Painted glass fish are a beautiful reminder of just how unscrupulous some fish wholesalers can be.

If you have ever been to a large pet retailer, you have probably seen them; translucent fish with brightly colored sides or backs. They are sold as painted or colored glass fish, but other species also look too good to be true.

First-time fish buyers get excited about the beauty of these fish and excitedly put them in their aquarium, only to have them sicken and die a short time later.

It’s a fact, the mortality of painted fish and dyed fish is among the highest of any fish sold through pet stores.

Creating these colored fish is a practice that is nothing less than animal cruelty.

What are painted glass fish, and what can you do about them? Get the facts and the list of actions you can take here.

Dyed Fish

It is sad what kinds of things are done in the pet trade to make a little extra money. The dyeing of translucent fish is one of them.

Most of the dyeing operations are scattered across Asia. Thousands of fish are dyed and imported to the US and the rest of the world, where they wind up in aquariums in large retail tropical fish stores.

The beautiful fish that defy nature are the result of the injection of colorful dyes under their skin. The dyes are often the same ones used for printer ink cartridges.

Glassfish like glass minnows and glass tetras are the target for these operations. Since they have translucent bodies, the injected colored ink dupes consumers into believing they are seeing a unique color mutation.

This is sometimes called juicing. The dye can cause kidney damage to the fish or weaken its immune system, so they are highly susceptible to fin rot and diseases such as ich.

Introducing these fish into your home aquarium can quickly spread disease to the rest of your ornamental fish.

There can also be extremely high rates of diseases that are passed from fish to fish by repeated uses of the same syringe and needle on hundreds of fish.

When you consider the relative size of the needle used to the size of the fish, it could compare to someone sticking you with a needle about the diameter of a pencil.

There are other artificial ways of adding color to fish, and all of them are painful.

– Dipping

Sometimes the fish themselves are dipped into a caustic solution to strip away their protective slime coating, then dipped into dyes, so their entire skin is colored. These are sometimes referred to as painted fish.

This process must be extraordinarily painful for the fish. Like dyeing, the effect is short-lived and causes irreparable damage to the fish.

– Tattooing

Low-watt lasers are sometimes used to tattoo detailed patterns on fish. While they may look as good on fish as they do on humans, these fish have trouble growing back their slime coat for protection and live in a state of lowered immunity.

– Inbreeding

Reputable fish breeders and hobbyists encourage their fish species to breed to continue the strength and beauty of that fish’s genetic heritage.

Some breeders breed to try to get new colors, patterns, or body traits such as longer fins.

This becomes unethical when fish are relentlessly inbred to push new physical traits. The side effects are fish that have unusual, unnatural body forms. Fish may have fins so long they can hardly swim.

Most of us have seen tank fulls of goldfish with strange growths on their heads. This is a very visual example of severe inbreeding.

Many of these fish get to the point where they cannot see or eat because of those tumors.

Most heavily mutated fish also have genetic defects that give it lowered disease resistance, twisted spins and other body defects, blindness, and infertility.

Other extreme examples include blood parrot cichlids, which are the artificial hybrid of 3 cichlid species, often dyed with red coloration, and butterfly discus, which are bred not to have tails. It is almost impossible for them to swim.

More About the Dyed Species

Here is a list of dyed glass fish and the trade names they are sold under. These fish should be firmly on your “do not buy” list.

Trade Name Species Method of Dyeing Colors
Gold Dollar Bala Shark, Balantiocheilus melanopterus Dipped Gold
N/A Rainbow Shark, Labeo erythrurus Dipped Blue, Red, Purple
Rainbow Ompok Iridescent Shark, Pangasius sutchii Dipped Blue, Red, Purple
Blushing Tinfoil Barb, Gold Dollars Tinfoil Barb, Barbodes schwanenfeldi Dipped Blue, Red, Green, Pink, Purple, Gold
Oriental Tigerfish Tiger Barb, Barbus tetrazona Dipped Blue, Red, Purple, Green, Pink, Orange
Rainbotia Redtailed Botia, Botia modesta Painted Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink
Painted Glassfish, Disco Fish, Painted Glass,

Neon Glass Fish

Glassfish, Chanda ragna Injected Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink
Blueberry Tetra, Strawberry Tetra, Berry Tetra, Painted Glass Tetra Black Widow Tetra, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi Painted Blue, Pink/Purple
N/A Corydoras catfish Injected Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink
Blueberry Oscar, Strawberry Oscar Oscar, Astronautus ocellatus Dipped Blue, Pink
Cotten Candy Parrots, Parrotfish Parrot Fish, Amphiliphus citrinellus x Heros severus Dipped & Injected Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink & ‘Combos’
Rainforest Ramirezi German Blue Ram, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi Dipped & Injected Intensified Blue, with green and black “cowlike” pattern
Gumballs Convict Cichlid, Archocentrus nigrofasciatus Injected Red, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink, & ‘Combos’
Polka-Dot Gourami Giant Gourami, Osphronemus gouramy Injected Multiple Times Pink
Jellybean Parrots Blood Parrot x Convict Cichlid Hybrid, Archocentrus nigrofasciatus x [Amphiliphus citrinellus x Heros severus] Dipped and injected Pink, Green, Blue, Red, ‘Combos’
Kiss the Blarney Gouramis Kissing Gourami, Helostoma temminkii Injected Green
Gold Severums Severum, Heros severus Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink, Black
Colored Suckerfishes Siamese Algae Eater, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Purple, Pink
Colored Nyassae Peacock Nyassae, Aulonocara stuartqranti Injected multiple times Gold, Purple
Ice Blue Albinos Pseudotropheus greshakei Injected and Dipped Red, Blue Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Zebra Ice Albinos Zebra Cichlid, Pseudotropheus zebra Injected and Dipped Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Patriotic/Mixcolor Suckerfish Plecostomous, Hypostomous plecostomous Injected and Dipped Red, Blue, or a combination of Red, white, and blue
Rainbow Filomenae Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Colored Paradisefish Paradise Fish, Macropodus opercularis Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Rainbow Tiger Botias Tiger Botia, Botia hymenophysa Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Colored Yellow-tailed Botias/Rainbow Goats Botia lecontei Dipped and Injected Red, Blue, Green, Orange, Purple, Pink
Blueberry Honey Honey Gourami, Colisa labiosa Injected Deep Blue
Colored Fighters Betta, Betta splendens Injected and Dipped Purple, Black, White, Green, Yellow, all deep and in combinations
Dinnerplates, Rainbow Pompaudorfishes, Colored Discus, Sundiscs Discus, Symphysodon aequifasciata/heckel/axelrodi Injected and Dipped Purple, Red, Yellow, Blue, all in Combinations
Jellybeans, Icepops Goldfish, Carassius auratus, and most variants Injected, Dipped, Painted Purple, Black, White, Green, Yellow, and combinations

What You Can Do

You may think that as one person, your voice does not have the power to accomplish much. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Social media tools like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter give us all the power to amplify our voice and call out both the good and bad we see in the world.

Be aware: Use the above list as a guide and a starting point. Do some research and learn what fish are being dyed.

Don’t purchase: If you are going to a store or online to purchase fish, do not buy species that have been modified with dyes or severe inbreeding. Vote with your dollar; it is the strongest tool you have against unscrupulous practices.

Tell the store: The store associates you are dealing with cannot stop the wholesale purchase of fish. Be polite and ask them for their regional manager’s contact information. Talk or write to them.

You can also send letters and emails to their public relations departments. If you post on social media that a retailer is selling cruelly modified fish, it will get their attention.

Support quality resellers: Many fish sellers have committed to not selling fish that have been dyed or modified. Buying from these sellers will help keep the hobby ethical and denies unethical practitioners the power of your dollar. Be sure to highlight them in your social media feeds as well. Your support is important.


We have a responsibility to the fishkeeping world and species to which we devote ourselves.

Our hobby is an opportunity to support the continuation of species that are no longer available in the wild through proper care and breeding.

Do your part. Join the movement against the dyeing and mistreatment of aquarium fish species. It will make this hobby better for us all.

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