Blood Parrot Cichlid – A Complete Care Guide

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Have you ever seen a blood parrot cichlid? These adorable fish leave a lasting first impression on many aquarists, but their hybrid origin discourages many from actually taking them home. However, these unusual fish make great pets, so if you’d like to keep your own blood parrot cichlids, this article is just for you!

Read along to learn everything you need to know about blood parrot cichlid care and how to keep your fish healthy.

Key Takeaways

  • The blood-red parrot cichlid is a hybrid fish that was developed through cross-breeding practices in 1986.
  • These fish have some difficulties feeding, but they are otherwise very easy to care for.
  • Blood parrot cichlids make great community fish but should not be kept with large aggressive species or with smaller fish that they might swallow.
  • Blood parrot cichlids should not be confused with saltwater parrotfish.

Fish Species Overview

Scientific NameHybrid
Common Namesblood parrot cichlid, blood red parrot cichlid, freshwater parrot fish
Care LevelEasy
Lifespan10 – 15 years
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons for a single fish, increase by twenty gallons for each individual
Temperature Range72 – 82°F
Water Hardness6-18 dGH
pH Range6.5 – 8.0
Filtration/Water FlowLow
Water TypeFreshwater
Difficulty to BreedDifficult
CompatibilityCompatible with larger community fish
OK, for Planted Tanks?With Caution

What Is Are They?

The blood-red parrot cichlid is a medium to large tropical freshwater fish from the Cichlidae family. These strange, ball-shaped fish are instantly recognizable with their huge eyes and very small mouth. Their mouth is unusual in that it looks somewhat like a parrot’s beak, but it is actually a deformation.

These cichlids are pretty controversial because they are man-made fish and we don’t know exactly which parent species were used to breed the blood parrot cichlid. They are probably a hybrid of two or more Central American Cichlids. The prime suspects are the well-known Midas Cichlid and the Redhead cichlid.

Regardless of their controversial ancestry, these fish make excellent pets. Sure, they might look strange, but in a really cool way! These fish have bright colors and the most expressive eyes.

Blood parrot cichlids are also very interactive fish. They often swim up to meet you, especially if you’re the person who provides their dinner!

Origin And Habitat

The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid fish, which means it was bred from two or more different species. They were first developed in Asia in the 1980s, and today they are popular in the aquarium trade all over the world.

Some hybrids can occur in nature, but blood parrots are only found in captivity. You could say that their natural habitat is the aquarium! In fact, it’s pretty unlikely that these unusual fish would be able to survive in the wild at all.


Blood parrot cichlids are instantly recognizable by a combination of their bright orange colors, round body, humped shoulders, huge eyes, and small parrot-like mouths that can’t fully close.

Blood Parrots in Aquarium

They are clearly recognizable as cichlids, although their strange features make them look more like cartoon characters than wild fish!

Orange is the most dominant color, but there are other breeds too. Their large fins are usually the same color as their body, although they can be darker, lighter, or even translucent.

The blood parrot’s eyes are one of its most unique features. Their pupil is large and often strangely shaped. The iris around their pupil contrasts strongly with blue or gold.

These features have become less extreme since they were first bred, but the parrot cichlid is still a very distinctive freshwater fish.

Blood parrot cichlids change a little as they grow older. Young fish often have dark markings toward the tail and less color than adults.

Common Varieties (Types)

Blood parrot cichlids come in a few different colors and breeds. Natural blood parrot cichlids vary from white to yellow and orange.

You might also come across the king kong blood parrot. This is a larger breed that usually has a normal mouth.

Unfortunately, there are some blood parrot breeding practices that should not be supported. If you ever come across a heart-shaped blood parrot cichlid, take a closer look. These fish have no tails because they have been cut off (video below).

Jellybean parrots are fish that have been dyed, and they are available in just about any color. Some breeders also tattoo their fish to enhance their colors or write messages on them. Rather get yourself a regular blood parrot. These fish have all the color, charm, and cuteness that you could ever need!


Blood parrots can make long-lived pets if properly cared for. This hybrid fish species has a typical lifespan of five to fifteen years.

Of course, there are many factors that decide the actual life span of any fish, including genetics, diet, water quality, and more. Take note of the care tips in this article to keep your pet healthy and live longer.

Average Size

Blood parrot cichlids are often sold at just two or three inches, which can catch beginner fishkeepers off guard. They will grow a lot larger as they mature and usually reach 6 or 7 inches in length.

Fortunately, these hybrid fish are relatively slow growers, which gives you plenty of time to upgrade their aquarium if necessary. Regular blood parrots usually max out around 8 inches, but there are some larger breeds too. The rarer king kong blood parrots can reach an impressive 12 inches.

Blood Parrot Cichlid Care

Blood parrot cichlids are easy to care for once you understand their feeding needs. Read on to learn how to create the perfect home for these adorable hybrid fish.

Aquarium Setup

The blood-red parrot cichlid is pretty undemanding when it comes to its care and aquarium setup. These fish will thrive in just about any tank that provides enough space.

If you’re setting up a new aquarium for blood parrot cichlids, you’re going to need some basic hardware like a heater, filter, and lighting. You’ll also need to cycle your tank before introducing your first fish.

Tank Size

The Blood red parrot cichlid is a big fish, so it needs a big fish tank. An 8-inch specimen is much bigger than it sounds when you factor in how tall and wide these ball-shaped hybrids can get!

They are fairly slow-growing fish, but it’s best to start out with a big enough tank from the beginning. You could keep a young specimen in a 29-gallon aquarium, but 55 is a much better bet. Add 20-30 gallons for each additional parrot cichlid you want to house.

Blood parrot cichlids are not the fastest fish in the world, but they sure can jump. Make sure your aquarium has a secure-fitting hood to avoid any mishaps.

Water Parameters

The blood parrot cichlid is pretty adaptable when it comes to water parameters. They are tropical fish, so they will need warm, stable water temperatures. Their preferred temperatures seem to be around 80°F, although they can be kept down to about 75 °F.

Blood parrots are adaptable to soft or hard water, and they do great in pH levels between 6.5 and 7.5.

Ammonia and nitrite levels should always read zero when you test your water. However, these fish are not overly sensitive to nitrates if you perform regular water changes.

Filtration and Aeration

Good quality filtration is essential for keeping parrot cichlids healthy in the long run. Parrot cichlids are not the strongest swimmers, so they won’t appreciate a powerful current in their tank.

However, their inefficient eating habits mean a lot of uneaten food might accumulate in the tank. Therefore, high-volume but low-flow filtration is ideal. A canister filter with plenty of filtration media is always a good bet.

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Additional aeration is helpful but not essential. You can run an airstone to increase oxygen levels in the water or aim your filters outflow toward the surface of the water. Breaking the water surface will allow more oxygen to mix into the water.


Blood parrot cichlids do not have any particular lighting needs, but they should have access to a natural day/night cycle. The easiest way to do this is to use a timer set to 6 to 10 hours per day.

Of course, you don’t want your tank to receive any direct natural sunlight, as this can cause high temperatures and serious algae problems.

Aquatic Plants

Live plants can help to maintain great water quality for your blood parrot cichlids while making their tank more natural and attractive. Unfortunately, blood parrot cichlids are not the ideal fish for planted tanks, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. However, a lot will depend on your individual fish.

Some blood parrots will tear up plants, while others won’t touch them. Fortunately, most blood parrots have weak mouths, so they can’t do too much damage.

The biggest problem is that these fish may dig up the regular stem and rosette-type plants. Fortunately, you can still grow some amazing plants that don’t root themselves in the substrate.

Epiphytes like Java ferns and anubias are safe bets if secured to some sturdy hardscape. Floating plants like red root floater, Salvinia, and hornwort are also great options.


Blood parrots often dig, and this can be a problem for your decorations too. Carefully arranging rock piles and driftwood can be pretty dangerous if your fish tip them over into the glass or onto themselves.

Blood parrot cichlids can be very shy, especially while they are still adjusting to a new fish tank. Caves and tunnels between your hardscape make great hiding places, and broken clay pots work just as well.

Avoid using tall, heavy ornaments, especially near the walls of your tank. However, driftwood, flatter rocks, and aquarium-safe ornaments are great choices.


Sand is the ideal substrate for blood parrot cichlids because it is safe for them to dig. However, rounded gravel is also a great choice.

Avoid sand or gravel with sharp edges, and don’t bother with aquarium soils for rooted plants because these fish might just dig up your aquascape.

Tank Maintenance

Blood parrot cichlids are not particularly sensitive to nitrates, but like all fish, they deserve the best water quality that you can provide.


Purchase a water test kit before you add your parrotfish. You will need it during the aquarium cycling process. You’ll also need to test your water regularly once your tank is ready and you have added your fish.

Testing is the best way to monitor the build-up of nitrates in your aquarium, and this information will help you design a tank maintenance schedule that is perfect for your setup.


These messy fish leave a fair amount of food to sink to the bottom, so remove whatever doesn’t get eaten. Vacuuming your gravel while performing a water change is the best way to remove poop and waste particles trapped between your substrate.

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Water Changes

Partial water changes are essential for maintaining your blood parrot cichlid aquarium. Depending on the size and stocking of your tank, you might need to do this every one or two weeks.

Remember to dechlorinate new water before adding it to your aquarium. Some of the chemicals found in tap water can be harmful to your aquarium bacteria, plants, and animals.

Community Tank Mates

One of the great things about blood parrots is that they are pretty safe with other fish. Sure, they can be pretty aggressive, especially when spawning, but they just don’t have the tools to do a whole lot of damage.

However, some modern blood parrots are bred with larger mouths, and these fish will not be safe with smaller tank mates.

One of the best tank mate species for blood parrot cichlids is other blood parrot cichlids. That’s right, and these funny fish can get along great with their own kind. However, they can be kept with many other cichlids too.

The following cichlid species can make good tank mates for blood-red parrots:

In fact, most peaceful fish species that enjoy the same water parameters will make good blood parrot tank mates. However, you should avoid very small fish because your blood parrot will try to swallow them!

Here are some potential tank mates that you can try:

Tank Mates to Avoid

Avoid aggressive fish that can hurt your blood parrots. Any large, carnivorous species that could swallow your parrotfish whole is a risky choice!

Small fish like rasboras, badis, and endler’s livebearers can make a nice snack for your blood parrot cichlids. Sure, these hybrids aren’t exactly built for the kill, but they can be persistent!

Fish species that have special care requirements like cool water or fast currents should be avoided. Unfortunately, that rules out fancy goldfish as tank mates.


Male Blood parrot cichlids are generally sterile, so these hybrid fish are very difficult to breed in the home aquarium. They do form pairs, and they may even lay eggs, but they are usually infertile and rarely hatch.

Pairs will be very aggressive towards other fish at this time, and they tend to dig up the substrate to create a spawning area. However, the adults usually end up eating the eggs when they begin to develop fungi.

Female blood parrot cichlids are often fertile, and they can actually breed with other cichlid species like red devils. Sexing blood parrot cichlids is tricky, although males generally have longer and more pointed fins.

Food And Diet

Feeding is probably the trickiest part of keeping blood parrot cichlids. Firstly, their small mouths don’t open and shut like other fish, so they struggle to get food into their mouths. Secondly, they are easily outcompeted by faster-moving fish in their tank.

Avoid overfeeding your tank to overcome these issues, as this will only impact your water quality. One, two, or three meals per day is enough; just keep an eye on your fish to make sure they are getting a good meal.

Keep reading to learn about the best foods to feed blood parrots.

Daily Diet

There are some excellent pellets formulated specifically for the blood parrot, but you can provide any high-quality, soft pellet that is small enough for them to swallow.

Sinking foods are better since they lessen the chance of swim bladder problems, but many fishkeepers use floating foods without any issues.


Supplements are foods that you can provide once a week or so to boost your fish’s condition. Frozen foods like blood worms and brine shrimp are great supplements, but your blood parrots might struggle to feed on them.

Supplementing your parrot cichlid diet with shelled peas once per week can be beneficial too. Simply boil them briefly and remove the outer shell.

Common Health Problems

Blood parrot cichlids are generally very hardy and not prone to disease if kept in good conditions.

In the early days, blood-red parrot cichlids were quite heavily deformed and prone to various illnesses. These days the fish tend to be more robust. Nevertheless, this hybrid species can be susceptible to swim bladder problems.

Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is a common condition in aquarium fish that causes swimming difficulty. Affected fish might sink to the bottom of the tank or float at the surface, and some even swim upside down.

Mild cases can be solved by feeding shelled peas, but Epsom salt baths might be necessary for more serious situations.

Other Health Issues

Blood parrot cichlids are susceptible to most of the common aquarium fish illnesses. These usually show up after introducing diseased fish to the tank or when your fish are under stress from poor water quality or bullying from other fish.

Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

  • White spots on your fish’s body. This is a common symptom of a parasitic infection called ich.
  • Flashing. Fish scratch their itches by rubbing against the substrate or decorations in their tank. This behavior can be a sign of infection or poor water quality.
  • Torn fins and sores on the body. Torn fins can be a sign of fin nipping and bullying by other fish, but it can also be a symptom of other conditions like bacterial infections and a compromised immune system.
  • Rapid Breathing. A variety of stressors can cause rapid breathing. Testing your water quality for issues is the first step when identifying health problems in your fish, and increasing oxygen levels with an airstone can be helpful.


What fish can live with them?

Blood parrots are pretty peaceful fish and they get along with many other species. You can keep them with similar fish like severums or even other blood parrots. It’s best to avoid much larger or smaller fish and stick with species that enjoy the same water parameters.

Are they peaceful?

Blood Parrots are relatively peaceful as far as cichlids go, but they can be very aggressive when attempting to spawn. Fortunately, they are pretty harmless bullies due to their weak mouths.

Are these fish smart?

The blood parrot is known as a smart and interactive pet fish. They learn to recognize their owner’s face and will often swim up to the glass to greet you.

Can parrot fish live with other fish?

Blood parrots can be great community fish if kept with the right tank mates. However, they should only be kept with other freshwater fish that enjoy the same kind of water conditions. Tiny tetras and other nano fish are not safe.

What do these type of freshwater fish eat?

Blood parrots are omnivorous fish that will thrive on a diet of small sinking or floating pellets. They will appreciate frozen foods like bloodworms and vegetables like shelled peas as a weekly snack.

How long do they live?

Freshwater parrot cichlids can live for a long time if well cared for. Some specimens survive as long as 15 years.

How many should you keep together?

You can keep one blood parrot cichlid, or three or more. Two blood parrot cichlids might fight a lot unless you have plenty of space and structure in your aquarium. A big group of these hybrid fish works great, just make sure you provide 20 gallons or so for each additional fish you add.

How big of a tank do they need?

A single adult blood parrot cichlid should be kept in at least 55 gallons. Young fish can be housed in a 29-gallon tank.

Final Thoughts

Parrot cichlids are one of the most adorable freshwater fish in the hobby. They might not be for everyone, and it’s understandable that many aquarists prefer to steer clear of hybrids. Keep these fish if you want a pet with great color and personality, but be prepared to provide for its special feeding needs.

Do you keep blood parrot cichlids? Share your experiences in the comments below!


  1. Hi Mark: I just found your website. I own nine blood parrot cichlids and this article is spot-on in terms of quality information and accuracy. I enjoy your writing style and look forward to reading more articles within your website.
    Thank you for providing insightful comments and providing a valuable service to our aquarium hobby.


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