Flowerhorn Cichlid Care Sheet: Types, Tank Mates, and More

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is a fish like no other.

Their bright colors and unique forehead bump makes them one of a kind.

These fish have been selectively breed by humans since 1993 and cannot be found in the wild.

Although they are very popular they are actually very aggressive and you will struggle to find tank mates for them.

Keep reading to learn more about how to care for this species. We will cover everything from tank mates to diet and much more to help you keep this fish.

Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn Cichlid 101

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is a popular hybird.

They belong to the family Cichlidae along with many other types of Cichlids.

What makes this species special is that they are a cross between two other African Cichlids (Blood Parrot Cichlid and Red Devil Cichlid). You cannot find them in the wild and technically they are a double hybrid because one of their parents (Blood Parrot Cichlid) is already a hybrid.

The first detail many people notice is the large swelling on the Flowerhorn’s forehead. This hump is called a nuchal hump and it is used for lots of different things.

These beautiful fish are also special because they are very interactive and have a lot of character. They like to be around humans and have even been shown to lift their heads out of the water so they can be pet.

Humans have spent years breeding them and people pay big bucks for these Cichlids.

On average a Flowerhorn Cichlid can cost anywhere from $40-$80. The exact price will vary depending on the size of the nuchal hump and the color of the fish.

How Long Do Flowerhorn Cichlids Live?

Flowerhorn Cichlids live anywhere from 10-12 years.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Freshwater fishkeeping
  • Color Forms: Red, Yellow, Orange, Purple
  • Size: 10-16 inches.
  • Tank Size: 50-150 gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 80-89°F.

Appearance

Flowerhorn Cichlid Full Size

Flowerhorn Cichlids are famous for the bump on their forehead.

This nuchal hump is also called a kok and can be used to distinguish between males and females. Males tend to have very large forehead swellings while females do not. Males also have very pronounced lips.

Telling the difference between males and females when they are young is a lot more difficult because they look almost identical.

Flowerhorns are large fish and can range from 10-16 inches. Their bodies are oval shaped and can take on a variety of vibrant colors including red, yellow, pink, orange and blue. It is common for a few of these colors to mix on their bodies. It is also common for individuals to have a long black line that extends from their eyes to their tail.

They have large and pronounced dorsal and anal fins. The anal fin matches the dorsal fin about two thirds of the way down. They also taper off at the end like a braid.

Whereas their pectoral fins are quite small and short just like the tail.

Types of Flowerhorn Cichlids

Red Dragon Flowerhorn: This Flowerhorn is farm raised in the United States. They have elongated bodies with large dorsal and anal fins. Juveniles do not have the red color that adults do. They are silver or grey until they mature.

Red Star Flowerhorn: This fish is bright red with a pattern of black dots. They have large dorsal and anal fins as well. What makes this type of Flowerhorn different is that they are much less aggressive compared to their counterparts.

Golden Monkey Flowerhorn: These are probably the most expensive type of Flowerhorn. They can be a mix of orange and red or purely yellow with black dot patterns similar to the Red Star. In addition, they can reach up to 15 inches in length which makes them one of the largest types.

Blue Diamond Flowerhorn: This shiny blue/grey fish typically only grows to about 4 inches long. Although they are less colorful than other Flowerhorns they are still beautiful additions to any tank.

Titanium Flowerhorn: These fish are also blue but they have a little white mixed in. They have bright red eyes as well which makes them really pop against a white background. Similar to the Blue Diamond they are often referred to as the Thai Silk cichlid.

Tank Mates for Flowerhorns

Based on their behavior it is hard to find tank mates that get along with the Flowerhorn.

Flowerhorn Cichlids are large fish and think they run the place. Can you blame them?

There are exceptions though.

The most important thing is that tank mates need to be the same size or larger.

Larger fish are able to hold their own if needed. However, the same cannot be said about smaller fish that are slow swimmers. They can be eaten or bullied.

Some Flowerhorn tank mates include:

However, the best tank mate is actually one of their own.

Flowerhorn Cichlids enjoy being in pairs.

You should avoid keeping them with:

  • Shrimp
  • Snails
  • Tetras
  • Bettas
  • Goldfish
  • Angelfish
  • Koi
  • Rasboras

Care Guide

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank Mates

The Flowerhorn Cichlid is a healthy fish but they struggle in poor quality water conditions.

The biggest concern is a disease called hole-in-the-head (HITH) or head and lateral line erosion (HLLE). This is caused from bacterial parasites in poor quality water and the presence of activated carbon.

Fish with this disease will develop small holes on their head or lateral line and potentially their fins too.

To treat this disease you need to get rid of all activated carbon in the tank (through large percentage water changes) and give them medication too.

Another disease that is not specific to the Flowerhorn is freshwater ich.

This is caused by a protozoan and is often called white spot disease. You will notice this disease early by looking for white spots on the fish’s gills and body. Another sign is if your fish is rubbing or scratching its sides on the bottom of the tank.

If your fish have ich you should take them out of the tank and move them to a temporary tank and treat them.

You can then clean the old tank.

After the old tank is clean and rid of the disease, you can add the fish back. Make sure to closely monitor your water quality after this to avoid future occurrences.

Diet

Flowerhorn Cichlids are omnivorous which means you have a lot of options when it comes to feeding.

They require a lot of food and have large appetites.

These Cichlids need a high protein diet but also one with vegetables.

Just like with any other fish it is best to vary their diet. Do not stick to the same pellets or protein source for longer than a couple of months.

You should give them a pellet-based diet with some added meaty treats such as earthworms or mosquito larvae. Dropping in mosquito larvae can be a fun activity for the Flowerhorn Cichlid because this will let them hunt.

For plant based foods try algae, spinach, zucchini, and cucumbers. If you do not want to use fresh vegetables then you can purchase packaged foods specifically for fish. To get them the protein they need you can feed them shrimp, crickets, bloodworms, and crawfish. Other options include grasshoppers, krill and mosquitos.

You should feed them 3 times a day for 5 minutes each time.

Make sure to give them enough food to finish within five minutes. This helps make sure that their digestive system has enough time to break down the food. If you find there is still food left after a five-minute feeding session then you need to reduce the amount of food you give them.

You will easily know if they are underfed because they will start to dig up plants, or chew on anything else in the tank.

Behavior

Flowerhorn Cichlids are aggressive.

They are very territorial fish and need to have their own space.

It is best to keep them in a tank alone but they can be kept with other species if you pick them carefully.

You will not really find them in one section of the tank as they enjoy exploring everything that is in their tank. They swim slowly because of their large bodies but they can move up and down through the water column with ease.

What is so fascinating about this fish is that they act a lot like dogs in the sense that they form a strong bond with their owners.

They can be extremely friendly and playful and can be hand fed.

Pros

  • Very bright colors and patterns
  • Form a strong bond with their owners
  • Tend to live long lives
  • Eat a wide variety of food
Cons

  • Need large tanks with lots of space
  • Have aggression problems
  • Best kept alone
  • Like to dig and uproot plants

Tank Set Up and Parameters

Flowerhorn Cichlids will need at least a 50 gallon aquarium.

Each additional species will also need 50 gallons.

So if you are going to keep more than one Cichlid together you will need at least a 100 gallon tank.

When it comes to the water parameters:

  • Temperature: 80-89°F
  • pH: 7.0-8.0
  • Water Hardness: 8-20 dGH

These fish also need a medium to heavy flow. They are large fish and they can swim against the current well, but you will know if the flow is too high if your fish are being pushed around the tank. A canister filter is the perfect choice.

You will really need to pay attention to the water conditions and make sure to perform partial changes every two weeks.

As for decorations and plants, a Flowerhorn Cichlid’s tank is usually a little bare. This is done on purpose because of the way the fish behaves.

These Cichlids like to dig through the substrate and uproot plants.

You can actually go for a bare bottom tank to avoid these problems. If you want to use substrate then sand or large rocks are ideal.

Driftwood or large tiles work much better in this tank than plants.

If your heart is set on plants then make sure that they are secured to the bottom of the tank.

Tank Parameter Requirement
Minimum Tank Size 50 Gallons
Tank Type Freshwater
Temperature 80-89°F
pH 7.0-8.0
Hardness 8-20 dGH
Flow Medium to Heavy
Substrate Soft

History and First Sighting

The origin of the Flowerhorn Cichlid is just as unique as their appearance.

They were first bred back in 1993 in Taiwan and Malaysia.

It is thought that the Blood Parrot Cichlid and the Red Devil Cichlid as well as some cichlids were used to create the Flowerhorn Cichlid we know today.

After 6 short years there was already four different types of Flowerhorn:

  1. Original Flowerhorn
  2. Pearl Scale Flowerhorn
  3. Golden Monkey Flowerhorn
  4. Fader Flowerhorn

As more and more commercial breeders began to pop up in the early 2000’s, the look of these Cichlids changed more and more. New traits were created such as shorter mouths, sunken eyes, and larger nuchal humps.

Breeding Flowerhorn Cichlids

Breeding Flowerhorn Cichlids is a big challenge.

The biggest issues you will face are females being sterile, aggression, tank size and behavioral traits.

A lot of female Flowerhorns are not fertile because they are hybrids. This means they cannot and won’t produce viable offspring. Finding a female that is fertile can take extra time and resources, but it is an important first step in the process.

In addition, males are known to be aggressive towards females during the process, so it is best to keep them separate even in the mating tank.

Although there are challenges, breeding is not impossible.

To breed these fish you will need a 150 gallon tank that is separated into two sections with a divider. Make sure that the divider has holes so water can pass through between the male and female.

Adding a divider seems strange but there is a reason for it. Males can be very aggressive during the fertilization process and can attack the female or even kill her. So, it is best to always keep the two away from each other.

You will need to keep the water temperature the same as the original tank and feed both the male and female high protein live foods.

On the female’s side of the tank make sure to give her a place where she can lay her eggs. Females prefer smooth places such as flat rocks or wood. She will lay a lot of very tiny eggs, usually around 800 or 900.

Once she has laid her eggs the divider can be removed so the male can fertilize the eggs.

Make sure to remove the female while this is happening.

After a few days the eggs will hatch and this is your cue to remove the male.

Summary

Their appearance is what makes them such a popular fish.

Flowerhorn Cichlids’ unique forehead hump and vibrant colors help them stand out in any tank.

They are not very hard to take care of but you cannot forget about their aggression.

To avoid any problems you should keep them by themselves.

All this fish really needs is space and a varied diet.

Keeping a Flowerhorn is challenging but extremely rewarding. They live long lives and will form a strong connection with you.

Why do you love the Flowerhorn Cichlid?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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