Parrot Cichlid Guide

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The Blood Parrot Cichlid gets its dramatic and somewhat piratical name from its unusually bright coloring, though it is more commonly referred to simply as a parrot cichlid.

blood parrot fish

These fish are particularly notable for their unique set of physical traits – traits which are genuinely one of a kind, as blood parrot fish are hybrid fish and thus not found naturally in the wild.

What is a Blood Red Parrot Cichlid?

These fish have rounded, diamond-shaped bodies and beaked heads.

Their mouths are always open due to the fact that their teeth are set deep in their throat – an abnormality that makes it significantly difficult for the red parrot fish to eat whole meals.

This fish’s eyes are also especially large, making it look more emotive than other types of fish you may wish to bring into your home aquarium.

Whether or not it was ethical to breed the blood red parrot cichlid into existence has remained a hot topic for years.

However, the existence of these fish begets an interest, meaning that so long as the blood red parrot cichlid is available to find a home in tanks around the world, there will be folks interested in doing their best to provide thorough and affectionate care to these creatures.

Take a look below to get a better understanding of the parrot cichlid’s needs and how you can provide the most healthful habitat for a school to live in.


Blood red parrot cichlids, being hybrids, are especially sensitive to the state of their environments.

They’re a strange breed of fish, as well, finding their special place in the family tree of fish through experimentation and varied breeding.

As their name suggests, blood red parrot cichlids are mostly red, though they can also be gray or yellow.

Their position as a hybrid species do make some folks more comfortable with experimenting on these fish. If you spot a blood red parrot cichlid who is a particularly unusual color, such as purple or green, consult with the breeder and understand that the fish you’re looking to purchase may have been dyed.

red parrot fish

As such, understand that, should you purchase the fish, its life span will have been unnaturally shortened, but at least you’ll be offering it a friendlier and healthier habitat to exist in than the one it’s leaving.

Moving forward, the basics of the parrot cichlid are reasonably straightforward:

  • Average Size: 6-7 inches.
  • Max Sizes: 8 inches.
  • Temperament: Playful.
  • Diet: Omnivore.
  • Ideal Tank Temperature: 72 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • pH: 6.5 – 8.0.
  • Lifespan: 10 – 15 years.

Natural Habitat – or Lack Thereof

As previously mentioned, the blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid species, meaning that it has no natural habitat outside of a lab.

The parrot cichlid was bred into existence in the 1980s. Originally created in a lab in Taiwan, these fish are now found world-wide, most often in tanks, as their ability to survive in the wild is severally inhibited by a number of genetic abnormalities.

The parrot cichlid’s odd mouth and deep-set teeth make it extremely difficult for the fish to eat while in a tank; to hunt or consume plant life in the wild would see the parrot cichlid’s lifespan shortened dramatically.

These fish have learned to consume food as effectively as any other. Instead of relying on their teeth in order to chew up their food (be that algae or live bait) parrot cichlids have the ability to make use of their throat muscles in order to mush their food into consumable pieces.

freshwater parrot fish

Their eyes, already noted as being particularly large, frequently have irises that are too large or malformed, making it harder for the parrot fish to visually understand its surroundings.

To make things even more difficult for this fish, parrot cichlids are often born with malformed swim bladders. Swim bladders, normally meant to keep the fish submerged and directional (much like the rudder of a boat) instead serve to make the life of the parrot cichlid all the more complex.

These fish must fight against their own bodies in order to get to where they want to go – a trait which, in the wild, would make them an ideal snack for a carnivorous predator.

Parrot Cichlid Care

Tank Requirements

This lack of a natural habitat makes it both simpler and more difficult to establish a happy and healthful environment for your blood red parrot cichlids to live in.

To start with the basics, though: your average and single blood red parrot fish requires 30 gallons of space to swim in, with an additional ten gallons for every extra fish that is in their school.

These fish need plenty of space to move around, and they can be quite shy before they get to know each other. As such, you should be able to provide your parrot cichlids plenty of hiding spaces. Litter your tank with logs, caves, and decorative dens while also ensuring that the tank doesn’t become too cluttered.

A tank that is tall while also being wide may suit your parrot cichlids more effectively than a tank that is merely wide; the room to maneuver will lessen the stress that your cichlids experience.

Water Requirements

As hybrids, blood red parrots cichlids are also especially sensitive to the quality of their environment. Keep their tank water between 6.5 and 8 pH, and the temperature between 72 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

You’re not looking to emulate the waters of Thailand, but you are looking to ensure that your parrot cichlids are as comfortable as possible.

Take care to install a powerful filtration system, and always keep your tank filled with clear, fresh water.

Blood red cichlids are freshwater parrot cichlids; they cannot survive, let alone thrive, in brackish or salty water.

Parrot Cichlid Feeding

Blood red parrot fish are omnivores, meaning that they’re partial to both live food and algae found in their tanks, or to flakes and pellets.

red parrot fish

As has been mentioned, their odd mouths and powerful throats make their eating process a little stranger than that of the average fish.

It has been noted, though, that the species has a particular fondness for freeze-dried brine shrimp, just the same as a number of other cichlids. If shrimp is above your budget, flakes or pellets will suit these fish just fine, as will live feeding guppies.

Be prepared, though, to spend some time cleaning up the tank after feeding your fish. The parrot cichlid’s odd mouth means that it occasionally has to leave half-consumed food behind because it is simply unable to swallow it.

This is both a pity for the fish (who risks becoming undernourished) and you because in order to keep your blood red parrot fish healthy, you’ll have to take great steps to ensure not only the accessibility of food but exceptional tank cleanliness.

Parrot Cichlid Tankmates

Cichlid fish are frequently noted to be especially aggressive, attacking prey fish and their own kin when they feel overstressed. Blood red parrot cichlids, in spite of their genetic heritage and aggressive name, buck this trend.

These fish enjoy their privacy and are a relatively peaceful bunch. They’re especially playful once they get to know the other fish in the aquarium, and can be generally pleasant fish to have in a group tank.

Tankmates for the parrot cichlid can include Oscar cichlids, Severus cichlids, or other mild fish – but absolutely not goldfish.

Goldfish, it is worth noting, are somewhat aggressive fish to begin with, but partner these with the blood red parrot cichlid, and your tank will in no way be healthful or habitable for either type of fish.

On a lighter note, blood red parrot cichlids are exceptionally smart fish. After repeated exposure, they can come to recognize the hand and face that feeds them. Some have been reported to swim to the edge of the tank at the sight of their owner in order to “greet” them.

It’s possible that blood red parrot cichlids could be taught to perform simple tricks, but at the simplest, they are a playful, if not shy, breed of fish that can serve as an unusually companionable, non-mammalian pet, should you fish to bring them into your home.

Do take care, though: while it’s unlikely for blood parrot cichlids to revert to the aggressive nature of their genetic ancestors, over-stressed cichlids may become defensive and attack other fish they interpret as the source of their irritation.

Do your best to keep your tank peaceful, and you’ll get to see your blood red parrot cichlid at their best.

freshwater parrot fish


Because the parrot cichlid is a hybrid species, it has a tremendously difficult time breeding within its own schools.

Female blood parrots can lay eggs, just like any other number of fish, but the males of the species are unable to fertilize them.

More often than not, the eggs laid by the female parrot cichlid will be fertilized by a male of another species, further complicating the parrot cichlid’s genetic pool.

However, in continuing with the blood red parrot cichlid’s history of genetic modification, a hormone has been introduced to some parrot cichlid males that make it easier for them to fertilize the females’ eggs.

Until this hormone is more wildly spread, though, the blood red parrot cichlid hybrid must rely on other fish in order for its species to continue to develop.

As such, when attempting to breed your blood red parrot cichlids, pay attention to the mating habits of the other fish in your tank.

Follow standard procedure for those fish’s ideal breeding environments, and you’ll likely soon have a tank full of fry that is almost entirely unique.

Here’s a video showing more information on parrot cichlid care.

Do you have any tips for owning parrot cichlids?

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