Skip to Content

Do goldfish change color from black to gold?

Goldfish come in a variety of colors, ranging from shades of gold and orange to white, black, red, brown, and mixed colors. While their coloration may darken or lighten a bit as they age, goldfish generally do not undergo a dramatic color change from black to gold over their lifetime.

Do goldfish change color as they age?

Goldfish coloration can change subtly as the fish matures, but not from black to gold specifically. Here are some color changes that may occur:

  • Baby goldfish are often pale and may darken as they grow.
  • Grey/black spots or patches may appear as goldfish age, but the base body color will remain the same.
  • Bright red or orange goldfish may fade to a more yellow or pale orange over time.
  • White areas on calico goldfish may yellow slightly.

Overall though, a black goldfish will remain black and a gold/orange fish will keep its hue. The color transformation from black to gold specifically does not naturally occur in goldfish as they age.

Why do people think goldfish change from black to gold?

There are a few reasons why the myth persists that goldfish transform from black to gold over time:

  • People may improperly identify baby brown/grey/black goldfish as black, then see them darken to gold as they mature.
  • Low-quality black goldfish may fade to an orangey-brown over time due to poor pigmentation.
  • Orange or goldfish released into dim lighting may appear darker until moved into proper lighting conditions.

However, a true black goldfish with good pigment will not spontaneously change to gold. The misconception likely arises from people observing normal color changes in low-quality or immature fish as described above.

What determines a goldfish’s color?

A goldfish’s colors and patterns are determined by these factors:

  • Pigment cells – Specialized cells called chromatophores contain pigments like melanin (black/brown), carotenoids (red/orange), and xanthophores (yellow).
  • Genetics – Selective breeding has produced goldfish varieties with different colorations encoded in their genes.
  • Diet – Carotenoids obtained from food enhance goldfish’s orange/red coloration.
  • Environment – Water temperature, lighting conditions, and tank decor may subtly influence color over time.

While environment can affect hues slightly, genetics are the primary determinant of a goldfish’s base color. Black goldfish lack the genetic coding to spontaneously turn gold.

Examples of goldfish color varieties

Here are some examples of purebred goldfish varieties and their expected colors:

Goldfish Variety Color/Markings
Black Moor Velvety black
Shubunkin Calico (blue, red, black, white)
Red Cap Oranda Metallic red/orange with white hood
Panda Moor Black and white
Red and White Comet Red head and fins, white body

While the intensity of the colors may vary a bit with diet and environment, the underlying genetics prevent these varieties from changing color dramatically. Selective breeding over centuries has created goldfish with stable colors and patterns.

Can environment impact goldfish color?

While environment will not change a goldfish’s color completely, some subtle changes can occur due to diet, water conditions, and lighting:

  • Gold/orange fish may become paler without carotenoids from shrimp or veggies.
  • Cooler water temperatures may result in less intense colors.
  • Bright light encourages brighter, more iridescent colors.
  • Dark environments can make some pigments appear drab and muddy.

So while aspects like nutrition and lighting may cause small variations in hue intensity and vibrancy, they will not alter the underlying genetics that determine the goldfish’s base coloration.


While goldfish color can vary slightly across their lifespan due to diet, water conditions, and age, they do not undergo a complete black-to-gold transformation. Genetics establish a goldfish’s core colors from birth, preventing a black goldfish from turning gold spontaneously. Subtle darkening or lightening can occur naturally but the dramatic shift from black to gold specifically does not reflect the reality of goldfish color changes.

The myth persists because people commonly mistake immature grey/brown fish as black, then see them develop normal gold coloring later on. Additionally, poor quality black fish may fade to dull brown due to inadequate pigment. However, well-bred black goldfish will remain black throughout their lives. Understanding the genetic basis of goldfish colors helps explain why the black-to-gold myth is inaccurate and simply reflects a misunderstanding of normal goldfish color development.