The Fish Keeping & Aquarium Guide.

Why is My Cichlid Fish Turning Black: Causes and Solutions

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Cichlid fish are known for their vibrant colors, so it can be concerning when they turn black. There are several reasons why a cichlid fish may turn black, some of which are perfectly normal and others that may indicate a problem.

Understanding the causes of blackening in cichlid fish can help owners take appropriate action to keep their fish healthy.

One common reason why cichlid fish turn black is due to stress. Several factors, including poor water quality, overcrowding, or aggressive tank mates can cause stress.

Cichlid fish may darken in color in response to stress as a coping mechanism. However, if the stress is not addressed, it can lead to more serious health problems for the fish.

Another reason why cichlid fish may turn black is as a natural part of their coloration. Some species of cichlid fish can change color depending on their mood or environment, and turning black may be a normal part of their color cycle.

Common Reasons for Color Change

Cichlid fish are known for their vibrant colors, making them popular among aquarium enthusiasts. However, if you notice that your cichlid fish is turning black, it can cause concern.

There are several reasons why your cichlid fish may be changing color, and it’s important to understand the underlying cause to ensure the health and well-being of your fish.


Stress is a common reason why cichlid fish may change color. When fish are stressed, they release cortisol, a hormone that can cause changes in pigmentation.

If your cichlid fish is turning black, it may be a sign that it is experiencing stress. Some common causes of stress in cichlid fish include changes in water temperature, poor water quality, overcrowding, and aggressive tank mates.


The disease is another common reason why cichlid fish may change color. Some diseases can cause pigmentation changes, leading to skin blackening.

If your cichlid fish turns black, it may be a sign of a bacterial or fungal infection. Other symptoms of disease in cichlid fish include lethargy, loss of appetite, and difficulty swimming.


Diet can also play a role in the color of cichlid fish. If your cichlid fish is not getting the right nutrients, it may change color.

For example, a diet low in carotenoids can cause a loss of color in cichlid fish. Carotenoids are pigments in many foods, including shrimp, krill, and algae.

If your cichlid fish is turning black, it may be a sign that it is not getting enough carotenoids in its diet.

In conclusion, if your cichlid fish turns black, it’s important to identify the underlying cause. Stress, disease, and diet are common reasons why cichlid fish may change color.

By understanding the cause of the color change, you can take steps to ensure the health and well-being of your fish.

Cichlid Fish Environment

Water Quality

Cichlid fish require specific water conditions to thrive. Poor water quality can cause stress and lead to health issues, including skin blackening. It is important to maintain good water quality to keep your cichlid fish healthy and happy.

Here are some key factors to consider when monitoring water quality:

  • pH level: Cichlids prefer a pH level between 7.0 and 8.0. Keep a pH testing kit on hand and test the water regularly to ensure it stays within this range.
  • Ammonia and nitrite levels: High ammonia and nitrite levels can be toxic to cichlid fish. Keep these levels at zero by performing regular water changes and using a good-quality filter.
  • Temperature: Cichlids prefer water temperatures between 75°F and 82°F. Use a reliable aquarium thermometer to monitor the temperature and make adjustments as necessary.

Lighting Conditions

Lighting can also play a role in the health of your cichlid fish. Too much or too little light can cause stress and lead to health issues, including skin blackening.

Here are some tips for providing the right lighting conditions:

  • Natural daylight: Cichlid fish benefit from exposure to natural daylight. Place the aquarium where it can receive some natural light during the day.
  • Artificial lighting: Use a high-quality aquarium light to provide additional lighting for your cichlid fish. The light should be on for 8-12 hours daily, but avoid leaving it on longer.
  • Avoid direct sunlight: Direct sunlight can cause fluctuations in water temperature and promote algae growth. Keep the aquarium out of direct sunlight to avoid these issues.

By maintaining good water quality and providing the right lighting conditions, you can help keep your cichlid fish healthy and prevent skin blackening.

Genetic Factors

Cichlid fish have various colors and patterns; genetic factors often determine these traits. A cichlid fish may sometimes turn black due to genetic factors.

One possible genetic factor that could cause a cichlid fish to turn black is a mutation in the genes responsible for producing pigments.

If these genes are mutated, the fish may produce more black pigment than normal, resulting in a darker coloration.

Another possible genetic factor is hybridization. When two species of cichlid fish interbreed, their offspring may exhibit a combination of traits from both parents, including coloration. In some cases, this may result in a predominantly blackfish.

It is important to note that not all cichlid fish that turn black result from genetic factors.

Environmental factors like water quality and diet can also affect a fish’s coloration. Therefore, it is important to rule out these factors before assuming that a fish’s black coloration is solely due to genetic factors.

Genetic factors can play a role in a cichlid fish turning black. However, it is important to consider other factors and consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper if you have concerns about your fish’s health or coloration.

Preventing Color Changes

Cichlid fish are known for their vibrant colors, but sometimes they can turn black, which can signify stress or illness. To prevent color changes, taking good care of your fish is important. Here are some tips:

Proper Diet

A balanced diet is essential for keeping your cichlid fish healthy and colorful. Feed them various foods, including high-quality pellets, flakes, and frozen or live foods. Avoid overfeeding and provide only what they can consume in a few minutes.

Stress Management

Stress can cause color changes in cichlid fish, so creating a peaceful environment is important.

Provide plenty of hiding places, plants, and rocks for them to explore and feel safe. Avoid overcrowding the tank and maintain good water quality by performing regular water changes.

Regular Check-Ups

Regular check-ups with a veterinarian specializing in fish can help prevent color changes and other health problems. They can check for signs of illness, parasites, and other issues affecting your fish’s color and overall health.

By following these tips, you can help prevent color changes in your cichlid fish and keep them healthy and vibrant.

When to Seek Professional Help

If a cichlid fish owner has tried various remedies and the fish is still turning black, it may be time to seek professional help. Here are some situations where it is best to consult with a veterinarian or aquatic specialist:

  • The fish is showing other symptoms, such as lethargy, loss of appetite, or difficulty swimming.
  • The fish is not responding to treatment, or the condition is worsening.
  • The owner is unsure of the cause and needs a professional diagnosis.
  • The owner does not have the experience or knowledge to treat the fish properly.

In these cases, seeking professional help can provide the fish the best chance to recover. A veterinarian or aquatic specialist can thoroughly examine, diagnose the problem, and recommend the appropriate treatment. They can also guide proper care and maintenance to prevent future issues.

Choosing a qualified professional with experience in treating cichlid fish is important. The owner should research and seek referrals from other fish owners or reputable pet stores.

They should also be prepared to provide information about the fish’s environment, diet, and behavior to help the professional make an accurate diagnosis.

Overall, seeking professional help should be considered a last resort after other remedies have been tried. Proper care and maintenance can prevent or treat many cichlid fish health issues at home.

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