fish.

Angelfish Turning Yellow

Angelfish may turn yellow depending on their breed. For example, zebra angelfish or silver angelfish may take on a yellow hue when mating, stressed, or even randomly.

However, other kinds of angelfish become yellow due to poor water quality or overcrowding. Be sure to check your tank’s chemical balance and water levels. If too many fish are in the tank, you may need to separate them.

Angelfish Turning Red

Redness in your angelfish is a sign of ammonia poisoning if it’s not an iconic color for its breed. This isn’t just a change in hue, but actual burns appearing on your fish. The chemical imbalance will eat away at its body and cause discomfort. Be sure to change your water more frequently and check the chemical balance.

Angelfish Turning Green

A green hue in your angelfish signifies they’ve contracted Velvet Disease or other sicknesses. That’s bad news when paired with irregular swimming habits and heavy breathing. Your fish may be nearing a fatal stage in its illness.

Check out its water quality, including the tank’s temperature, and make corrections. This will help the fish recover.

why do the stripes on angelfish fade?

Angelfish Turning White

Angelfish may turn white due to a lack of oxygen in their tank. This causes their stripes to fade and their brighter colors to dim. This will give them a grey, washed-out look.

You may also find the eggs of your angelfish turning white. This is caused by fungi growing on the exterior of the eggs. If there’s a bacterial imbalance in the tank, the protective outer coating will be compromised, and a fungus may work its way in and begin to damage the eggs.

Angelfish Turning Orange

If an angelfish suddenly brightens to an orange, especially around the dorsal fins, you may have a koi angelfish.

It’s common for these breeds to be kept in poor, over-packed conditions in pet stores. This causes them to fade in color, losing their orange hue. When that happens, new owners may buy the fish, believing it’s a different breed. Once it has a healthy environment, it will brighten up and reveal its telltale coloring.

Angelfish Turning Black

An explosion of black coloring on your angelfish usually means it’s happy and comfortable. After all, white is more prominent when the stripes fade, as the fish may seem blacker when these stripes brighten up again.

This is a natural change if the angelfish has recently been transferred from a pet store or a poorly regulated tank because it proves the tank is healthy enough.

Angelfish Turning Brown

If your angelfish turns a light brown, this may be a natural part of its color-changing habits. The black stripes may dull as the fish sleeps and appear brown; light changes may also cause this hue to fade.

However, if your angelfish turns dark brown and maintains this color, it may have Velvet Disease. This will cause them to grow gold, brown, or green.

The small changes in its coloring will inform you when to take action, and it can also help you understand the personality of your angelfish better than before.