Parrot Fish

Parrot Fish

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Parrot fish

Note: Due
to variations within species, your item may not look identical to the image




Man-made hybrid; not present in nature.

Sexual Dimorphism

Difficult - males may show heightened colour
around the gills and throat area.

Maximum Size

25cm (9.8")

Water Parameters

Will acclimatise to a wide range of conditions.
pH: 6.0-8.0, dH: up to 25 degrees.


22-28 deg C (72-82 deg F)


Specialist community


No special requirements



In the captivating world of aquatics, tropical fish do not
come much more controversial than the Red Parrot Cichlid. This man-made hybrid
is quite the 'Marmite fish' - people tend to either love 'em or hate 'em. The
parentage of these bright orange fish has always been something of a closely
guarded secret, but when they were first glimpsed during the 1980s, there was
much speculation that they were a cross between the Severum (Heros severus) and
the Red Devil (Amphilophus labiatus). Both of those species were, at the time,
classified in Cichlasoma, so at that time a hybridisation between two fish of
the same genus was, perhaps, not all that surprising. But both fish were later
reclassified into separate genera, which made the breeding then somewhat
unexpected and a little contentious. Since then, other parent species have been
suggested, such as a cross between the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)
and the Redheaded Cichlid (Vieja synspila); yet others feel the Convict Cichlid
(Amatitlania nigrofasciata) is involved somewhere along the lines. Whatever the
parentage, and love them or hate them, it seems that these fish are here to
stay in the fishkeeping hobby. Red Parrot Cichlids have a roundish shaped body
that is somewhat unnatural and akin to some of the balloon mutations bred in
various other fish in recent years. It is thought that these hybrid fish have
been further line bred for this mutation (as a straightforward hybrid will not
necessarily result in deformed spines every time), and this has also resulted
in large eyes and a very small mouth that resembles a parrot's beak. The mouth
is usually unable to fully close, giving the fish a slightly comical, smiling
appearance. They are usually an all-over solid orange-red colour, but calico or
paler variants are sometimes available. Sadly, these fish are often artificially
coloured via dying or tattooing, and these specimens should be avoided at all
costs so as not to perpetuate such cruel practices. Despite all the mystery and
controversy surrounding the Red Parrot Cichlid, it still remains a popular
aquarium fish, and is fairly straightforward to care for. As these fish can
attain quite a modest size, a spacious aquarium is requisite, along with sturdy
decor that can stand up to the rigours of these inquisitive diggers. Adults
will require a tank measuring 6ft x 2ft x 2ft to really be able to thrive.
Ideally driftwood and rocks should be placed on the base of the aquarium before
adding substrate, so that the fish cannot undermine the structures. Plants will
be uprooted and eaten, so it is best to stick to robust artificial vegetation
in the Red Parrot aquarium, and ensure it is well secured. Provide plenty of
hiding places and interesting areas for the fish to explore, as well as an open
swimming space along the front of the aquarium. Filtration should be efficient,
ideally an external canister, as these fish are messy eaters and can produce a
fair amount of waste. Although Red Parrots are known to be extremely hardy and
tolerant of less-than-ideal water conditions, this should not be an excuse to
let things slip - they will always be at their best in clean, well filtered
water with a moderate level of oxygenation. Red Parrot Cichlids can vary in
temperament, but on the whole, most are fairly easy-going with each other and
with different species. However, do observe very carefully as 'rogue' specimens
have been known (and it is worth remembering here that one or more of the
parent fish are considered aggressive, so it would seem that such traits
sometimes come through). Tankmates should be peaceful and large enough not to
be eaten (avoid Neon Tetra sized fish as these would be considered a snack).
Ideal companions could include gouramis, large rainbowfish, barbs, larger
deep-bodied tetras, Severums, Firemouths, and some of the Acara or Geophagus
spp. Do bear in mind though, that Red Parrots are relatively slow moving fish
and can easily be outcompeted for food by faster swimming tankmates - and
sometimes their misshapen mouths do not help when competing for food either.
Whatever your view on the Red Parrot Cichlid, they are intelligent, curious
fish that, over time, can become tame and recognise their owner in the same
endearing way that Oscars do. If they appeal to you and you can provide them
with the space and conditions that they enjoy, you will be rewarded with happy,
hand-tame, "pet" fish. May also be seen on sale as Blood Parrot



Omnivorous. Offer a variety of foods including cichlid
pellets (there are pellets available that are specifically formulated for Blood
Parrot Cichlids), flake, vegetable matter, and frozen foods such as Mysis
shrimp, chopped krill, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp, mosquito larvae etc.
Observe your fish carefully at feeding times to ensure that they are not being
out-competed by faster fish. Foods rich in carotenoids will help the fish to
maintain their bright orange-red colours.



For a long time, it was believed that Red Parrot Cichlids
were completely sterile. Yet as the years have passed, more and more aquarists
have reported spawning behaviour /egg laying from their Red Parrots. For the
most part, the eggs have not been viable, but recently there have been claims
of successful spawnings with fry being raised to adulthood, although any hard
proof of this seems a little hard to come by. There is speculation that the
fish have somehow become less sterile as some of the early severe mutations
(such as reduced gill covers) have been bred out. Mature females have also been
known to cross breed with non-hybrid cichlids, such as Convicts. Regardless of
why this is now allegedly occurring, the spawning behaviour of Red Parrot
Cichlids is similar to that of most other cichlids: the pair will choose a
preferred spawning site (usually a flat rock, but sometimes a cave or the
aquarium glass) and clean this area prior to eggs being laid. The parent fish
will become very aggressive and will fiercely guard the clutch, chasing off any
intruders that get too close. In most cases the eggs will fungus over in a few
days, and they will be abandoned (or eaten). Should they actually hatch, the
fry will stick close to the parents, who will guard them until they are around
2.5cm in length.