The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid aquarium fish species around which notable controversy exists. Possible produced by crossing the midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) and the Gold Severum cichlid (Heros severus), 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, that 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 petshops 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 enthusiasts.
Origin and Distribution
The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid produced by breeding the midas 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 which 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.
Colors and Markings
Blood parrots are usually bright orange, although red, yellow, or gray fish are also possible. 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, 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 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 regular water changes and high-volume filtration is necessary.
Watch for high levels of nitrite 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 b-carotene and canthaxanthin will help maintain their vibrant colors.
Males and females are identical in coloring and pattern, but males are slightly larger than females.
Although blood parrots have been known to mate and even lay eggs, generally they are infertile. There have been sporadic cases of successful spawnings, generally when females 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 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.