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Why Goldfish Change Color


blackteles

Here are two nice articles that deal with why goldfish change colors.... ;)

This one is from Ingrid at GAB...

The colors of fish are due to the presence of pigment cells called chromatophores. Chromatophores come in two varieties: those that absorb light and those that reflect light. Some light-absorbing chromatophores that occur in fish are melanophores, erythophores, xanthophores, and cyanophores. Leucophores and iridophores are examples of light-reflecting chromatophores. Inside chromatophores are organelles called chromatosomes. The type of chromatosome found in a chromatophore determines the color of the pigment cell. For example, melanophores, which are black, contain melanosomes, ie. melanin (black) is the pigment in the chormatosomes of melanophores.

Scientists have identified two types of color changes in fish: physiological and morphological. Physiological color changes are due to the spreading out or aggregation of chromatosomes. When the chromatosomes are spread throughout the cell, the color is more pronounced to the naked eye. However, when the chromatosomes aggregate in the center of the cell, the color is muted or not visable. Morphological color changes, on the other hand, are due to a change in the number of chromatophores. So a fish that loses a number of melanophores will appear lighter, and a fish that gains melanophores will appear darker. Physiological color changes can become morphological color changes over time. For example, a fish that is kept in a tank with a dark background and dark rocks will become darker, initially because of movement of melanosomes in the already exisiting melanophores. However, if enough time goes buy, the fish will start to produce more melanophores and then the color change is considered morphological.

The common phenomenon of black goldfish turning orange, or young goldfish losing black markings as they grow is an example of a morphological color change. As the fish mature, they lose melanophores in a process called apoptosis. Apoptosis is directed cell death, or cellular suicide, and is an important phenomenon in many aspects of development. However, the exact molecular cues that tell a cell it's time to die are still very mysterious. In addition to apoptosis, goldfish that lose black coloration are also supressing the birth of new melanophores. The loss of melanophores reveals the other pigment cells present in the skin. The type and extent of color change a young fish will go through depends on their individual genetic makeup, and there is a lot of variation between individuals! Some fish even go through a second color change from the destruction of xanthophores (red pigment cells).

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From Rick at GFC....

I would like to share with you the three most common reasons why goldfish change colors:

1- Genetics plays a big roll in the color of goldfish. When Goldfish Breeders pair their goldfish for breeding, they breed for good goldfish type and color. I'll use the beautiful moor as an example because it is one of the types of goldfish the goldfish breeders use in their goldfish breeding programs that proves my point.

I know you have seen pictures of, or even own a moor that is black as velvet with excellent goldfish type. Some moors will hold this beautiful black-velvet color while others will begin to turn gold. The reason some will turn gold is, in order to improve the bodies and or eyes of the moors, the goldfish breeders will use gold telescopes as a cross.

The goldfish breeders sort the fry (baby goldfish) for type and color at a very early stage in their lives. The fry that are black are moors, the fry that are any other color become telescopes. Now, if the genetics are just right, some of the moors will remain black their whole life, others will turn gold within six months or even years. Some will just have a light colored belly. I'm not saying that all goldfish breeders use this method of breeding, however, many of them do.

2- Goldfish Collectors with new goldfish become concerned when within a few weeks or months their GOLD goldfish start showing signs of big black patches of color on the body and fins. The black is a sign of healing. Like a "black and blue" mark on your arm after you hit it on something. The new fish have been knocked around, handled and bruised from the moment they left the country the were born in.

When you bring them home and begin to give them some tender loving goldfish care, they begin to heal, that's when you see the "black". When I imported hundreds of show quality goldfish each year I was very happy to see the "black" on my GOLD goldfish, that's when I knew I had them strong and healing. It could take two weeks or longer for the "black" to disappear.

3- Now here's a color change that should throw up a big "RED FLAG" to any person who wants to give good goldfish care.

When the colors of you goldfish become very dull and your goldfish becomes inactive, act at once! This is a sign that could mean big health problems! Attention: One major cause of "dull color" are parasites!! Treat ASAP.

I've also had goldfish lose color because of a quick drop in pH. I've had goldfish become thin with dull color after major treatments of antibiotics. The reason? The "good bacteria" in their digestive tract was destroyed by the antibiotics. The nutrients of the food they were eating were not being absorbed into their system and they were starving. That's why we formulated our "Jump Start" to replace the "good bacteria" in their digestive tract. High quality probiotics are a must after any treatment of antibiotics or long sickness.

One and two above are nothing to worry about, but pay special attention to number three.

There are a few other things that could cause color change or dull color , such as poor quality food, and internal worms, however, the three above are the most common.


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  • Regular Member

Is it weird that I read this starting at the bottom, reading my way up paragraph by paragraph?

Anyway, thanks for posting this! :)

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  • Supporter

Is it weird that I read this starting at the bottom, reading my way up paragraph by paragraph?

Anyway, thanks for posting this! :)

that's what happens when your picking yourself up off the floor mz fangster!.. question is, what were you doing down there in the first place? :rofl

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  • Regular Member

Very interesting! :)

zscale.jpg

Goldfish scale--the gold part is what we see--the rest is imbedded in the fish.

Edited by Kristi
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  • Regular Member

EXCELLENT POST!! I really learned some good information here! Thank You

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  • Regular Member

:happydance Oh my gosh! That answered my quetion perfectly.

I had heard that black was the most unstable color in goldfish and was difficult to keep. So I wasn't too terribly surprised when my panda moor started to lose the black coloration in place of a bronze-ish color. But! My gold and black telescope butterfly tail was gaining more and more black on her fins. Now, my question is...does the healing apply to only their body or can gaining more black in the dorsal and caudal fin be explained by the healing process of finally being well taken care of?

P.S. - Wonderful post. Soo much helpful information

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  • Regular Member

Fantastic info! I especially like the info about chromatophores. When I was a TA for animal physiology, we would have students take a scale from a winter flounder and look at it under the microscope to see the pigment. Then we'd add different chemicals to cause the melanophores to move. It was amazing to see on such a small scale!

I like Rick's explanation too. We have selected certain colors of goldfish very heavily so it's no surprise that many of them turn gold over time. They're not called goldfish for nothing - that is by far the most highly selected color.

But! My gold and black telescope butterfly tail was gaining more and more black on her fins. Now, my question is...does the healing apply to only their body or can gaining more black in the dorsal and caudal fin be explained by the healing process of finally being well taken care of?

The black can occur anywhere, it is often due to ammonia burns.

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  • Regular Member

fantastic post :Congrats:

I've seen no 3 happen on a fish with organ failure, he went from vibrent red-gold to a pale orange

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  • Regular Member

I've seen some black moors with gold underside and some with a white/silver underside. Does that play a part in determining how well they hold the black color. I notice most panda telescope start off black with a silver underside.

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  • Regular Member

I've seen some black moors with gold underside and some with a white/silver underside. Does that play a part in determining how well they hold the black color. I notice most panda telescope start off black with a silver underside.

That's how my panda moor started off. Now the white/silver has increased just behind his eyes and his sides are gaining more bronze coloration. I don't care what color he turns, as long as he's happy and healthy.

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  • Regular Member

I've seen some black moors with gold underside and some with a white/silver underside. Does that play a part in determining how well they hold the black color. I notice most panda telescope start off black with a silver underside.

That's how my panda moor started off. Now the white/silver has increased just behind his eyes and his sides are gaining more bronze coloration. I don't care what color he turns, as long as he's happy and healthy.

:D Exactly, looks are not nearly as important as a happy fish!

As for the bellies being lighter, I have a moore with a slightly bronze belly but he has held his black for 4 years now! So I don't think it always matters.

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  • Regular Member

Thank you so much! My common goldfish (Kenny) was developing black patches and i finally relized, he was just aging (as goldfish change color as they age) Phew! I was worried there!! Just glad to know he'll be alright. Thanks a bunch!!!!

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  • Regular Member

Thank you so much! My common goldfish (Kenny) was developing black patches and i finally relized, he was just aging (as goldfish change color as they age) Phew! I was worried there!! Just glad to know he'll be alright. Thanks a bunch!!!!

Check your water to make sure it is a color change. Black spots are also a sign of ammonia burn and/or injury.

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  • Regular Member

This stuff is really interesting.. Most of my fish have stayed orange, the colour they were when I got them. One has gone totally white, and one developed lots of black patches - it kinda looked like the pattern on a cow, but with black and orange instead of black and white! However, since finding koko's (around 2 years ago now) and my fish moved into a bigger tank and started getting looked after correctly, the black is now almost gone. Perhaps it wasn't a colour change as I once thought, and now I'm doing right by him his colour is returning to normal?

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  • Admin

normally when you see black on the edges of there fins or mouth area its ammonia burn and will go away with good water quality. :)

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  • Regular Member

Maybe that's what it was then - although he had black all over his body (I think my avatar has a pic of how he used to look), and I would have thought if ammonia had been that bad, the others would have had black or been incredibly ill?

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  • Admin

The fish in your Avatar loosing black..... that would just be the fish loosing the black... the way the color is on the fish is normal color and if that color is fading .... totally normal :) Nor ammonia

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  • Admin

I think we all love the black color on goldfish. I wish it was a more stable color :)

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  • Regular Member

My little Falafel is turning from "uncolored" (brownish copper) to white! He has shiny scales, so the white scales look like shiny pearls, not the translucent white you usually see. It's so beautiful.

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