Featured Image - Flowerhorn Cichlid

Flowerhorn Cichlid Complete Care Guide (2022)

Flowerhorn cichlids are one of the most stunning and rewarding fish you can own. They have vivid colors, inquisitive personalities, and have the ability to form tight-knit bonds with their owners – sounds great, right?

I first started keeping flowerhorns a few years ago and they quickly became one of my favorite species because of their extremely interactive nature. However, I was pretty surprised at how much work goes into their care! Although relatively easy on paper, there’s a lot you need to know before you own this fish.

But don’t worry, I’ll be going over everything about flowerhorn cichlid care so you have all the information you need to decide whether they’re the right species for you.

Species Overview

Scientific nameAmphilophus hybrid
Common namesFlowerhorn cichlid, flowerhorn fish, hua luo han cichlid
DistributionFirst developed in East Asia
Size12 inches
ColorYellow, pink, red, orange, purple, blue, gray, black, white
DietOmnivore
TemperamentAggressive
Minimum tank size75 gallons
Place in tankMiddle
Care levelIntermediate
BreedingEgg layer
Life expectancy10-12 years

Background and History

The flowerhorn cichlid does not exist naturally, instead it is a manmade species of freshwater fish that was specifically bred for its strikingly varied patterning and bubble-like growths on its forehead. They are popularly owned by fishkeepers across the globe, especially in East Asia.

Origin

Flowerhorn cichlids were first bred in the 1990s by hobbyists in Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan. These initial fish were known as “louhans” and were a crossbreed of the seven-colored blue fiery mouth cichlid and the blood parrot cichlid.

Initially, only 4 flowerhorn strains were available…

Initially, only 4 flowerhorn strains were available; golden base group which includes faders and golden trimax, zhen zhu, kamfa, and golden monkey. Over the years, over a dozen flowerhorn varieties have been developed – a few of the most popular in the aquarium hobby include the thai silk (more square body shape), golden monkey, and red dragon flowerhorn.

Despite not occurring naturally in the wild, there have been sightings of them, particularly in Singapore and Malaysia where they are considered an invasive species. Unfortunately, this is mostly likely due to humans releasing them into a natural habitat.

FACT

Did you know that it is illegal to import flowerhorn fish to Australia?

Species Summary

Flowerhorn cichlids are an artificially bred species of freshwater fish that are closely related to African cichlids. They come in a vast number of colors and patterns, making them one of the most vibrant fish you can keep.

Flowerhorn in Black Background
Flowerhorn Cichlid

The flowerhorn cichlid has a large, oval-shaped body and a thick kok (nuchal hump) on its forehead. They have small and transparent pectoral fins, as well as braid-like dorsal and anal fins.

What Is a Flowerhorn Cichlid?

Flowerhorn cichlids are man made ornamental fish that have massive nuchal humps on their head. They are one of the less common species of cichlid as they aren’t popularly available in chain fish stores or online retailers. However, speciality fish stores or cichlid breeders may stock them.

Bear in mind that a flowerhorn cichlid can be quite pricey – expect to pay between $40 to $80 depending on the specimen’s appearance. Male flowerhorn cichlids tend to be more expensive than females as they are brighter in color and have a larger hump.

TIP

It’s best to take a good look at the fish you intend to buy. A healthy, good-quality flowerhorn will have vivid coloration, strong fish jaws, prominent markings, proportional body shape, a healthy hump (no deformities), and show no signs of sickness. 

Are Flowerhorns Easy to Take Care Of?

Flowerhorn fish are fairly hardy and easy to keep as long as you provide them with the ideal environment. However, I personally wouldn’t recommend this fish to beginners as a bit more knowledge and work goes into their care than most other aquarium fish. 

They are a large fish species and are known for their aggressive nature (they can even bite humans!), so you need to make sure you house them in a big tank with appropriate tank mates.

Flowerhorn Color

Flowerhorn cichlids come in a huge variety of colors, including red, pink, yellow, orange, blue, and purple. Less common colors of this hybrid fish are white, black, and gray.

Many flowerhorn cichlids are a combination of several colors – the front half of their bodies are usually darker.

Why Are Flowerhorn Heads So Big?

Flowerhorn Cichlid Swimming
Flowerhorn Cichlid Swimming

Flowerhorn heads are so big because they were bred that way. Males have larger koks than females, and it’s thought that fish with particularly large humps are the most aggressive.

FACT

The koks on a flowerhorn are believed to be a symbol of good luck in feng shui.

What Is Inside a Flowerhorn Head?

The kok on a flowerhorn fish is primarily made up of water and fat.

When Do Flowerhorns Get Their Hump?

Flowerhorn cichlids first develop their humps once they are around 2 inches in length, though some fish may not get their hump until they are 4 to 5 inches in size.

How Big Do Flowerhorn Cichlids Get?

The flowerhorn cichlid is a large fish that often grows to 12 inches long. The male flowerhorn cichlid tends to be bigger, with a more prominent kok.

Are Flowerhorn Cichlids Aggressive?

Yes, flowerhorn cichlids are extremely aggressive and territorial. Males are particularly feisty and will almost certainly attack any fish that invades their space.

This fish is best kept alone in a species-only tank. Some aquarists keep breeding pairs together, but this is usually only successful if the fish are housed together as juveniles. You’ll also need at least a 150-gallon aquarium for a pair with plenty of hiding spaces.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank Mates

Flowerhorn cichlids are incompatible with most other fish species as they are highly aggressive fish. As mentioned earlier, this tropical fish will have no trouble hassling, attacking, and killing other tropical fish in their tank.

Flowerhorn Cichlid in an aquarium
Flowerhorn Cichlid in an Aquarium (1)

Peaceful and slow-moving fish make the worst tank mates for flowerhorns as they are likely to be bullied.

Suitable Tank Mates – What Fish Can Be Kept with a Flowerhorn?

Although the flowerhorn cichlid is not a good tank mate for most other tropical fish, there are some species that they may be more likely to tolerate.

These include:

  • Other flowerhorns (of the opposite sex)
  • Bichirs
  • Blood red parrot cichlids
  • Giant gourami
  • Jaguar cichlids
  • Leopard plecos
  • Spotted hoplos
  • Suckermouth armored catfish.

If flowerhorn cichlids live with other fish, especially other cichlids, you’ll need at least a 3-foot fish tank to increase the odds of success. Even in large tanks, flowerhorn cichlids can often harass and kill anything that comes into their space.

RECOMMENDATION

I strongly advise keeping this aquarium fish in a large aquarium without tank mates as you can never guarantee that your flowerhorn won’t attack other species, even if things appear to be working initially.

Can You Mix Flowerhorn with Cichlids?

It’s possible to mix flowerhorns with certain cichlids, such as the parrot cichlid and jaguar cichlid, but you’ll need a very large aquarium with lots of hiding spaces to break line of sight.

Both male and female flowerhorns are territorial by nature, so it can be risky housing this species with other standard tropical fish.

Can You Put a Flowerhorn with an Oscar?

Flowerhorn cichlids and oscars can sometimes be successfully kept together, but you’ll need a big tank with a good amount of hiding places.

Do Flowerhorn Bites Hurt?

Yes, flowerhorn bites do hurt. The bite of a flowerhorn is akin to a piranha attack – sharp, prickly, and painful. Flowerhorn cichlids have large, pointy teeth that can break the skin, so they definitely aren’t a fish you want to mess with!

However, these fish can be quite affectionate and can form tight bonds with their owners, so not all flowerhorns will bite.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank Size

The flowerhorn cichlid is a big fish, so it needs a pretty large aquarium to thrive. Your flowerhorn tank should be at least 75 gallons in volume for a single fish.

If you want to keep a breeding pair in the same tank, the tank size should be a minimum of 150 gallons.

Water Parameters

Tank size75 gallons
Water typeFreshwater
Water temperature80° to 89.0° Fahrenheit
Water pH6.5-7.8
Water hardness9-20 dGH

What to Put in Their Tank

In addition to a large tank for this big fish, you’ll need to make sure it contains decorations and the right type of aquarium equipment.

Substrate

Flowerhorn fish tend to sift through the substrate to look for food, so aquarium sand is a great option for this species. It’s also easier to maintain than gravel as feces will sit on the top of the sand and won’t get stuck between pieces of rock.

Plants

Flowerhorn cichlids enjoy uprooting and destroying live plants, so it’s best to use hardy plant species like anubias and java fern that can withstand a bit of damage.

Adding live plants to an aquarium
Adding Live Plant to An aquarium

Alternatively, you might want to use artificial plants and other tank decorations like rocks, driftwood, and caves to spruce up your flowerhorn tank.

Filter

Flowerhorn cichlids are messy fish that can quickly succumb in poor water quality, so you’ll need to make sure you use a powerful filter with a strong water flow in your tank setup.

Ideally, your filter should be able to turnover 4 times the volume of your aquarium per hour. So, for a 75-gallon tank, your filter should have a flow rate of at least 300 GPH.

NOTE

The flowerhorn fish can tolerate moderate flow rate to high, but too much flow can harm them.

Heater

Flowerhorn cichlids need warm water to survive, so you’ll need to make sure you have an aquarium heater in your tank.

For a 75-gallon aquarium, use a heater with a rating of 250 to 375 watts. It might be worth using 2 heaters in your flowerhorn tank to allow for even heat distribution. 

Lighting

To provide this aggressive fish with a day/night cycle, you should make sure your tank is equipped with a light. In a normal tank, you don’t need an overly powerful or expensive unit.

However, if you have a planted aquarium, you might want to consider using a full-spectrum light to promote plant growth. 

What to Feed Flowerhorn Fish

Flowerhorn cichlids can be given freeze-dried, live, and frozen foods, but they love live food most of all. It’s important to give your fish a balanced diet to ensure they get the right nutrients.

Bloodworms in Plastic Container
Bloodworms in Plastic Container

Feed juvenile fish and adult fish either a protein-rich diet like fish flake or pellet food made for large cichlids, as well as plenty of frozen and live foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, crickets, grasshoppers, small feeder fish, and krill.

You should also give them plant based foods or vegetables such as squash, cucumber, and zucchini every now and then.

How Much to Feed Flowerhorn

Flowerhorn cichlids should be given as much food as they can finish in around 3 minutes. Make sure you remove leftover food to prevent poor water quality.

When to Feed Flowerhorn

Most flowerhorn cichlid owners (myself included) feed their fish 3 times a day. I personally feed my red dragon flowerhorn once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and then one last time before bed.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Lifespan

Flowerhorn cichlids have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years with good care. A big tank, stable water parameters, suitable tank conditions, and a varied diet will help keep your fish healthy.

Common & Potential Diseases

Like any fish, flowerhorn cichlids can become sick, especially if they are under a lot of stress or not provided with a clean environment. Some of the most common diseases that can affect this freshwater fish are ich, fungal infections, and hole in the head disease.

Hole in the Head Disease

Hole in the head can be particularly dangerous if left to advance. It’s caused by the hexamita parasite, which is commonly found in tanks with bad water quality. 

A fish with hole in the head disease
A Fish with Hole in the Head Disease

Early symptoms are tiny pimples and pits on the fish’s head, as well as appetite loss, lethargy, and stringy white feces. Without treatment, affected fish will develop large, white-colored holes on their head.

Hole in the head disease is usually treated with an antibiotic called metronidazole and large water changes to increase the quality of the water.

Can You Breed Flowerhorns?

Yes, you can breed flowerhorns. Breeding flowerhorn cichlids is fairly easy and follows a similar method to South American cichlids.

How to Breed Flowerhorns

Make sure you offer the male and female flowerhorn cichlid high-protein foods before you breed them to prepare them for the process. Use a 150-gallon breeding tank for the two fish and ensure the water temperature, pH, and water hardness is at an appropriate level for this species.

Tank Setup

An Empty Aquarium
An Empty Aquarium

Place flat rocks on the bottom of the aquarium so the female has somewhere to lay eggs. Next, put a glass divider in the spawning tank so the male and female can view each other without touching. It’s also a good idea to treat your tank water with an antifungal solution as this will prevent fungal infections in the eggs.

Once you’ve finished setting up your tank, you can remove the glass divider. If the pair want to breed, the female will begin to clean the flat rocks and the male will start to chase her.

How to Tell if the Breeding is a Success

The female flowerhorn’s belly will swell up with eggs once the male has inseminated her. She will lay her eggs on the flat rock (usually 700 to 1,000 overall) and the male will fertilize them.

Taking Care of the Fry

The male and female flowerhorn will guard the eggs for a few days, at which point they will hatch.

TIP

It’s best to remove the parents once the eggs have hatched or move the babies to a fry tank so they don’t get eaten.

You can feed the flowerhorn cichlid fry baby brine shrimp, then gradually move them onto daphnia, tubifex worms, and flakes when they are around 2 inches long. 

At 6 to 8 months old, you can move the fry to their own tank or sell them at local fish stores.

How to Tell the Sex of a Flowerhorn Cichlid

The easiest way to tell the sex of a flowerhorn cichlid is by looking at its kok (nuchal hump). Male flowerhorns usually have much larger and thicker humps. In addition, males are normally brighter in color and bigger in size. 

Females will usually have black markings on their dorsal fin, but some males can have these too.

Another way to tell to identify the sex of your flowerhorn is by checking its vent or anal pore beneath its anal fin. In male fish, the anal pores will look like the letter “V”. Female fish, on the other hand, will have anal pores that look more like the letter “U”.

You can learn more about venting by watching this video.

An Easy Way to Know Flowerhorn Gender

Like most cichlids, flowerhorns are bold and lively, making them an interesting fish to watch and interact with. With good care, flowerhorns can even bond with their owners!

However, flowerhorns do require a very large tank, so if you don’t have the space or time to upkeep a big aquarium, then you might want to consider a smaller fish.

In addition, these cichlids are aggressive and territorial by nature, making them unsuitable candidates for community tanks. They do best when housed alone. 

If you’d prefer a community setup with lots of different fish species, the flowerhorn isn’t the right fish for you.

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide helped you learn how to care for flowerhorn cichlids and decide whether you’d like to add one to your tank.

What’s your favorite aspect of the flowerhorn? Be sure to let me know on our social media platforms and share this post with your friends.

If you’re looking for more informative guides on fish species and aquarium product reviews, take a look at our articles here.

(1) KoS, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Share

Share

Mollie Newton
Mollie Newton
Founder of PetMeTwice. I love all types of animals from fish to fluff-balls! I also enjoy writing short stories and helping train animals 🤩