Flowerhorn Cichlid: Basic Important Facts for Beginners

We’re going to cover everything you need to know about the flowerhorn cichlid. This includes but is not limited to flowerhorn cichlid size, growth rate, lifespan, tank size, feeding, tankmates, overall behavior, aggression, breeding and egg laying.


What Are Flowerhorn Cichlids?

These tropical fish are the result of deliberate hybridization of several species. They only exist in the wild because captive-bred species have been released into the wild by humans.

These fish are brightly colored as a result of deliberate breeding for violet, orange, pink and other neon colors. All have a large bulb over their head.


Flowerhorn cichlids are territorial and aggressive. Unless you’re breeding them, they shouldn’t be kept together. If you have a very large tank, you can keep them together in the same tank by having tank housing divided by egg crates or dividers so they cannot attack each other.

Proper Tank Mates

A cichlid should ideally be kept as a show fish. They shouldn’t be in a community tank unless you have at least 200 gallons of water. You’ll want to monitor the smaller fish for injuries and stress.

You can reduce conflict by putting visual barriers at the edge of their territory that limit the ability of the fish to see potential rivals. If you can’t do this, keep them alone without any other fish, unless the fish have paired off as a breeding pair.

Note that they’ll try to eat crabs and snails in their tank, too.

Breeding and Egg Laying

Females are generally smaller than the males, but they stand out for their coloration changes before breeding. The females typically develop an orange tint to the belly when ready to breed. Females will lay eggs every month whether or not they are “bred”.

Because these fish are manmade, there is a vibrant trade in lineages or “flower lines”, and there is active breeding of new strains. The downside is that the small “pure” lines of each lineage results to inbreeding and deformities.

Zhen Zhus are popular for breeding projects because they breed easier than other lineages. Red Mommons and Red Ingots are popular with breeders because they can be bred with any other cichlid.

Flowerhorn cichlids, though, will breed with many other cichlids, including other species. That’s how hybrids were created in the first place. Flowerhorn cichlids are notable for being widely fertile.

Breeding flowerhorn cichlids is the only time they may be able to breed. The female should be given plenty of hiding places from the male, and ideally, a barrier put in place between them so he cannot harm her. He could attack her if she doesn’t have a place to get out of his “sight” when he’s being aggressive. Put a flat rock in front of the divider so he can’t push it out of the way to get to her and hurt her.

If the male is aggressive, put her only spawning location downstream of the male’s territory so the eggs can be fertilized by his sperm. After the eggs are fertilized, the female will focus on protecting them. If the male pairs off with the female, he will no longer be aggressive toward her and will continue spawning with her once the fry have matured.

When these fish are breeding, the water should be 82F while the water pH should be 7.0.

Flowerhorn Cichlid Development and Growth Rates

Red Ingot and Red Mommon breeds have the fastest growth rate of all flowerhorn cichlids.

The biggest ones will hit 20 centimeters in length by the end of their first year. Most red ingot cichlids will grow to be up to 18 centimeters long; the mouth shape with change from a triangle to a more rounded mouth with a protruding jaw when they finish growing.

The largest specimens of this breed hit half a kilogram in weight. Depending on the individual and their lineage, they will hit 16” or 40 centimeters long. Twelve inches or 30 centimeters, though, is more common.

All flowerhorn cichlids, though, are large for cichlids.

Regardless of the breed, flowerhorn cichlids have fluid patterning and coloring that will change until they’re mature adults. However, juveniles are cheaper than adults because you don’t know if you’ll get one with muted colors or vibrant ones.

Life Span

Their typical life span in captivity is ten to twelve years. They are prone to hole in the head disease, ich / white spot disease and digestive blockages. These fish are gluttons, so if they stop eating, you know they’re sick.

Tank Size

A single Flowerhorn cichlid should be kept in a tank with a capacity of at least 55 gallons. A 125 gallon tank is optimal. If you have a breeding pair, they need at least 150 gallons. These fish spend most of their time in the open but appreciate rocks to hide behind. What they need is lots of open space for swimming.

General Care

They should be raised in 28F water. The pH should be between 6 and 8, while slightly acidic water is ideal.

The kH should be between 3 and 6. Do not let the water quality change suddenly. Their water should be changed biweekly. They need normal to moderate lighting. The water movement should be moderate. The water hardness should be between 9 dGH and 20 dGH.

These fish will dig in the substrate of your tank, so make sure rocks and decorations are secured to the bottom. The best substrate for them is a sand and gravel mix.

Feeding Behavior

These fish will eat any plant in your tank. However, they are carnivorous. They’ll eat any protein based food you offer. This includes but is not limited to flake foods, pellets, live foods and frozen foods. Flake food and pellets can be given to them from time to time, though cichlid pellets are a better choice.

However, live foods like diced shrimp, diced earth worms, tubifex, blood worms, and so forth should be the majority of their diet. They should be fed several times a day.

Young “fry” or baby fish can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp as soon as they’re eating. Once the fry are a week old, you can feed them crushed fish food pellets or flake food.

Because these fish will eat almost anything, they have been known to nip at the hands of humans who are cleaning the tank.