Flowerhorn Cichlid fish

A manmade ornamental fish

The flowerhorn cichlid fish (scientifically Paraneetroplus synspilus) is characterized by its vibrant colors and a large, bulging forehead. In the early 1990s, the bulging forehead, known as the nuchal hump, became prized, inciting breeding crazes in order to make this feature more common. After years of selective breeding between other cichlids, like the red devil and trimac cichlids, a new species, the flowerhorn was born.

In the Wild

As a manmade fish, the flowerhorn cichlid doesn’t not exist naturally in the wild. Its Central American ancestors were imported to Malaysia and Thailand for breeding purposes and were mainly kept in aquariums.

However, breeding doesn’t always get the desired look or color, so many of these undesirable fish have been discarded into the wild. This hybrid fish has become an invasive species in Malaysian and Thai fresh waters and has even been reportedly seen in Indonesia’s Lake Matano.

Because the flowerhorn fish is aggressive, can grow up to 16 inches, and live about 10 years, it can be a very dangerous invader to natural habitats as it feeds on small fish and prevents smaller predator fish from food as well.

In the Tank

Prized and bred for their unique foreheads, flowerhorn fish also come in a variety of colors like blues, reds, and greens that pop in their aquarium homes. Male flowerhorns are larger, have a more pronounced nuchal hump, and show brighter colors than their female counterparts.

Like other cichlids, they typically are not schooling fish and instead choose to travel in pairs or remain solitary. In addition, breeding pairs may need over 100 gallon tanks, whereas single or smaller fish need at least 75 gallons of fresh water, with warmer temperatures in the high 70s to low 80s.

Their aggressive nature makes them unreliable tank mates as males have been known to kill their long time mate if kept together too long. Because of this, flowerhorns are best in their own tanks or with hardy species of fish like jaguar cichlids or leopard plecos.

Because flowerhorns are known as a digging fish, their tank habitat should have plenty of gravel, rocks, and even driftwood. Live plants are an option, too, but flowerhorns have been known to uproot them. The tank flowerhorn usually dines on protein-rich foods like spirulina wafers or small shrimp, worms, and dried grasshoppers.

Worth the price?

Flowerhorn cichlids were designed for their unique beauty, and with that design came a steep price. Depending on the color and size of the fish, a flowerhorn can be anywhere from $35 for a medium fish to nearly $1,000 for rare color variations and large nuchal bumps. Although these fish should be kept alone, even the price of one beauty can break the bank.

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