Can Puffer Fish Change Color? {Is This Normal?}

Puffer fish are gorgeous because if their various colors, but do these colors fade or change?

Are you concerned your puffer fish changing colors is a sign of stress or illness?

In this article, we’ll find out if puffer fish change color and why they do this.

Can Puffer Fish Change Color?

Yes. Puffer fish change color as a form of camouflage for protection. This poisonous fish is also crafty by hiding itself in its environment with color changes.

What if your puffer fish is white all over or faded in color? Is this also camouflage or a sign of illness? Let’s find out.

My Puffer Fish Looks Darker Than Usual. Is this Normal?

Yes. Your puffer fish will adapt to its surroundings and a change in color is one such way it does so. If you had the lights off and suddenly turned them on, you will not see a vibrant puffer fish that you’re used to seeing.

One of the reasons we like puffer fish is their range in beautiful colors. If you have decorations, plants or caves and your puffer fish likes to hang out there, they’ll change their color to fit the environment that is usually darker.

Watch your puffer fish swimming out of your cave or driftwood. Their bellies may look darker than usual, but slowly the colors will brighten up.

Are Puffer Fish Colorful Because They Are Poisonous?

There is a general observation in the wild that some of the most colorful animals may end up being the most poisonous. This is true for frogs and snakes and even the puffer fish. Puffer fish go by other names as well:

  • Globefish
  • Blowfish
  • Swellfish
  • Fugu

They inflate their bodies as a defense mechanism while also carrying toxic poison strong enough to kill humans. If that’s not all, they can camouflage themselves to turn their bright colors dark and vice versa. The puffer fish is truly remarkable and their color change is only one aspect of their remarkability.

Why Do Puffer Fish Change Color?

A puffer fish is like an octopus or chameleon. The changing of their color seeks to match their surroundings. There are a few reasons for this.

  • Defense mechanism
  • Hunting
  • Hiding
  • Moody
  • Stress 
  • Illness


A puffer fish can inflate itself, deliver poison or camouflage itself out of defense and protection. They live in tropical water that is overflowing with potential predators. These three defense mechanisms make puffer fish well suited to handle threats from larger predators.


A puffer fish is an omnivore that feasts on crustaceans and other live creatures that could be hard to snatch up or catch in a chase. A puffer fish can hide by matching the colors around it to blend into the space and go unnoticed by their potential prey. This makes it much easier for them to hunt.


A puffer fish could be hiding for multiple reasons. There could be threats nearby or prey to attack. Hiding puffer fish could also want to be left alone when stressed.


A stressed puffer fish will be reacting negatively to poor water conditions or aggressive tankmates. The stress could lead to changing colors to blend in or out of the picture. They have the ability to turn themselves off in this way to be avoided when they are uncomfortable


Faded colors or white bodies could indicate an infection, illness, parasites and Ich. White spots that cover the body of a puffer fish are alarming. If you notice your puffer fish scratching itself by rubbing against objects in the tank, it’s most likely Ich.

Faded colors could also be a symptom of bigger health problems. Look for lethargic behavior or loss of appetite accompanied by the loss of color.

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Do Puffer Fish Change Color To Show Feelings?

Puffer fish come in so many colors from yellow, blue, white, brown, gray and a mixture of two or more colors.

  • Groggy mornings = faded
  • Anger = dark
  • Hungry = pale

It’s quite normal to notice a puffer fish looking faded in the morning, especially after a long night in a dark environment. They will spring back to their regular state fairly quickly.

An angry or stressed puffer fish may turn darker. This is a clear indication that something is bothering them. Look to see if they are uncomfortable in their tank due to water quality, food or insufficient space.

A hungry puffer fish could turn pale and their bellies will look whiter. Once they eat, their bellies get rounder and their original color restores.

Why Is My Puffer Fish Changing Its Color to Sand?

A sandy color change is usually accompanied with a puffer fish looking to bury itself. If you’ve even seen two bulgy eyes sticking out of the sand while their body blends with the bottom of the ocean of tank, then you know the puffer fish is up to something.

They could be waiting out for a potential kill of bottom feeding crustaceans or snails. They could also be hiding from predators. Fahaka puffer fish are known to do this more than their counterparts. They are playful fish who like being attached to people caring for them. Hiding in sand is playful and useful.

Can Puffer Fish Change Their Eye Color?

Yes. Puffer fish can change the color of their eyes in some cases. Changes in mood or discomfort are usually the reasons why they change their eye color.

In other cases, the change in eye color to a cloudy or milky complexion could indicate poor water quality or eye flukes. Test your water and perform more frequent water changes to see if this improves.

Medications are also available, but they interfere with your tank’s bio-load, the sensitive balance of pH and healthy bacteria.

Is My Puffer Fish Changing Color Because It’s Sick?

Ammonia and nitrite levels must be at 0. If these levels rise, it will put stress on your puffer fish. They will have difficulty breathing. You may notice a few changes.

  • Dull or faded color
  • Loos of appetite
  • Erratic swimming
  • Hiding
  • Lethargic or sluggish swimming

This list could be larger, but we know you have a keen eye to observe more than just a color change. Look at their behaviors and see if there are other symptoms indicating illness.

Ich results in white spots all over the body. If your puffer fish is highly covered in Ich, its color will become white. They will be seen scratching or rubbing against the side of the tank or on plants and decorations. Remove and quarantine the affected puffer fish and add ammonia into the main tank to gradually kill off the Ich.


Puffer fish change color. It’s normal and an excellent tool for the living in the wild. It’s enjoyable to watch their camouflage reflexes take action. Sometimes the color change indicates anger, stress, illness or hunger.

Look for the color to restore itself when lighting is adjusted, food is given and water conditions are ideal.

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.