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Flowerhorn Cichlid Care, Types, Tank, Food & Breeding

Flowerhorn cichlid is an outlandish fish that is highly sought after by professional aquarists. The fish is challenging to take care of due to its limited compatibility with other species.

But the effort is worth it as you get to see this eccentric and unique fish swimming in your aquarium.

The guide provides you with expert tips on flowerhorn cichlids care. You will find the essential information required to keep the fish healthy for a long time.

Species Overview

Level of CareIntermediate
Life ExpectancyUp to 10 years
Size16 inches
Aquarium (Tank) Size70 gallons
Water Conditions78.60F to 860F (260C to 300C)
Aquarium (Tank) EnvironmentFreshwater with artificial plants
Aquarium (Tank) MatesLimited

Flowerhorn cichlid is a hybrid of various South American cichlids. It was first successfully bred in 1998 by a group of breeders in Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan.

People in the Far-East prize fish with protruding heads that they called warships. Asian fish hobbyists had crossbred Blue Fiery Mouth fish native to Central America with Jin Gang Blood Parrotfish, a hybrid fish created from breeding Midas and redhead cichlid. The result was a spectacularly shaped freshwater fish that many aquarists prize today.

Several types of flowerhorn fish have been obtained due to crossbreeding, which are classified into different groups. The most popular types include the Golden Monkey, Zhen Zhu, Golden Base, and Kamfa.

Natural Habitat

Flowerhorn cichlids are not found in the wild. The fish has been bred in captivity. But the preferred water conditions of other cichlid species will likely suit the fish.

Cichlids, such as the convict cichlid, ram cichlid, and firemouth, thrive in warm, slow-moving tropical waters. They prefer areas with a generous amount of live plants at the bottom. Must replicate the condition in the tank to ensure that the fish thrive and remain happy inside.

The fish don’t have any natural habitat. Some of them have been introduced to warm waters. They can be found in warm waters in East Asia.



They have one of the most peculiar appearances compared to most other fish. The fish has a vibrant colored growth on the head in the shape of a hump. The hump is present on the head of both males and females.

Another peculiar feature of the fish is the deeply planted eyes that look exotic.

Many flowerhorns have thin and elongated bodies. But some have a disc-shape appearance. The unpaired fins of the fish are in the shape of a fan.

The anal and dorsal fins have a braid-like ending and stretch back to the tail. The tail of the fish is smaller and rounder as compared to the fins. The pectoral fins are almost transparent and shorter as compared to the other fins.


Since these are a hybrid crossbred, each fish has a varied color and shape.

The color of the fish also changes during their lifetime and gets more attractive with age. Standard cichlid color includes purple, blue, green, and red.


Their size is relatively large as they can grow to heights of 12 inches. Some of them can also extend to 15 inches in length. They grow at a fast rate that many find to be rather impressive. The fish can grow up to about an inch a month after hatching.

Behavior & Temperament

Flowerhorn is a highly aggressive fish. It does not welcome other species and strikes and injures them. It can even bite you if you try to feed it with your hand. The fish will swim quickly to the surface when you open the lid to provide. So, you must be careful.

They are not schooling fish. They prefer to swim in pairs which makes them less stressed. The fish like to move around inside the tank instead of staying in one place. But they are a bit slow as compared to most other fish due to their bulky body.

Flowerhorn cichlid front view


Flowerhorn fish has an impressive lifespan. The fish can live up to 12 years.

But you need to take good care of the fish. You should monitor the water parameters and other conditioners to ensure that they are suitable for the fish. Also, it would help if you kept the water tank clean at all times to minimize diseases.

Tank Mates

Flowerhorn cichlids are incredibly territorial. The fish may injure other species in the tank.

If you want to keep other fish in the tank, consider a fish of the same size and temperament as them.

Some that can survive in the tank with these fish include Leopard Pleco, Pirapitinga, and Jaguar cichlids. Other species you can consist of are red terror cichlids, oscar cichlids, giant gourami, spotted hoplo catfish, lowland cichlids, and bushy nose catfish.

You can also keep multiple flowerhorn fish together. But you will have to make sure that there is enough space so that they won’t fight over with each other.

Consider keeping just one pair in an aquarium. The couple will pass the time without any incident most of the time. However, it is also essential to monitor the situation as males sometimes attack females for unknown reasons.

Tank Setup

A powerful external filter is recommended to keep the water inside the aquarium clean. Weekly changes of about 20 percent of water are recommended. Moreover, it would help if you also cleaned the soil substrate regularly to keep the tank disease-free.

The substrate inside the tank should be mono-colored. It should not contain broken or sharp grains that could injure the fish.

The ideal substrate includes large pieces of tile or sand substrates. The fish can swallow gravel substrate that can become stuck in the intestine. You can also keep the bottom of the aquarium bare to be on the safe side.

Moreover, there should be lots of driftwood and rocks to create a cover. Should secure all the decorations since the fish might bump them, which could damage the aquarium.

Water Parameters

Flowerhorn cichlids are highly adaptable and can live in varying water conditions. But the fish does best if the water temperature is kept between 78.60F to 860F (260C to 300C). Should maintain a pH level of water slightly more alkaline between 7.5 and 8.0. Should keep the water hardness level between 9 to 20 dGH.

The water flow should be moderate or high. But it should not be too strong to prevent the fish from swimming inside the tank. In case you see the fish blown away inside the tank, you should consider reducing the flow a bit.

An important thing to remember is that these are sensitive to nitrates, ammonia, and nitrite. The presence of these chemicals inside the tank can cause the fish to become ill and die. So, you need to monitor their levels and cycle water inside the tank regularly.

Nitrates can accumulate since they tends to produce a lot of waste. You can’t see the toxins. So, even if the water looks clean, you should replace the water. Consider using the API freshwater master test kit to test the toxicity of water inside the aquarium.

Food & Diet

Flowerhorns have a good appetite and consume live and dry feed. It would help if you fed them dry dinner, mussels, and frozen prawns. Additionally, you can provide the fish with blood worms, sprats, calamari, or small fish. Consider adding some plant or spirulina-based feed to vary the diet.

The fish should mostly be fed food that is rich in protein. The fish will be done eating about 5 minutes after five minutes. It would help if you provided the fish three times a day. But avoid overfeeding the fish as it can make them sick,

Breeding Tips

Breeding flowerhorn is not that difficult, provided you keep the right tank conditions. The first thing you will need to encourage the fish to breed successfully is to get a large tank. There should be enough space for the fish to mate inside the tank.

They become ready for breeding after about one and a half years. Some of them might be ready to reproduce when they are a year old.

Females lay the egg on a smooth surface such as ceramics or rocks. They will lay up to 900 eggs during a breeding season that the male will fertilize. After the eggs are fertilized, you should place a divider between the male and the eggs.

During the second day, the eggs will begin to hatch. The fry will begin to swim after two more days. It would help if you fed brine shrimp when they are young.

Female will look after the juvenile fish for about two months, after which you can place the young into a separate tank. The fish will start developing its characteristic appearance about six months after birth.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Types

You can find many different types of flowerhorn cichlids. The fish are morphs instead of the other species since they have similar behavior and feeding patterns. Here are the common varieties that you will find in pet stores.


King kamfa flowerhorn cichlid

Kamfa flowerhorns have a sizeable nuchal hump on the head. The strain is also known as Kok. The fish has a vivid pattern with a deep red body and light blue patterns across the body. The fins of the fish are typically white, while the eyes are yellow.

Kamfa also has peculiar black color patterns known as ‘flowers’ that run down the body’s middle part. Some will have the flower pattern on the nuchal hump. The fish are the most sought-after among aquarists.

Golden Base Fader

Golden base flowerhorn

Golden Base Faders are one of the most striking and attractive strains. The fish have a gene that triggers color change throughout the life of the fish.

They are known as faders since the young ones start with red and gold colors that turn black and then again turn to red and gold color as they mature.

Faders generally have red eyes, but some may have other colors. They have pronounced nuchal humps and lack black patterns in the middle of the body, similar to the Kamfa strain.

Red Ingot

Red Ingot is bred from the blood of King Kong parrotfish. They are one of the earliest strains. The red and blood parrotfish have a heavy genetic influence on the red ingot.

They have shorter bodies as compared to most other strains. They also lack a kok but have vivid red color that appears better than the parent blood parrot fish. Like other strains, the red ingot flowerhorn has a sizeable nuchal hump, but the body shape is slightly different.

Golden Monkey

Golden Monkey Flowerhorn Cichlid
Credit: Hmoob Moua

Golden Monkey comes in a range of different colors. Most of them are similar to the Golden Based Fader with slight differences.

The fish commonly have gold and blue pearling over the gold or red body. It tends to have the black line of flower pattern down at the bottom of the body.

The eyes of the Gold Monkey strain are commonly red that protrude similar to that of the Kamfa strain.

They are an extremely rare strain that commands higher prices as compared to other species of flowerhorn cichlids.

Zhen Zhu

Flowerhorn cichlid in aquarium

The Zhen Zhu flowerhorn is considered to have the perfect ‘flower line pattern that runs along the body. The fish strain tends to have red eyes and a more tan or yellow color. The shape is more rounded as compared to other species.

Zhen Zhu strain has iridescent flowering patterns that look attractive. They are usually bred into other pieces to create unique strains. The fish is coupled to other flowerhorn cichlids and other species, making it impossible to track the parent fish.


They are not easy to care for and is not recommended for beginners. Most of them are aggressive. They also grow to a large size. So, you will need to buy a large aquarium at the start.

A 75-gallon tank is recommended if you wish to keep one or two of these. If you intend to keep a large group of these fish, you should consider buying an aquarium with a tank capacity of 125 gallons.

These are aggressive. If you want to keep multiple fish in the aquarium, you need to separate them using a barrier. Plants are not the proper barrier since the fish will destroy them quickly. Consider zoning the territory by installing several shelters to separate different pairs.

Avoid living plants in the aquarium as the fish dig up and eat any green plant it finds in the tank. Consider buying artificial plants and fixing them firmly to prevent the fish from destroying them.

Flowerhorn cichlids can be susceptible to various diseases. Common diseases that generally afflict the fish include hole-in-head disease, digestive problems, and ich. To avoid infections, you should keep the tank regularly.

Diseased fish should be quarantined and treated using appropriate measures. It would help if you inspected newly bought cichlids to look for diseases before introducing them to the fish’s rest.

Where to Buy?

You will not have an easy time finding flowerhorn cichlids for sale online. Pet stores usually charge a high price since they are rare.

It would help if you bought the fish from an experienced and reputed pet store. The fish’s color may vary, but you should ensure that the fish doesn’t behave out of the ordinary. A fish that prefers to swim at one side of the tank or lacks appetite is probably suffering from a disease.

If you want one with a peculiar shape and color, you should consider buying an adult. Younger fish can turn out to be of any color and shape when they grow up.

Wrapping Up

Flowerhorn fish is an exotic fish with an attractively bizarre appearance. The fish is relatively expensive since breeding the fish is difficult. But the cost and the effort in carrying the fish are worth it if you want an out-of-the-ordinary-looking fish in your aquarium.

The striking appearance makes them look like an alien in the fish world. They are no ordinary pet fish. The hybrids will be a conversation starter along with their mysterious origin.

If you want to impress your guests with your pet fish collection, these will be the perfect fish for your tank.