How do I keep these hybrid cichlids?


A reader asks us for the best way to keep some Flowerhorn cichlids – Jeremy advises…

Q) My local shop has some Flowerhorn cichlids for sale. The guy at the shop said they are hybrids but that he wasn’t sure what the parents were. I’d love to keep one (or two if space allows) and I wondered if you could tell me what sort of set-up they need and what they are a cross between, as obviously that will make a difference to their size and the size of tank I’d need. Do they breed or are they sterile, being hybrids?


A) Jeremy says: Flowerhorn cichlids are indeed hybrids, originally made by crossing Amphilophus trimaculatus with numerous other Central American cichlid species. They grow large, to about 30cm, and become very aggressive and territorial as they mature, so they’re a one-fish-to-a-tank kind of cichlid.

They’re unbothered about pH but like the temperature on the warmer side at 25-30°C. In Southeast Asia the fish with the best pattern and biggest heads are highly prized and expensive. There they keep them in comparatively small, bare glass tanks, but if you want to do the best by these fish you should provide a 180x60x60cm aquarium with external canister filters, a gravel base, with wood and rocks as decor. Live plants will be destroyed, and plastic plants will be moved about, but by allowing them to dig it will provide these intelligent fish with a degree of environmental enrichment when kept alone. Feed on cichlid sticks and pellets.

They can be bred and will also cross with other Central American species. The females are generally smaller, with smaller nuchal humps, but pairing them is not easy as the hyper-aggressive males will beat up and kill any female that isn’t ready to breed with him in his tank there and then, so a divider and constant supervision would be necessary. You probably wouldn’t get any show-stopping offspring from the spawning either, with generations of fry reverting back more to the wild type. These are real character fish, and the show specimens also make striking pets, but with a typical lifespan of over a decade, they are a long-term commitment.