Flowerhorn Cichlids Care Guide

A bright and beautiful addition to your aquarium, the flowerhorn cichlid is unique as it is a hybrid.

Cichlids are not very particular about choosing their own kind as a prospective mate. This means different types of cichlids mate with other cichlids to give birth to interesting hybrids – for example the flowerhorn.

The origin of the flowerhorn cichlid can be traced back to the early 1990s when this fish was created in Taiwan and Malaysia by the crossbreeding of some popular cichlids from Central America.

They are extremely popular amongst hobbyists because of their bright color and unusual appearance – they have a large hump on their head.

The flowerhorn isn’t a difficult fish to take care of. Even if you are a beginner, you shouldn’t face many problems if you decide to add the flowerhorn to your aquarium.

If you are looking to buy this fish but are confused about how to take care of it, read this comprehensive care sheet that will walk you though all the basics.

Habitat

As it is the result of crossbreeding in captivity, the flowerhorn isn’t found in the wild.

It is an ornamental aquarium fish that can be aggressive, but it should not deter you from getting it for your tank, especially if you have a large one and want colorful fish in it.

Before you buy this fish, it is important that you acquaint yourself with the tank and water requirements for maintaining healthy and beautiful flowerhorns.

Tank Size

The flowerhorn cichlid is a large fish. An average flowerhorn can grow up to 12-16 inches (between 30-40 centimeters). This means small tanks are not an option at all if you are considering flowerhorns.

If you want to add just one flowerhorn cichlid, you will need a tank that has a capacity of at least 75 gallons.

If you are planning to purchase two flowerhorns, the tank will have to be even bigger to give the fish a chance to swim about freely – anywhere between 100 gallons to 120 gallons.

Finally, if you are planning to keep more than two, the tank requirement can go up to even 200 gallons.  

Water Temperature

The flowerhorn is quite a hardy fish, which means that it doesn’t need too many special conditions to be met. The temperature of the water in which you have kept the fish should be anywhere between 75° F and 89° F (which translates to 24° C to 32° C).

Water Composition

As mentioned before, the flowerhorn is easier to maintain than some other freshwater fish.

This doesn’t mean that you can cut back on some essential factors.

Firstly, ensure that the water in your tank is dechlorinated. For the flowerhorn to grow and survive well, the water’s ideal pH level should be anywhere in the 7 to 8 range.

In addition to this, the hardness of the water should remain between 9 and 20 dGH.

The aquarium’s lighting can be similar to the lighting used for any freshwater fish. LEDs seem to work well enough.

Equipment and Plants

As is the case with all aquariums, you will need to install a good quality canister filter so that the water remains clean at all times. The filter should be kept running for at least a week before you introduce the flowerhorns into the tank.

Their basic requirements are clean and moderately flowing water, with regular water changes each week.

Flowerhorns are known for making a mess while they eat so it is important to use an aquarium vacuum to remove this debris as part of your routine cleaning process.

Plants and tank decorations are really great to look at but they may not be practical for aquariums housing flowerhorn cichlids. The reason is that these fish are very active and enjoy digging. Any plants that you place in the tank are likely therefore to be destroyed soon after.

If you decide to add some ornaments make sure that they are anchored properly or the fish will simply topple them over. Some keepers even take the extra precaution to stick them in place with aquarium-safe silicone sealant to be sure they can’t be upended.

Behavior of the Flowerhorn Cichlid

The flowerhorn cichlid was a result of man’s intervention and somewhere along the way, it also adopted some not-so-appealing parts of human nature. To be more specific, this fish is known to be quite aggressive and territorial about its space.

In addition to this, the fish is also predatory. Not only will the fish try to attack any tank mate that you place in the aquarium, it may also bite and attack you when you are trying to feed it, or when you are carrying out regular maintenance of the tank.

The flowerhorn is quite active and can destroy any plants or ornaments that you place in the aquarium.

For this reason, they are usually kept alone or in pairs, and placed in tanks that are minimalistic.

Integration into the Tank

The flowerhorn is quite easy to maintain, especially if it is the only fish in your aquarium. Introducing them into a new tank is not a very difficult exercise but you must keep in mind that the water temperature and composition shouldn’t be too different from what the fish are already used to.

There cannot be a vast difference in the conditions that the flowerhorn is used to and the one that you introduce it into.

If you already have fish in the aquarium, you may have to check their compatibility with the flowerhorn, as the cichlid is very territorial and aggressive. This can lead to a number of unfortunate instances in your tank if you aren’t careful enough.

Other than this, flowerhorns do not take much time to get used to their surroundings and are pretty active and hardy.

Best Tank Mates

pleco photo

The prospect of having a colorful aquarium with lots of different types of fish can seem very attractive but if one of these fish is a flowerhorn cichlid, you may want to rethink your plan.

As this is a very aggressive species, it is highly recommended that you either keep a flowerhorn alone, or introduce a pair into your aquarium.

Pairing these fish is also not an easy task. Many people buy multiple cichlids in the hope that they will automatically pair up but this can lead to a disastrous situation. While the dominant fish manage well, the less dominant ones end up getting bullied and die (or are eaten).

To avoid such a situation, you may need to approach a breeder who has a lot of experience in the field. That breeder may be able to hook you up with a pair that suits each other.

If you still want to keep other fish in your aquarium, you can try some of the species mentioned below:

  • Jaguar cichlid
  • Tiger oscar
  • Black pacu
  • Leopard pleco
  • Plecostomus

Fish That Don’t Work Well

Most fish cannot survive in the same tank as flowerhorn cichlids as they live under constant stress.

Flowerhorns can be big bullies when it comes to their territory, which makes it tough for any other fish – even the bigger ones like angelfish that grow up to 6-8 inches – to live with these aggressive beings.

Many people try different combinations of fish in their tanks before settling on the fact that flowerhorns work best when they are kept alone in spacious tanks with minimalistic décor.

Feeding

Flowerhorns are very active. This factor, coupled with their great metabolism, means that they can eat a lot. They are carnivores and will need different types of nutrients to maintain their level of energy.

The flowerhorn cichlid should be fed 2 or 3 big meals everyday. As they have such massive appetites, you can choose from a wide variety of foods. While flake foods can only be given when the fish is very young (it cannot satisfy full size flowerhorn), you can feed them cichlid-specific pellets that are available in fish stores.

They seem to enjoy different types of live food, for example small fish, works, shrimp and so on.

Flowerhorns can also be fed meat but hearts and livers should be avoided.

Slightly cooked green leafy vegetables can also be added to their diet to fulfill their nutritional requirements.

Breeding

There aren’t many ways to distinguish between the male and female flowerhorns.

The process of breeding these fish is fairly simple but you will have to be extra cautious because of their natural aggression. That is the only major complication that can arise when it comes to flowerhorn cichlids so it is important that you have a large enough tank to accommodate the pair.

Once you have identified a pair and placed it in a large enough tank, the female fish will lay eggs, mostly on a flat rock. The male flowerhorn will then fertilize these eggs.

Once the eggs have been fertilized it is advisable to separate the male from the female and her eggs by using a divider.

When the young fry hatches, it can be fed flake food, pellets and brine shrimp.

Common Health Problems

There are no specific ailments that affect flowerhorn cichlids but they are susceptible to some of the more common diseases of freshwater fish.

Any change in pH or water quality in the tank can lead to issues with the fish’s health so it is important that you ensure the ideal conditions.

Some common illnesses are:

  • Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifilis): This is a disease common in freshwater fish like flowerhorns, where salt-like white spots form over the fish’s body. It can be treated by increasing the temperature of the aquarium to about 86° F (30° C) for three days. In case this doesn’t work, consult a veterinarian.
  • Hexamita: The second disease that is common in flowerhorns is Hexamita. If you notice that the fish’s excreta is white in color or a drastic reduction in appetite, your fish may be suffering from this condition. There are a number of medicines to treat this disease.

Final Thoughts

The flowerhorn cichlid is a beautiful fish that will look great in your aquarium. Caring for this fish is fairly easy but it can get a little expensive because of the amount of space it needs and its diet.

It is also difficult to keep the flowerhorn with other types of fish because of its aggressive temperament.

If you are able to look past these factors and are on board with keeping just one or two flowerhorns, you can visit a reputable breeder and get this vividly colored fish for your aquarium!

Photo by Der Siems

Related:  Best Automatic Fish Feeders
Richard Adams

Leave a Comment