Albino aquarium fish – pretty in pink?

Albinos have been in the aquarium hobby a long time. Albino Corydoras, Red finned sharks, even Oscars, but now it seems almost anything is fair game when it comes to breeding white variants with pink eyes.

Gabriel Resende Veiga / CC BY-SA (

Now you can get albino Dimidiochromis compressiceps, Pseudotropheus socolofi and Metriaclima greshakei. Albino Polypterus senegalus, South American and Asian Arowana, and Potamotrygon motoro stingrays.

Fish that we buy for colour aren’t spared either. Neons, Rummynose and Guppies. Popular algae-eating species like plecos and bristlenose. Even tankbusters like Pangasius and Pacu!

Acaricthys heckelii, copyright Fishkeeping News

Legally blind

All albino human beings have impaired vision due to that lack of melanin pigment in their eyes. They can have near or farsightedness as well as photophobia, meaning they are sensitive to and uncomfortable in bright light. Many albino people are legally blind. So how does this affect our fish?

Well, I don’t know anyone who keeps albino fish in low light conditions, quite the opposite. Also if you introduce a fish with impaired vision to a tank like a Malawi Cichlid tank, where it needs to be able to see others swimming toward it and avoid aggression, that fish is at a disadvantage.

By Poperkins – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Types of albino

Not all fish sold as albino are albino and the same for many animals. To be albino an animal must have congenital absence of any pigmentation or colouration. And that means that the eyes must be pink, and the body white. A leucistic animal has a white, colourless body but either normal, black eyes, or sometimes blue eyes.

An amelanistic animal has no black colouration but may retain the xanthophores, (yellow) cyanophores (blue) or erythrophores (red) in its pattern. And an animal with white patches on its body (piebald,) has hypopigmentation. So if your albino Aulonocara has red eyes but also a red pattern on its body, its actually amelanistic, not albino.

Man-made Aulonocara colour variant Copyright Fishkeeping News Limited

I appreciate why albino fish are bred in such number. It’s something different and everyone wants something different to sell. An albino version of an otherwise cryptically coloured brown fish will be brighter coloured, and the vast majority of fishkeepers crave bright colour, even if that bright colour is white.

Albino stingrays and arowana sell for vast sums and are popular because of their scarcity, but give me a normal, naturally coloured tropical fish any day.

What are your thoughts? Good, bad or indifferent?

Freshwater stingray, line bred colour morph Copyright Fishkeeping News Limited


Jeremy Gay

Author of three fishkeeping books and lifelong fishkeeper. Experience includes editor of Practical Fishkeeping magazine, editor of Pet Product Marketing magazine, multi award- winning livestock manager and aquatic store manager.