Updated: Aug 2
The Flowerhorn cichlid is a result of hybridisation between different South American cichlids. The Flowerhorn was developed in Malaysia during the second half of the 1990s, and exactly which South American cichlids that was used and in which combinations is still a secret. This secrecy has of caused a lot of speculation and a number of more or less reasonable theories have been put forth. One of the more far-fetched theories suggests that the Flowerhorn cichlid was artificially created in a Malaysian genetics laboratory by combining genes from a Goldfish with genes from the Trimac cichlid (Amhilophous Trimaculatus). A more reasonable suggestion is that the Flowerhorn cichlid is the result of crossing many different types of South American cichlids with each other, and that different forms of Flowerhorn cichlids can steam from different South American cichlids. The most plausible ancestry is crossings between the Trimac cichlid and other South American cichlids such as Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellum), Red Devil cichlid (Amphilophus labiatum) and Redheaded cichlid (Vieja synspila).
The look of the Flowerhorn cichlids available in fish stores today is however not just the result of selective breeding. You can affect the appearance of a Flowerhorn cichlid by adjusting environmental factors such as the water chemistry in the aquarium. The food you feed your Flowerhorn cichlid can also change its look. The single most important factor behind the look of the fish is however the genetic makeup formed by selective breeding.
The Flowerhorn has been criticised as an unnatural and dangerous hybrid, produced by money-hungry breeders just to make money. Others have been impressed by the hard work that is evidently behind the creation of the Flowerhorn Cichlid. A lot of the South American cichlids mentioned above will occasionally interbreed in the wild as well, but there is no doubt that the Flowerhorn cichlid has been deliberately produced by breeders. The Flowerhorn cichlids are not the result of random cross breeding. Some people view the Flowerhorn as a purely man-made creation while others compare the hybrid to all the other animal variants that have been refined by humans during centuries of selective breeding.
When you look for a suitable Flowerhorn cichlid to buy, you should consider the same facts as you do with any type of cichlid. Make sure that the fish store is well kept and that all the fish look as if they are well cared for. Also check the specific individual that you are interested in. The Flowerhorn cichlid should look healthy and happy. Do not buy a Flowerhorn that seems to be stressed in the aquarium. One good test is to see whether the Flowerhorn eats or not, since poor appetite is a very bad sign in a Flowerhorn cichlid. A Flowerhorn that won’t accept food when offered is probably ill or extremely stressed. When you bring your new Flowerhorn cichlid home, remember to give it plenty of time to adapt before you release it into its new environment.
One large question when it comes to buying a Flowerhorn cichlid is if you want to buy a young Flowerhorn or a mature one. The young Flowerhorn cichlids are much cheaper than the mature ones, since it is impossible to tell which colour pattern a young Flowerhorn cichlid will display when it gets older. If you want to keep your Flowerhorn cichlid from the beginning and watch it develop, it will require a much smaller investment. On the other hand, if you buy an adult Flowerhorn cichlid you know what you get. A lot of people believe that Flowerhorn cichlids with certain colour patterns provide great Feng Shui to the house where they are kept. If you want to own a Flowerhorn cichlid with a very special pattern for this purpose, you need to buy an adult one. If you are on a restricted budget you can of course gamble and buy several young specimens, hoping that at least one of them turn out to be a premium specimen with the right colour pattern.
Adult Flowerhorn cichlids with very desirable patterns are extremely costly. High quality Flowerhorn cichlids with markings similar to Chinese letters have been sold for several hundred thousand dollars. There has been a large hype concerning the Flowerhorn cichlids ever since they were developed, and Flowerhorn cichlids have been traded like stocks since their value can increase as the develop. Today the hype seems to have cooled down a bit and a lot of people have lost considerable amounts of money during this process. Premium Flowerhorn cichlids with a well developed hump and desirable markings are however still very expensive.
Care of the Flowerhorn Fish
The Flowerhorn cichlid is considered quite easy to take care of and do not require a lot of pampering from its keeper. The first thing you need to do is of course to set up an aquarium suitable for a Flowerhorn cichlid. Your Flowerhorn will require a large aquarium to do well, since this fish grows quite big and have an aggressive temperament. If you use plants to decorate the aquarium, they might be destroyed by the Flowerhorn cichlid, and plants are not necessary in an aquarium set up for a Flowerhorn cichlid. You should however decorate the aquarium in a way that creates natural territorial borders, since the Flowerhorn cichlid is a territorial and aggressive fish. You can of course keep the Flowerhorn cichlid alone, but if you want to have more than one fish in the aquarium other big aggressive cichlids from South America is the best choice. The Flowerhorn cichlid is a tough fish and can tolerate most water conditions, but it will do best in an aquarium where the pH is neutral or slightly basic. A water temperature around 28º C is recommended.
The Flowerhorn cichlid is a happy eater and you will not have a hard time trying to make it accept food. Its metabolism and feeding habits are similar to that of the other South American cichlids, and your Flowerhorn cichlid will need a lot of energy and nutrients to stay healthy and develop in a good way. It is actually quite hard to over-feed a Flowerhorn cichlid. Your Flowerhorn cichlid will accept most types of food, and pellets are a good base. This base should be supplemented with plenty of worms, crabs, shrimp, or similar types of meaty foods. Feeding two or tree times a day is optimal.
Since the Flowerhorn cichlid eats a lot, it will also produce a lot of waste products which pollutes the water. Frequent water changes must therefore be performed. Changing 20 percent of the water twice a week is a good rule of thumb. If you can only make one change a week, you should change around 25 percent of the water. You can lower the risk of poor water quality by avoiding food types known to pollute the water a lot.
Breeding of the Flowerhorn Fish
Making your Flowerhorn cichlids breed in the aquarium requires basically the same type of preparations and care that you would give Trimac cichlids or other similar South American cichlids. Keep the potential parents in a very large aquarium, and try to keep them from killing each other. Flowerhorn parents guard the eggs as well as the fry, and the fry is fairly easy to take care off. Even if you start out with prime specimens as parents, the offspring will often turn out to be a disappointment if it is certain colour patterns etcetera that you are looking for. You need to know quite a lot about the different strains and lines to successfully breed Flowerhorn cichlids. There is of course always the chance of getting lucky and producing great specimens even without this knowledge.