Why Do Algae Eaters Change Colors? {Top Algae Eater Colors}

Are you seeing your Algae Eaters looking washed out, faded or changing from one color to another? Is it stress related or simply a natural part of its life cycle? In this article, we’ll look into why Algae Eaters change color.

Why Do Algae Eaters Change Colors? A color change in Algae Eaters could indicate that something is not right in the tank. Excess lighting, lack of hiding spaces and aggressive tankmates are all factors leading to stress and possible color changes. Sometimes it’s related to maturation, hunger or immediately following a water change. 

Why Is My Chinese Algae Eater Changing Color?

If you first brought your Chinese Algae Eater home and it was closer to a dark brown, but now it’s paler, yellowish or golden, is something wrong? If you have performed a water test and your results are ideal, then we can rule out water quality issues.

Some Chinese Algae Eaters leans towards a golden color rather than a brown color. It may have taken time to develop this normal progression into its actual color.

How Can I Restore The Color Of My Algae Eaters?

Make sure to keep these suggestions in mind to help bring back the color of your Algae Eaters.

  • add more hiding spaces
  • use floating plants to block some light
  • reduce any stress from overcrowding
  • identify if any aggressive tankmates that are bullying 
  • feed a varied diet

Algae eaters like shaded areas and hiding spaces. Too much light can wash out their colors temporarily, but can be restored.

Too many tankmates or aggression can stress Algae Eaters to the point where they are spooked and become paler or dull in color. It can also lead to spots forming or early signs of illness and possibly a premature death.

Do not rely solely on algae and add more variety to their diet with spinach, lettuce and protein rich food like daphnia, bloodworms or brine shrimp.

Is It Normal For Algae Eaters To Change Color?

Normal conditions for Algae Eaters to change color include:

  • Water changes
  • Hunger
  • Maturity

Water Changes

Larger water changes can spook out Algae Eaters. They may try to hide, but there is no way of avoiding it. A Plecostomus, Siamese Algae Eater or plenty of others may react in a similar way.

They may looked washed out or pale, but this should not last. Try to perform smaller water changes more gradually to avoid causing your Algae Eaters to feel stressed to the point where they change color for a short time.


Sometimes a hungry Algae Eater may go unnoticed. We may buy them for their ability to clean up our tank, but we should also supplement their diet with other food options. A hungry Algae Eater could look lighter or dull. See if protein rich meals or some vegetables help to restore their color.


A juvenile Algae Eater can change color slightly as they mature. An aging or older Algae Eater could lose some color when their time to fade out of existence is near. It’s common to see a brown Algae Eater turning from brown to gold around the head or body.

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Is My Algae Eater Shedding?

Algae Eaters don’t shed their skin. If you are noticing white or orange colors that are falling off your Algae Eaters it could be due to:

  • Ich
  • Tank organisms


Ich is a parasitic protozoan infliction that affects many inhabitants in aquariums. The white spots attach themselves to an affected fish and grow. They can drop to the bottom of the tank and this leaves you with no choice but to treat the tank itself with:

  • raising the temperature
  • using salt
  • buying Ich medication

Tank Organisms

Different colors at the bottom of the tank could mean that excess nutrients are in the water. Although they aren’t harmful, there are ways to tackle this issue.

  • 10-25% water change 2-3 times a week until they are gone.
  • Use dechlorinated water.
  • Keep changes at the same temperature.
  • Use a gravel vacuum.
  • Clean the filter media.
  • Reduce feedings.
  • Go back to normal after 2 weeks if tank organisms are unseen. 

Why Is My Algae Eater Turning Light Brown?

If your Algae Eater was a darker brown and turned lighter in color, it may not be a cause for concern. There might be an issue with overcrowding to address. If this is not the case, consider adjusting the lighting.

Use less wattage, but continue to power your tank with lights for about 12 hours a day. Try floating plants to create more shaded areas.

Your Algae Eaters would like sufficient space to hide throughout the day. Create more cover or move around the decorations to make your Algae Eater more comfortable with its surroundings. You can also add a few more of the same species to make them feel more secure.

Why Is My Algae Eater Turning Orange?

Some Algae Eaters adjust to their mature color over time. The color change that is gradual may indicate this sign of maturation. You may notice orange hues around their face, head, fins or the base of their fins.

You should not worry if your Algae Eaters are eating well, swimming in a way that is not erratic and looking healthy in every other way. Check their eyes to see if they are clear and not cloudy.

There are many species of Algae Eaters. Cross breeding may also result in the colors that you are seeing.


Our best ability in this hobby is our keen sense of observation. We see things that don’t seem normal and we rely on our helpful community of aquarists to help out. We are grateful to this community and their assistance when we are confused about such things as our Algae Eaters changing color.

They would love a larger tank or at least more hiding spaces and covered areas without direct light hitting them. Water changes can be more gradual to not spook them out. A young Algae Eater may grow into its full colors through maturity.

A hungry Algae Eater may look paler until it can replenish nutrients with more food sources other than naturally growing algae. Aggression from bullies should be addressed because chasing them around could affect their outward appearance as well.


Thank you for stopping by at HelpUsFish.com. We have plenty of articles on a wide variety of aquatic life that may also pique your interest. See you again soon!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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