Jellybeans? Convicts? Parrots? Balloons? What’s Going On Here?

Last updated: 2012-09-17 — Created: 2010-10-12

As a follow-up to my post titled Genetics of the Blood Parrot Cichlid, I would like to further my study of some of the weird mutant fish found out there, this time the jellybean convict. You may also know them as the jellybean parrot, balloon convict, gumdrop parrot, short-bodied convict or bubblegum parrot. Regardless of what they are called, they basically look like a dwarf version of the blood parrot cichlid with a pink body colour and a more convict-like mouth that can fully close. They have the same basic spinal curvature/compression as a blood parrot and grow very, very, very slowly. Did I mention they grow slowly? K, ’cause they grow slowly!

When I first learnt about the blood parrot, I also saw rumours of  the “jellybean parrot” – a less colourful pink convict male x blood parrot female double-hybrid (I don’t know what else you’d call a hybrid that has a hybrid as a parent). My understanding was that these were the fish sold as “bubblegum parrots” or “coloured parrots” after a procedure to strip them of their slime coating and horribly dye them those ridiculous colours. However, if left their natural colour, they’d be a pale pink. I’d never seen these available in their non-dyed state until I stumbled upon a sale at Big Al’s for colourless parrots cichlids. Young blood parrots are typically dark and striped, colouring up as they age, but these were something different. I brought two home to observe in December, 2008 – one black, one white…

Both of these fish turned orange as they aged and didn’t show any differences from the other blood parrots I’ve owned. In fact, the previously-white one, shown here, is also featured in the right-hand photo of blood parrots above (bottom/right of the two, I believe), now two years old. Regardless, she’s that same orange colour all blood parrots become (and so is the black one, though he lives elsewhere now). So, this makes me think that those dyed “bubblegum parrots” are just some naturally-occurring paler variant of a blood parrot that get “stripped and dipped” and have no cross with a convict involved whatsoever. Since I don’t wish to involve myself with dyed parrots, and this is not the “jellybean parrot” upon which this post is focused, I will move on and not explore this again, unless one of my male convicts takes an interest in one of my female blood parrots. (Unlikely, especially since they reside in different tanks!)

Time passed and my next sighting of “jellybean parrots” was in online ads, local aquarists selling to other aquarists. I figured I’d ask some of the local pros their thoughts, as well as some of the folks selling these fish about their origins. The responses were mixed, but all referred to the same fish:

  • “You are correct… jellybean parrots.”
  • “Those are just plain old pink convicts.”
  • “Jellybean parrots are a hybrid of pink convict and gold severum, the same as blood parrots are a hybrid of midas and gold severum.”
  • Fry were being sold from “the breeding pair that I bought from a Kijiji customer who was selling them as pink jellybean parrots.”
  • “I actually got about 10 fry from a breeder.”
  • “They stay about the size of a golf ball.”

So, interesting information, if not somewhat contradictory! So, how can all of these statements be correct? Well, looking at the information I was provided, it would seem that jellybean parrot males are not sterile, as their blood parrot counterparts usually are, and are fully capable of reproducing. It’s possible that these fish are a hybrid of sorts, but it could also be that they are a selectively-bred pink convict variety. After all, no one to whom I’ve talked claims to have done any sort of cross-breeding to produce these fish, only the breeding of them directly. Also, it would seem these fish stay smaller than the 20 cm sizes that both the severum and blood parrot can reach and show no hint of red or gold colouration whatsoever.

Looking at a lot of the photos that were provided with the ads, the colouration of the fish was identical to that of the pink convict, including the orange belly of the female when she is ready to breed. Also, males were shown as developing a nuchal hump with age – another known convict trait. Neither of these points prove anything definitive, but it does add some weight to the “plain old convict” theory.

October, 2009 – One of the folks selling these fish invited me to come over to buy some of the offspring that he’d been able to produce. I was able to see his pairs and many small tanks of various-sized offspring. I was told these fish were very prolific (convicts are very prolific!), mating quite often and that the fry for sale were the grandchildren of his adults. Comparing the P0 generation with the F1 and F2 generations, I observed a fairly pronounced elongation of the body between parents and their children; it seemed that the rounded shape/short-bodiedness was being bred out with each new generation. I selected five male specimens and brought them home out of curiosity…Look familiar? No? Okay, let me put this another way…

You can see here the similarity to the pure-bred marble convicts above. The five male “jellybeans” did not survive all that long for whatever reason, but were worthwhile in that jellybean parrots would appear to eventually “breed out” to convicts.

January, 2010 – A friend of mine (thanks Eric!) was good enough to provide me with fifteen of the little jellybean parrots made available from an online ad. The little guys were super-fast swimmers, but when they stayed still for a moment, you could see through their semi-transparent skin that they had some weird spine shape and some definite deformities near the tail. They grew out slowly, but I waited…and waited…and waited…

Meanwhile, I did a lot of reading about fish genetics, which brought to my attention the existence of two spinal deformities: “wavy” and “fused”. These are the genetic mutations that are responsible for most of the balloon-shaped fish available, whether those be balloon mollies, balloon rams, balloon platies, blood parrots or something else entirely. Both of these genes are recessive in nature and exist at different loci, meaning they are inherited independently of each other and must be present in a double-dose of the gene in order to be expressed in a given individual. So, a fish must inherit a copy of a gene from each of its parents in order to display the trait. A pair of wavy genes will produce a fish that has a curved spine that usually arches upwards, while a pair of fused genes will cause a spine that is shorter and compressed. Hmmmm…do we know of a fish that looks like a jellybean parrot, but only longer?

Considering all of the similarities between the jellybean parrot and the pink convict – the pink colour, the frequent mating, the orange belly of the female, the relative size and shape – I theorised that the jellybean parrot was in fact nothing more than a convict with a double-dose of the recessive short-bodied wavy and/or fused spinal mutation(s). I proceeded using the same experiment found in the Genetics of the Blood Parrot Cichlid post. The term balloon convict will replace jellybean convict and jellybean parrot from here on in, as this appears to be what they, in fact, are.

July, 2010

While I did not manage to get a photo of the exact pair during spawning (I know, good one, eh!) or before the father was killed off in a domestic incident over custody of the fry, I was able to mate a pink balloon convict male to a marble-gene black convict female (from the Convict Cichlid Marble Genes post experiment). The fry were hatched July 15th, 2010 and have grown considerably since then. As mentioned in the other post, a 50% black/50% marble/0% pink ratio of offspring has been noted, while all of the fry look like normal everyday convicts with no sign of spinal deformity (though their marbling is one heck of a lot more pronounced, which is interesting – watch the Convict Cichlid Marble Genes post for more on this as it develops). The photos below show the fry at 13 weeks.

Because the balloon convict father likely carried two copies of the wf gene(s), and since none of the offspring hatched to a regular convict mother show any sort of weird spine shape, it’s safe to say that the mother convict did not carry the gene(s) for this/these mutation(s) and did not pass them on to any of the fry, giving us fry that all carry one copy of the wf gene(s). Again, the symbol “wf” was used to indicate the wavy and/or fused gene(s), but what is really meant is “the mutated shape of the balloon convict”. It is unimportant, except to know whether the gene(s) is/are inherited and displayed or not.

Progress thus far can be depicted as follows:

wf = the wavy and/or fused spine genes
++ = the wild-type normal spine genes

B = black (wild-type) colouration
b'= marble colouration
b = pink colouration

If the original parent fish (P0) were a pink balloon convict
father (wf/wf b/b) and a marble-gene black convict mother
(++/++ B/b'), the resulting F1 children will be...    

 F1  |   ++   B   |   ++   b'  |
wf b | ++/wf B/b  | ++/wf b'/b |

= 50% black  convicts (carrying wf gene)
= 50% marble convicts (carrying wf gene)

October, 2010 – The next step of the experiment will involve pairing off some of my remaining male pink balloon convicts with either the marble or black female offspring from the cross above and observing the outcome. This should bring together two copies of the wavy/fused gene(s) and result in balloon convicts, as follows:

Mate: pink balloon convict father (wf/wf b/b)
    to black convict mother (++/wf B/b)

 F2  |   ++   B   |   ++   b   |   wf   B   |   wf   b   |
wf b | ++/wf B/b  | ++/wf b/b  | wf/wf B/b  | wf/wf b/b  |

= 25% black convicts (carrying wf gene)
= 25% pink  convicts (carrying wf gene)
= 25% black balloon convicts
= 25% pink  balloon convicts 

Mate: pink balloon father (wf/wf b/b)
   to marble convict mother (++/wf b'/b)

 F2  |   ++   b'  |   ++   b   |   wf   b'  |   wf   b   |
wf b | ++/wf b'/b | ++/wf b/b  | wf/wf b'/b | wf/wf b/b  |

= 25% marble convicts (carrying wf gene)
= 25% pink   convicts (carrying wf gene)
= 25% marble balloon convicts
= 25% pink   balloon convicts

Much to my amazement, I was taking a peruse through my local PetSmart and saw the little guys available for $12 apiece! This marks the first time I’ve ever seen this variety of Balloon Convict in a retail store. Neat!

October 31st, 2010 – Second sighting! PJ’s had some hot pink dyed ones, labelled “Pink Convict” for $10 each. Looks like these guys are making it into stores on the regular. Sorry for the blur – crappy cell phone camera.

January 18th, 2011 – I discovered a clutch of eggs from my one female balloon convict that had paired up with the largest male. This wasn’t my intention, but it will answer a question important to this experiment: Do two balloon convicts produce 100% balloon convict offspring? A ‘yes’ would indicate there are only recessive genes at work (both parents display the recessive trait, therefore they each have two copies of the gene, as would all their children). A ‘no’ would lend some weight to the theory that this fish is a hybrid (the trait is expressed in the children in an unpredictable, uncontrolled fashion). Mom & dad are shown here guarding their nest.

January 26th, 2011 – The balloon fry have hatched and been separated into an isolation bucket to grow out a little. They are all pale and colourless, as expected. Now to see if they all grow out to be balloon-shaped or not!

February 6th, 2011 – The above spawn got tipped, unfortunately, BUT I did separate the three male pink balloon convicts and five females into their own tank, where they have paired up successfully. I was fortunate enough to find a perfect selection: one male with a pink balloon female, one male with a black balloon-gene female and one male with a marble balloon-gene female, all shown below…

February 11th, 2011 – Here are offspring from pair #2 above. We’ll see how they are shaped in a few months, but if all goes well, these should be 25% pink balloon, 25% pink, 25% black balloon and 25% black.

April 4th, 2011 – I now have spawns from all three of the above pairs growing out, but the oldest pink x black balloon-gene spawn is large enough now to observe. There were only twelve survivors, but it was enough to get a feel for what the pattern will be. The theoretical yield for each of the four genotypes was 25% (or 3 fry in this case). Actual yields were:

B/+ +/wf – black normal: 4 of 12 = 33.33%

B/+ wf/wf – black balloon: 1 of 12 = 8.33%

+/+ +/wf – pink normal: 4 of 12 = 33.33%

+/+ wf/wf – pink balloon: 3 of 12 = 25%

Given the small sample size and since the balloon fry probably have a harder time getting food and are less likely to survive a fight with their straight-spined brethren, these results are quite acceptable, I think!

April 26th, 2011 – I have a new working theory! I’ve noticed the trend seems to be that pink balloon convicts pop up more frequently than their black or marble counterparts. Could it be that the balloon shape is the result of a genetically-influenced deformity, but is further augmented by the weakness inherent in all leucistic fish? Since the pink fish are already weaker because of the colour loss, it would follow that when the wavy and/or fused genes are present, the fish tend to “kink” more than a wild-type or marbled fish.

June 20th, 2011 – Below are some photos of my sole-surviving home-bred black balloon convict. While not as round and compressed a specimen as is perhaps possible, it definitely has the kinked spine and shorter body as compared to a regular convict.

October 25th, 2011– The black balloon survivor has grown up and turned out to be male (he’s got a bit of a hump forming too!). I’ve separated him and the store-bought pink balloon into their own space in hopes that they’ll get along and produce some fry. Because the male was fathered by a pink balloon convict and mothered by a balloon-gene black convict, he should have the genes B/+ wf/wf, while the female should have the genes +/+ wf/wf. Their fry should be all short-bodied, with 50% coming out pink and 50% black. If you remember, however, the male was the only one of his black-coloured brothers and sisters that came out with the short body, so further observation is required to see if the short-bodied trait is strictly genetic or more of a genetic predisposition that is influenced by other factors.

January 13th, 2012– The black balloon x pink balloon pair above has spawned twice, and of the seventeen fry surviving from the two spawns, nine are black and eight are pink. Spinal deformity seems present to some degree in most of the fry. No marble genes appear to have carried through from the father’s grandmother (a marble-gene black convict).

great great great grandmother: store-bought pink convict
x great great great grandfather: store-bought marble convict
(b'/b? ++/++ x b/b ++/++)
= great great grandmother: home-bred marble convict
x great great grandfather: store-bought black convict
(B/B ++/++ x b'/b ++/++)
= great grandmother: home-bred marble-gene black convict
x great grandfather: another hobbyist's pink balloon convict
(b/b wf/wf x B/b' ++/++)
= grandmother: home-bred black balloon-gene convict
x grandfather: another hobbyist's pink balloon convict (brother of great grandfather, likely)
(b/b wf/wf x B/b ++/wf)
= father: home-bred black balloon convict
x mother: store-bought pink balloon convict
(B/b wf/wf x b/b wf/wf)
= pink & black balloon convict fry?
= 50% B/b wf/wf
= 50% b/b wf/wf

February 29th, 2012 – Dad and his fry.

August 28th, 2012

I may call it a day on the balloon-gene experiments. All of the pink balloons have been killed off by other fish, as has the largest black balloon, shown above. To really thrive safely, it would seem the deformed fish need to be kept apart from their stronger, full-sized brethren. At this point, I’m content knowing that it is at least possible to breed short bodied forms of regular fish.

In summary, while the colour (pink/black/marble) of fry can be predicted from their parents, the balloon deformity does not appear to get passed on with as much certainty, only being displayed by a small number of fry within a spawn. This may be because short-bodied fish grow more slowly and have a harder time competing for food, or it may be that there are multiple genetic factors involved that are required to produce balloon-shaped fish. Regardless, to create the “ideal” result with these deformed fish, much care and patience is required.

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46 Responses to Jellybeans? Convicts? Parrots? Balloons? What’s Going On Here?

  1. Erin says:

    Thank you for investigating this fish!!! A few years ago some of these fish came in a shipment labeled as blood parrots. I didn’t think they were blood parrots at all but ended up in a huge debate with a co-worker of mine and was unable to prove that these were a mutation of convict cichlids. My co-worker was so proud to breed these at home, and was bragging about breeding a sterile fish. I am so happy that you have done all this investigating. For about 5 years now I have been curious as to what this fish actually is! Hope you can solve this mystery and provide conclusive evidence as to what this fish really is!

  2. -Dayz- says:

    Hi, I have spent about the last hour just reading your posts and I would love to see more of what you’re doing with the jellybean cons, as I have just bought 2 males and 1 female (males 6-7 cm, female 3-3.5 cm). Got the whole lot for $19.90 and the guy had told me he didn’t know what they are and had taken them to different places and people had called them pink convicts, but then changed their minds as they are shorter in the body (I must say they are very “meaty” fish, might be short but are stocky!). Then they got down to them being U.S White Parrots, but I couldn’t find anything about them, and to me they don’t look like parrots…I live in New Zealand and I haven’t seen fish like these in shops or on our local trade site..i would love to know where they came from but I no longer have the guy’s email =( . But anyway, I would love to see more if you have it? I will be putting pics up of my trio on

    Thanks, Dayz

    • greg says:

      Hi Kiwi Dayz!

      Thanks for reading! Nice to know I’m getting readers from the opposite side of the globe. 🙂 I’ll definitely try to check out your pics if I can find them. Perhaps you could post links here as well?

      I can’t really comment on the origins of this fish as I haven’t located any verifiable documentation of anyone’s process, but I can tell you that I’ve seen them for sale in stores for about $10-13 ($1 CAD = $1.32 NZD on 2011-04-14) and a few people have had them for sale online locally. I’m trying to raise a few spawns from my pairs and count the offspring in order to paint a more accurate picture of whether these are the work of master hybridisers or a more “natural” genetic mutation.

      After talking with a friend of mine who’s big into misshapen fish such as fl*werh*rns (another fish that tends to have those compressed and/or curved spines) and reading about there being a pair of recessive genes responsible for wavy and fused spines in some fish species, it became pretty clear that the correct term for these was “balloon convicts”, following the trend set by balloon rams, balloon mollies, balloon platies, etc. More accurately, they should probably be known as “short-bodied convicts”.

      My thinking is that the names involving “parrot” (jellybean parrot, white parrot, etc) are a marketing gimmick, designed to trick unsuspecting weird-fish lovers into paying exorbitant prices for a very prolific and otherwise highly-reproducible fish (as convicts tend to be!). I would much rather call a blood parrot a “balloon midas” (pretty much what it is anyway, with some super-red redhead genes thrown in for good measure) than call a balloon convict a “jellybean parrot” (since it’s not well-known if they have any blood parrot in their ancestry or not). I could be totally wrong on this point, and I suppose I will have to attempt a pink convict male x blood parrot female cross one day in order to prove it. Until then, my experiments continue and I will keep posting my results when I have them. Stay tuned!

      Canuck Greg! 🙂

  3. -Dayz- says:

    Yes that’s them!, so what’s your thoughts on them? Do they look like “pure” white convicts/balloon convicts like some people think (people must not know about balloon convicts here), or a hybrid? i have seen white convicts in Chch but def not like this and my knowledge is that when people get their hands on fish that are new (be imported or don’t look like what they are meant to be without being deformed) they keep them to themselves and breed up a LOT of them to make sure they get more of the same “type” and then try to sell them at high prices with a whole lot of listings at once so they can sell most of the stock they have just raised before other people can get their hands on fish just like theirs and do what they have and more an more people then have this fish. I certainly don’t want to make a small fortune off these fish but I do want to breed them to see if their offspring all look like their parents (I think they are beautiful fish). Their last 2 spawns (that didn’t survive my tank-mates for more than 2weeks) all fry looked see-thru (at free swim age). So because the parents of the fry both are “balloon” all the fry will look like parents? And if I brought home a female “normal” convict they will become more of the long shape like their non-balloon mother?

    And what’s with the bump on the head of 1 of my males? I have bred convicts before and 100% of them no matter how big didn’t have a bump. And I thought that the mature high ranking male got the bump/colouring /behavior etc (whatever bred be jewels, severums even oranda) but my female is with the male that’s not yet as developed as the other male

    Oh and I must say I love your marble convicts..We don’t have them here (or we might.. could be just like the balloons, kept in the basement for now haha)

  4. greg says:

    I think you’ve got the same thing as I have, short-bodied convicts. Because I haven’t seen documented proof that they’re a hybrid, and I don’t see the traits of any other fish in them, I believe them to be pure convict, with just the short-bodied mutation. So, while they don’t look quite like “normal” convicts, they’re only one genetic mutation away. A perfect example of another genetic mutation is the black convict vs the pink. While black convicts are the ones you’d find the wild, pink ones carry a genetic mutation that dials down all the colours and results in a condition known as leucism. So, pink balloons are a wild-type convict that is both horizontally compressed and devoid of most of its colours from two separate genetic “hiccoughs”, if you will.

    The nuchal hump is very much a convict trait. Not all of them have it, but some dominant males do. I witnessed two of my males fighting to establish territories after one had finished fathering fry (and was returned to the main tank) and their foreheads swelled visibly over the course of the fight! Then there was this monster I saw at a local store… Yup, convicts definitely get humps, so it follows that short-bodied convicts do too!

    Sounds like you’re just as curious as I am here, so let’s share notes! I have had some trouble with spawns being eaten as well, but it’s always been my intention to answer the questions you’ve just asked. One fellow who was selling them here was selling 2 generations down from his original pair and for some reason these fry looked almost normal, and I’m remembering there being some sex-linkage too (one gender seemed to elongate more with each generation than the other). So, is this a sign of these fish being hybrids or could some selective-breeding be required to obtain the shortest of the short-bodied? Perhaps his specimens were not as “pure” as he thought? His fish also spawned in a large cichlid community tank, so it could also be that the parentage cannot be guaranteed in this specific case.

    Another thing worth considering is that these fish are deformed by environmental conditions (i.e. bad water quality). I came across a suggestion that bad water can brings on something called/similar to Myelomeningocele (a form of spina bifida). This would mean that there are no genetic triggers (or perhaps only a mild genetic predisposition of sorts) and that there is no way to predict how many of a spawn will turn out ballooned and how many come out normal.

    Since the wavy and fused genes are both known to be recessive, those fish that display those traits will pass them on to any and all of their offspring, however, if both parents don’t possess the genes/display the trait, the offspring won’t all display the recessive trait. This is, of course, assuming that we’re dealing with the non-hybrid wavy and fused genetic mutations in the first place! What I’m driving at here is that 100% of the offspring of two pink balloon convicts should be pink balloon convicts. If not, it means I have more homework to do! You will be able to tell if the mutation is present by a very young age (<1 cm). Since you can see right through the fish, you'll notice the spine has a distinct kink to it and you can be sure these fish will grow up to be like mom & dad. I'm trying to get some more data compiled, but until I've bred the different possibilities again and again and again, I'm just grasping at straws.

    Thanks! I love the marbles too! But there's another load of experiments connected with them as well. I had some really surprising results in some of my spawns which suggest that the marbling pattern is quite variable within a spawn. I had originally thought that the marble gene worked in "doses" – 0 copies is pink, 1 copy is lightly-marbled, 2 copies = darkly-marbled, but this model has only half-worked, so I'm considering that the marble gene may have "uncontrolled expression", a definite indicator of hybridisation, but then the gene may just have "variable expression", which is possible with pure species. Regardless, more observation is needed. Check out my post here:

  5. -Dayz- says:

    so if i went to a shop and got a female normal black convict and put it to one of my male white balloons it would be..
    100% Black (carrying balloon gene)
    might go find a black female to have a little play around and see what i can get

    I would like to know how to get marbles as i think they look great (would be hard trying to find a fish with the gene here to try to bring out the marble, would take a few breedings to be sure it didnt carry it) but if it was a result of some sort of hybrid then i will be most disapointed as trying to find what fish was crossed some time ago and trying to “re-create” it could not turn out so well..

    buying a black female sounds like something fun to do and i will have a bit of time on my hands when i get back from next weekends trip.. now to find some convicts.. they havnt been seen much lately but lastyear there must have been a huge boom of them as they had shown up all over the place (i was even given 6 randomly when buying a tank)

    • greg says:

      Well, if you have a pure wild-type black convict, then yes, all of the offspring should be balloon-gene black, BUT if you happen to get a pink-gene black convict (from a pink x black cross), you will get 50% pink and 50% black, but 100% balloon-genes. Of course, these ratios are all theoretical and can only be used to predict how many of each are conceived. The survival rates that relate to hardiness, attention of predators, physical strength, contention for food, etc. can all skew the numbers downward for the genetically weaker specimen (usually the one that is farther away from the wild-type, though sometimes “hybrid vigour” can come into play for the first generation cross of any two species and cause unexpected results).

      I have a trio of marble-gene black cons here that I bred, and the pair produces 25% marble offspring if mated together and (probably) 50% if one of the females is mated back to their marble father, so it’s possible to do it this way, but unlikely that you’ll find the gene by accident if you’re just buying random specimens from the shop. I’d try and find yourself a visually-marbled specimen and start from there. All of my marbles are descendants of one store-bought male. I try to mix up the rest of the genes as much as possible, but the marble genes all originate from the same parent fish in my experiments. Well, it’s his children & grandchildren now, as he’s not longer around, but they started with him.

      Yeah, I find it’s really hard to find convicts sometimes. Because they are soooooo slutty (I suppose the PC term here is “prolific”) and hyper-aggressive when spawning, they tend to be valued only as “feeder fish” to a lot of the shops, or viewed as a “beginner breeder’s” fish (just add water!), but I think they’re nice to look at and they’re great for learning about genetics ’cause you can have a new generation every 6 months or so. So, yaaaaaaaaaaaay convicts!

  6. -Dayz- says:

    is the balloon gene unwanted with fish? and i would like to get a female and put her with one of my males and then put a female back to the father pink to get balloon pink and black balloon as i dont think they are really found around here and i realy like the pink balloons and think others might take a fancy in them like i have. but if they are not really wanted then i will only breed for my own thing and extra fish will be feeders for my axies (as much as i hate the thaught of healthy fish being feeders).

    and most of my fry make it, once they are free swimming they are moved into a tank to themselves and are fed on pellets and live mozy larva and water fleas (great for all types of baby water creatures)

    the live food is all so what i use to get my Severums and Red Jewels conditioned (i have a pond out the back which is just teaming with them, even my guppys have fun with them)

    and the chance of me finding a narble in the store is very low

  7. greg says:

    Well, that’s a complicated question. Assuming that the balloon thing is a natural genetic mutation, then they’d be wanted just like any other balloon species, I suppose. The problems that might arise are ethical in nature. Is it right to intentionally produce a fish that is deformed and may have trouble in life? Is the existence these fish lead a miserable one because of their deformity? Should the balloon convicts prove to be hybrids, is it right to release normal-looking offspring of balloon convicts into the hobby and risk the contamination of pure strains by hapless, well-meaning fish breeders? (At least this one needs to be answered with an emphatic no, IF they are hybrids, that is. Still undecided about the first two.) They key is, make sure what you’re releasing is very well labelled! 🙂

    I’d offer to ship you some fish, but there is a very low chance they’d actually make it that far alive, I think. If you can figure out a way though, I’ll mail you the gene! 😛

  8. -Dayz- says:

    I think with people who breed fish when they find a fish that’s got a mutation that’s going to be hard to live with they used or sell them as the feeders we know, but some people breed them in a way that their “deformities” are shuffled around so that they keep a certain look while not having the side effects that the earlier breeding could of had. It’s a hard thing to decide if you want to breed something that is “different” to the original body form of that breed, but in a way, that’s how we got some of the fish we know today…
    I have been watching my fish since I first got them as I was really taken by them and they look to be very healthy fish, they swim just like any other and have no problem with food (not really like parrots who have a mouth that can’t close due to its breeding) and well, they aren’t sterile lol XP

    And hmm do you have overnight postage that goes worldwide? Or like 2 days ish?
    As we use a 40Hour heat pack in a ploy box taped up with the fish in 3-4 fish bags (corners taped up so can’t get stuck) with news paper stuffed in the corners of the box to keep upright and that stress stuff in the water (name won’t come to mind) and then use pure oxygen to fill the bag so the fish will have the most they can get. and best to ship about 5ish cm so that they are past the delicate stage but aren’t to big as the bigger they are the less space they have all together as you would want to send a few just in case some don’t make it and all so the bigger they are the more oxygen they will use.

    You could always stop in at your LPS and ask how they send/receive their fish from other places. Some of our pet shops have like a $20 charge for if you want them to supply the oxygen, bags, anti stress etc

    The best thing to really do would be go around to different postage places and find a company that has the fastest postage and tell them that it will be fish and will need to have fragile care (live fish stickers and fragile stickers)

  9. greg says:

    I’m just looking at estimated flight times and they’re coming up at 18-24 hours, depending on the stopover, I guess. Add to that my time to get them to the airport, pre-flight delays and then customs & import issues on your end, it sounds like it could be a disaster! What do you think? Any delays that might cost some fish lives? Would also have to make sure the parcel was shipped in a heated compartment….it gets a little chilly at 11 km-high altitudes!

    I’ve got a styrofoam fish box that fits into a cardboard one with all the labels already on it, so that’s not a problem…probably good for 4-6 bags (to distribute the losses, if any). There’s a product called Bag Buddies out that apparently does it all for transportation and comes highly recommended by some of my Canadian contemporaries ( I guess I’ll have to figure out the 40-hour heat pack thing. I’ll grow out the next few spawns and check about heat and postage in the mean time. We’ll have to wait for the seasons to align a little better too – still a bit chilly here!

  10. -Dayz- says:

    I just had a look at those bag buddies, those look great. would you have to break it up as 4L in 1 bag is a little big and you wouldn’t want to treat 4L then put it into bags then fish as it says ” For maximum oxygen benefits, add Bag Buddies Fish Bag Tabs after fish have been placed in the fish bag, then close bag promptly.” (Suppose the amount of water you could put in each bag would depend on the size of the postage box.. and how many bags you would want to put in there. I think 40hour heat packs are something like $3.99ea here (online) I don’t think i can find them at our LFS. If the flight is 18-24hours then the 40hour heat pack would be enough for delay and the fish don’t mind if they are a little lower than normal temp, slows down their metabolism so they will be a bit groggy I suppose but should perk up when in a isolation tank with normal heat and plenty of bubbles =) a few lost is usually expected (like 1-3) but most of the time I have had fish posted they have all arrived good and well. Even the goldfish fry at .5-1cm all arrived good and healthy

    I don’t know what they have to do here for import. This is a bit different but when we had to bring a dog over from Australia she had to stay in quarantine for 30days in Australia then she could fly over here for us to pick her up. And that was like $1500 for her to come over (mind you that was a dog in a crate, which is a bit more than a few fish in a box.. haha)

  11. greg says:

    I think the Bag Buddies are breakable tablets, kinda like Alka Seltzer or Tums, so it would be easy to divide them (and probably harmless to “overdose” I’d imagine).

    For now, why not try to figure out what sort of live animal import procedures are in place for New Zealand and make some calls about how much of a delay you might face and what the rules are, k?

  12. tai says:

    how can i tell if its a male or female cuzz i want to go buy a female parrot cichlids

    • greg says:

      Hey Tai,

      With the balloon convicts, it’s pretty easy. The females will show bright orange patches on their sides when they come into mating condition. With blood parrots, it’s a lot more tricky. When a female is ready to mate, she’ll drop her ovipositor (egg tube), so look for this. Male cichlids in mating condition generally have small, forward-pointing, hook-like projections, where females have thick, rear-pointing, tube-like projections. If your fish aren’t ready to mate, the only reliable method I’ve found is to vent. Female cichlids will typically have a ventral region that is much more bulbous and pronounced. Some great examples here:

      Also, check out my post on Venting JDs, which has some relevant info:

      Good luck!

  13. -Dayz- says:

    Hey, just letting you know im still here!! havnt forgot about the fish.
    im currently moveing house after those quakes we have had AGAIN (could of really been hurt in this one this time)
    but once this settles down a little more i will go into a petshop and ask if they can import them etc or if they can know who i can talk to about it.

    all my tanks are still up and running, with fish all healthy and happy

    -Dayz- =)

    • greg says:

      Hope you’re all right, Dayz and that things settle down quickly for you. Let me know what you find out importing; would be interesting to find out how various countries do things!

  14. tai says:

    hi, i got a batch of balloon convict , but it waz a pink convict and a balloon female convict. wat should i get from the batch? wat would the baby look like?

    • greg says:

      Hi Tai,

      I’m assuming the balloon convict was pink, like the male regular convict you used. Your batch will likely look just like regular pink convicts, but carry the recessive gene for the spinal deformity (balloon-gene pink convicts). You will have to mate one of these sons back to their mother to get up to 50% pink balloon convicts in the next spawn. I’ve also noticed that the kink in the spine is more pronounced on some fish, so even when you get a lot of them that display this spinal deformity, only some tend to be truly round. I will keep observing though.

      Good luck!

  15. tai says:

    how do you even pair up a convict with a parrot cichlid? it is hard for me to pair it up if i have it.

    • greg says:

      I’ve never done it that cross, personally and I think it’s important to ask why you would want to. As I’ve stated, it’s my belief that balloon convicts are not related to blood parrots at all, they just a convict variant that has the same sort of body mutation. I’ve seen blood parrots that weren’t dyed or fed any sort colour-enhancing food and they were almost-black and/or white-patched, which grew up to be regular ol’ bright-orange blood parrots. The rumour is that the pale Blood Parrots are a pink convict x blood parrot cross and that these are the ones that are dyed to be bubblegum/jellybean parrots (not cool, especially since the colours fade to orange over time anyway), but I don’t know that this is anything more than a rumour. Some of my devil parrots have white patches, so it’s possible that the typical midas/red devil colour mutations can be obtained in blood parrots through further selective-breeding without involving additional species in the mix (such as the convict).

      When I did the red devil x blood parrot cross, it was a matter of putting a ready-to-spawn BP female in a divided tank (using securely-placed egg grating as the divider) with a mature RD. The female laid the eggs on a piece of slate/flower pot saucer near the divider and the male fertilized them through it. You can probably do without the divider for less aggressive species (like convicts), but when there is only one possible mate in the tank, you’ll find fish will hybridize quite readily, so long as the two fish are of compatible size, mating style (egg layer, mouth brooder, etc) and personality. In my XL tank, I have a few species from the Vieja genus and I’ve had to go to great lengths (such as keeping only females and trading-in males) to prevent the species from inter-breeding, so it may not be as hard as you think!

  16. tai says:

    how do u pair up a devil with a parrot cihlid? why are there is black balloon convict? can i cross a jack dempsey with a convict, i would want to cross breed it. i really want to see wat will the baby come out like. WHAT SHOULD I DO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i have so many little convict fry like 4 batches are alive they r still small, i dont know wat to do. i could give it out but, people wouldnt want it. i was thinking about to sell it to a fish store, but they are too small.
    i have two balloon that i bought. they are a female and a male. they dont like each other. what gender of the balloon should i breed to come balloon?

    • greg says:

      No, no, no, no, no! Tai, my advice would be to avoid making hybrids just for the sake of “seeing what they look like”. In the case of blood parrots, which are already hybrids, I make an exception by back-crossing to the parent fish (midas, red devil, redhead) in order to help study how they were created and reproduce this typically-sterile fish. Pet shops should/will not have any interest in buying/selling hybrids, so you’re generally wasting time on hybrids that would be better spent breeding pure stock. If you make hybrids, you also have the responsibility of destroying them when you’re done and/or ensuring that they are labelled as hybrids so as not to contaminate any pure strains by unwitting future-owners/breeders.

      Your extra convict babies, if you don’t want to wait the 4-6 months required for them to reach saleable size, can make great live food for your larger fish. I’ve found that a lot of stores won’t accept convicts for trade-in just because they are SO easy to breed and therefore have little value to them. You’ll have to ask around at your LFSs.

      I have been able to produce a few black balloon convicts, yes, but they are not as common. My current theory is that the genetic mutations that cause the spinal deformity are enhanced by the inherent weakness of leucistic (colourless) fish, so pink convicts that carry the genes for wavy/fused spines are much more prone to develop the spinal deformities required for the balloon shape than their full-coloured counterparts. I’m adding some photos to the post so you can see.

      Please re-read the post and comments above, as a lot of your questions are answered there already.

  17. tai says:

    hey so when i was reading your RD x BP, the RD was on the other side of the divider and the parrot layed egg next to the RD, then your RD fertilize it

    • greg says:

      That’s correct. The RD was way too vicious otherwise and would have killed the female. (Actually, he eventually broke through the divider and did exactly that while I was away one weekend.)

  18. tai says:

    have you ever tried to cross a severum with a convict or pink convict?

    • greg says:

      No, I try not to hybridise fish. I’ll play with variants of the same species to study their genetic make-up, as well as pre-hybridised fish like the blood parrot, but that’s where I draw the line. I will not intentionally cross-breed pure species, and I allow any accidentally-produced fry to be food for the big fish. I have no interest in polluting the aquatic gene pool with hybrid fish.

      I’ve read that the severum is a very choosy fish when it comes to mating, usually requiring you to raise multiple specimens and letting them pair off naturally, which has also been my (limited) experience. Also, since the severum is a South American cichlid and the convict from Central America, they likely have different ideal spawning conditions. I have two severum pairs and have had no luck in getting any of their fry to survive thus far.

  19. tai says:

    Greg, do you ever breed jack dempsey before, all i dont know is how to sex them?

    right now i am trying to breed jack dempsey?

    its a hybrid, why do they breed parrot x flowerhorn or texas cichlid?

  20. greg says:

    Tai, check out my post on Jack Dempseys, it talks about sexing them ( It’s pretty easy, actually.

    We don’t need to breed blood parrots or flowerhorns or red Texas cichlids, really. You’re right, these are all hybrids.

  21. Hello. i also have 1 pair of bubble shaped pink “convicts” = their fry after spawn i v got 11 males and females and seems all of they have same shape of body and colour. also i was wondered about this type of fish. seems its really convicts mutation as the behavier of these fish is very agressive – same as at typical convicts.

    • Greg says:

      Hi there Margarita!
      Yes, I believe this is a short-bodied variant of regular convicts. Judging by the colour, size, mating behaviour and orange courting suit of the females, it seems pretty clear to me. The shapes of the offspring vary a bit, but for the most, part balloon convict x balloon convict = balloon convict fry. 🙂

  22. Patrick says:

    I have a balloon convict a Blood Parrot and a Juvenile Oscar. The Balloon Convict has a pink swollen belly. She began digging pits and moving the gravel about in one corner of the aquarium. I can’t tell if she has laid eggs in any of these cleared pits. I don’t see any in the clay pots or on any stones. The BP is sitting in one spot so he may be on top of them fanning them. I’m hoping if the BP is male, he is sterile. Time will tell. If he’s not, I think the Oscar may have a nice snack soon

    • Greg says:

      Hey Patrick,
      I usually find that it’s the female that fans the eggs while the male goes on patrol, but stranger things have happened. The eggs are usually pretty apparent to the naked eye, so if you can’t see any eggs, chances are there aren’t any. A convict’s first spawn is usually smaller, but still enough eggs to observe. My convicts seem to like to lay inside flower pots instead of in open pits, so I’d keep a close eye on these. Good luck! 🙂

  23. Patrick Houston says:

    They didn’t spawn in August. However, tonight there are clearly eggs in the flowerpot. The female balloon is fanning them. The BP had been in the flower pot earlier, now he is swimming around. The eggs are 99% tan/brown colour with the odd white one. I think they are fertilized and it also appears my BP is a male and not sterile. There are about 100 eggs.

    • Greg says:

      Nice, Patrick! I try to flick off the white eggs, if possible, so that they don’t spread fungus to the live ones. You probably know by now if you have wrigglers or a cleared out nesting site. Please do share your results!

      • Umberto says:

        Where do you think the open mouth gene of the blood parrot comes from?

      • Greg says:

        I think it’s a result of the compressed shape of the parrot, not so much a single gene, but how it has been selectively-bred to a look a certain way. Looking at my devil parrots, some have normal mouths, while some are pretty screwy looking. I think it’s a matter of selecting what you want and continuing to line-breed that until you get the fish you want. Just at what point they become sterile and unable to reproduce, however, is another question.

      • Umberto Loconsole says:

        Thanks for your response! How did breeding the devil parrot back to a female parrot work out for you?

        Sent from my iPhone

      • Umberto says:

        Thanks for your response! How did breeding the devil parrot back to a female parrot work out for you?

      • Greg says:

        No luck yet. Honestly, I’ve just got them all in a big 120 gallon tank growing at this point. I really need to separate a few into a less hostile space to see if I can get some pairs forming. There are a couple male midases dominating the tank, so I’m sure it’s not conducive to devil parrot x blood parrot sexytimes.

      • Umberto Loconsole says:

        I wish you luck on that I’d love to see the outcome. I actually have 6 juvies of a Texas Blood Parrot batch. They’re still under an inch. I’m hoping for a shortbody Texas with the Parrot mouth. I wish you were in the USA. I would have loved to trade fish with you. Keep us posted if you ever get a spawn. Regards

        Sent from my iPhone

  24. raynor says:

    I’ve got a blood parrot that mated with a convint got 7 diffrent coloured fish some are totally orange some are totally black a few thecolour of sand with a red stomach some the same colour like a convict striped and some with also that colour but extremely long fins and there is one with the shape of a parrot but with the stripes of a convict and there are a few purple one’s they are very smart and seem to addapt very quick to everything and they grow fast

  25. Greg says:

    Thanks for this, Raynor. I’m curious, what colour was the convict? I’m assuming it was a black male convict (probably carrying a pink gene) and a female blood parrot, correct? You’re really seeing the effects of hybridization with all the varieties you achieved. Would love to see some pictures if you have any. Were any of the offspring short-bodied like a blood parrot? Convicts do grow very fast, but I find when they (and blood parrots) have the compressed body shape, they grow more slowly.

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