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Do Clownfish Change Color? (When to Be Concerned)

Do Clownfish Change Color? (When to Be Concerned)

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This post is written to the author's best knowledge and is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. In addition, this post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Clownfish are generally considered to be very pretty. They look really nice in the water, and they come in several different color variations.

The fact that clownfish are so colorful and neat to look at makes them popular options in community saltwater fish tanks. If you’ve recently added a few clownfish to your aquarium, then you’re probably trying to learn all that you can to take care of them properly.

You might be curious about the clownfish and whether or not they can change colors. Perhaps you’ve noticed that your clownfish looks a bit different than it used to when you first bought it.

Do clownfish change color under normal circumstances? Or, would a change in color be a sign that something is significantly wrong with the fish?

Keep reading to learn everything that you need to know about this topic. It should help you to be able to better care for your clownfish by having more knowledge.

Clownfish Can Change Color Sometimes

It is known that some clownfish can change color under certain circumstances. However, this isn’t always going to be a typical thing.

There are many different factors to consider when determining whether you need to be worried or not. If the clownfish is changing color as it ages, then that is a normal situation.

You see, a juvenile clownfish might start out with bright coloration and it’ll wind up darkening as it gets older. This happens quite a bit, and it’s not unusual for a new clownfish owner to be a bit caught off-guard by the change.

It might be that you didn’t expect the clownfish to change so much as it matured. In some cases, a mature clownfish will look quite different than it did as a juvenile fish.

You might find that some of the darker stripes on the fish will stand out more than the lighter-colored ones. This is simply something that happens.

Why Is My Clownfish Losing Color?

A clownfish losing color is a bit different than what is described above. When this occurs, it’s generally a sign that something is amiss.

If your clownfish is typically very bright and stands out in the tank, then it will come as a bit of a surprise to see it start to turn dull. Why would a clownfish become dull all of a sudden?

Typically, this happens when the clownfish is being kept in water conditions that aren’t quite right. It might be that the water is too cold for the fish or it could be that the pH balance isn’t right.

Why Water Parameters Are So Important

You’re supposed to keep a close eye on the water parameters when caring for fish. If you don’t, then it’ll be easy to have the fish get sick.

Sometimes, the water parameters will be so far off that the fish will start to lose its color. This shows you that the water is not right for the clownfish, and you’re going to want to try to turn things around fast.

Remember, clownfish like to be kept in fish tanks that have a water temperature between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit on average.

The pH balance should remain between 7.6 and 8.4 or else things can go wrong. You should be testing the pH balance using a testing kit fairly often.

You can easily adjust the pH balance of the water with special chemicals, but you need to know when things are off. Keep in mind that fluctuations in the pH balance might cause the fish to lose its color for some time.

It is also known that a heightened level of ammonia in the tank can alter the appearance of the clownfish. Having too much ammonia in the tank can be very dangerous overall.

If you don’t keep the fish tank clean, then the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels can rise. This can harm your fish, and it might even make it so that the fish won’t be able to breathe easily.

To prevent raised ammonia levels from becoming an issue, it’s imperative to clean the fish tank regularly. You also need to take the time to change 15% of the water each week.

Try your best to get into the routine of changing the water weekly. Some fish tank enthusiasts get away with changing a larger percentage of the water on a biweekly basis, but it’s likely better and easier to remember to do it weekly.

Food Issues

Food issues could be to blame for your fish losing its color as well. Did you know that many pet stores feed clownfish specific foods that can help it to look more colorful?

It won’t outright change the color of the fish, but it will make the colors look more vibrant than they would otherwise be. This is mostly to attract customers and to make them want to buy the fish for their home aquariums.

You likely aren’t going to be feeding the clownfish the same foods in your home fish tank that the pet store was feeding the fish. Eventually, the color will start to fade, and the fish will not look as vibrant as it did before.

Technically, if you can figure out what to feed the fish to make it more vibrant, then you can help it to look just as brilliant as it did before. You’ll just need to purchase special food.

It’s likely going to be a good idea to simply focus on giving your clownfish good food that will keep it healthy, though. If a clownfish is eating a healthy diet, then it should wind up appearing to be pretty colorful and vibrant overall.

Nutrient deficiency is said to lead to a lack of color in clownfish. It could be that you’re not feeding your fish a balanced diet.

Putting some effort into feeding the fish a balanced diet will likely help to turn things around. Hopefully, the fish will appear to be much more vibrant once you make the necessary changes.


Stress will cause clownfish to lose their color as well. You already know that water parameter issues will cause clownfish to lose their color, but you should know that it’s mostly because it causes the fish to become stressed.

Of course, there are many different things that can cause stress to the clownfish. It’s going to be important to understand external factors that can make the clownfish stressed.

For example, placing the fish tank in an excessively noisy spot might stress the fish. Many types of fish get stressed when they have to deal with a noisy environment, and it’s a good reason to keep your fish tank away from your television.

You also don’t want to allow any children in your home to tap on the glass of the fish tank. Actions such as this cause the fish to feel stressed, and excessive tapping could have a negative impact on the color of the clownfish.

Putting the fish in a tank that is too small for them will be a bad idea, too. Clownfish need to have enough space to move around or they will become stressed.

You might have tried to put too many fish in a small tank. This makes it so that the clownfish feel very cramped, and they might lose color due to being so stressed about the situation.

Keep in mind that clownfish can be territorial sometimes. Not having enough space will definitely cause problems for the fish.

You always want to try to go with a bigger tank so long as you have the room. Giving the fish more room to move around will be better than trying to cram them into a tiny aquarium.

Think about how many fish you’re adding to the community tank if you don’t have a lot of space. It might be better to hold off on purchasing certain fish if you want to keep the clownfish from becoming stressed.

Bullying and Improper Tank Mates

Bullying is something that could easily cause a fish to become stressed. If a clownfish is getting bullied by a larger fish, then that’s not going to be a good way to keep it looking healthy.

You might have made some mistakes when picking out tank mates for the clownfish. Many newcomers to the aquarium scene get overzealous and purchase fish for community tanks without putting the time in to research whether the fish will get along.

Clownfish are capable of getting along well with many different types of fish. However, there are many fish that will bully and even prey on the clownfish.

For example, you don’t want to put lionfish in the same tank as the clownfish. The presence of a predator fish will most certainly cause the fish to lose color due to stress.

That’s the least of your worries if a predator fish is in the tank, though. The poor clownfish could easily wind up being killed depending on what fish you put in the tank.

To keep the clownfish safe and healthy, it’s going to be best to research every fish that you plan to add to the community tank. It shouldn’t take that long to find fish that you will be happy with that will also get along great with the clownfish.

Why Is My Clownfish Turning Black?

Turning black could actually be normal. There are clownfish that are known as onyx clownfish that are meant to be black in many different places.

Sometimes, it takes time for the black part of the fish to develop. This means that the fish will mature and it will start to grow darker in spots over time.

If this is the case, then there is absolutely nothing to concern yourself with. Your onyx clownfish is simply finally starting to look as intended now that it’s maturing.

Otherwise, you might simply be mistaking turning black for a fish losing its color. In that situation, it’s likely that you’re dealing with a nutritional issue or something is wrong with the water parameters.

Getting Stung by Coral

It’s worth mentioning that sometimes clownfish will turn black if they get stung by coral. This is something that happens in the wild when clownfish are exposed to coral instead of hosting an anemone.

The clownfish will get stung by the coral and it’ll turn black in the spots where it has been stung. Of course, this isn’t something that you need to worry about in your fish tank.

Regardless, it’s worth mentioning for the sake of being thorough. Even if this isn’t something that you need to be concerned about, it’s still one of many interesting facts about clownfish to know.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of different reasons why clownfish might change color. Of course, it’s good to know that this can be a natural thing.

A juvenile clownfish will likely grow a bit darker as it matures. Sometimes, the black lines will be less defined until the fish reaches maturity.

Many types of clownfish will change a lot as they start to mature. An onyx clownfish might not even look much like a true onyx clownfish at first, but it’ll look blacker as it continues to age.

A clownfish can lose color for negative reasons, too. If your clownfish appears to be losing its color, then it’s likely that something is wrong.

The fish could be sick, and you’ll want to keep an eye on it if it is. Looking out for symptoms can help you to figure out what is wrong so that you can treat the fish and get it back to being healthy again.

Often, losing color is going to be related to stress. When a clownfish experiences stress, it will wind up losing its color quite a bit.

This situation can be tough sometimes because so many different things can cause a clownfish to feel stressed. It could be related to water parameter problems, but it might also be due to other sources of stress such as noise or being in an overcrowded tank.

The presence of bully fish could cause the clownfish to lose color, too. This is why it’s imperative to only put clownfish in the same tank with fish that you know are compatible with them.

Remember to keep an eye on the situation so that you can try to solve any stress issues. Hopefully, this will allow you to turn things around so that your clownfish can look vibrant and healthy again.

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Wednesday 8th of March 2023

My clown fish turned to a brown colour a couple of months ago. I introduced another smaller one yesterday and the older original one has suddenly become aggressive to all the other fish and has changed back to a more orangey colour. Any ideas on what could be happening as the new one is getting stressed.