Introduction to flowerhorn cichlid fish
The flowerhorn cichlid fish is a well-known ornamental aquarium fish with an interesting behavior, temper, and unique appearance. They are recognized for their bright colors and unique head shape. Their head bumps or Koks are formally termed a nuchal hump.
However, flowerhorn cichlids are incredibly aggressive and usually very territorial. When introduced to other fishes, they will become very aggressive. Still, you will not regret owning a Flowerhorn cichlid as a pet.
- Introduction to flowerhorn cichlid fish
- Origin of flowerhorn
- Flowerhorn lifespan
- How much do flowerhorns cost?
- How to take care of a flowerhorn fish
- Flowerhorn feeding guide
- Flowerhorn gender: sex differences
- Flowerhorn mating and spawning
- Breeding flowerhorn fish
- Flowerhorn tanks (flowerhorn aquarium)
- Types of flowerhorn
- Important notes before keeping a flowerhorn:
Origin of flowerhorn
The Flowerhorn is manmade hybrid fish, which means they are not found in the wild. The unique, eye-catching appearance results from the interbreeding of different cichlids.
The first hybrid was made in Malaysia in the mid-1900s by Malaysian breeders cross-breeding various species of cichlids, mainly South American Cichlids.
The breeders were astonished by its “Kok,” i.e., the hump on the head, so they started naming them: “Karoli,” i.e., Fighting Ship.
Many are still questioning what kind of South American cichlids were bred to create Flowerhorn. However, it is still a well-kept secret only known by the breeders who worked to develop these fish. Although aquarists agree that the Flowerhorn fish is the outcome of successfully breeding these different cichlids: Vieja Synspila, Cichlasoma Festae, Trimaculatum, Cichlasoma Labiatum, Cichlasoma Citrinellum, Cichlasoma.
The original first-generation flowerhorn cichlid is called the blue dragon tiger. It is a male fish with a slightly swollen head and a comprehensive and smooth body shape.
Although the improved flowerhorn cichlid still retains the characteristics of the blue dragon tiger, it has dramatically improved in various aspects:
- the head has become more prominent and more beautiful;
- the body shape has become broader;
- the color is more vibrant; and
- the pattern more expressed.
In short, it has become more attractive.
Flowerhorn cichlids have a lifespan of 10–12 years. They are usually kept at a water temperature of about 27°C, and a pH of 7.4–8.0. They require a tank of a minimum of 40 gallons, with 75 gallons optimal. A breeding pair may require a tank of 150 gallons or more, depending on size.
How much do flowerhorns cost?
The price may vary per region. Here in the Visayas, Philippines, it can cost around P250-P7,000 (about $5-$150) depending on the age, size, and attributes.
How to take care of a flowerhorn fish
Flowerhorn care is relatively easy; the fish is recommended for beginners familiar with their behaviors, aquarium setup necessities, and probable costs. Flowerhorns are hardy fish, but they can adopt a broad range of water parameters and accept any food you provide.
Flowerhorn water parameters
Flowerhorn care is straightforward since the fish can adopt a wide range of water parameters. Regardless, you should set up a tank for flowerhorn fish the right way.
Flowerhorn water temperature
Flowerhorn Cichlid is easy to manage and are hardy fish. They can adopt a broad range of temperatures and water boundaries.
Flowerhorn size: how big does a flowerhorn get?
Flowerhorn cichlids are massive fishes; they can typically grow between 12 – 16 inches or 31 – 41 centimeters in size.
Flowerhorn color (flowerhorn fish colour change)
One of the fascinating features of the flowerhorn fish is that it changes its coloring marks during its life and develops until it evolves into a fully mature adult fish.
If you are interested in buying or keeping a flowerhorn cichlid with a specific color pattern, select or purchase a mature fish.
The beauty of purchasing a young fish would mean that you can see how its color and patterns develop. However, you may not precisely know its actual color not until it matures.
Either way, the Flowerhorn fish is always an excellent pet to own.
Flowerhorn feeding guide
You should be feeding your flowerhorn with a high-protein diet. This is because flowerhorn cichlids are carnivores; they have a large appetite for live and dry foods.
This fish is easy to underfeed, so you need to ensure enough food to feed the fish. In addition, the fish’s coloring can affect the food you feed them, so always provide them with high-quality foods.
Flowerhorn diet contains high-quality cichlid pellets, krill, earthworms, crickets, frozen bloodworms, nightcrawlers, live foods, frozen foods, and carotene enhanced supplements.
There is also a cheaper way to feed your flowerhorn; you can just provide them with a small piece of dried fish packed with nutrients.
Spirulina for flowerhorn
Flowerhorn food for head growth
Personally, I feed my flowerhorn with the following:
- Dilis a.k.a. anchovies (flowerhorn’s best food). The scientific name of this fish is Stolephorus commersonii.
- Shrimps. (I usually choose the smallest size which looks like a shrimp paste.)
My flowerhorn loves both dilis and shrimps. I tried to feed the LIVE or at least the fresh dilis or shrimps (very tiny shrimps).
Flowerhorn gender: sex differences
For mature flowerhorns, males have a huge KoK. However, it’s not unusual for a female flowerhorn to also have a KoK; but if it does, it is likely to be much smaller than the male’s KoK. Mature females also lay eggs every month, even without a male flowerhorn.
Some breeders often use a technique to differentiate male and female flowerhorn cichlids by taking the fish out of the water and laying them on the back of their hands. Then, gently press the belly from below the rib cage towards the vent. If it squirts out clear liquid, it’s a male; otherwise, it’s a female.
Flowerhorn mating and spawning
Taking care of Flowerhorn Cichlids, as a rule, aren’t very critical when choosing their pair. Hence, they can make a pair not only with their kind but also with other cichlid types.
This peculiarity gave flowerhorn breeders the possibility of obtaining a fantastic broad hybrid kind of fish. Unfortunately, some hybrids become sterile (unable to produce offspring).
The evolution of Flowerhorn Cichlids came from thorough and continuous cross-breeding of various types of cichlids by Malaysian breeders.
Breeding flowerhorn fish
Here are some points you may need to note. These are not hard-and-fast rules.
- Flowerhorns sexual maturity is approximately 8 months.
- They can breed for 6 years.
- Flowerhorns can breed approximately every 3 months during these years as long as you keep them healthy and provide them with a good living environment (in this case, a good water condition). This is, I guess, basic for every living creature: plant or animal.
- Avoid filters and aerators that produce a strong current/flow of water while flowerhorns are breeding.
Step-by-step flowerhorn breeding tips
Again these are not hard-and-fast rules.
- Make sure to feed both flowerhorns well before trying to match/mate them. They might not be eating very well during the mating/breeding process.
- To check if your male and female flowerhorns are compatible without doing any harm to any of them, have them both in one big tank with glass as a divider.
- After hours or days, you can remove the divider if you think they are not trying to fight but instead trying to mate. There might be a little bit of biting (kissing) or tail slapping, which is part of the mating process.
- The flowerhorns will normally dig a hole or a nest on your aquarium’s pebbles. If you don’t have pebbles, provide a wide bowl but not deep, a clay pot, or even a clean dog’s plate. This is where your female flowerhorn will lay her eggs.
- The female and sometimes the male flowerhorn will try to circle the spot/nest (if we can call it that).
- Once the female flowerhorn lays the eggs, the male flowerhorn will fertilize the eggs by swimming over them.
Below is what I used when breeding:
- Fertilized eggs are transparent (clear in color), while the unfertilized eggs will turn white. The female flowerhorn will normally eat these white eggs.
- It can take more or less 3 days for the eggs to hatch.
- When they hatch, the fry (plural fry) are usually do not move a lot and if they do, they move in a group. Feed the fry with baby brine shrimps.
- Remove the parent flowerhorns after 2-3 days when the fry start to swim in search of food.
Flowerhorn tanks (flowerhorn aquarium)
Flowerhorn tank size
Flowerhorn cichlids are massive fishes; they can typically grow between 12 – 16 inches or 31 – 41 centimeters in size.
Flowerhorn tank setup
How does putting duckweed in your aquarium benefits your flowerhorn?
Dead leaves, plants and fish, and other animals in the tank can produce excessive nitrates and phosphates, which are toxic to their overall health. If you keep duckweed in your aquarium, you can ensure the water will have lower toxin levels. As duckweed is an aquatic plant that feeds on nitrates and phosphates, it can consume these dangerous chemicals effectively. In addition, duckweed’s nutrition profile makes it an excellent food source for fish and aquatic life. This highly digestible plant has nearly 40% protein, 25% fiber, and 5% fat.
Its protein content is comparable to animal meat, making it a great source of protein for your fish. It also includes potassium, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, and zinc.
The other toxins that duckweeds absorb are Ammonia and carbon dioxide. An exciting thing about duckweed is that you can use it to indicate water quality in the tank. Since duckweed grows fast in high-nitrate conditions, it gives you a general sense of the water quality.
Duckweed has short, hair-like roots that extend longer if they don’t receive enough nutrients.
Flowerhorn tank mates: how many flowerhorns are in one tank?
Flowerhorn fish are territorial and aggressive and best kept singly as a show fish.
If you want to put them with other tank mates, they should be kept in a tank larger than 175-gallons.
It is also advised to keep male flowerhorns separate. You may have multiple female flowerhorns with one male flowerhorn in a very large flowerhorn tank or aquarium.
They also love to dig into the substrate and consume any plant matter in the aquarium. Because Flowerhorn Cichlids have an affinity for digging, they can move a significant amount of substrate and other hardscape materials like stone decorations due to their size.
Types of flowerhorn
When talking about Flowerhorn Cichlids, consider that different cross-breeding types of cichlids create these fish. Therefore, there are more than 1000 varieties of cichlids in existence. And it’s impossible to know how many kinds of Flowerhorn are in reality. Flowerhorns are prized for their Kok or hump on their head, colors, and Flowerhorn pattern.
These are some of the most widespread flowerhorn cichlids:
Kamfa is definitely one of the most sought-after flowerhorn types we know. Although they’re comparatively challenging to raise, I encounter many fish-keepers consistently selecting kamfa over other species like Zhen Zhus. A fish needs to have certain qualities to qualify as a Kamfa. They have a square body, round mouth, wrapped fins, strong tail, and no underbite or overbite.
The rays in the caudal tail should be solid and upright – preventing the tail from drooping.
Zen Zhu is another flowerhorns breed derived from the Louhan bloodline. They appeared slightly later than Kamfas but rivaled them quite well in popularity.
A flowerhorn must possess some specific qualities to be a Zhen Zhu. For example, it should have a long, tapering body – as opposed to a Kamfa’s square shape.
Zhen Zhu literally translates to ‘pearl flowerhorn.’ So naturally, its strongest variety is suit pearling.
Other flowerhorn types are often bred with Zhen Zhu to produce better pearling (flower line) for the next generation. Yet, weak, drooping tails also get carried over usually.
Golden Monkey Flowerhorns do not look like monkeys; instead, they are super colorful and vibrant with a prominent nuchal hump.
Unlike Kamfa and Zhen Zhu, Golden Monkeys do not come from a hybrid bloodline. Instead, they are the original Louhan-based fish.
They have a muscular body structure with thick chins and hardtails at the end. As juveniles, Golden Monkey looks rather bland with brown and silver linings. But as they mature, they develop stunning red and silver patterns in the upper half of their body.
Golden base (faders)
Faders are called by that name because they lose their color during the juvenile period of life and go completely black. The black fades away as the fading process continues, leaving a more vibrant and beautiful color, usually yellow or red. They are also referred to as a golden base or Golden Trimce.
Thai Silk, also known as Titanium flowerhorn, is a moderately new strain. It has a stunning powder blue body with golden and white undertones.
The eyes are crimson red. And there has been a piece of good news that red eyes are connected with increased fertility.
The fish’s origin is ambiguous, but a recent strain has been developed to produce fish with square body shapes. Still, their eyes can either be white, yellow, or red.
Super red dragon
There are dozens of different flowerhorn breeds. Still, the most iconic, if not the most expensive, is the Super Red Dragon (just the male, females aren’t as stunning).
Super red dragons have a deep red body with a stripe of black markings or flowers down its side and a huge nuchal hump above the head, on which black flowers sometimes may appear.
The eyes are very red and hollow, and the teeth are tiny and sharp. The lower lip protrudes, and there’s also a Churchillian fold beneath the chin.
Both anal and dorsal fins have an extended, braid-like ending. Also, the tail is almost round. And due to their stocky body, super red dragons tend to swim pretty slow compared to smaller fish.
Important notes before keeping a flowerhorn:
- A flowerhorn cichlid is a considerable fish reaching 12- 16 inches. Therefore, the fish needs a large and expensive tank with a suitable filtration system. Maintaining the filtration system might be more cumbersome than the fish itself.
- Flowerhorn cichlids are tough to keep due to their aggressive character. They usually bite their owner’s hand while feeding or maintaining the aquarium. And trust me, these bites can be painful. Always isolate them when reaching into your aquarium.