Why Do Clownfish Turn Black? {Should You Worry?}

Are you noticing the color of your clownfish becoming darker? Why do clownfish turn black?

Is this something natural or abnormal? The answer could be simple or maybe we should look closer.

This article I wrote covers the darkening color change in clownfish and much more.

Why Do Clownfish Turn Black?

A clownfish will turn black due to the ageing process.  It is common for them to become darker and darker as they get older and will eventually turn black.

Sometimes a clownfish could get darker and return back to an orange dominant hue. The most important detail here should be if your clownfish is still healthy. Let’s dive into this topic.

Why Do Clownfish Turn Black

Can Clownfish Turn Black?

Yes. Clownfish may turn black as a result of dietary or environmental changes. These color variations are totally normal because some clownfish in the wild are just born black.

Only worry if you witness changes in a clownfish behavior. A lethargic clownfish might slow down or a hysterical clownfish could start darting around the aquarium frantically.

A simple change in their color could indicate an advancement in their age. It could also mean that they are showing us a physical characteristic.

Do Clownfish Turn Black When They Are Sick?

Yes. Clownfish usually turn lighter in color or lose their color when they are getting sick. If they are turning black, it may just mean that you have an onyx clownfish. Sometimes it takes time for them to fully develop their darker color.

They are sick if you see both:

  • erratic swimming
  • light stringy excrement

Abstaining from meals or becoming listless and inactive are stronger indicators of a sick clownfish. A clownfish turning black doesn’t mean they are sick.

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 Why Is My Clownfish Losing Color?

Lower temperatures in the aquarium could cause your clownfish to lose its color. 72-78°F or 22-26°C are ideal temperatures for the tank. Other reasons include:

  • Change in diet
  • PH balance is off
  • Oxygen levels too low
  • Ammonia amount too high
  • Nutrient deficiency

Normal aquarium maintenance such as changing the water is always recommended. Varying or introducing a blend of flakes, pellets and mysis for omnivores may also help bring back that vibrant color.

Do all Clownfish Get Darker As They Get Older?

No. Not all clownfish turn darker as they mature. Some may belong to specific species such as the onyx clownfish that is darker in color. They may not show it until they get older.

Other clownfish may not change color or could become lighter. They can live anywhere from 3-10 years and it’s very difficult to actually tell how old a clownfish actually is. A darker color is not the best indicator of a clownfish getting older.

What Is a Black Clownfish Called?

A clownfish that is predominantly black with white bands belongs to:

An onyx clownfish is a Percula clownfish that maintains some orange colors  around their head and tail while turning black around their midsection.

Why Do Clownfish Get Black Spots?

Clown fish frequently develop black patches (hypermelinization) after coming into contact with corals that are not ordinarily home to them.

The clown must regularly expose the skin’s surface to coral or anemone in order to develop the mucous layer. These spots could also be bruising and the decorations on the tank should be addressed, moved or replaced.


Not all clownfish are created equal. It’s enjoyable to witness the varieties and unique qualities of distinct clownfish. A change in color should not worry you unless it is accompanied by changes in their behavior.

A clownfish turning lighter is more concerning that one that turns darker. Maintaining a healthy environment and nutrient enriched food will go a long way in preserving the vibrant colors of clownfish.

Let’s clown around with our clownfish and enjoy their various shapes, shades and sizes.


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Hello, I'm Jason. I'm the guy behind HelpUsFish.com. I volunteer at my local fish shop and I created this site to offer tips and advice on the fish I care for.