Have you ever wondered whether those fish foods claiming to enhance the color of your fish will actually work? The simple, short answer is “often.”
Fish coloration is determined by three factors:
- Genetics—whether the fish has inherited the necessary genetic material to show certain colors
- Nervous system and glandular factors— coloration depends on a fish’s mood and general health. All things being equal, a sick fish is probably less colorful than a healthy one. Males also may develop develop strong colors to attract females, and how the color of subordinate males lessens in the presence of dominant males
- Dietary factors—nutrients and chemical compounds that the fish eats, which directly or indirectly influence color.
After providing optimal conditions, the aquarist’s next opportunity to influence fish color is by introducing coloring agents into the fish’s diet. (See also “How to make fish food, ” on this blog.
I won’t spend any time on the practice of injecting fish with dyes or paints to change their colors. It’s cruel to the fish, and I hope you won’t buy any fish whose color has been altered through such artificial means.
The substances that influence fish color and coloration the most are carotenoids. Carotenoids are compounds produced by plants, algae, and certain fungi. Generally, they’re produced to help collect light, most often for photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants generate their own food.
For the most part, animals (like fish) don’t produce carotenoids, and have to get them from eating plants, or eating animals that ate plants. Cichlid Forum has a