Flowerhorn care and keeping

Flowerhorn cichlid is a unique fish with a very interesting behavior, temper and completely unusual appearance. Those who decided to keep fish in a tank have never regretted it.

Cichlids 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 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 cichlid, is exactly the result of artificial crossing. As well as a 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 is a hybrid, however it doesn’t tend to get sick, it’s good looking and fruitful.

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 juveniles you’ll see series of wonderful color changes and who knows, maybe you’ll have an awesome colored fish in the end?

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 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 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 fish alone as a rare show fish. It is rather territory-dependent with aggressive temper and rather bad behaved as for its tank mates (except for big tanks of about 175 gallons capacity). In smaller tanks tankmates will get injured or they will be stressed all the time.

Habitat in the wild

Flowerhorn 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 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 this 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 red terror, Cichlasoma citrinellum, Cichlasoma labiatum, Vieja synspila.

The first breeding line of 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), Red Dragon, Gold (golden base), Red Texas.


Max size may be up to 30 cm (12 in). There are some species of 40 cm body length. 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 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 fish. Mainly all 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 photos showed that morphologically “flowerhorns” 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 breeding process was performed simultaneously in several breeding lines.

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 body sides.

Lifespan is about 8-10 years.

Qualitative cichlid has to meet the standards of its body shape

  • — the 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 feature. Some new morphs don’t pay that much attention to it.
  • — coloring: the most common fishes flowerhorn 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.

Difficulties in keeping

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, fish is very aggressive and territory-dependent, so it’s desirable to keep the fish alone in a tank – without any tank mates and even plants. Beginners can easily find smaller and more peaceful cichlid. 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.


These 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.

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.

I myself give some of this food to my pets and as for the rest I’ve heard and read lots of good reviews. Yet, all of the food is of high quality and it is the best one for this fish kind as well as it keeps the tank water clean.

Care and keeping in a tank

Just like all other large cichlids from South America, 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 is kept in a tank, its capacity should be 100-120 gallons, if tank mates are other cichlids – 175-200 gal capacity tank is required. The fish loves moderate flow and clean water, so a 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 fish is quite capable to turn them over.

Scientific NameNone
Common NameFlowerhorn, flower horn, flowerhorn cichlid, flower fish, flowerhead fish, horn fish
Tank size100 gallons (400L) and more
Temperature75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
Size30 cm (12 in)

Compatibility and tank mates

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 couple, but in case if you still want to have 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 fish: parrot fish, jaguar cichlid, tiger oscar, black pacu, leopard pleco, plecostomus. However, as a rule those who keep fish 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 couple so they won’t kill each other.


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


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

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.

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 couple is kept separately and there’s no hazard, the 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. Ich fry and juveniles are large and easy in care.

Juveniles can be fed with brine shrimp eggs, milled feeds for large cichlids.