Lake Malawi Species • Imapct of substrate on fish colour?

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Imapct of substrate on fish colour?

Postby aconite » Tue Sep 15, 2020 5:13 am

I've now seen on two separate occasions - fish looking dirty/muddy when in a tank with dark substrate, but brightening up dramatically when switched to white sand. The dirty look was like a wide brown lateral line running along the length of the body. The fish lost this muddiness within a day or so after being moved off the dark substrate.

Both my saulosi females and yellow labs have shown this behaviour. It doesn't appear to impact blue mbuna, even light blue, just yellow ones.

Not sure if it could be related to stress, and/or whether they are just attempting to blend in / match their surroundings. Could it just be an optical effect due to the change in lighting in the tank due to dark substrate? When I've noticed this the only thing I've changed has been the sand. The lighting and other tank setup has remained the same.

Has anyone had similar experiences, or any explanation for why this sort of thing could happen? My saulosi in particular now look like a different quality fish - incredibly vibrant. I should note that they were showing dirty/muddy when juvenile and that they had a couple of months growth since then. Perhaps that's a factor?

I had read that dark substrate caused them to colour up, but my experience seems to suggest the opposite.
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Re: Imapct of substrate on fish colour?

Postby DJRansome » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:37 am

I have the same experience with leleupi. Sooty over black and when I caught them to sell, they were in a holding tank with white substrate overnight. They looked like different fish. Sort of continues your yellow theory.

I did not notice it for labs. I did not notice it for young versus mature.

I do think it is the fish trying to blend with their surroundings.
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Re: Imapct of substrate on fish colour?

Postby aconite » Wed Sep 16, 2020 3:21 am

DJRansome wrote:Sort of continues your yellow theory.


Interesting that you have seen something similar. Perhaps it is yellow fish trying to blend in with their surroundings, as you say.

I'm tempted to test it by moving some of my saulosi into another tank, but I've only got a small emergency tank available, and it wouldn't be good to subject them to cramped conditions like that for no real reason.

Does anyone else have any experience of this sort of thing?
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