7 Reasons that the Colour of my Aquarium Fish look Different to the Photos

Author: Chris Read   Date Posted: 4 February 2018 

Aquarium fish colours are affected by several things. Following simple guidelines and being patient will ensure that the colours of your fish are enhanced.

An aquarium enthusiast from a small country town recently asked me if the PetWave juvenile Peacock Bass looked like the adults in the website product photo. Were they the same colour? When I investigated, I found the difference between the actual fish in the tank ready to send and the glamour shot of the adult male on the PetWave website was significant (check out the attached photos).

Another young couple who are building an amazing planted aquarium, received their school of Lampchop (Espei) Rasboras from Petwave… upon arrival they looked like less colourful Glowlight (Hengeli) Rasboras. Where was the colour?

I have learnt over many years that in most animal species, colour variations are common and colour is affected by many factors – check out Gouldian Finches, Bearded Dragons, Scarlet Chested Parrots & even Green Tree Frogs to see the colour variations that are possible.

For aquarium fish, there are many factors affecting colour:

  1. Stress can dull fish colours. Transportation, a new environment, kids tapping on the aquarium glass, being bullied by other fish and having nowhere to hide can all cause stress.
  2. The age of the fish affects colour. Many species of fish start as relatively dull and become colourful the older & bigger that they get. Most PetWave fish are young in age and will mature over time.
  3. Aquarium lighting can have a big effect on the colour of fish. Both low lighting & high lighting can have a detrimental effect on the colour of fish. After a day in a dark box on the way to their new home, new arrivals normally colour up after a few days.
  4. Fish food can have a massive effect on the colours of fish. The wrong food and poor water quality can dull even the most colourful fish.
  5. Colours can be affected by the gender of the fish, often with half of the fish being naturally less colourful.
  6. Colour optimises for dominant male fish in the breeding season (& egg carrying females). Of course, this can mean that the less dominate fish can become stressed.
  7. Sample glamour photos (including on the PetWave website) are normally taken by professional photographers of mature normal coloured male fish so “naturally” not all fish will look like this peak consistently.

How to make fish more colourful? is a complex question. Accepting that some factors such as gender, age, breeding status & natural variety can’t be controlled makes life easier. The good news is that there are many factors that can be used to improve colours in your aquarium fish:

  1. Fish will colour up in low stress environments, create hiding places with hardscaping and aquascaping;
  2. Ensure your aquarium lighting is adequate but not too bright;
  3. Great water quality will faciliate stronger colours in fish;
  4. Feed your fish nutritious & healthy varieties of foods containing vitamins & minerals, from bloodworms to flakes. There are many specialised foods targeting this challenge and searching on google for “best colour fish food”, “colour enhancing fish food for Cichlids” and “natural colour enhancers for fish” will bring many options;
  5. Planted aquariums can help to colour up your fish by providing healthy food & creating a low stress environment; and
  6. Patiently allowing some time to pass will allow your fish to colour up

Like your pets, don’t stress if your fish are slightly duller than you expected …. with care, great lighting & a healthy environment, they are extremely likely to become more colourful over time…  


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