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Flowerhorn Cichlid Care, Maintenance, and Tank Setup for Beginners

Flowerhorn, which is a distinctive species of fish with a very notably odd-shaped head and diverse colors, can be calm pets if housed the right way. Although the general nature of this fish is quite aggressive and violent, Flowerhorns can be excellent interactive and loving pets.

This man-made fish was first introduced in the late 1990s in Malaysia and have now several types of them have been invented. Each type has distinct features: different colors, sizes, and horns. One notable characteristic of Flowerhorns is infertility in the majority of them.

Since Flowerhorns are man-made fish, they do not have a natural habitat. They have been released into the wild before but are known as “invasive species” – which disrupt natural ecosystems. Though it is worth mentioning that Flowerhorns aren’t as impactful as other invasive species. However, there are certain conditions in which Flowerhorn thrives the most.

For aquariums and tanks, certain conditions are required for Flowerhorns to thrive in them. If they cannot be provided, the success of this expensive venture is not likely to happen. The following are some things to keep in mind before purchasing these peculiar yet interesting creatures.

Family – Cichlidae

Lifespan – Up to 10 Years

Size – Up to 16 Inches

Diet – Omnivore

Care Level – Medium

Average Tank Size – 150 Gallon

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Nature – Moderate – Aggressive

Size of the Tank

flowerhorn care maintenance and tank setup for beginners

The size of a Flowerhorn cichlid can range from 6-18 inches, depending on the age and variety of fish. For a pair of Flowerhorns, the ideal size for a tank is around 150 to 175 gallons whereas, for a single fish, 125 gallons is the recommended size.

A common practice is to grow Flowerhorn babies in smaller tanks and then graduate them into larger ones as they grow bigger. Depending on the budget you’re willing to spend, you can either choose to keep large tanks only or buy smaller ones as well. Smaller tanks are usually 75 to 90 gallons in volume. However, it is appreciable for the tanks to be bigger for the free movement of the fish.

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What Type of Substrate should one use for Flowerhorn?

Most fish tanks are decorated with gravel substrate as it gives a more aesthetically pleasing and natural outlook to the tank. However, for Flowerhorns, gravel substrate is not an ideal choice. As do most large fish, Flowerhorns are at risk of swallowing particles of gravel while ingesting their food.

The gravel is indigestible and, if swallowed, it accumulates in the intestines; blocking the digestive tract and clogging excretion pathways. Due to these conditions, waste and toxic materials pile up in the body which eventually leads to the death of the fish. One early sign is the gradual decrease in the food consumption of the fish.

Popular alternatives are sand substrates, large tiles, or a bare bottom substrate.

What kind of Water Flow is Ideal for Flowerhorn?

Flowerhorns have previously been released into strong currents and it is a well-known fact that this species can withstand a moderate to high flow of water. However, it is essential to control the water flow in a closed tank because of limited space. Due to limited space, it is difficult for Flowerhorns to adjust and use their acrobatic abilities to remain in a stable state.

Therefore, it is reasonable to rely on your eyes and tell if the water flow is making the fish too uncomfortable. If it is being pushed around, the current needs to be slowed down.

Another common practice amongst Flowerhorn owners is the installation of powerheads on the bottom of the container. Not only does this help with water flow, but this also pushes waste materials towards the top of the tank making the cleaning process easier.

Water Specifications

Flowerhorns do not have a highly specific requirement in terms of the hardness of the water. Ideally, Flowerhorns should be kept in soft or slightly hard water (hardness of water refers to the amount and types of dissolved minerals and ions – calcium, sodium, magnesium, and they’re like). Although it is worth mentioning that an unstable type of medium can have devastating impacts on the fish; stability of water is key.

Flowerhorns are not highly sensitive to pH levels, so anywhere near the freshwater pH is going to be fine. The pH can range from 6.0 to 8.0. However, if the water is more acidic or alkaline than this range, changes need to be made quickly to restore the pH levels.

Similarly, Flowerhorns do not have a very specific temperature at which they can survive. This species allows a range from 25 degrees Centigrade to 30 degrees Centigrade. Slight deviances from this range are tolerable but it is advised to keep the tank temperature within this range.

However, there are a few things that need to be carefully monitored for Flowerhorns specifically. Flowerhorns are highly sensitive to nitrogenous compounds like ammonia, nitrates, and nitrites.

Most commonly, nitrogenous compounds will emerge from the waste material of the fish. Although these compounds are not visible to the human eye, they are almost always present in the tank and pose a threat to Flowerhorns.

Cleaning the tank and changing the water twice a week will reduce the risk of harm to Flowerhorns and is, therefore, an essential practice that must not be missed. - For all your creative needs!


Food for Flowerhorn

Flowerhorns are omnivores, meaning that they can feed on plants and animals. Typically, Flowerhorns are not choosy eaters and can eat from a wide variety of foods. However, Flowerhorns require a diet rich in proteins and require rotation as well.

The most common foods are sun-dried crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, shrimp, anchovies, white worms, black worms, and earthworms. Moreover, Flowerhorns can eat frozen food too.

However, it is important to note that a protein-rich diet will lead to massive nitrogenous waste. This means that water change is very crucial for the sustenance of Flowerhorns in a tank.

Moreover, Flowerhorns are to be fed thrice a day, ideally. One serving should last anywhere between 20 to 40 seconds. One big-serving can result in overfeeding leading to an excess in nitrogenous compounds being accumulated in the body.

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Tankmates for Flowerhorn Cichlid

As mentioned earlier, Flowerhorns can be aggressive and injure other fish, if not eat them. They are larger than typical tank fish with a more aggressive nature. However, it is still possible to pair them up with tank fellows but careful selection needs to be made.

Suitable Fellow Fish

  • Pleco
  • Tiger Oscar
  • Large bichirs
  • Cichlids
  • Flowerhorn


Unsuitable Fellow Fish

  • Make sure you don’t add Any fish smaller than 10 inches with Flowerhorn as they are aggressive in nature they might end up killing them.
  • Avoid adding Invertebrate species like a snail, shrimps, etc.

How to Setup a Tank for Flowerhorn Cichlid?

To set up a tank you have to look over many things like tank, lighting, heater, food, etc. These are major things that will help you Flowerhorn feel comfortable.

Tank size

One would need a minimum size of 25 gallons fish tank for a single Flowerhorn. If you wish to keep additional fish, the size can be increased to 150 or 175 gallons. This size is enough for the fish to rotate and move around a bit. Smaller sizes will not only restrict essential movement, but waste would not be diluted as effectively as it would in larger volumes. Diluting waste is important as it makes clean up easier and protects the fish from dangerous nitrogenous compounds.

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Filtration is very important when it comes to Flowerhorns. The size of the filter needs to be compatible with the size of the tank. Smaller filters will be ineffective and pose a threat to the fish itself.

Heating and Lighting

For Flowerhorns, lighting does not need to be that specific and one can use whichever mode or color of light as long as it does not affect the temperature of the tank. The most commonly used light sources are LED lights. As mentioned earlier, Flowerhorns need a temperature from 25 degrees Centigrade to 30 degrees Centigrade. Any type of heater can be suitable as long as the temperature is adjustable in this range.

Tank Decor

Like other cichlids, Flowerhorns tend to destroy any kind of plantation in the tank. However, placing tougher plants might be a better idea. Since Flowerhorns are highly interactives, any type of décor can keep them busy and playful; though this will make them less interactive with you. Keep in mind, décor that can easily swallow is not a good idea as Flowerhorns tend to explore their surroundings quite a bit.

Water Cycling

It is well established that water cycling is a crucial process for Flowerhorns as they are sensitive to nitrates, nitrites, and ammonia. The aquarium needs to be cycled completely before the fish is graduated into the tank.

A smaller tank can be kept to keep the fish temporarily while the major tank is cleaned. Introducing plants can also help remove nitrogenous compounds from the water and keep it relatively clean naturally. However, this in no way can substitute cleaning of the tank.

Breeding and Determining Gender

As mentioned earlier, most of the Flowerhorns are infertile because of them being a hybrid species. Infertility is more common in males than in females, but generally, finding a fertile mate is almost impossible. However, if one does find a mate, the breeding process has some steps that need to be followed.

A separate tank is required for mating as Flowerhorns tend towards being extremely aggressive during the process. Additionally, one would need a fry tank big enough for 2 Flowerhorns. The fry tank should not be disturbed for a couple of weeks (usually 2-4). Each fry tank needs to be set up with a bare bottom, thermostat, and filter.

Male Flowerhorns have a more vibrant color, big humps, and square-shaped breeding tubes. Female Flowerhorns have black stripes, small hump, and triangular breeding tubes.

Eggs and Fry

For Flowerhorns specifically, the female should be removed once the eggs have been laid and the male is left in the tank to take care of the eggs. Once the fry are swimming freely, the male adult should also be removed from their tank.

For the initial two weeks, baby shrimp is to be fed 4 to 10 times a day. Cleaning the tank and removing nitrogenous waste is also a must process. After this period, it is safe to feed them adult shrimps or scuds. After three months have passed, worms and frozen food can be given to the fry.

Once the fry are 3 to 4 months old, they can be treated as adults and require almost the same conditions and have the same standard procedures that need to be followed. After this period, the fry can also be sold off for monetary benefits or otherwise. Most of the offspring will be infertile for sure, but it is worth mentioning that some of the offspring will be potent and one might think that these will serve other purposes in the future. However, most of the offspring (the culls) should not be allowed to breed for strict biological reasons.