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Cichlid Discoloration

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The cichlid family includes many fascinating fish, known for their personalities, behavior and vibrant colors. Unfortunately, all fish can fade. Don't despair, many of the reasons fish fade can be corrected to bring your pet back to Technicolor.


Many members of the cichlid family are notorious for their aggression. When a fish is not at the top of the hierarchy, this can produce a constant feeling of stress -- and stressed fish tend to fade. Additionally, submissive males tend to adopt drabber female coloration or retain their juvenile coloration in the presence of a dominant male. You can diffuse this by carefully selecting your cichlids in the correct sex ratio to reduce fading. You will have to research your specific species' ideal sex ratio; some cichlids work best in pairs, while others work best in harems.

Wrong Water Conditions

Water conditions can also stress -- and fade -- your cichlids. Many cichlids come from specific areas and have adapted to very specific water conditions. For example, the cichlids from Africa’s Rift Valley Lakes -- what most people mean when they say “African cichlids” -- like water with a pH between 8 and 8.2 with a lot of dissolved minerals in it. Cichlids from the Amazon drainage area prefer water with almost opposite conditions. Freshwater angelfish and discus fish, two Amazon cichlids, both prefer soft water with a pH of 6 to 7. If you have the wrong water conditions, your fish will stress and fade.


Some pet shops and fish dealers have been known to dose fish with hormones to get brighter colors out of them. Unfortunately, while it produces great temporary results, the effects fade when the doping stops, and continuous doses of these hormones harms cichlids. This is less of a problem in the U.S. and U.K., where hormones are heavily regulated. However, a newly imported fish from Asia may have vibrant colors that fade quickly.


A fish’s diet can also affect its color. Fish with poor nutrition tend to fade gradually. A varied diet can greatly mitigate and prevent this issue. A specific nutrient, beta-carotene, helps fish make red pigment. You can get your cichlids beta-carotene by feeding them crustacean-based food like shrimp meat or specially enriched fish foods. Herbivorous cichlids can obtain this nutrient by eating shredded carrots.