Flowerhorns are a type of cichlid fish. Their name comes from the large hump over their head formally called a nuchal hump. In Malaysia, the trait gets the species called kaloi or warships. If you find these fish in the wild, it is only because an aquarium owner dumped the extra ones in local rivers, something that disrupts the ecosystem. This can create all sorts of problems because cichlids will cross-breed with any other type of cichlid. Ironically, this is how the flowerhorn cichlid came to be.
Flowerhorn fish were bred in captivity from African and South American cichlids, and this created a number of distinct strains. All of these fish live eight to twelve years; shorter fish tend to have a shorter life expectancy. They need water with a pH of 7.4 to 8.0 and want the water between 80 and 85 degrees.
They need at least 55 gallons of water per fish, since they can grow as long as 42 centimeters or 16 inches long. Breeding pairs need at least 150 gallons of water, since the male may be aggressive toward the female until they’ve bred. The male may even attack the female after the eggs are laid.
They may be brightly colored when young, but you have to pick mature fish to know what color they will be the rest of their lives. It is hard to distinguish male from female until they’re breeding. Nor will hybrids necessarily look exactly like their parents, since flowerhorns have such diverse ancestry.
These fish are incredibly hardy; they rarely get sick. They’ll eat tank plants, blood worms and a variety of fish foods. And unlike many hybrid fish, many of their strains are fertile. Let’s look at some of the most popular flowerhorn types on the market today.
#1. The Kamfa Flowerhorn
The kamfa flowerhorn variety is derived from the luohan variety. They typically have yellow or white sunken eyes. They have a fan tail. Their heads are blue, gray or purple. They have smaller lips than related strains. They tend to have a large squarish body. Newer strains have a more rounded shape. They have head flowers, but these features are not as prominent or bright as other flowerhorn cichlids.
The King Kamfa typically has an intense black “flower row”, and they tend to have stronger white pearling. They have the standard kamfa shape. They have a longer body but retain the classic fan tail. King kamfas are also one of the largest flowerhorn fish; they may grow as long as 16 inches or 40 centimeters.
The kamfamalau is a hybrid of kamfa and malau fish. The body and face tend to resemble a kamfa. However, they have a very bright and glossy pearling. The bright white pattern even extends onto their forehead. They grow more slowly than other strains, because the malau fish has the slowest development of any cichlid. Malaus have very large heads but are not very colorful.
#2. The Golden Monkey Flowerhorn
The Golden Monkey flowerhorn is also called the Good Fortune flowerhead fish. It is sometimes called the kamalau or KML. These fish were first bred in Malaysai. They are descended from the original luohan strain. They don’t have any kamfa or Zen Zhu ancestry. They have a white, black and gold mottling.
There are hints of red on the body, while their fins tend to be red. A few have green mottling. This is quite a departure from early strains where most of the fish were red, an influence from their blood parrot cichlid ancestors. These fish are rather rare and often expensive.
This strain of cichlid can be mistaken for golden base flowerhorns. However, the golden base fish may lose their color and go black during adolescence before their yellow or red adult coloring appears. This is why the golden base flowerhorns are also called faders.
#3. The Super Red Dragon Flowerhorn
The Super Red Dragon flowerhorn fish is bright red. They resemble the blood parrot cichlids in coloring. It has a large, overwhelmingly red hump on the head. It typically has a black lateral stripe. They’re bred for their bold black markings.
The fish may have white speckles on the body. The fins are gold or yellow tipped with black. They often have red eyes. They may grow to be 12 inches long. The longer the fish’s body, the longer its life expectancy, so these flowerhorn fish are among the longest-lived strains of flowerhorn fish.
#4. The Thai Silk Flowerhorn
The Thai silk flowerhorn is one of the newest strains of flowerhorn cichlids; it was bred for its color and size instead of the head shape and patterning. This strain is sometimes called the Titanium flowerhorn due to their metallic blue or white color, though some of them are actually gold. The ideal specimens have a light blue or metallic grey body with white patterning; their fins will be a darker shade of the same color. A few have white or light yellow patches above their mouths.
Their body type resembles the kamfa. They may have red, white or blue eyes. There isn’t much information on where they came from. Some think they’re a cross of White Tigers and the Vieja flowerhorns mostly originating from Texas. These fish are especially aggressive toward other flowerhorn cichlids. Most adults are seven to eight inches in length. Don’t expect them to live as long as other breeds.
#5. Flowerhorn SRD
Flowerhorn SRD is shorthand for the Red Pearl Super Red Dragon Flower Horn fish, sometimes known as the Super Red Dragon. This is a rather new Flowerhorn type. In fact, some are called “new generation super red dragons”.
They are a cross of louhan and other strains of cichlids; they were bred for lots of pearls. They tend to have a black and white mottled pattern on their body and fins. Many have red heads and gills. They tend to have large, red head bumps. Red dragon flower horns lack the pearl spots you see on these fish.
They have many Zen Zhou or ZZ characteristics. There isn’t much information on this breed because it is so new. However, the more carefully inbred the line, the more the offspring will resemble the parents. Yet this can increase the odds of birth defects in the fish.