Caring for and Feeding the Blood Parrot Fish

All About the Blood Parrot, a very Strange and Unusual Aquarium Fish

Blood Parrots Breeding
Thomas R. Reich PhD

The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid of the midas and the redhead cichlid. The fish was first created in Taiwan around 1986.  Blood parrots should not be confused with other parrot cichlids or salt water parrotfish (family Scaridae).

Although there are reservations about this fish and some believe they should not be bred or sold, there is little doubt that they have proliferated the market. Here's where they come from and how to care for them properly.

Origins of the Blood Parrot

Parrot fish are not a naturally occurring fish. Rather, they are a man-made, cross-bred fish, and a controversial one at that. Although they've been on the market for some time, they were not seen widely in pet shops before the year 2000. Usually sold under the name Blood Parrot or Bloody Parrots, they should not be confused with freshwater Parrot Cichlids (Hoplarchus Psittacus) or the saltwater Parrot Fish (Callyodon fasciatus).

Many fish enthusiasts feel strongly that they should not be allowed on the market. Some go so far as to boycott shops that sell them. The controversy even exists over their parentage. Although other combinations may occur, the most likely pairings are the Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) and the Redhead Cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum), or a green or gold Severum (Heros severus or Cichlasoma severum) with the Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum).

It's likely that many of the "calico" Bloody Parrots seen on the market are derived from the latter pairing. It is also possible that Amphilophus labiatus or even Archocentrus species are used in creating Bloody Parrots. Regardless of their heritage, one thing is certain -- they do not exist in nature.

While the debate rages over the ethics of creating this fish, of most concern is the physical effect their hybridization has on the fish itself. The Bloody Parrot clearly has numerous anatomical anomalies, some of which can cause hardships for the fish. One of the first things an observer will notice is that their mouth is quite small and oddly shaped. This can affect their ability to eat, and at feeding time it has difficulty competing with aggressive species that have large mouths. They also have spinal and swim bladder deformities which affect their swimming abilities. Creating a fish that inherently has such deformities is not only unethical but cruel as well.


Should you choose to purchase one, take care when choosing tank mates. They should not be kept with aggressive fish, as they are not well equipped to compete for food or turf in the aquarium. Owners have kept them successfully in community tanks with a variety of peaceful fish. Mid-sized tetras, danios, angelfish, and catfish are all good possible tank mates.


The habitat for the Bloody Parrot should be roomy and provide plenty of hiding places so they can set up their own territory. Rocks, driftwood and clay pots on their sides are good options.

Like other cichlids, they will dig in the gravel, so choose a substrate that is not too rough. The temperature should be maintained at about 80. Lower temperatures will result in the loss of color and generally weaken their immune system, leaving them more susceptible to disease. The pH should be about 7, and the water soft. Lighting should be subdued. Change the water twice a month.


Blood Parrots will eat a variety of foods including flake, live, frozen and freeze-dried foods. Sinking foods are easier for them to eat than floating foods. Most owners report bloodworms and live brine shrimp as a favorite treat. Foods high in b-carotene and canthaxanthin will help maintain their vibrant colors.


Although Parrots have been known to mate and even lay eggs, generally they are infertile.

There have been sporadic cases of successful spawnings, generally when they have been crossed with a non-hybrid fish. Like other cichlids, Blood Parrots will tend the eggs and resulting fry fastidiously. As with any eggs, those that are infertile will turn white and rapidly fungus. The parents will eat infertile eggs to prevent them from spreading the fungus to the fertile eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, daily water changes of 25 percent are critical to ensuring the health of the fry. Fresh baby brine shrimp are the optimum food during the first couple of weeks. Often pet shops will carry frozen baby brine shrimp, which you can also use. As the fry grow, they can be weaned to fine fry food.