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Care Guide for Blood Parrot Cichlids – The Hybrid with a Tiny Mouth

Blood parrot cichlids are super cool, derpy fish that we have previously kept in an 800-gallon aquarium. Why choose them over any number of animals that could live there? They possess an interesting mix of features — larger size, bright color, and yet a smaller mouth that makes them less likely to damage or eat other fish. As long as you have the tank space and the right kind of food, they are pretty easy to keep.

What are Blood Parrot Cichlids?

This is not the saltwater parrotfish, but rather a freshwater hybrid fish developed in Taiwan from a mix of mostly Central American cichlids. Many theories have arisen about their exact lineage, but some guesses include:

  • Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)
  • Redhead cichlid (Vieja melanurus)
  • Red devil cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus)

Blood parrots can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) long, a little bigger than a softball, and they enjoy swimming in the mid-levels of the water. The common name comes from their rounded heads and small, deformed mouths that look similar to a parrot’s beak.

What are the different types of blood parrots? They come in many color variations, such as blood red, red and white, yellow, and purple (i.e., deep red). Blood parrots have been further hybridized with other cichlids to develop the super-sized King Kong parrot, platinum or snow white parrot, polar blue parrot, and kirin (or flowerhorn) parrot cichlid.

Yellow blood parrot cichlid

Blood parrots tend to range from red to yellow in color, but more varieties have been produced by crossing them with other cichlids.

How much do blood parrot cichlids cost? They are more expensive than your average freshwater fish and can range from $15-20 or higher, depending on the variety. Red blood parrots are commonly available at big pet store chains, like Petco and PetSmart.

Why is my blood parrot cichlid turning black? When you buy them from the store, the juveniles are often paler in color and may start off with black markings on them. These black spots may appear and disappear throughout their lifetime, but they usually fade as the fish gets bigger and more colorful with age. If you think the dark coloration is caused by stress, try different methods of decreasing their anxiety, such as improving water quality or reducing aggression issues.

How to Set Up an Aquarium for Blood Parrots

Unlike many man-made fish, blood parrots are surprisingly robust and can tolerate a wide variety of temperatures from 72–82°F (22–28°C) and pH between 6.5–8.0. We often keep them in planted aquariums because they don’t dig a lot and their mouths are too small to destroy plants.

How many blood parrots can I keep together? Can they live alone? We like to keep them in groups, but you can keep one blood parrot in a 30-gallon tank, three blood parrots in a 55-gallon tank, or five to six blood parrots in a 75-gallon tank. This is similar to the tank size requirements for a fancy goldfish, such that each fish needs at least 20–30 gallons of water. We recommend getting one, three, or more than three blood parrots because if you just get a pair, one of them will likely dominate the other.

pair of blood red parrot cichlids

During spawning seasons, blood parrots can display more aggressive behavior than usual.

Are blood parrot cichlids aggressive? Yes, they can have that bold cichlid behavior where they act like the tank boss and come up to the glass to beg for food. However, their small mouths make them less likely to physically damage or eat tank mates that can’t fit inside. If you notice your blood parrots are being bullies (or are constantly hiding from the main bully), reduce the aggression by placing tall decorations that block line of sight, providing more shelters, adding dither fish, or upgrading the tank size.

What fish can you put with blood parrots? Keep them with other peaceful or semi-aggressive fish that are similar-sized and can live in the same environmental conditions. That means no to guppies, betta fish, or goldfish. Common tank mates for blood parrot cichlids include oscars, angelfish, larger tetras, and of course more blood parrots. We personally have kept them with clown loaches, a Mbu puffer, giraffe catfish, and clouded archerfish.

What do Blood Red Parrots Eat?

Many people struggle with finding the right kinds of foods to feed blood parrots. Because their little mouths do not open or close very much, they have to carefully line up their bodies with the food and then swim forward to “scoop” it in. This extra step can cause them to become outcompeted during mealtimes, so they need something that can be easily swallowed. Therefore, consider feeding baby-sized pellets to the juveniles and feeding mini pellets to larger adults. We find they do best with floating pellets because then the cichlids can come up from underneath the food and then gravity helps the granules to fall inside. Foods specifically made for blood parrots, like Hikari Blood Red Parrot+, have the added benefit of containing color-enhancing ingredients to boost their redness.

Triangle-shaped mouth of freshwater blood parrot cichlid

Their tiny, triangle-shaped mouths are more conducive for scooping in food, rather than taking bites.

How do Blood Parrot Cichlids Reproduce?

Because the males are usually infertile, hobbyists have not been able to reliably produce blood parrots at home. This does not stop them from trying though, so you may see the female lay her eggs on a flat surface and then both parents will guard them from would-be predators. Females can be crossed with other similar-sized Central American cichlids, but the offspring rarely look like or have the beautiful colors of blood red parrots.

We realize that man-made hybrids are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they are an attractive choice if you want to make a larger community tank with aquarium plants. While we do not ship fish, you can visit our preferred online vendors to find the perfect parrot cichlid for you.

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