This is Why Cichlids Colors Are Changed! (2022)

This is Why Cichlids Colors are changed

If you have cichlids in your fish tank, you will appreciate the way they look. Their nice coloring and the way they swim elegantly.

However, there are those days when you think your cichlid is a different color. If you believe this is happening to your fish, then you can find out: This is why cichlids change color.

You can find several reasons why your cichlid is a different color. Most times, they can be a short-term change and are often linked to various factors. Lack of light means your cichlid can turn white, black means they are stressed, and sexual maturity or mating can turn blue cichlids yellow.

Why Is My Cichlid Turning White?

Several fish can turn white, yet it can be not very pleasant when you see this happening on your colorful cichlid.

However, you can find some situations with your cichlid are not as bad as they first appear.

Cichlids like to burrow in the substrate as there are elements in there that aid their digestion. If you spot white lips on your fish, then they have been rubbing against rocks.

It is more common in Mbuna who scrape along the side of rocks. As they do this, there are invisible algae we can’t see that react.

More serious is the lack of light in your aquarium. If fish have insufficient light, they can pale and turn white. You need to make sure you give your cichlids at least 8 hours per day of light.

This amount of light is vital for cichlids as it helps your plants grow, and the formation of algae that can be a food source or help your other plants create oxygen that helps your cichlids breathe.

Cichlid Turning White

Why Cichlids Turn Black?

If you spot your cichlid turning white, or its color fades, you think this is traumatic. Seeing it darken as your fish turns black is more so.

The reason they do this is a stress reaction. However, not all stress can be because of poor water quality or other factors inside your tank. Some dominant fish can bully your cichlids who appear black, or it is time for them to mate, and they become agitated.

Should your males fight over a female or even chasing them, it’s enough to stress them out and make them a much darker cichlids colors.

It is the submissive fish you see these color changes, and who do this to reduce aggression toward them.

If the black is as spots, you can find this occurs in intervals of a year or two. If you have your fish for around five years, you can see this stop as hormonal changes in the fish’s life have ended.

If you see these black spots, there is nothing to do as they can clear up after a few weeks.

Cichlids Turn Black

Why Cichlids Turn Blue to Yellow?

Cichlids fading in cichlids colors or going very dark are worrying, yet not too much to worry about in most instances.

One of the most surprising color changes you may see are cichlids that turn blue to yellow.

You find this on the Kenyi Cichlid (Metriaclima lombardoi), who grows to be a medium-sized, semi-aggressive fish originating in Lake Malawi (Africa).

The males have this coloring, since the females have a blue cichlids colors with black bars.

In the males, they begin to turn yellow from blue as they mature and are ready to mate. As they are territorial, and you can see this with other males going black when picked on.

While territorial, they like tanks with plenty of plants, rocks and caves to hide. Your tank size needs to be 50 gallon and above, or you can find your fish fighting more among each other.

Once your fish is yellow, it will have reached mating maturity.

Creating Colorful Cichlid Aquarium

Among the most colorful of cichlids is the African Rift Lake. You find these originating in Lake Malawi and also Tanganyika in most cases, with some coming from Lake Victoria to the east.

To make sure these have the best chances of retaining cichlids colors, you need to be sure the tank conditions are ideal.

Here is a quick breakdown of what you need to avoid your cichlids going white or black and reaching maturity without too many issues.

Colorful Cichlid

Tank Size

If you have mixed species, you need 75-gallons as a minimum for any medium-sized cichlids such as Peacock Cichlids or Mbuna Rock Dwellers. Dwarf variants can live in a smaller tank of around 30-gallons.

If you go the other direction and select larger species, then you need tanks of 125 gallons to cater for them as adults. One thing to note is, you need a wider tank rather than deeper, so you have a large bottom. Cichlids are territorial, and a large section of the substrate can limit this.

Tank Lights

If you wish to pop your fish’s colors, you can use color enhancing bulbs to accomplish this. Generally, these fish prefer a subdued light.


Many species of cichlids love to dig, hence the sizeable based aquarium. You can use gravel or sand, yet you are better selecting crushed oyster shell or gravel, or even coral sand.

Two-inches is the recommended substrate depth so your cichlids can dig as they enjoy.


African cichlids like a temperature range of 74-80 degrees for their water. You can find larger African cichlids rough on your aquarium heaters, so to be safe, use a plastic-coated ceramic or stainless-steel version rather than glass to prevent breakage and a possible electrical hazard.

Lake Malawi fish should be kept at pH 7.8-8.4, and Lake Tanganyika fish at pH 8.0-9.0.

Stocking Your Tank

As overstocking can lead to stress, stick to the recommended stock levels when you have African cichlids.

  • If you are setting up a new tank, let this run for 72 hours before adding your fish.
  • Proceed with young fish. They will grow into adults less violent and more tolerant of each other.
  • Introduce other rocks or reconfigure current decorations to develop new hiding places not occupied by existing fish.
  • Recent additions must be at least the same size as the biggest fish in the aquarium.
  • Don’t mix closely related or identical-looking species in the same tank and don’t merge them simultaneously. Never bring in a smaller species into an already-existing aquarium.
  • African cichlids are less violent when you place them in semi-crowded tanks. Always make sure you have sufficient filtration, but don’t add too many fish at that time.
  • Just add one male if females are present to prevent extreme aggression.

As you can see, with your changing cichlids colors, it can be symptoms of other issues. Luckily, most of them are not life-threatening to your fish, and also not permanent changes.

Depending on the color your fish are changing, it indicates what the issue is.


However, you find that cichlids that turn darker colors are the males and not as fortunate as more dominant males when searching for mates. You can remedy this by removing a male or two, so you have more females for each male.