Flowerhorn Care: Lifespan, Tank Mates, Diet, & Health

flowerhorn-care
Written by Jordan

Quick Stats

  • Family: N/A
  • Scientific Name: N/A
  • Care level: Beginner/Intermediate
  • Temperament: Large Aggressive – Predatory
  • Diet: Carnivorous/Predatory
  • Water conditions: 25 – 30 degrees Celcius (77 – 86F), pH 7.0-8.0
  • Max Size: 30 – 40 centimeters (12 – 15 inches)
  • Minimum tank size (as adult): 200 Liters (50 gallons)

Brief Overview: Flowerhorn Care

Also known as the Flowerhorn Cichlid, Flowerhorns are an entirely man-made ornamental aquarium fish and therefore have no assigned scientific classification. This hybrid fish was developed by hobbyists in Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan around 1998, and is only seen in the wild as a result of introduction via release or escape from captivity. The fish is named for the characteristic forehead protrusion or “flower” sported by most types.

The species of cichlids used to create the Flowerhorn are not known but fish experts speculate some combination of South American cichlids, possibly including the Three Spot Cichlid (Cichlasoma trimaculatum), Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), Red Devil (Amphilophus labiatus), and Redhead Cichlid (Vieja synspila). The Flowerhorn is also known by its Chinese common name, Hua Luo Han.

This fish grows rather large and requires a large tank in which it can swim freely. Due to its hybridized nature and the subsequent large variety of subtypes, the Flowerhorn Cichlid can vary widely in size and appearance. Generally, Flowerhorn Cichlids have big, bulky, oval-shaped bodies with a rounded abdomen. They have a large occipital hump (forehead protrusion), large flukes and fines, and thick black spots. Most varieties sport hues of red. All types of Flowerhorn are generally easy to care for and hardy, healthy individuals.

The creation of the Flowerhorn Cichlid has faced some criticism as it has resulted in many frowned-upon practices in the fishkeeping community. These include breeding for visible deformities, culling of less aesthetically pleasing and unwanted fish. Some excess fish were dumped into the river systems of Malaysia and Singapore, where this invasive, aggressive fish bred quickly and disrupted entire ecosystems, competing with and outright consuming native species.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Lifespan

How Long Do Flowerhorn Cichlids Live For?

Fahaka Pufferfish have a life expectancy 8 to 10 years in an aquarium with proper care and conditions.

How fast/slow should you expect Flowerhorn Cichlid to grow?

Flowerhorn Cichlids are categorized by a growth rate of up to 2 centimeters per month for the first year, so they should be kept in an appropriately-sized tank early on. Flowerhorns should be able to easily swim and turn around in their tank.

What’s Flowerhorn Cichlid’s max size?

Flowerhorn Cichlids can grow quite large, between 30 and 40 centimeters in length depending on the variety.

Different types of Flowerhorn Cichlid

Since their creation in the 1990s, Flowerhorn Cichlids have been crossed and re-crossed with various species and bred for a seemingly-unending variety of sub-types, resulting in numerous variations in patterns and colors. Here are a few of the most common types of flowerhorns.

Zhen Zhus: Zhen Zhus are the most common Flowerhorn subtype. Their name translates to “pearl flowerhorn,” and they are aptly named for their characteristic bright, pearl-colored pattern and large head “flower.” Zhen Zhus usually have a large mouth, bulbous red eyes, and rounded tail. Zhen Zhus’ popularity stems from their ease of breeding and hardy nature.

Kamfa: The Kamfa subtype has a large, blocky build, white or yellow recessed eyes, smaller mouth, fanned tail, and may have a head flower. This type is more territorial and aggressive than other Flowerhorns, are difficult to breed, and mature much later than Zhen Zhus.

Golden Base: These types of Flowerhorn are known as “Faders” because they turn black as juveniles, becoming more vividly colored upon maturity. Golden base Flowerhorns are usually red or yellow. Many of this type were created by crossing King Kong Parrots with green Texas cichlids.

Golden Monkey: Also known as Malau, Golden Monkeys sport the traditional head hump and have a pearled pattern similar to a Zhen Zhu all over. Golden Monkey females are often bred with Zhen Zhu males to produce the popular IndoMalau strain.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Diet & Feeding

Flowerhorn Cichlids can be fed a wide variety of food, from live or frozen fish and shrimp to specially-formulated pellets.

What do Flowerhorn Cichlids eat in the wild?

South American cichlids have a varied diet in the wild.

What foods are recommended for Flowerhorn Cichlids?

Recommended foods for a Flowerhorn Cichlid kept in an aquarium include pelleted food specially formulated for cichlids, meal worms, wax worms, small live or frozen fish, brine shrimp, and standard fish food flakes.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Feeding habits

A juvenile Flowerhorn Cichlid can be offered food in the form of brine shrimp and small fish, but larger and older Flowerhorns may ignore these smaller options.

Older Flowerhorns do just fine on standard fish food, but variety should be added to their diet in the form of live or frozen fish and worms.

Flowerhorn Cichlids should be fed at least twice each day, with extra care taken not to overfeed or leave leftover food in the tank.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank Setup

flowerhorn-tank-setup

My girlfriend playing with our flowerhorn.(Zhen Zhu)

Flowerhorn Cichlids have specific needs when it comes to their tank setup.

A brief overview of natural habitat

Flowerhorn Cichlids are a man-made hybrid and therefore do not occur naturally in the wild. Some populations have cropped up in parts of Asia in areas where individuals were dumped illegally. The various cichlid species thought to make up the Flowerhorn originated in South America, where they prefer the streams, creeks, and rivers of the Amazon Basin. These bodies of water are generally acidic and slow-flowing, with dense vegetation, a large amount of driftwood, and a fine clay or sandy bottom.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank size

Due to a Flowerhorn’s large adult size, they need a large tank of at least 200 liters (50 gallons).

If you are set on attempting to breed or keeping multiple species in one tank, the tank should be large enough that the cichlids have plenty of hiding spaces to avoid one another and the conflicts that will otherwise inevitably arise.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Water conditions

Flowerhorns are generally hardy and can adapt well to a variety of water parameters. Flowerhorn Cichlids are a freshwater species. Water should be kept at an ideal temperature between 25 and 30 degrees Celcius (77 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit) and their ideal pH is relatively neutral, between 7.0 and 8.0.

Water filtration is important due to the large amounts of refuse the Flowerhorn creates that lead to higher ammonia and nitrite levels. Internal or external filtration can be used, but external filtration leaves more room for your fish to move around in the tank. Water changes should be performed bi-weekly.

Decorations

Flowerhorns are voracious diggers. As a result, tanks should have decorations anchored to the glass bottom of the tank and not depend on the substrate to keep them in place. A fine gravel or sand substrate is optimal. Be sure that rocks and wood are secure to avoid them falling on your fish. Live plants assist with filtration and oxygenation but choose strong species such as big anubias as Flowerhorns will dig in the surrounding substrate and may eat plants. Combinations of rocks, plants, and logs can give Flowerhorns spaces to hide from one another, especially in a potential breeding situation, as males tend to bully females.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Tank Mates

Flowerhorn Cichlids are large and aggressive towards other fish, and should ideally be housed alone as a single show fish.

If you are set on a tank with multiple species, tanks should be very large (800 liters or more) and tanks should be laid out and decorated in such a way that cichlids can hide from one another and establish individual territories.

Flowerhorn Cichlid General Behavior

Though known for their high levels of aggression towards other fish, Flowerhorn Cichlids are generally curious, interacting with their exhibit decorations and interested in their environment. They spend most of their time swimming in open water, showing off their vibrant coloration.

Flowerhorns are known to bite the hands that feed them, so care should be taken when feeding. It is recommended you use feeding prongs to avoid any mishaps.

How to Keep Flowerhorn Cichlids Healthy

Flowerhorn Cichlids are generally hardy but susceptible to typical fish ailments.

Common diseases to look out for with Flowerhorns

Like most aquarium fish, Flowerhorns are susceptible to ich. Symptoms of ich include twitching, rubbing their bodies on various surfaces in the tank, and the appearance of white spots on the body and gills. They usually respond well to medication and heal quickly. Ich can be treated by elevating the tank water temperature to 30 degrees Celcius for 3 days. If that does not work, treat with copper-based medication.

Most Cichlid species can be prone to Hole-in-the-Head disease, or Lateral Line Erosion, where a lesion develops in the head and lateral lines of the fish. The exact cause of this disease is unknown but may be caused by a flagellate parasite or mineral deficiency. Treatment includes antibiotics to treat the parasite, vitamin and mineral supplementation, and improvement of nutrition and water quality. This disease can be deadly if not treated.

Flowerhorns can be affected by skin flukes and other parasites, fungal infections, and bacterial infections. Know the signs and treatments of common fish diseases in order to keep your Flowerhorns happy and healthy.

Tips on Keeping the Flowerhorn Cichlid in Good Health

Flowerhorns are usually relatively easy to keep healthy as long as you monitor your water composition. Perform water changes and test water quality semi-regularly to keep ammonium and nitrite levels in check, and do not overfeed, as food waste will cause these levels to spike.

Due to their solitary nature, you rarely need to worry about Flowerhorn Cichlids catching illnesses from other fish unless you choose to feed your Flowerhorns live fish. Take care that any live food you feed comes from a reputable source with healthy feed quality.

Breeding Flowerhorn Cichlids

Flowerhorn Cichlid breeding success varies depending on the variety. Most hybrid fish, in general, are infertile, though suprisingly some of these sub-types have been shown to readily breed. The Zhen Zhus are an example of a Flowerhorn Cichlid that matures young and produces offspring readily.

Due to their aggressive nature, a breeding pair of Flowerhorns together in a tank should be well-fed and regularly monitored, and the tank should be set up so the female has places to hide from the male.

Interesting Facts About Flowerhorn Cichlids

  • Flowerhorn Cichlids were created using artificial selection and do not exist in the wild
  • Flowerhorn Cichlids are not a species, but rather a large group of hybrid cichlid varieties
  • “Fader” Flowerhorns turn black as juveniles, but this color fades into vibrant hues as they mature
  • A Flowerhorn’s coloration may change depending on diet
  • Flowerhorns with unique and rare skin patterns have sold for over $600,000 each!

Is a Flowerhorn Cichlid right for you?

Flowerhorn Cichlids have aggressive and destructive tendencies and will even be aggressive towards the hand that feeds them, but they are absolutely gorgeous fish to display in your home. Despite their aggression, they are easy to care for, tolerating a wide variety of freshwater conditions which make them a suitable choice for beginners and intermediate fishkeepers. I say this because flowerhorns CAN get expensive (I paid $350 for mine, I’ve seen some go for $1000+), if you’re a beginner I highly recommend you start off with a cheaper flowerhorn then once you feel comfortable taking care of a flowerhorn, you can purchase more expensive ones.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowerhorn_cichlid#Gallery_of_early_flowerhorn_strains

https://en.aqua-fish.net/articles/how-care-flowerhorn-fish-forum

https://meethepet.com/basics-of-flower-horn-fish-keeping/

About the author

Jordan

Hi, my name is Jordan. I've been in the fishkeeping hobby since my childhood.
Welcome to my blog where I help fishkeepers enjoy the hobby by offering free guides, advice, & product reviews.
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