Basics of Flowerhorn Fish Keeping

Flowerhorn cichlids are ornamental aquarium fish noted for their vivid colors and the distinctively shaped heads for which they are named. Their head protuberance, or kok, is formally termed a "nuchal hump." Like blood parrot cichlids, they are man-made hybrids that do not exist in nature. First developed in Malaysia and Taiwan, they are now kept by fish hobbyists worldwide.

Like most tropical fish, flower horn thrives in temperature between 20-30°C. Ideal or recommended temperature will be around 28-31°C.

Water Condition
One of the important criteria in flower horn fish keeping is the pH level of the water the it lives in. pH level is actually the measure of acidity or alkaline of the water. The pH scales ranges from 0 to 14. Flower horn fish requires moderately alkaline water, ideally between 7.5 to 8.0. In order to maintain stable water conditions, it is advisable to have a regular water change interval of once a week. It is also advisable to mix a portion of crushed coral with the gravel. This will further maintain pH stability. Like any other fish, sudden or drastic changes on the pH level can be detrimental to the flower horn fish. As precaution, it will be great to check the pH of the water periodically.

Filtration System
On the overall, flower horn fish is easily maintained. No doubt that it is a hardy breed. But to bring out the best of the fish (be it coloration, nuchal hump and overall health), we should incorporate an efficient filtration system. There are quite a number of filtration systems in the market. Ideally the filtration system should have these criteria:

• Easily Cleaned.
• Efficient mechanical pre-filter.
• A biological system that is protected from clogging.

Last but not least, regular periodic partial water changes.

Water Change
For some hobbyist, water change is a chore that they dreaded most. In order to have a well maintained tank, periodic partial water change should be done at least once a month. Be aware that clear water with stable water pH and excellence water temperature does not indicate that the water in the tank is clean. Besides, there is no filtration system that is able to keep the tank 100% clean. Furthermore, regular water change will ensure the growth and health of the fish. Be doubly aware that regular topping up of the water in the tank does not count as water evaporates. The waste from the fish still stays behind.

Water Movement/Flow
Most of the time, the flow of the water in the tank is overlooked by hobbyist. But it is vital to the health of the fish.
• Alleviate the possibility of thermal layering. In other words, uneven distribution of water temperature.
• It also helps to distribute oxygenated water in the tank.
• It prevents the formation of thin film on the water surface that will hinder the gaseous exchange between air and water in the tank.

Salt and its Benefits
Salt at times acts like a stabilizer. But in some areas, the dissolved salt content in the water is low, and the addition of aquarium salt might simply make the fish feel more “at home”. It acts like a disinfectant as it helps in killing certain parasites. Salt also provides sodium and chloride ions that helps fish stabilize.

Flower horn fish has very good appetite. This hybrid can either take live food or fish pellets. It is advisable to feed the fish several times a day in small quantity. Ideally to have a mixture of life and fish feed. This will make the fish healthier. Besides, the intensity of coloration greatly depends on the diet of the fish. Excessive feeding of color enhancer is not advisable as it may contain harmful chemicals. Please do it in moderation.

Tank Environment
In general, it is important that we provide some furnishings for the fish. The intent is to stabilize and make it feel more at home. All that is required by flower horn fish is to have a thin layer of gravel in the tank. Bare in mind that stressed fish will cause the fish to loose its coloration, nuchal hump and may stun its growth.

Basic Traits
As flower horn fish is from the South American Cichlid family (under the genus Cichlasoma), this fish is very aggressive and territorial in nature. Coexisting with other fish is not advisable. Thus, if you plan to have 2 or more fish in a tank, it is a requirement that you have the tank partitioned. This will prevent the fish from fighting that may lead to even death.

Facts and Rumors of Flowerhorn Fish
Flower Horn fish is a Cichlid which is classified under the genus Cichlasoma that comes from the South American Cichlid family. Within just a few years, it has ignited a new trend in the tropical fish market all over Asia and spreading to western countries as well.

Similar to Blood Parrot fish, Flower Horns originated from selective cross breeding. This beautiful hybrid is thought to be cross-breed between Cichlasoma Trimaculatus, Cichlasoma Festae and Jingang Blood Parrot. But to date, a lot of better quality Flower Horn has been produced due to the intensified eagerness of breeders to produce the best quality fish resulting in availability of various strains such as Golden Flower Horn (aka Kam Fa), Golden Mercury, Coronation Link, etc. The most distinguished feature of Flower Horn fish is by its protruding head and its unique body design.

Flower Horn fish is highly adaptable and is not very demanding when it comes to techniques of care. In general, they are relatively easy to raise and suitable for fish hobbyist who has never kept a tropical fish before. As all living things, Flower Horns display their most glorious forms and colors when they live comfortably in a suitable environment. For detail techniques of care, the instruction can be found at Basics of Flower Horn Fish Keeping. Choosing a healthy beautiful Flower Horn is as important and the graphical description can be found at Flower Horn Fish Standards.

Some parties have claimed that we can ‘play’ with Flower Horns. As Flower Horn originated from South American Cichlid, they are quite territorial in nature. In actual fact, the Flower Horn fish is actually trying to get rid of the intruder; be it a stick or a hand. Thanks to its aggressive nature, Flower Horn is said to be more interesting and responsive, unlike most pet fish which shy away under the same condition.

In the aspect of ‘feng-shui’, a fully developed hump on the Flower Horn’s head symbolizes prosperity, luck and longevity. It is believed that a huge hump on the forehead enhances a better feng-shui for the owner. Thus, the saying goes “the bigger, the better”!

Another interesting feature of the Flower Horn is the black horizontal markings or known as just ‘flowers’. Some of these markings resemble Chinese characters and this fetch a high price for the owner. Additionally, rumor has it that early Flower Horn hobbyist had won lottery numbers by the digits supposedly seen on these horizontal black markings / flowers. This resulted in a believe that Flower Horn brings prosperity, luck and longevity.

All in all, the unique appearance of Flower Horn is the main reason that attracts people’s interest and attention. This is undoubtedly one of the causes that Flower Horn fish has been able to generate such popularity in such a short time.

Question & Answer (Q&A) Section

Why does the forehead/nuchal hump of my flowerhorn fish shrink after each water change?
This is due to the changes in the water quality that the fish has grown accustomed to. The fish will be back to its old self in a day or two.

How can I tell if the fish is sick?
A sick flower horn fish will be inactive and suddenly loss its appetite. Furthermore, the color of the fish may turn dull.

Can we prevent the fish from getting sick?
Ensure that there is periodic water change. Besides, water quality and temperature has to remain stable. In addition, if you are feeding live feed, it has to be disinfected first.

How do I disinfect the live feed?
Have a small tank that is treated with anti bacterial solution. Place the live feed into the tank a few hours before feeding.

Is fish feed a better choice compared to live feed?
Ideally, you should have a combination of fish feed and live feed. No doubt, fish feed will be more economical.

Is there a recommended frequency in feeding the fish?
You should at least feed the fish twice a day. Make sure that the fish is full after each feeding.

I’m going away for a couple of days. Will the flower horn fish die of starvation?
It is not detrimental to the health of the fish. Just feed it as you would normally do before leaving. Do not overfeed, as the excess food will only dirty the water. In the event if you are planning on a longer trip, just purchased an auto feeder.

Should the aquarium lights be turned on the entire time?
It is best to have the lights turned on for at least six hours a day. This will help to keep the fish healthy and at the same time, projects its vibrant colors. The lights should be turned off when we go to bed. This will be the time for the fish to rest.

What type of background posters should we use for the aquarium?
There are lots of designs available. Do not use posters that have a dark background. Flower horn fish basically requires an atmosphere that is bright. The color of the fish will be vibrant when we use a bright colored background.

Why is the color of my flower horn fish dull?
Check the pH level of the water. It might be due to high acidity in the water.

Why does the forehead / nuchal hump of my flower horn small?
It is primary due to the breed of the particular flower horn fish. Improper atmosphere and feeding could be the causes too.

The flower horn fish that I had recently bought is very timid and dark in color. Is something wrong with my fish? 
It is normal that the fish is timid and dark in color. Give it a couple more days, once it gets used to its new environment, the fish will be back to its old self. During the period of adjustment, feed the flower horn fish sparingly. Overfeeding or excess fish feed would deteriorate the water quality of the fish tank. The adjustment period of the flower horn would normally take around a week or two.

How can I tell the sex of the flower horn fish?
Generally, it will be easier to tell the sex of the fish when it reaches 4 inches in length. At this size, most female flower horn fish should be able to start laying eggs. The most accurate option to determine the sex of this fish is by looking at the anal pore of the fish. The male fish will have a V-shaped anal pore as compared to the female which has a U-shaped anal pore. Additionally, most female do not have a protruding nuchal hump. The body will tend to look smaller as compared to a male which have a fuller and wider body.

Can flower horn fish be kept in colder climate countries?
You most definitely can. All you need to do is add a water heater in the tank.

Why does my female flower horn fish eat all its eggs?
When threatened, the female fish will tend to eat its eggs. Thus, you should place the female in a secluded area where it feels safer.

What is the life span of flower horn fish?
There is no exact record of the life span of flower horn fish. But it should live at least 6 years.

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