Flower Horn: Fish Species Profile

Male Flower Horn Cichlid

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The Flower Horn Cichlid is a hybrid variety of South American cichlids with a distinctive bulbous forehead. Although easy to care for, these fish can be very aggressive towards other fish. They like to root around in their substrate and redecorate their tanks frequently.

Species Overview

Common Name: Flower Horn Cichlid

Scientific Name: Cichlasoma sp.

Adult Size: 10 inches

Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

Characteristics

Family  Cichlidae 
Origin  Hybrid 
Social  Semi-aggressive 
Tank Level  Mid-dweller 
Minimum Tank Size  70 gallon 
Diet  Omnivore 
Breeding  Egg-layer 
Care  Beginner 
pH  7.0 to 8.0 
Hardness  8 to 20 dgH 
Temperature  78 to 84 F (25 to 29 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Flower Horn has a very unique beginning and is not found in the wild. However, it has been mistakenly introduced to wild sites and is able to reproduce. It is at risk of becoming an invasive species if it outcompetes native species for food and space.

This hybrid species was created by cichlid hobbyists cross-breeding various Central American cichlid species. It is suspected the Flower Horn came from a cross of a Blood Parrot Cichlid, another hybrid species, and a Red Devil Cichlid, but this is not verifiable. They are common in the hobby and some can produce viable offspring from a mated pair.

Colors and Markings

Flower Horns are most recognizable for the large hump on their foreheads. This structure is called a nuchal hump or kok and usually more distinctive on male Flower Horns.

There are a few varieties of Flower Horns available in the commercial market. The most common and most recognizable is the Red Dragon Flower Horn. The juvenile Red Dragon is typically silver with some dark spots along the body. As the fish matures, the coloration changes to a bright red. Typically, fish will have a marbled pattern of red with white and/or black patches. Other varieties are lighter in color, ranging from tan to yellow instead of red.

Flower Horn Cichlids
Lighter color variation of Flower Horn Cichlid

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Tankmates

Given their slightly aggressive nature and large body size, it is hard to find a good match for the Flower Horn. The best tank mate is another Flowerhorn, preferably a mated pair. Both males and females can be aggressive towards others of their own species. For two Flowerhorns, you will need a 150-gallon tank.

Some additional, larger fish that can stand their own against the Flower Horn include the Oscar Cichlid and the Suckermouth Catfish.

Oscar cichlid
Oscar Cichlid (Astronotus ocellatus)

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Plecostomus on gravel substrate
Plecostomus aka Suckermouth Catfish (Hypostomous plecostomus)

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Flower Horn Habitat and Care

Flower Horns tend to be a little rough on their habitats. Many Flower Horn tanks tend to be slightly bare due to the destructive and curious nature of these fish. They are known to dig up plant roots, overturn driftwood, and even move large rocks. Rather than punish normal fish behavior and take their toys away, allow them to decorate their tank as they see fit. These are very curious, almost playful, fish that appreciate enrichment from various décor items. Stick to soft substrate to keep your Flower Horn from causing too much trauma to their skin as they root around.

Given their large tank requirement and tendency to not play well with others, Flower Horn tanks tend to be easier to take care of. Be sure to choose a filter to keep up with your larger tank and be sure to stick to a regular maintenance schedule.

Flower Horn Diet and Feeding

These hybrid cichlids are omnivorous and well accustomed to eating pelleted and other prepared foods. Choose a large cichlid pellet to anchor their diet and then you can supplement with both vegetable and meaty treats. Flower Horns have a very healthy appetite and can be overfed if owners are not paying attention to their diet. Treats should be given once or twice a week at most. Given their warmer water system, twice a day feeding minimum is required.

Gender Differences

It can be difficult to tell male from female Flower Horns. The large forehead bump may be more distinctive in males, but this feature can fluctuate in size rapidly over a few days, and some males do not have one. Males also tend to be larger than females, but it will depend on a fish's underlying genetics and diet.

If you are able to look at your fish's vent when they are fully mature, female Flower Horns will have a "U"-shaped vent, whereas the males will have a "V"-shaped vent. As described, this can be very hard for some to differentiate, but is the only way to verify a mating pair.

Flower Horn Cichlid
Flower Horn Cichlid - unable to determine male vs. female

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Breeding the Flower Horn

Although some of these hybrids produce viable offspring, there is no guarantee that your fish will be able to do the same. There are many known cases of Flower Horns that are unable to spawn, even with all the right cues.

To attempt a spawning, you will need to move your mating pair to a separate spawning tank. After the fry hatch, move your female fish back to their main tank so the male cares for the eggs properly. It is recommended that the spawning tank contain a few smooth rocks and no substrate.

Temperature manipulation is not often necessary, but raising your tank a few degrees can help. After spawning, your fry will hatch in a few days. Once they hatch, the male can rejoin the female in the main tank. Be sure to feed a diet high in protein and fat to encourage proper development.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If you are interested in other cichlid species, consider the following:

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.