Blood Parrot Cichlid Fish Species

This hybrid cichlid is controversial

Blood parrot showing small mouth
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The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid aquarium fish species which has created notable controversy. Possibly produced by crossing the Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) or possibly the red devil (Amphilophus labiatus) with the redhead cichlid (Vieja synspilum), the blood parrot cichlid's genetic mixture has left the fish with a combination of physical traits that compromise the fish's ability to thrive. It has a very small mouth, for example, which makes it difficult for the fish to feed itself adequately. Some aquarium enthusiasts believe this is a hybrid that should not be bred, and some even go so far as to boycott pet shops that sell it.

However, the unusual appearance—round body and beak-like head with large eyes—along with the fish's ability to coexist with other species in a community environment, has made it popular among some aquarium enthusiasts.


Scientific name Amphilophus citrinellus x Vieja synspilum
Synonym NA
Common name Blood parrot cichlid, bloody parrot cichlid, blood-red parrot cichlid
Family Cichlidae
Origin Artificial hybrid cross between cichlid species
Adult size 7 to 8 inches; 10 inches possible
Social Typically not a community fish, but may cohabit with other blood parrots or similar peaceful community fish
Lifespan 10 to 15 years in captivity
Tank level Mid- and bottom-level
Minimum tank size 30 gallons for single fish; 10 additional gallons for each additional fish
Diet As a base diet, prefers high-quality flakes or pellets formulated for cichlids
Breeding Males are sterile, but females sometimes breed with other cichlids
Care Requires hiding places as well as large open swimming areas. Good filtration is essential.
pH 6.5 to 7.4
Hardness Soft
Temperature 76 F to 80 F

Origin and Distribution

The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid produced by breeding the Midas cichlid and the redhead cichlid. The fish was first created in Taiwan around 1986. Although they've been on the market for some time, blood parrot cichlids 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).

Controversy surrounds this fish, especially the ethics of creating it through cross-breeding. Of most concern are the numerous anatomical anomalies, some bordering on deformities, that create hardships for the fish. For example, the mouth is quite small and oddly shaped, and this could affect the fish's ability to eat. At feeding time, blood parrot cichlids may have difficulty competing with tankmates that are more aggressive and have larger mouths. Blood parrot cichlids also have spinal and swim bladder deformities that affect their swimming abilities. Creating a fish with such deformities is considered by many to be unethical and even cruel, and some enthusiasts go so far as to boycott shops that sell this hybrid. Also, many of the fry that are spawned are deformed enough to not survive, so only the least deformed ones survive to be sold at the pet stores.

Colors and Markings

Blood parrots are usually bright orange, although red, yellow, or gray fish are also possible. Juvenile fish may not have the full red coloration of the adults. Unethical breeders may also dye the fish to produce other colors. Adult fish grow to a length of about 7 to 8 inches (20 cm) and may reach an age of 10 to 15 years. Males are slightly larger than females.

These hybrids are easily recognized by their unique features—a round body and a beak-like head with large eyes. The mouth typically remains open, and the teeth are deep down in the throat, which leaves the fish unable to fight and creates challenges for eating.


Blood parrots 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, gouramis, angelfish, and catfish are all good possible tankmates.

Habitat and Care

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, these fish will dig in the gravel, so choose a substrate that is not too rough. The temperature should be maintained at about 75-80 degrees F. Lower temperatures will result in the loss of color and generally weaken their immune system, leaving the fish more susceptible to disease. The pH should be about 7, and the water soft.

Lighting should be subdued with a red-spectrum light. Change the water twice a month. These fish produce a lot of waste, so perform regular water changes, and high-volume filtration is necessary.

Watch for high levels of nitrite, nitrate and phosphate, which can contribute to blue-green algae that can kill your fish. Common diseases of blood parrots include ich parasites (treated by raising water temperature or by copper water treatments), swim bladder disease, and bacterial infections.


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 beta-carotene and canthaxanthin will help maintain their vibrant colors.

Sexual Differences

Males and females are identical in coloring and pattern, but males are slightly larger than females. When in breeding condition, the female will extend the ovipositor (used to lay eggs on the spawning substrate) behind the anal pore (vent). On males, the anal and genital openings will be about the same size, and a small pointed genital papilla may be extended to fertilize the eggs after they are laid by the female.


Although blood parrots have been known to mate and even lay eggs, generally they are infertile. There have been sporadic cases of successful spawning, generally when females have been crossed with a non-hybrid cichlid 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 develop 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.

More Pet Fish Breeds and Further Research

Keeping blood parrot cichlids is ethically questionable, so you may want to consider other natural cichlid species, such as angelfish or discus fish.