Flowerhorn Cichlid

Published November 12, 2019
Author: Isaac Ruzicka - FishLore Scholarship Winner!
Social Media: FishLore on Social Media

When I was growing up as a child many people and friends often asked me “What’s the point of keeping a pet that you cannot hold, touch, walk or teach?” However, the Flowerhorn was the perfect exception to this question.

They have the possibility to be taught, touched (under very certain circumstances and with caution) and played with. They are very interactive creatures and have been specifically bred for this purpose.

flowerhorn cichlid
Flowerhorn cichlid

elvis flowerhorn cichlid
Elvis Flowerhorn cichlid



Aso known as Luohan, were most likely bred from Cichlids. We have hybridized them so much that records are hard to find and only the original breeders of them knew exactly what Cichlids were crossed.

According to Lorenz (2009), their appeal began in the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s and have continued to get stronger since. They can be expensive to maintain and to purchase.

A Golden Monkey flowerhorn was sold for $600,000 in 2009 at Malaysian exhibition. It is believed in the Far East that owning one brings good luck and fortune, notably in gambling, and not only does the hump resemble the Chinese god of longevity, but as it grows, the owner’s luck grows as well (FlowerHornKing.com, 2010).

albino flowerhorn cichlid
Albino Flowerhorn

golden base flowerhorn cichlid
Golden Base Flowerhorn

Flowerhorn Hybridization

It is very difficult to exactly define what a Flowerhorn is, but we can assume that they came from Mesoamerican cichlid hybrids. Hybrids of any fish species are sometimes looked down upon by some because it diminishes their lineages.

Usually hybrids are created to give off a unique look that couldn’t be produced through other means. However, most of the time the hybridization between two fishes remains in the same genus. This fish is unique in that its hybridization occurs between many different genera.

The genera used can be Central American cichlids, trimacs and many other different species. There is some confusion about which exact species created the original Flowerhorn. It stems from the potential value of that type, (some are valued at hundreds of thousands and the breeding pair is kept a secret because of this) to simply trial and error with so many different species.

tan king flowerhorn cichlid
Tan King Flowerhorn

king kamfa flowerhorn cichlid
King Kamfa Flowerhorn


Controversy comes into play when some fish enthusiasts make the arguments that there are over 1000 species of cichlids that would make great candidates for a pet fish that don’t require hybridization. Also, sometimes they can be mistaken for other species of fish, like the Trimac, which can confuse buyers into thinking that they have a true Trimac.

Creating hybrid fish will dilute the pure genetic lineage that took millions of years and countless generations to create, due to crossbreeding of species between two different genera that would never occur in the wild.

Good ethical breeders will take care of them and ensure proper breeding habits will take place. However, some breeders do some unethical habits like injecting them with hormones to increase the size of the male’s hump in a faster amount of time than just letting it develop naturally.

Intentional deformities like no dorsal fins and stunted bodies can seriously harm their health and severely impact their life.

Flowerhorn Care

They require a great amount of care and should be researched as much as possible before buying. It is important to know what you need to do to care for them.

They are aggressive and should be kept alone unless cared for by an experienced fish handler.

Tank Mates:
Can be kept with Jaguar Cichlids, Tiger Oscars, Silver Arowana, Black Pacu’s, Leopard Pleco and Plecostomus.

Tank Size:
Minimum: 90 gallons Recommended: 125 gallons or 150-175 gallons for breeding pairs (if planning on having multiple fish along with Flowerhorn, get as large as you can afford).

Tank Substrate:
Sand or large tile substrate is best.

Water Guidelines:
Test your water regularly and change out the water every two weeks.
pH: 6.0-8.0
Temperature: 75°-85° F
Alkalinity: 6° – 20° dGH<
Cannister Filters

Life Span:
Short bodied: 4-5 years, long bodied: 8-12 years

8-16 inches depending on the type

Diet / Food:
Will eat almost anything laid in front of them. Protein rich and a wide variety of fish food is best. Frozen and dried food can be used instead of live food. Some examples of food include crickets, grasshoppers, shrimp, mealworms, white worms, nightcrawlers and black worms. Three small meals a day that can be eaten in around 30 seconds is usually best for them.

If adding decorations keep in mind that the more the fish has to keep entertained with the less it will interact with its owner. Large rocks, driftwood and colorful lighting make for unique environments. Plants can help absorb ammonia, nitrate and nitrite.

Breeding :
Breeding can be a rewarding experience for those willing to try it. It can provide great sums of money if successful breeding takes place. It can also provide more knowledge and experience with handling and caring for Flowerhorns in all their stages of life.

Many males are infertile because of their hybridity and breeding two together is very difficult. Most breeders will find a cichlid to their liking and in their desired mate's genetic history and then breed those two together. Some breeders even attempt in making their own type.

Separate tanks for breeding are required so that the they do not harm its mate or other tank mates. A separate breeding tank is best so that you can remove them and put it back in its home tank after a few days. Clear dividers can be placed within the breeding tank, but there must be flow to allow hormones to pass between both sides.

The breeding tank/fry tank should be at least 50 gallons so that the potential 500-2000 fry can develop and swim away if need be. They preform mating dances that are interesting and specific rituals are preformed throughout all types, despite different genes.

Fry :
The fry should not be touched or moved for at least two weeks. Their tank should have sponge filters and nitrates should be below 10ppm (Buildyouraquarium). After spawning, the female should be removed, but the male should stay to take care of the eggs. When the eggs hatch the male should be removed due to different genetics and that their paternal instincts differ.

For the first month the fry will be dependent on cultures of live food. For the first two weeks they can eat baby brine shrimp, but due to feeding them 5-10 times a day, you must change out the water often. After the first couple weeks they can now eat baby shrimp, large daphnia or scuds. More tanks will be required due to the sheer amount of fry and the differences between size (some will eat more than others). After their first month they can now eat pellets, flakes and worms (but not nightcrawlers).

Most of the fry should be around 2-3 inches at around 3 months and can be sold. However, since they are hybrids many of them will have dull colors and be female. The dull ones can be kept, but they should not be allowed to reproduce or be let into the wild.

Gender Differences :
Males will usually be more colorful and have large humps. Their breeding tubes are square and are flat at the end and they also have a V-shaped vent. Females usually don’t have humps, or if they do it will be small, and have a black stripe on their dorsal fin. They have a U-shaped vent and triangle shaped breeding tube.

how to tell male from female flowerhorn cichlids

Final Thoughts

Flowerhorns are beautiful fishes with many distinctive characteristics like its unique mating rituals, its large hump and colorful patterns. Whether beginner or advanced, this fish will provide a great opportunity to experience an intellectual and one of a kind fish.


Basics of flowerhorn fish keeping (last updated June 9, 2019). Meet the pet. Retrieved from https://meethepet.com/basics-of-flower-horn-fish-keeping/#Compatibility

Flowerhorn Fish Keeping: The Ultimate Care, Diet & Breeding Guide, (n.d.). Buildyouraquarium. Retrieved from https://www.buildyouraquarium.com/flowerhorn-fish/

Images from Wikimedia Commons

FlowerHornKing (2010). Total Fish & Pets. Retrieved from http://totalfish.weebly.com/flowerhorns.html

Lorenz, T. (2009). Flower Power: Are Flowerhorns Good for the Hobby? Tropical FISH Hobbyist Magazine, Issue (November 2009), pg. 77. Retrieved from http://www.tfhmagazine.com/details/articles/flower-power-are-flowerhorns-good-for-the-hobby.htm

More Cichlid Fish Profiles
Discus Fish
Symphysodon aequifasciatus
The ultimate freshwater tropical fish species perhaps, it's definitely one of the prettiest and can be considered challenging to keep long term.
Firemouth Cichlid
Thorichthys meeki
Firemouth Cichlid
Another great cichlid that is an excellent parent to it's young.
Jack Dempsey Fish
Cichlasoma octofasciatum
Jack Dempsey
Named after the famous prize fighter, these cichlids need larger tanks.