Basics of flower horn fish keeping

Flower Horn is a unique fish with a very interesting behavior, temper and completely unusual appearance.

Those who decided to keep Flower horn in a tank have never regretted it.

Cichlid fishes as a rule aren’t very critical when choosing their couple match, therefore they can make couples not only with their kind, but also with completely different cichlid fish types.

Such a peculiarity gave breeders a possibility to obtain a number of amazing hybrids with different kinds of fishes. Not all the hybrids are successful, some of them doesn’t have good coloring, some become sterile after such breeding.

But there are always some exceptions.

One of the famous and popular tank fishes – parrot fish, is exactly the result of artificial crossing. As well as a flowerhorn cichlid, it’s a son of genetics and Malaysian aquarists persistence.

It was Malaysia where thorough line breeding and different cichlid types breeding (which ones no one yet knows for sure) was performed to get a healthy and fruitful breed.

Flowerhorn cichlid fish is a hybrid, however it doesn’t tend to get sick, it’s good looking and fruitful.

red dragon flowerhorn
red dragon flowerhorn

thai silk flowerhorn

Interesting peculiarity of the fish is that it changes its color during its life up to reproductive stage. So, if you are interested in buying a bright colored fish of certain color, you have to choose from mature fishes.

Otherwise, you’ll be surprised later and possibly in a bad way. From the other hand, if you buy flowerhorn cichlid juveniles you’ll see series of wonderful color changes and who knows, maybe you’ll have an awesome colored fish in the end?

Flowerhorn care is very easy since the fish isn’t demanding and it’s an enduring one. Let’s mention that the fish grows up to be very large – about 30-40 cm and it requires a spacious tank, especially if the fish has some tank mates.

Flowerhorn fish likes digging tank bottom and eating the tank plants, so you aren’t likely to create some kind of nice aqua-scape with plants. Because of that and due to the fish size it’s recommended to put rocks, snags and other tank decorations directly on a tank bottom, not on a substrate.

Otherwise, fishes will move the decorations around the tank as they wish. It’s better to keep flowerhorn fish alone as a rare show fish. It is rather territory-dependent fish with aggressive temper and rather bad behaved as for its tank mates (except for big tanks of about 175 gallons capacity). In smaller tanks flowerhorn cichlid tankmates will get injured or they will be stressed all the time.

Habitat in the wild

Flowerhorn fish is a hybrid artificially bred and it means that it can never be seen in the wild.

The first fish was bred in Malaysia in 90-th of XX century by breeding of several types of fishes, mainly cichlid fishes from South America. Breeders were amazed by its hump on the head and they called the fish “Karoli” which means a fighting ship.

The question what kind of fishes were bred to get flowerhorn cichlid is still controversial. The true combination is known only to those who bred it. Aquarists agree that the fish comes from breeding of Cichlasoma trimaculatum and Cichlasoma Festae, Cichlasoma citrinellum, Cichlasoma labiatum, Vieja synspila.

Thai Silk Flowerhorn Eats Frog

The first breeding line of flowerhorn cichlids that appeared on the market was called Hua Luo Han. Hua Luo Han was bred approximately in 1998.

But since then it became very popular as well as lots of its morphs and hybrids. Some of them are with huge forehead humps or with shortened or curved body and etc.

The most popular hybrids nowadays are: KamFa , Kamalau (KML or Golden Monkey), Zhen Zhu (ZZ) and Thai Silk (Titanium Flower Horn), Red Dragon, Gold flowerhorn (golden base), Red Texas.


Flower Horn max size may be up to 30 cm (12 in). There are some species of 40 cm body length. Flower fish growth rate is rather impressing, during their first year of life they grow up to 2 cm in a month.

Flowerhorn is a typical large American cichlid with big bulky body, fan-shaped unpaired fins and a bright colored hump on its forehead. It’s interesting that not only flowerhorn cichlid male has such a hump, but the female, too – but it’s rather small and unpronounced.

This is the only common thing they have.

Very seldom one can see two identical species of flowerhorn fish. Mainly all horn fish species even relatives from one breed vary greatly in coloring and body shape. During their life the coloring changes and it gets its full beauty when the fish becomes reproductive.

Attentive studies of lots of horn fish photos showed that morphologically “flower horns” can be divided into several groups, each of them will have its dominating features common with their parental type.

Therefore, it’s quite possible that the fish breeding process was performed simultaneously in several breeding lines. The following typical fish types were created then: “Regular Fowerhorns”, “Pearl Scale Flowerhorns or “Zhen Zhu”, “Golden Flowerhorns”, “Flowerhorns That Fade, “Kamfa strains”. Besides, there’s fish classification (A, AA, B, BB, C), where the class depends on a shape and intensity of bands and spots on the fish body sides.

Flowerhorn cichlid lifespan is about 8-10 years.

    Qualitative Flower horn cichlid has to meet the standards of its body shape:

  • — the fish body: has to be oval shaped, big and bulky with rounded abdomen. Some new morphs have more rounded shape.
  • — occipital hump: it should be big and symmetrical to the body proportions.
  • — black spots: it’s important for them to be thick and easily visualized since this is the main Flower horn feature. Some new fish morphs don’t pay that much attention to it.
  • — coloring: the most common fishes Flower horn are usually red. In ant case – any color should be bright and well defined.
  • — fins: fluke and other fins has to be as large as possible.

Flowerhorn care difficulties

Flowerhorn care is rather easy since the fish adapts to water parameters well, which may be a problem for other fishes. Also the fish isn’t demanding as for feeding – it eats any protein containing feed: both artificial and live one.

It has to be mentioned that though the fish seems to be good for beginners, it’s not – for several good reasons.
Firstly, it’s a very large fish requiring a spacious tank.

Secondly, flowerhorn fish is very aggressive and territory-dependent, so it’s desirable to keep the fish alone in a tank – without any tankmates and even plants. Beginners can easily find smaller and more peaceful cichlid fish. Finally, flowerhorn is so aggressive, that it attacks and bites its owner’s hand while feeding or maintaining the tank.

However, if you are sure that this is the fish you want, no circumstances should stop you. Despite, all above mentioned obstacles this fish is ok for beginners, if they will study the fish and if they are ready to face some problems.

Flowerhorn cichlid feeding

These tank fishes (at the condition that the fish is healthy) have perfect appetite. They eat both life and dry feed. The fish eagerly eats special dry feed for flowerhorns and common frozen prawns or mussels.

It will gladly feed on blood worm or fresh sprats (or other small fish), pieces of calamary or low fat fish (like goldfish). Also horn fish requires some plant additions to the diet or some feed based on spirulina.

Flowerhorn eating crawfish

When feeding these fishes in a community tank you’ll be surprised how fast they swim to the feeding hand. By the way, flowerhorns aren’t afraid of humans at all and they let us touch them.

But, do it carefully since they can bite. The fish is a glutton, so when it refuses to eat it may be a signal that the fish is ill. Anyway, an important thing is not to overfeed them.

Keeping in a tank

Just like all other large cichlids from South America, flowerhorn cichlid tank should be very spacious. If the fish is kept alone then minimal tank capacity should be 70 gallons, but the larger the better.

If a couple of fish is kept in a tank, its capacity should be 100-120 gallons, if flowerhorn tank mates are other cichlids – 175-200 gal capacity tank is required. The fish loves moderate flow and clean water, so a best canister filter is necessary as well as weekly water renew and bottom siphonate (since flowerhorn makes a mess when eating).

As for the tank decorations, it’s difficult to create them – the fish likes digging and doesn’t like plants. There’s no pint in putting plants into the tank at all – they will be ruined.

Gravel should be used as a substrate and big rock and snags as covers, however the fish doesn’t like hiding and it’s rather active.

Make sure that rocks and other tank decorations, equipment are anchored well and they won’t fall, since flowerhorn is quite capable to turn them over.

Scientific NameNone
Common NameFlower Horn, Flowerhorn cichlid
Tank size100 gallons (400L) and more
Temperature75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
Size30 cm (12 in)

Flowerhorn cichlid compatibility with other fishes

The fish isn’t a good tank mate for any other fish, since it’s very large, aggressive and territory-dependent. It’s better to keep one fish alone or a fish couple, but in case if you still want to have flowerhorn tank mates – a tank should be very spacious. Even large fish such as angelfish are in danger.

Flowerhorn will even attack you and bite when maintaining the tank. To decrease its aggressiveness a spacious tank is required with lots of covers and large tank mates in it.

The following tank mates are good for horn fish: jaguar cichlid, tiger oscar, black pacu, leopard pleco, plecostomus. However, as a rule those who keep flowerhorn come to conclusion that this fish must live alone in a tank!

If you want to breed flowerhorns, remember that the fish aggressiveness spreads on its relatives. Carefully watch the fish couple so they won’t kill each other.

SRD Flowerhorn Vs Jaguar Cichlid

Amazon Best Sellers for American cichlids
TetraCichlid Cichlid FlakesNutritionally Balanced Diet for All Cichlids
These hearty flakes stay firm and won’t disintegrate when fish strike them
Enhanced with vitamin C and the patented
Hikari 8.8-Ounce Cichlid Bio-GoldFloating pellets allow easy monitoring of amount eaten
Contains Beneficial Probiotic Living Microorganisms – Hikari Germ
More utilization of the nutrition equates to less waste output
Contains stabilized vitamin-C which wont degrade over time and supports a healthy immune system
Hikari Germ super-charges the digestive process allowing better utilization of the color enhancing ingredients
API Cichlid PelletContains one (1) API CICHLID LARGE PELLETS Large Floating Pellets Fish Food 7.1-Ounce Container
CichlidsFloating pellets formulated with a wide range of natural ingredients to meet the nutritional requirements of large Cichlids
Pellets specifically designed for cichlids that are at least 5 inches long
Feed twice a day the amount of food that your fish will consume within 3 minutes
Hikari Freeze Dried Tubifex WormsConvenient, Small Cubes Of Tubifex Worms
Will not cloud the water
Multi-vitamin rich to reduce stress and stress related diseases
Free of parasites and harmful bacteria
Nitrogen charging reduces oxidation prior to opening
Northfin Food Cichlid FormulaOnly the highest marine grade proteins and additives are used
Artificial pigment free and has no added hormones
Manufactured in a CFIA /USDA/FDA registered and certified facility in Toronto, Canada
Gravel Cleaners
Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance SystemWill not disturb fish or decor during routine aquarium maintenance
Adapts easily to most faucets
Complete ready-to-use system
KEDSUM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum SiphonFish Tank Sand Cleaner Water Filter with 2.11Gal /min
Aquarium Water Treatments
Seachem American Cichlid SaltReplicates natural environment
Includes all necessary trace elements
Use with water changes
Seachem ReplenishReplaces Minerals Stripped By Ro Units
Prevents Osmotic Shock
Creates optimal conditioning
Seachem PrimeDechlorinates
Detoxifies heavy metals
Promotes natural slime coat
Will not overactivate protein skimmers
Aquarium Filters
Fluval FX4 Canister FilterMulti-stage filter pumps out 700 US Gal (2650 L) of water per hour
Self-starting – just add water, plug in and Smart Pump will take over
Trapped air auto-evacuated every 12 hours to ensure maximum efficiency
Easy water changes eliminate
Simply attach hosing
Media baskets eliminate water bypass and hold a total of 1 US Gal (3.9 L) of media
Marineland Penguin Power FilterCertified flow rate of 350GPH
Perfect for all aquariums up to 70-gallon
Uses two Rite-Size C” filter cartridges
Delivers easy, three stage mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration
Convenient Penguin Rite Size Cartridges come ready to use with each filter
Aquarium Test Kits
API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-TestIncludes Freshwater pH, High Range pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate.
Kit features computer-analyzed laminated color cards, instruction booklet, 4 test tubes, a holding tray and test tube rac
Made in USA
Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, nitrite, nitrate, carbonate and general water hardness
Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear
Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Test StripsWith Tetra EasyStrips Now More Convenient to Test Your Water
More accurate hardness test
Reaction stops in 60 seconds to prevent false higher readings
Aquarium Décor
Zoo Med Tag Mopani WoodZoo Med Laboratories mopani Wood
A beautiful two color African hardwood for aquariums or terrariums
One of the hardest and densest woods available
Sinks immediately in aquariums and unlike driftwood, will not rot
Coco Philippines Java FernLIVE IMPORTED PHILIPPINES JAVA FERN — Microsorum pteropus “Philippine”, or Philippines Java Fern is a beautiful species of underwater fern
Tantora Premium Grade Catappa Indian Almond Leaves50 Medium “Indian Almond Leaves” 5-7 Inches
All natural and organic; Rich in tannins
Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
Stimulates fish and shrimp color

Sex differences

There’s no highly reliable way to see between flowerhorn male and female yet. When reproductive fish species are ready to spawn a female has visible thick ovipositor and the male has papilla.


Very often such hybrids are fertil, i.e. they can’t breed. But it’s not about flowerhorn fish.

To get the juveniles of the same color as their parents one has to know well how pure is their breeding line, otherwise the juveniles will differ greatly from their parents.

Flowerhorn breeding is very much alike with other large South America cichlids breeding. Usually, the fish breeds in the same tank where it lives and the biggest problem is to save the female from the male attacks.

You have to design the tank so, that the female will have a place to hide and the male won’t see her. Quite often the female isn’t ready for spawning, but the male starts haunting and attacking her. Another way is to divide the tank into two parts using a net, so the female is safe and the sight of other fish stimulates the beginning of spawning.

Also one can put a big flat rock near the net and remove all other objects where she can spawn from the female side of the tank. When she lays the eggs on this rock, it is then removed to the male’s section of the tank and the water flow is directed on the rock so the male can fertilize the eggs.

Kamfa flowerhorn breeding

In any case, – with or without the net, you’ll have to create the conditions stimulating spawning.

Water temperature should be about 28° C, the water should have neutral pH 7.0. The fishes should be fed a lot with qualitative feed, also the major part of the tank water can be renewed with fresh one.

The parents will guard their eggs eagerly. Even if the fish couple is kept separately and there’s no hazard, the flowerhorn male can decide that the female is needless here and start attacking her.

In this case it’s better to remove the female from the tank or to put it back behind the net. Flowerhorn cichlid ich fry and juveniles are large and easy in care. Flowerhorn fish juveniles can be fed with brine shrimp eggs, milled feeds for large cichlids.

6 thoughts on “Basics of flower horn fish keeping

  1. Does anyone know of reputable breeders in the USA? If so please let me know I’m interested in buying one.

  2. I do not know any breeders but i do know a man who may. He runs North Florida aquatics. You could message him on Facebook and i am sure he would be more than happy to help you. I bought my guy there and we love him to death. He is absolutely perfect!!

  3. I just got a beautiful Flowerhorn male on EBay, the seller is the one in Sacramento , CA. She shipped priority and even though it took 3 days he was perfect on arrival. Good price, healthy fish.

    • Diana… I live in the Sacramento area, can you give me that breeder’s contact info? … thanks, Ken

  4. hq_sells is the seller name on EBay. Sorry I am new at this and just saw this posted asking. She have many listings and is VERY helpful. I questioned everything! My fish is so happy and healthy. She hand picked me a make and I am VERY happy. Just search Flowerhorn on Ebay

  5. On EBay if you search SRD red dragon flowerhorn fries…Item# 112433618792. The seller is hq_sells. I can’t say how happy I am and this person has been helpful in every way as an expert. Message them and I am sure you can get a beautiful fish.

Comments are closed.