Creating the Ideal Habitat: Aquarium Setup for Blood Parrot Cichlids

The Parrot Cichlid, also known as the Blood Parrot Cichlid, is a popular and unique freshwater fish species in the aquarium hobby. Blood parrot cichlid – is a hybrid of various Cichlidae species, and it’s not encountered in the wild but is a very popular tank fish. It has a rather specific body shape and a very small mouth. It is not demanding, bright-colored, quite peaceful towards its tank mates. Further in the article, you’ll find out how blood parrot fish appeared, whether it is challenging to keep it, tank capacity required, water temperature, proper tank mates, and food.

Habitat in the wild

The fish’s Latin name is absent in catalogs (Cichlasoma sp. name is quite indirect, and it doesn’t say anything, in fact). There is only a commercial name blood parrot cichlid that says nothing about the fish origin.

Cichlids can choose a mate not only from their kind but also from completely different cichlid species. Such a feature made it possible to get a variety of totally incredible hybrids with other fishes genus. Not all hybrids turn out to be a success. Some of them have poor coloring; others become sterile after such intercrossing. But there are exceptions as well, like flowerhorn or blood parrot cichlid. It is a result of artificial crossing.

Probably, the name “parrot” is due to its mouth shape or, maybe, due to its likeness with a marine Parrotfish. You should keep in mind that the latter is a completely different fish genus that inhabits seawater, and we are talking here about freshwater fish.

It is considered first bred in Taiwan, and cichlids that inhabit Central and South America are its predecessors. However, yet there is no common lens in this respect since the fish breeding process is commercial classified information. The exact parentage of Parrot Cichlids is not always disclosed by breeders, but it is believed to involve species such as the Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus), the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), and the Severum (Heros severus), among others. These species are typically chosen for their desirable traits such as coloration, body shape, or temperament.

Three parental genera appear as possible ones:

  • Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) and Redhead cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum)
  • Red devil cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) and Banded cichlid (Heros severus)
  • Red devil cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) and Banded cichlid (Heros severus) + Cichlasoma «theraps»

The hybridization process usually involves crossbreeding the selected parent species and then selectively breeding the resulting hybrids to refine the desired traits. This can involve multiple generations of breeding to achieve the desired characteristics in the offspring, such as the parrot-like beak, round body shape, and vibrant coloration.

Though, there is still a lot of debate whether such hybrids are worth breeding (there is also flowerhorn) because they have some significant flaws if compared with other tank fishes. Concerns have been raised about potential ethical issues and the well-being of the fish involved.

First of all, blood parrot fish has a very small and strange-shaped mouth. This affects its feeding habits and makes it difficult for the fish to compete with those who have large-sized mouths. Another issue is that it has a spinal and air-bladder deformity, which influences its ability to swim. Therefore, surely such hybrids can’t survive in the wild, and they can live only in a tank.

In general, I haven’t succeeded in finding any reliable data about the fish origin despite there are many of them on sale.

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CharacteristicDescription
Scientific NameNo established scientific name; hybrid fish
Common NamesBlood Parrot Cichlid, Parrot Cichlid, Red Parrot Cichlid
OriginHybrid species created through selective breeding
SizeAround 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in length
Lifespan10 to 15 years or longer with proper care
Body ShapeRound and compact with a humped back
ColorationVarious shades of red, orange, yellow, and white
MouthSmall and angled upwards, resembling a parrot’s beak
BehaviorGenerally peaceful, but individual behavior can vary
Tank SizeMinimum of 40 gallons (150 liters) for a single fish
Water ParametersTemperature: 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C); pH: 6.5 to 7.5
DietOmnivorous; a balanced diet of pellets, flakes, and live/frozen foods
CompatibilityGenerally compatible with peaceful tankmates
BreedingDifficult due to hybrid nature; typically sterile
Special ConsiderationsDue to breeding practices, potential health issues and ethical concerns have been raised

Description

Size

How big do parrot cichlids get? The fish itself is average-sized if compared to other cichlid species. On average, adult Parrot Cichlids typically reach a size of around 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in length.

However, its size also depends on several factors:

  • Tank size – there is a direct correlation here – the larger the tank is, the larger fish you can grow.
  • Tank conditions – in clean water with minimal nitrates content, provided regular water renew – the grows good.
  • Feeding – the fish should have a diverse diet, desirably specialized food for cichlids (the main thing is to avoid overfeeding).

The blood parrot fish has a very small mouth and fins. The mouth has an almost triangular shape, and the lips don’t occlude completely, and often, it looks like a smile. The mouth opens only vertically and at a small angle.

Blood parrot fish body is short and rounded. Its unusual body shape is due to its spine deformity, which led to air-bladder deformation. Therefore the fish doesn’t swim well. The fins are small and straight. Anal and dorsal fin ends may be elongated and look like a long trail. Another thing is that sometimes the fish tail fin is cut off. Because this body shape resembles a heart (love heart blood parrot), though it doesn’t make it more graceful.

Lifespan

How long do parrot fish live?

On average, Blood Parrot Cichlids can live for about 10 to 15 years in a well-maintained aquarium with proper care. However, some individuals have been reported to live even longer under ideal conditions. Severe anatomy and morphology changes connected with interspecific hybridization don’t allow these species to survive in the wild and compete with natural fish forms. Still, in a tank, they can live for quite a long time.

How many parrot fish should be kept together?

It’s hard to say.

Parrot Cichlids can exhibit varying degrees of aggression and compatibility. Some individuals or types of Parrot Cichlids may be more aggressive or territorial, while others may be more peaceful. Parrot Cichlids require a spacious tank to accommodate their size and minimize territorial disputes. As a general rule, a tank size of at least 40 gallons (150 liters) is recommended for a single Parrot Cichlid. For multiple Parrot Cichlids, a larger tank is necessary to provide enough space and minimize aggression. The tank size should be increased based on the number of fish being kept.

As a general guideline, it’s recommended to keep a smaller group of Parrot Cichlids in a larger tank to provide ample space and minimize aggression. The specific number of Parrot Cichlids that can be kept together will depend on the tank size, individual behavior, and compatibility of the fish.

Types of parrot cichlids

As a rule, the fish has uniform coloring – red, orange, yellow. However, since it was artificially bred, its breeders do whatever they want. Not so long time ago, a large number of imported fish were artificially dyed. Some of them even had hieroglyphs, hearts, letters on them. Covering the fish with such decorations is a rather painful process, and not all can survive it.

Old school aquarists bridle at treating the fish this way. However, yet if such fish appeared on the market, it means that they are demanded. They are also intensively fed with dyes. You may encounter various fish hybrids with different color patterns or albino species, etc., on the market.

A large percentage of them are artificially dyed. The process can hardly be called a humane one. There are two main approaches:

  • Putting the fish into the dye solution. First, they put it into an alkali solution of a certain concentration. It leads to dissipation of the mucus its skin covering produces (it protects from minor injuries and infection). After the mucus is removed, they put the fish into the dye solution and then into a chemical agent solution that stimulates new mucus layer formation. Such manipulations are extremely stressful for the fish and decrease its immunity essentially. Many species die during the process.
  • Injections. This approach is similar to the one that is used to make tattoos. A needle with a dye is injected under the fish skin, and gradually, step by step, a pattern is created. It requires many injections, which is also severe stress for the fish. The injection site may get infected, and to avoid the fish death, they keep it in a tank with an extremely high antibiotic content. All this has a very negative impact on fish health.

There are several types of parrot cichlids, each with its own unique characteristics and coloration. While the specific taxonomy of parrot cichlids is complex due to hybridization and various breeding efforts, here are some commonly recognized types:

Purple Parrot Cichlid

The Purple Parrot Cichlid displays a stunning purple coloration, often with hints of blue or pink. Its appearance can vary, with some individuals exhibiting a gradient of colors.

Purple Blood Parrot

Yellow Parrot Cichlid

As the name suggests, the Yellow Parrot Cichlid features a predominantly golden or yellow coloration. It can vary in shade, ranging from pale yellow to a deep, rich gold.

Yellow blood parrot

Red Parrot Cichlid

This is one of the most popular and widely available types of parrot cichlids. It typically has a bright red or orange coloration and exhibits the distinctive round body shape and beak-like mouth.

Red blood parrot

Love heart parrot cichlid

A parrot without a caudal fin and with a heart shape, called «Love Heart» in which the shape is achieved by amputating with a blade the caudal fin when they are very young, to get the anal fins and dorsal close over the gap left by it.

Love heart blood parrot

Difficulties in keeping

This cichlid is perfect both for beginners and experienced aquarists. This is a good-tempered fish, so don’t keep it together with aggressive tank mates.

However, if you plan to put the fish in a tank with tank mates of the same size, you should remember that blood parrot cichlid may demonstrate territory dependence towards other fishes quite aggressively.

However, it is good-looking and friendly, engaging, not aggressive. It’s good to have several such fish in a tank. During the spawning period, they dig holes in the bottom substrate to lay eggs. And it is very funny to observe how they swallow a small pebble and then swim away, spit it out near the hole and make a small mound. If you have children, this will be a very exciting sight for them to observe. They’ll ask you dozens of questions.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

For a single Blood Parrot Cichlid, a minimum tank size of 40 gallons (150 liters) is recommended. This provides enough swimming space and allows the fish to establish territories.

If keeping multiple Blood Parrot Cichlids, a larger tank is necessary to accommodate their social dynamics and minimize aggression. As a general guideline, add an additional 20 gallons (75 liters) of tank capacity for each additional Blood Parrot Cichlid. For example, if you plan to keep two Blood Parrot Cichlids, a tank size of 60 gallons (225 liters) or larger would be more suitable.

Water parameters

The blood parrot fish isn’t very demanding to tank water parameters – water temperature should be 75-82 °F (24-28 °C), acidity about pH 7, hardness 2 – 25 dGH. Consequently, you will also need a powerful canister filter and weekly water renews – about 20% of total tank capacity.

Tank setup: decorations and plants

Add many shelters since the blood parrot fish is a timid one. As a rule, you will not even see it in the tank at first. Just when somebody enters the room, the fish hides into any accessible shelter.

According to my experience, it took the blood parrot fish almost 3 months to get used to us. After this, the fish stopped hiding. However, it’s definitely not the option not to create any shelters in the tank at all. The fish will be stressed all the time, and this may cause some diseases.

Gradually it learns to recognize the one who feeds it and performs water renews, and then the fish will take food from your hands and spend a lot of time near the front tank glass. A glass cover for a tank is a must since the fish can jump out of the tank and die.

The blood parrot fish prefers rocky bottom with cavities, cracks, and caves, which it uses as shelters. Therefore, you’ll need flower pots, small castles, caves, coconut shells, and other shelters. Like all cichlids, blood parrot likes digging tank bottom, so choose a large-grained bottom substrate to prevent injuries when digging.

The blood parrot fish coloring has maximum contrast with the dark background. They fancy digging a lot, so they may completely change the tank appearance. Put large round, smooth stones (so they don’t get injured) where you don’t want the fish to dig. Also, prepare large stones to hold tank plants steady and a flat stone for spawning.

Blood parrot compatibility with plants is a quite controversial issue, and possibly it depends on each species’ individual peculiarities. Some aquarists say their fish completely ignore tank plants. Others – they destroy plants in all possible ways. Thus, to be on the safe side, it’s better to choose stiff-leaved plants such as anubias. They should be reliably fixed because the fish can dig its roots, and the plant will float. Live plants must be put in the background or near the tank sidewalls. Use heavy stones to hold their roots near the tank bottom, and don’t put the plants where the fish thinks they shouldn’t be.

If you want blood parrot cichlids to dig the substrate less, don’t raise the water temperature higher than 75°F (24°C). The temperature does have an impact on their behavior. When you decrease the temperature, they stop digging since they stop preparing for spawning because digging for them is, first of all, preparing a place for their future offspring (to prevent the juveniles from swimming away from the hole they dig in the substrate).

Light

The light shouldn’t be very bright, and it’s better to select the lamps with red light spectrum prevailing. It makes the fish look more appealing. Under the lamps with blue spectrum prevailing, they look quite pale.

Filtration

Blood parrot cichlids are very large, and they produce a lot of waste products, so it is necessary to ensure proper filtration in the tank. The best choice, in this case, is an external filter of proper power. If you use an external filter, try to direct the water flow to the water surface. Water surface fluctuations increase the interchange of gases in the tank and prevent dust accumulation on the surface. In case there isn’t enough oxygen in the water (the fish gets to the surface and breathe heavily) and use additional aeration.

Diet

Blood parrot cichlids feeding has peculiarities due to two things – their unusual mouth and the necessity to support their bright coloring. Half of the food doesn’t get to their mouth, and they can’t really pick up the food from the tank bottom. They can take the food from the water surface, but they often miss it. To pick up the food leftovers from the tank bottom, you should keep some catfishes (like Corydoras julii, panda cory, pictus catfish, or banjo catfish). Otherwise, the leftovers will rot and poison the tank water quite quickly.

Although the fish can eat almost any kind of food in the tank, the best choice is high-quality artificial food made especially for blood parrot cichlids considering their feeding peculiarities. There was even developed special food for them, made as floating granules or pellets. These round pellets float on the water surface for a long time and are available for them to eat. It contains natural dyes to boost the fish coloring, which is visible just two weeks after you start feeding them with this food.

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As an alternative, you can use full-fledged food for all cichlid types. It is rich in nutrients and contains concentrated natural coloring boosters. We should mention that blood parrot cichlids tend to overeat, so make sure you don’t overfeed them. It’s good to feed them several times a day with small food portions.

Tank mates

You should bear in mind that though blood parrot fish is a peaceful one, it is still a cichlid and not very small. Therefore, all small fishes in a tank it takes as food. So, you should forget about keeping such small fishes as guppy, platy, or neon tetra.

You should choose blood parrot fish tank mates of the same size. If these are cichlids, they shouldn’t be aggressive – firemouth cichlid, kribensis will do. But cichlids like oscar fish, convict cichlid and flowerhorn are not. Also, the following average-sized fast fishes can share the tank with blood parrot: tiger barb, clown loach, emperor tetra.

Certain cichlid species known for their peaceful nature can be good tank mates for Blood Parrot Cichlids. Examples include Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) and Keyhole Cichlids (Cleithracara maronii).

You should keep the fish in small groups of about 3-5 species. Why one blood parrot fish constantly abuses the other one, what should I do?

Sadly, their gender dimorphism isn’t quite pronounced, and the situation is possible when there are many males in the tank, or a dominating couple is formed that chases its relatives. In this case, having many shelters in the tank will do good.

What you can do:

  1. Sell the aggressive fish and create a friendly couple by selecting the species.
  1. Create many shelters in the tank for the weaker fish, divide the tank territory with some decorations (a cave, a snag, a bush of plants) to make this an obstacle on the aggressive fish’s way when chasing the weaker one.
  1. Put a partition wall with holes to let the water flow till the fish get used to each other. The advantage you get is that the weaker species have a chance to study their part of the tank and feel more confident during their conflicts later, especially if the weaker one will grow during this time.

If the tank capacity allows, add one fish at a time until you get a friendly community/school inside. In the school, their aggression is directed towards different species, and when keeping a couple, the strong fish has only one victim. Parrot cichlids feel more confident in a group. The optimal number of species in a group so from 5 species.

blood parrot: male vs female

Distinguishing between male and female Blood Parrot Cichlids can be challenging because they are a hybrid fish resulting from the crossbreeding of different cichlid species. Blood Parrot Cichlids are known for their unique shape, which can make it difficult to identify their gender based on physical characteristics alone.

Blood parrot cichlids become reproductive at the age of one year and a half. During breeding or spawning periods, males may exhibit more aggressive and territorial behavior. They may also display brighter colors or intensify their existing coloration to attract females. You can see between the fish male and female due to the shape of its anal cone. The female fish has her anal cone of pear-shaped form, and it becomes more pronounced during the spawning period.

Study their behavior attentively – males are more assured, the females are timider. In the couple, the female usually swims a bit behind the male, and it looks like she tries to be protected by him.

Breeding

Though blood parrot cichlid regularly lays eggs in a tank, in most cases, they are sterile. Sometimes it is reported about successful cases of breeding in a tank, but typically the fish mates with some other species, and if the spawning is successful, their offspring appears to be poorly colored and not very good-looking.

Like all other cichlids, blood parrot cichlid looks after its eggs very fervidly, but gradually the eggs get white and covered with fungus, and the fish eats them. All blood parrots you see on sale are imported from Asia. Hormones are used for successful breeding.

Despite this fact, the couple demonstrates distinctive mating behavior, which is very interesting to observe.

It usually starts from building a nest. They dig a large hole and then lay eggs in it. Sometimes the eggs are on tank plant leaves or flat tank decorations. The breeders patiently guard their nest, and any intruder will be attacked. They instinctively take care of their eggs, fan them with their fins, for example. Despite all their efforts, several days later, all fertilized eggs get white and die, and then they are eaten by other fishes or the breeders.

There were cases when eggs of blood parrot cichlid female got fertilized by a male of closely related cichlid species (like convict cichlid or green terror). In this case, the offspring may survive, but its appearance will have poor similarity to blood parrots.