What Colour Do Fish See the Best?

Most of us go swimming so we can have a chance to swim with the marvellous sea life. And naturally, we want to do what we can to attract fish to us while we’re snorkelling and avoid keeping them away. For that reason, a question we get asked a lot here at Ninja Shark is, what colour do fish see the best? And it’s an interesting one at that!

In this article we’ll look at how colours change underwater according to how deep you are below the surface, which colours are most visible to fish, and which colours are most invisible to fish. You can then decide whether you want to call attention to yourself while snorkelling or stay incognito!

How do fish see underwater?

The basic principle you’ll need to understand here is that fish don’t have the same sense of sight that we do. Colours will almost always appear different underwater than in air, and when you add a fish to the mix, even more different. You may have read our article about how colour appears underwater.

Basically, as light moves through water it changes many of its characteristics. When light first hits water, it decreases in intensity and changes colour due to scattering and absorption. Scattering can kind of be described like the way smoke or fog dissipates in the air, except with light underwater. Absorption is just what it sounds like, with colours being absorbed depending on their wavelength and the depth of the water.

What colours do fish see the best?

We can’t really say what fish see exactly, as no scientist has ever been able to communicate with one to find out, but we sure can guess. The basic conclusion is that certain fish will be attracted to certain colours depending on the type of fish, time of day, transparency of water, weather, and maybe even time of year.

That said, we’ve got the following suggestions for those of you who really want to attract the fishies:

  • Red – If you’re diving up to 6 metres, red will be visible to fish, but will quickly lose its vibrancy if you go any deeper. If you want to stay incognito, go for red on your deep dives.
  • Orange – Next to disappear is orange, fading from view after around 12 metres. Another good option for those who want to remain in the dark.
  • Yellow – After roughly 15-22 metres, yellow will begin to disappear from a typical fish’s eyesight.
  • Blue/Green – These two colours will remain visible to a fish for as long as light is able to penetrate the water. As a snorkeller you’re unlikely to go that deep, so if you want to make sure the fish are able to see you then go for blues and greens!

Colour combos that attract fish

Many fishermen use lures with a combination of two colours that tends to be successful in luring fish. If you want to try do the same, go for these colour combinations:

  • Green and yellow,
  • Black and purple,
  • Blue and white,
  • Black and gold.

Of course, these colours typically exist to mimic the colours of a fish, so it may not work when you’re human-sized. That said, if you’re that set on attracting fish then go all out on your snorkelling outfit!


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