The Flowerhorn fish, also known as Flowerhorn cichlid, is the ultimate pet fish. This species tends to identify and interact with its human caretakers.

But why are some hobbyists put off by Flowerhorns? It turns out these fish are big-headed literally and figuratively! Read on to gather more information about this fish.

Flowerhorn Stats

Scientific Name Paraneetroplus synspilus
Max. Size of Fish 12 – 15 inches
Colors and Patterns Color morphs
Diet Omnivore
Min. Tank Size 125 gallons
Temperature 80 – 86 °F
pH 7 – 8
Hardness 8 – 20 dGH
Lifespan 10 – 12 years
Temperament Aggressive

Flowerhorn Background

With just a glance, you can tell right off the bat how this fish earned its name. “Flower” indicates the pretty markings that run along its body and “horn” obviously refers to the nuchal hump (forehead swelling) that adult specimens have. Apart from that, there seems to be a lot of mystery enshrouding this species.

Don’t worry, we will unravel that for you. So sit back, relax, and enjoy reading! In this section, we will disclose as many details as we can about the origins of the Flowerhorn.

– Are Flowerhorn Fish Natural?

No, they are not. The Flowerhorn is not a naturally occurring species. This fish with big head was born on Malaysian and Taiwanese fish farms. The first few specimens were developed in 1994 by crossbreeding the Red Devil cichlid and Trimac cichlid — both of which were imported from Central America.

Selective breeding continued and some of the early Flowerhorns were further crossbred with other cichlid species. As a result, you will find several types of Flowerhorn nowadays and each variant has its own set of unique features. All of these cichlids take the name Flowerhorn, regardless of whether or not they have the signature spots. As for the original hybrid stock, they are called “louhan.”

– The Flowerhorn Arrived in the US During the Late 90s

Originally, there were only two varieties of Flowerhorn imported to the United States:

  • Flowerhorns with silver-white spots on the skin, or “pearls”. Some specimens, as we will see, do not present this characteristic.
  • Flowerhorns with golden bases (regardless of whether the golden color fades or not).

Flowerhorns with pearlescent spots were more popular than those without, and the pearled cichlids were later developed into the Zhen Zhu variety. Likewise, the unfaded specimens of the Golden Base group were preferable due to their robust golden color.

By 2001, the Kamfa Flowerhorn was introduced, which is a cross between a regular Flowerhorn and any species of parrot cichlid.

What Are the Four Main Types of Flowerhorn Fish?

Nowadays, you will find different types of Flowerhorns as commercial breeders have proliferated. Regardless, the four main breeds will always be the Golden Base, Golden Monkey, Zhen Zhu, and Kamfa.

1. Kamfa and King Kamfa

All Flowerhorns are hybrids, making it nearly impossible to categorize them. Regardless, you can classify a Flowerhorn as a Kamfa when it has at least 75 percent of the following traits:

  • Square body: A Kamfa has a square body shape.
  • Round lips: This is a key feature that signifies high quality. Additionally, there should be no underbite or overbite.
  • Wrapped fins: A high-quality Kamfa should have strong, wrapped fins. Both the dorsal and anal fins should wrap around the caudal fin. This is a prerequisite of a Kamfa. Long, trailing fins are uncharacteristic of this variant.
  • Strong tail: A Kamfa’s tail must be strong and upright.

While Kamfa Flowerhorns have nuchal humps, they are not as large as other varieties as breeders focus more on making the fish’s coloration saturated. A Kamfa is considered high-grade if it has pearlescent dots on its nuchal hump as well as a full marking from the tail to the gill.

The King Kamfa also belongs to the Kamfa family and, like other Flowerhorns, originated from Thailand and Vietnam. Its body shape is similar to any other Kamfa except for the fantail. Its sunken eyes are either yellow or white. The King Kamfa also boasts of having two flower rows that are either black or white.

The King Kamfa is one of the most expensive Flowerhorn strains.

2. Zhen Zhu

The Zhen Zhu came shortly after the classic Kamfa. Aquarists call it “Pearl Flowerhorn”, as it is prized by breeders for its perfect iridescent flowering pattern. A Zhen Zhu Flowerhorn has the following characteristics:

  • Prominent head flower
  • Red, protruding eyes
  • Large, pointy mouth
  • Long, tapering body
  • Diamond-shaped or rounded tails

Due to its luminous pearling, breeders would often cross them with other strains to create more stunning flower lines for the next generation.

3. Golden Base

The Golden Base comprises faders and the Golden Trimac. Faders are those fish that start with gold and red colors as juveniles. These Flowerhorns grow darker as they mature. Eventually, they revert to more vivid gold and red coloration.

A golden Flowerhorn is considered top grade once it has faded and gained a saturated coloration, regardless of whether or not it has a black line down the middle of the body. Faders also have impressive nuchal humps.

4. Golden Monkey

The Golden Monkey, also called Good Fortune or Kamalau, is a louhan-based Flowerhorn. Its breeders are Lam Seah and Lam Soon in Bercham, Ipoh, Malaysia. These fish come in a generous range of colors with blue and gold pearling.

Not many specimens of this species remain in existence. As such, prices for this specialized flowerhorn strain can rise over a thousand dollars. So far, the most expensive Golden Monkey carried a price tag of $600 during a Malaysian exhibition.

Other Rare and Expensive Flowerhorns

These strains are also hard to come by. If you happen to find one, it will come with a hefty price tag.

1. Thai Silk

The Thai Silk is a new strain. It goes by the name “Titanium” due to its metallic scales.

These fish often sport a metallic blue color, but there are also gold and silver-white metallic morphs. Their eyes can be red, white, or yellow.

2. Red Mommon

The Red Mommon is believed to bring good luck and prosperity due to its deep red coloring. Its large head and nuchal hump resemble that of the Chinese God of Fortune. For this reason, it is considered great for Feng shui.

This strain, also known as the Red Ingot, can grow about 20 centimeters during its first year and will grow six to eight centimeters more after two years. The final adult size is around 30 centimeters or more. Also, the nuchal hump of a full-grown male specimen can weigh up to one 1000 grams.

While there is no sufficient evidence, there has been wide speculation that the rare Super Red Monkey descended from the Red Mommon. There is barely any information about how to produce the Super Red Monkey as breeders have continued to stay mum.

3. King Kong Parrot

The King Kong Parrot constitutes the early stage of the transition from natural cichlids to Flowerhorns. This hybrid aquarium fish was produced by crossing the Blood Parrot and the Red Devil cichlids.

While the King Kong Parrot resembles the Red Devil in shape, it flaunts a reddish-orange coloration even more saturated than that of the Blood Parrot. Some breeders use pigment injections to make their King Kong Parrots purple or blue. However, this practice is unhealthy for the fish and the color will fade over time.

These Flowerhorns tend to have shorter bodies compared to other varieties, and they lack the distinctive nuchal hump. Only 20 percent of this strain of Flowerhorn can grow to weigh half a kilogram.

4. Super Red Dragon

The Super Red Dragon is perfect for anyone looking for a Flowerhorn with an oversized nuchal hump, intense coloration, and bold black markings on the body that resemble Chinese characters.

If you are willing to pay a fortune to obtain a Feng shui fish to keep in your aquarium, you can’t go wrong with the Super Red Dragon.

Flowerhorn Appearance

We have established earlier that Flowerhorns come in various types. One characteristic that brings all of them together is the prominent nuchal hump.

– The Nuchal Hump Is the Most Notable Flowerhorn Feature

Also known as the “kok,” it is the first thing you will notice about these hybrids. Koks fall into two categories:

  • Water kok: The water kok is the largest out there. It has a gel-like substance underneath the skin, which feels squishy and soft throughout. The easiest way to test this is to shine a flashlight through the fish. If it looks translucent, it is a water kok.
  • Hard kok: A hard kok is a compact layer of fat. It is hard to touch and tends to stay small.

– What Is the Maximum Size of a Flowerhorn Fish?

Flowerhorns can grow to be anywhere from 12 to 15 inches in length, depending on the strain. Generally, a male Flowerhorn is often larger than a female and will weigh more, too.

– How Do You Differentiate a Male and Female Flowerhorn?

Aside from being larger, a male Flowerhorn is often more vibrant in color, and its nuchal hump appears more prominent compared to that of a female. And depending on the strain, females may lack a kok.

Flowerhorn Behavior and Temperament

To be sure, these big-headed fish are gorgeous. However, their beauty comes together with a spicy attitude!

– Flowerhorn Fish Interact with Their Owners

Flowerhorns make interesting pets because they tend to give their caretakers a lot of attention. These fish will cruise to the upper columns when their owners are nearby. Should you wish to give your fish a snack, it will charge into the surface in a flash.

On the other hand, some hobbyists humorously recall rude encounters with their Flowerhorn fish. Their pets would chase them down the glass and ram against it on several occasions. These fish seem to think humans are a problem, too!

Moreover, some hobbyists reported how their Flowerhorn fish would attack objects in the tank and try to catapult them towards their spectators. That said, these pretty fish do have an attitude, and they are not afraid to attack the hand that feeds them!

– A Lonely Flowerhorn Is a Happy Flowerhorn

These fish are unwilling to share their abode with other fish, except maybe the opposite sex of the same species. However, that is not even a guarantee. Males in particular are aggressive and do not seem to get along with anything nor anyone.

Not only are Flowerhorns indifferent and unsociable, but they are also filled with murderous intent! Their bellicosity makes them good hunters. Flowerhorn fish will attack and devour goldfish, lobster, cichlids, frogs, and even occasional, unlucky stray mice.

– Flowerhorn Fish Might Do Some Acrobatics

Flowerhorns often respond to the hand movements of their owners and if trained well, they might also perform some acrobatics. I have seen a few who do. However, keeping them with other fish distracts them. As such, you won’t be able to interact with them as often as you might like.

Over time, the fish will lose their character because your pet will go after other fish in the tank instead of paying attention to you. Therefore, it is best to keep your Flowerhorn alone.

Flowerhorn Care

Flowerhorn fish, regardless of the strain, require the same care and water parameters. After all, the different types of Flowerhorn are considered morphs and not separate species.

– Flowerhorn Diet

There are plenty of specialized foods available in the market to satisfy the dietary requirements of the Flowerhorn fish. These products are high in proteins and other vital nutrients that your fish needs, not only to stay healthy but also to promote color intensity and a faster growth rate of the nuchal hump.

Fortunately, Flowerhorns are gluttonous. These fish are far from picky when it comes to their diet. Therefore, you can feed them dried food without problems. However, this doesn’t mean your pet should survive on just pellets and flakes. These eating machines appreciate live food as well, such as:

  • Small feeder fish
  • Krill
  • Bloodworms
  • Crickets
  • Small grasshoppers
  • Earthworms
  • Small crustaceans
  • Insect larvae

Live food isn’t always necessary, but it should constitute a small portion of the Flowerhorn diet. Feeding your Flowerhorn cichlid different types of food will provide it all of the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Since Flowerhorn fish have efficient metabolisms, you’ll need to feed your pet two to three times a day. Feed your fish as much as it can consume in a minute or less, depending on the size of the food.

– Water Parameters

As with most freshwater species, these vicious beauties have high demands for water quality. Keeping water parameters in check is vital in cichlid care, and even more so for this hybrid.

The ideal Flowerhorn temperature is anywhere between 80 to 86 °F. A pH level of seven or eight is the sweet spot for this hybrid. Flowerhorns also thrive in a water hardness between eight to 20 dGH.

Performing 20 percent water changes each week is also as important as stabilizing the water parameters. Doing so minimizes ammonia and nitrate buildup that Flowerhorn cichlids are extremely sensitive to.

– Lifespan

The average Flowerhorn lifespan is around 10 to 12 years. Whether or not your fish may live up to a decade will depend upon the quality of care you provide.

Flowerhorn Tank Mates

Can you keep two Flowerhorn fish together? As these fish are aggressive and territorial, having two or more Flowerhorns is a recipe for disaster. This hybrid species is usually not kept together but if you insist, you may use an acrylic divider to house two specimens in an extra-large tank.

– Can Flowerhorn Have Tank Mates?

You’ll want to stock fish with a similar size and attitude as the Flowerhorn. Equally important, you’ll need to make sure all of the fish are adults so that they are strong enough to tackle the Flowerhorn’s attacks. Expect your fish to squabble a bit. In the end, everything will settle down after a few days, with nothing more but for some minor damage.

Some aquarists have seen success in keeping an Arowana, an Oscar, and a Flowerhorn in the same tank. If you are already well-versed about these species and you have a five- or six-foot tank equipped with a sump filter to boot, then you might find this community attainable as well.

Or you may add bottom dwellers like the Bichir or one large armored catfish. These fish will ignore the Flowerhorn. Likewise, the Flowerhorn will most likely leave them alone once it figures out these beasties are also not taking shots from anyone.

Take note; you can only keep these fish if you have a tank that measures four feet in height or more. Otherwise, it is best not to risk it. Large natural cichlids are a challenge to predict, and this hybrid is even hot-headed.

– Tank Mates to Avoid

Any fish smaller than 10 inches is food for the Flowerhorn. Likewise, there are no suitable invertebrate tank mates for this hybrid cichlid. Flowerhorns will nosh on shrimps, snails, and crayfish.

Flowerhorn Tank Setup

– Tank Size

This is not the pet for you if you are looking for a fish that can fit in an average-sized tank. These hybrid cichlids can grow up to be quite large, so you’ll need to provide your pet a spacious tank. The minimum recommended capacity for one Flowerhorn is 125 gallons. Breeding pairs require a larger tank of at least 150 gallons to give both cichlids enough room to swim.

While these numbers are the recommended minimum, we encourage you to opt for the largest tank possible. Aside from comfort and enrichment, providing more space can go a long way in making sure the water quality stays clean for much longer, given the amount of waste these cichlids produce.

– Substrate

Some sources suggest using gravel, but it would be wise not to as Flowerhorns might swallow it with their food. As it is typical of cichlids, Flowerhorns dig and uproot plants. Therefore, the substrate you choose should be fine and soft. A bare bottom is also a popular choice for a Flowerhorn tank.

– Do Flowerhorns Like Decorations?

There is no point in adding plants in a Flowerhorn tank. Your fish will make it a goal to destroy them. If you want to jazz up your aquarium, you may add driftwood and reasonably-sized rocks on the bottom.

– Equipment

A standard aquarium light will prove sufficient for a Flowerhorn tank. On the other hand, you might want to splurge when it comes to your tank’s filtration system. Look for a canister filter with efficient three-stage filtration. Equally important, the filter should be powerful enough to process ten times the amount of water in the aquarium per hour.

Flowerhorn Breeding

Breeding Flowerhorn cichlids in a home aquarium comes with several challenges. The hardest obstacle is that many of these fish are sterile. If that is the case with your fish, then you could not proceed to the next step.

If you are lucky enough to own a pair of fertile fish, then you will need to put the couple in a separate breeding tank that should be similar in size to the main tank. The breeding tank will also serve as the fry tank.

Flowerhorns breed the same way as South American cichlids. Most of these hybrids mature within two years and some specimens may be ready to reproduce even earlier, at about 17 months of age. The spawning process happens naturally and requires little to no stimulation.

A female Flowerhorn usually lays up to 900 eggs, followed by the male fertilizing them. The eggs will start hatching toward the end of the second day. A baby flowerhorn fish will be a free-swimming fry two days later. Parents will look after the fry for about two months. During this period, you can feed the juveniles with brine shrimp and other commercial foods for juvenile fish.

Is Owning Flowerhorns Ethical?

Environmentalists would answer no. The purpose of creating unique and eccentric-looking Flowerhorns has led to the mass production of defective and less desirable specimens, some of which were dumped in the wild. This practice has disrupted riverine and pond ecosystems. Since Flowerhorns are aggressive and predatory, they compete with the native inhabitants. Moreover, some questionable breeders take extreme steps to enhance a Flowerhorn’s appearance.


Regardless of the strain, these fish are not affordable options. Aside from the upfront costs, food and other ongoing expenses demand a chunk of your budget. On the other hand, the undeniable beauty that Flowerhorns bring to your tank does justify the price.

  • Cichlids are beautiful little beasties of the home aquarium, but Flowerhorn fish are even more stunning. The Flowerhorn’s combative nature is the reason why these fish are best kept alone.
  • A varied diet is vital as these cichlids need lots of different nutrients, which they simply won’t be able to acquire from a single food source.
  • You have a few options for tank mates, but you’ll want to make sure to buy them big and healthy. Your Flowerhorn fish will only attack or eat what they know they can handle.

Flowerhorns aren’t very difficult to take care of as long as you provide them and mitigate their aggression. But — with a lifespan of 10 years or more — they are a long-term commitment. Therefore, you’ll need to think before buying one!

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