Pool Water Colors: What They Mean & How They Are Affected

Written by Michael Dean
August 25, 2023

swimming pool water colors

Considering how swimming pools are built for the singular purpose of immersing yourself in water, how your pool looks is very important. And the color and finish of the water speak volumes in terms of aesthetics. In fact, did you know that the color you choose for your pool surfaces affects the water color? It can also make a difference in the level of clarity and sparkle! There are many exciting and interesting ways to modify a pool to come across as blue, turquoise, green, gray, or even a solemn black.

If you’re thinking about the pool finish or are just curious to know why the pool water color presents the way it does, this article is for you. Let’s begin.

Main Takeaways

  • The finish of a swimming pool gives the water its color and is most commonly made up of concrete, tile, pebble, and quartz.
  • Light plays a big part in determining the pool water color.
  • The depth of your pool, sunshine, algae spores, bacteria, calcium hardness, and other chemicals can also affect the color of the water.
  • Regardless of color, the one thing that can establish pool health is a comprehensive testing and chemical balancing system.

What Are the Different Pool Water Color Finishes?

While the water most often appears blue because of the way light scatters in it, the base color of a swimming pool is actually decided by something called finish—a material that coats the interior of a swimming pool. This is what gives the pool its color, texture, and durability. It can be made of plaster, tile, pebble, or quartz. A mixture of the finish shade and the interaction of light with that color can result in different shades of water.

Here’s how different colors might be achieved through various pool finish options.

Light Blue

pool with bridge and wooden deck

Most homeowners select a white finish for their pools to achieve a light blue water color. A light blue color is a great choice if you want a cooling and reflective outdoor space. The above photo shows a pool I built several years ago with a light plaster finish that results in light blue water color.


freeform pool with fountain in spa

A very common pool water color is, of course, a traditional medium blue—that classic pool look. This shade is created either by using a mixture of white cement, aggregates, and blue pigments or opting for azure glass tiling that gives the water a vibrant and consistent blue hue. And if you want to turn your pool into an electric blue color, opt for a light gray color finish. But keep in mind that this electric blue shade will only come to light (pun intended) when the sun comes out.

The photo above is from one of the pools I’ve built using a color called Maui Midnight – a dark blue plaster.


Green is for those seeking a more natural aesthetic in their pool, similar to a natural lake or a pond. A greenish tint is achievable with some blue-green-tinted pigments. If you want to have a darker green water color, instead opt for dark gray. Do keep in mind, however, that with a naturally green water color, detecting algae may be a bit more difficult than usual.


Turquoise is a super popular pool water color. This jewel-toned shade can be achieved with earthy and sandy shades, such as beige. Yes, beige! Surprisingly, this color finish can lead to a tropical feel and a turquoise pool.


dark pool spa with green landscaping

Do you want a unique pool water color? What about gray? Well, to be more precise, a green-gray or blue-gray? To achieve this look, choose dark gray or brown pool finishes, like the pool I designed pictured above. This will give your pool a more modern and elegant aesthetic.

And as a plus, this discreet color can help camouflage any dirt that ends up in your pool, making your pool look all the more inviting. But, of course, this is absolutely no excuse for not cleaning your pool!


half moon pool with infinity wall

A pool finish like black quartz or a dark pebble finish can give the water a black or very dark blue appearance. The result can be a unique and sophisticated look—a stunningly solemn mirror in your backyard. Black pools are a statement piece, although it can be challenging to detect problems in the water by sight alone because of the darkness of the pool water. Here’s an example of a pool I built with a dark plaster finish.

How Light and Pool Depth Affect the Water Color

Keep in mind that tiling and finish are only part of what makes a pool blue, green, turquoise, gray, or black. Light has a major role to play in this, as well as the pool depth.


As I said, light significantly affects pool water color. After all, if no light shines on the pool water, you won’t really see the color you are trying to achieve. Trees and foliage, for instance, can affect the way light scatters in the pool, so keep this in mind when deciding on a pool color. And don’t expect the pool water to look the same throughout the day – it’ll change slightly depending on where the pool is, the clouds, and other lighting factors, such as any pool lights you install.

Pool Depth

The depth of your pool also affects the way the water looks. While the depth won’t directly influence the water color, it does change how light interacts with it. Deeper water absorbs more light, making the colors more intense, while shallower areas will reflect more light, making the water appear lighter.

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What Else Affects Pool Water Color? 

Your pool finish is the way that pool owners deliberately adjust their water color, but there are a few other factors that may inadvertently change the color of the article. Here’s a detailed overview of additional factors that can affect pool water color and how to address them:


Color: Greenish, murky water—most likely because of algae spores. However, water can also turn yellow, reddish, brown, or black, depending on the type of algae.

Solution: This is pretty simple. You can eliminate an algae-infested pool and prevent algae growth by following regular pool maintenance tactics—maintaining healthy chlorine (or other sanitizing agent) levels, ensuring adequate circulation, and following routine brushing and cleaning. If algae has already developed, you can simply shock the pool and use an algaecide and flocculant to clean your pool further.

High Calcium Levels

Color: Cloudy water—chalky, whitish with visible particulate residue.

Solution: Calcium hardness is an important chemical for pool water since it helps prevent scale buildup and other problems, but too much calcium can turn the water into an unpleasant milky white. To fix this, partially drain and refill the pool water, followed by an immediate rebalance of pH levels.


Color: An excess of metals (copper, iron, etc.) in the water can cause your pool to turn into various colors, such as green (copper and other metals) or red/brown (iron).

Solution: The easiest thing you can do is use a metal sequestrant to prevent metals from staining the pool and to maintain water clarity. Along with that, a long-term solution is to identify and fix the source of metal contamination, which could be from the fill water, your pool equipment, or pool chemicals.


Color: Purple or black discoloration.

Solution: Manganese staining can be tricky to treat. To fix this, shock the pool. There are even specific manganese removers you could use. If these steps don’t work, try consulting a pool professional to identify the source and determine the next best steps, including removing any staining that might have already occurred.


Color: As mentioned above, sunlight can intensify the water’s color, making it appear brighter and more vibrant. However, there’s a dark side to sunlight: UV rays. These harmful rays can also eat away at the chlorine levels in the pool, opening the door to chemical imbalances, algae growth, and a host of other issues.

Solution: If you use unstabilized chlorine, add cyanuric acid to protect your chlorine from disintegrating under the sun’s UV rays. Along with that, I always firmly recommend that pool owners use pool covers to protect the water when the pool is not in use. This goes a long way in protecting the pool from UV exposure and even debris from foliage and contamination by animals, amphibians, and insects.

Other Factors

Color: Other things like leaves, dirt, debris, too many swimmers at once, and the build-up of oils (sunscreen, tanning oils) can temporarily affect water clarity and color.

Solution: Regular cleaning and maintenance is the only answer. Skim the pool regularly to remove debris, vacuum the pool floor, and clean and maintain proper filtration and circulation. Use a pool cover when the pool is not in use to block debris from entering and discoloring your pool water. And finally, encourage swimmers to rinse off sunscreen before entering the pool.

Discover the Rainbow of Pool Water Colors

Whether you are deliberately choosing a water color for your pool or external factors have affected it, there are many different colors for pool water. Deciding on the best water color for your swimming pool and being vigilant to prevent algae, metals, calcium, and other issues from changing your water color will make your pool appear as beautiful as you imagined.

Any more questions about pool water colors? Just send me a message!

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