Genetics of the Blood Parrot Cichlid

Last updated: 2012-11-04 — Created: 2010-09-08

Breeding fertile blood parrots has been a (lofty) goal of mine since I started keeping cichlids. Since male blood parrots are generally sterile and unable to reproduce, this post will attempt to shed some light on the formula used to create everyone’s favourite man-made Frankenstein-fishie. While the exact process used to create these freaks of nature is safely locked away somewhere in the heads of the breeders of Taiwan, we can attempt to piece together some of the puzzle and how they are able to keep us in good supply of these happy-looking fish.

Important note: Many blood parrots have been the victims of dyeing, as discussed in this write-up on Fish Channel. It is really important for those considering buying blood parrots to know that, regardless of the colour of the fish in the pet store (be that black, white, orange, yellow, blue, purple or pink), dyed and tattooed fish will lose their artificial colour as they age, and adult blood parrots will reach the same natural shade of orange whether dyed initially or not. So, why are customers dying to buy dyed fish? Good question!

The orange hue of the fish depicted in this post is the natural colour that all blood parrots turn as they age. I’ve made every effort to avoid dyed fish in procuring the female blood parrots used in this experiment. In addition to learning how these fish were created, my primary motivation is to be able to provide a source of guaranteed dye-free parrots to other local hobbyists.


Scouring the Internet for information, and reading a lot about genetics has given me a good understanding of what is involved. blood parrots are the result of three things:

  1. cross-breeding of two or more species
  2. selective breeding (for the specific shape)
  3. genetic mutation (for the curvy spine)

1. cross-breeding

Most sites suggest a number of potential species, however most are just synonyms for the same fish and are reduced to the following candidates:

  • midas (Amphilophus citrinellus)
  • red devil (Amphilophus labiatus)
  • severum (Heros efasciatus)
  • redhead (Vieja synspilum)
  • firemouth (Thorichthys meeki)

Because of the very bold patterning and colour variety found on the redhead, I find it hard to imagine it being part of the mix, however, after thumbing through a book at my local pet shop stating that it’s now “known” that the blood parrot is a mix of the midas and the redhead, I’m having to rethink this position. (I’ll try to reference this book on my next visit.) The article referenced below also shows these two fishes as the ancestors, but I was always dismissive of this fact because the article is so badly written/translated and seems be telling two stories in parallel, one about attempted cross-breeding techniques and pairings and one about the development and classification of King Kong parrots. With the comments given by Daniel below, a more conclusive explanation has been provided, however. His statements confirm that the cross used was indeed midas x redhead and that the severum is not at all involved in the cross, but only crops up because of a hybrid that was created and given a name that translates into English as severum, but is not actually the species H. efasciatus we know in the hobby. While the redhead is indeed a component of blood parrots, as well as some flowerhorn varieties, I believe the firemouth only got on the list because of either confusion (stemming from the fact that an alternate name of the redhead is the firehead) or because of its role in attempted cross-breeds.

Unfortunately the red devil and midas cichlids are two of the most confused cichlids available on the market today. They are cousins, do cross-breed very readily and look almost identical to the untrained eye. Something gets lost in translation, as “red devil” seems to be an umbrella term for both species in some languages. Some people refuse to distinguish, where others claim they’re the same fish. I’ve bought a red devil labelled as a midas and a midas labelled as a red devil, so it’s a bit of a challenge to find a pure-bred specimen of either. An article (written 30 years ago!) referenced below does a fantastic job of clarifying. The primary differences lie in the body shape (red devils are long and torpedo like, while midases are rounder and more hulking specimens) and the shape of the mouth (red devils have a V-shaped mouth with a blip at the tip of the top lip, while midases have a U-shaped snout and a flatter face).

Regardless, it’s safe to say that the blood parrot is the result of some combination of red devil and/or midas crossed with a redhead. FYI, the gold severum is the result of a recessive-gene mutation – a gold severum is to a green severum what a pink convict is to a black convict. Two problems spring to mind immediately. First, The red devil/midas is an extremely aggressive fish (especially the males) and generally will rip to shreds anything that moves (including its keeper…OUCH!) Second, the severum is very choosy about its mate, so you often have to raise a bunch of them and let them pair off themselves to find a compatible match. So, how do we get a violent fish to mate with a fish that may or may not be able to hold its own? Good question! It could be that you have to take all males from one species and all females from another and let them sort it out. This would likely involve redhead males and midas females, avoiding the nastiness of the male midas. Alternatively, a tank divided by egg grating could be used to house a single red devil/midas female on one side and a number of redhead males on the other, counting on the possibility that at least one of them will sense when the female has laid her eggs and fertilise them in time. The third option would be to strip the parent fish (which may or may not make use of injected hormones) for manual, external fertilisation and then incubate the eggs in a tumbler or other such apparatus. Regardless, it’s likely a painstaking procedure. So when you’ve gone through all this and are lucky enough to be able to cross-breed these two species, you’ll definitely end up with blood parrots, right? Wrong! There are two more factors involved…

2. selective breeding

If you are fortunate enough to get a red devil to mate with a redhead and end up with fry, the hybridisation process generally makes for some funky-looking fry. Each gene involved from either parent will be expressed in the offspring in an uncontrolled manner, and the models that have been developed to predict how offspring will appear no longer apply. Some fry may be long and torpedo-shaped, while some may be rounder. Some may have a very pronounced hook-shaped snout, while others have a straight, sloping forehead. All of them may look the same, but then certain mutations may come about that result in a couple of random freaks in the bunch. There is no way to know except to do the cross and see.

My thinking is that the original breeders of the blood parrot simply “played” until they got the general shape they were trying to “create”. This may have involved multiple generations of cross-breeding, back-crossing and selective breeding from choice offspring. The prime specimens of each generation would be selected for continued breeding, while the rest would be discarded, sold-off as hybrids (clearly marked, of course) or used to feed larger fish.

3. genetic mutation

The last factor involved in the creation of blood parrots is genetic mutation, specifically the abnormal curved spine shape that gives them that fat, round body. Other factors, such as the smiling mouth, hooked nose, orange colouration, etc. I believe to be attributed to the other two factors discussed above.

There are two genes know to exist that cause fish to have a misshapen body – wavy and fused. These genes exist at different loci and are therefore inherited independently of each other – a fish may possess one or the other or both. These genes are both recessive, meaning a copy of the gene must be inherited from each parent in order for any given offspring 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. Examples of these mutations can be seen in a lot of pet stores among such novelty fish as: balloon rams, balloon mollies, balloon platies, balloon/jellybean convicts, et cetera. The blood parrot has at least the wavy gene and perhaps the fused one as well. It is thought that these mutations have a negative impact on a fish’s ability to reproduce, through either increased physical awkwardness or reduced strength of a male’s sperm and their inability to penetrate the eggs and/or make the journey through the water successfully.

Now, the exact order in which these steps were taken in order to produce what we now know and love as the blood parrot is unknown, but armed with this information, I figure someone might have a better chance at success. If you try it and it works, I would love to hear your results!

My Approach:

So, the question now  becomes, how does one get these wavy and fused genetic mutations into the fry of blood parrots if blood parrots cannot reproduce themselves? Having learnt all of the information above, I figured it was better not to reinvent the wheel…err…fish and try a different approach.

Some facts I’ve discovered in reading, experimenting and talking to other aquarists:

  • Male blood parrots are sterile, or at least mostly so.
  • Female blood parrots frequently lay eggs, but then eat them up when they don’t get fertilised and hatch.
  • A male red devil/midas will likely bully a female blood parrot to death.
  • A blood parrot will readily cross-breed with a midas, severum, convict (still unproven) or red devil.

My approach has been to start with a collection of blood parrot females and attempt a back-cross to a male of one of the parent fish – midas, severum redhead or red devil.

Through conditioning a pair in a tank divided by egg grating (the grids used to cover fluorescent ceiling lights in office buildings and such – check your building supply store,  near the Plexiglas, about $13 Canadian for a 2′ x 6′ sheet), I was able to encourage a spawn between a male red devil and a female blood parrot.

It took a few tries and a lot of patience to get a spawn to hatch – and survive – but I persevered and was successful.

June 7th, 2010 – Here they are at just 9 days old. Cross-breeding? Check!

Here they are (ignore the random convict in the middle there) at 38 days old! From the looks of things, all of them are really long and torpedo-shaped like a red devil and look very little like a blood parrot.

September 13th, 2010 – Here’s a clear picture of what the majority of the fry look like at 15 weeks old.

However, there are a few (literally three from the whole batch) that are displaying a slightly-rounder body shape, which have been separated as potential parents of the next generation. One such specimen is shown here at 15 weeks old. Selective breeding? Check!

Now, if you understand genetics/heredity, you’ll know that because blood parrots display a gene/genes we know to be recessive, they all have to carry two copies of the gene(s) and will pass one copy on to each and every one of their offspring. I’ve chosen the symbol “wf” to indicate this/these recessive gene(s), but what I really mean is “the mutated shape of the blood parrot”. This could actually be the wavy gene or the fused gene or both or something else altogether. It is unimportant to know for sure for the purposes of this experiment, except to know whether the genes are inherited and displayed or not.

Because the blood parrot mother carried two copies of the wf gene, and since none of the offspring fathered by a red devil show any sort of weird spine shape, it’s safe to say that the father red devil did not carry the genes for these mutations and did not pass them on to any of the fry, giving us fry that all carry one copy of the wf gene.

This can be depicted as follows:

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

(wf/wf) = A blood parrot-like fish
(++/wf) = A devil parrot fish (carries the wavy and/or fused genes) 
(++/++) = A red devil-like fish
NOTE: I've include the word "like" here because with any hybrid
cross, the offspring will not be pure-bred and should not be called
as such.

So, if the original parent fish (P0) are a red devil father
(++/++) and a blood parrot mother (wf/wf), their F1 children
will be...

 x |  ++   |  ++   |
wf | ++/wf | ++/wf |
wf | ++/wf | ++/wf |
= 100% devil parrots (look like red devils)

Since recessive genes must be inherited from both parents in order to be displayed in the offspring, none of these fry will look anything like a blood parrot.

Soooooo…now we have a whole bunch of fry that carry the genes, but don’t display them. If we select one of these devil parrot fry that is a male and mate it to a blood parrot female that has two copies of the genes we want expressed, what will result is a F2 generation (grandchildren of the original fish) that will come out 50% like a blood parrot and 50% like a devil parrot. Alternatively, if the males and females of the devil parrot fry are mated to each other, the recessive genes will be displayed in 25% of the offspring, while the other 75% will look like the devil parrot fry.

If we mate the F1 fry (++/wf) to each other, we will likely get
an F2 generation that looks like this... 

 x |   ++  |   wf  |
++ | ++/++ | ++/wf |
wf | ++/wf | wf/wf |
= 25% red devil-like fish
= 50% devil parrots (look like red devils)
= 25% blood parrot-like fish 

Alternatively, mating an F1 devil parrot male (++/wf) to a
(preferably unrelated) blood parrot female (wf/wf), will produce
an F2 that is... 

 x |   ++  |   wf  |
wf | ++/wf | wf/wf |
wf | ++/wf | wf/wf |
= 50% devil parrots (look like red devils)
= 50% blood parrot-like fish

And there you have a potential recipe for breeding blood parrots. Good luck! Alternatively, a midas, severum or convict are rumoured be able to father fry with a blood parrot female.

Phase I:
Red Devil x Blood Parrot Cross

October 5th, 2010 – “Select” devil parrots at 18 weeks old

November 29th, 2010 – Two of the larger “standard” devil parrots at 26 weeks old. These two were grown out in much less crowded tanks, so they are a lot bigger than their siblings. The fish on the left will likely end up a deep red-orange colour, while the fish on the right was one of the first to lose its stripes, looks to be showing some white spots and will likely end up a pale yellow-orange colour.

November 29th, 2010 – “Select” devil parrots at 26 weeks old. Notice how the colour change is not consistent; some fish turn a lot sooner than their siblings. Fifteen of these “select” fry have been separated as potential parents for the next generation. Some are more rounded than others, but I’m hoping to find at least one nicely-shaped male in the lot.

December 11th, 2010 – Photos of the “select” DPs at 28 weeks. The black patches should fade in time, but the fish with the white patches looks like it will be variegated!

December 18th & 27th, 2010 – Photos of the largest “standard” DP (shown Nov 29, left) as he starts to lose his black stripes and transitions to his final orange colour.

January 18th, 2011 – Photos of the largest “standard” DP after completing the colour change. Little brother below.

February 12th, 2011 – The “select” batch at 9 months, swimming with some larger BPs and a couple convicts.

April 5th, 2011 – I love this one!

April 5th, 2011 – The whole tank of 16 devil parrots, 4 blood parrot females, 2 redheads and a bunch of balloon-gene convicts…oh, and a chocolate pleco in there somewhere too.

December 13th, 2011 – Here are all of the devil parrots at 18 months old. Interesting to note the wide variety of shapes, colours and sizes. The two red devil-like males (far left, rear centre) show a paler orange colour (like their father), while the rounder ones are more orange (like mom). One has yet to fully colour still and two show some intense white patching around the forehead area.

I’ve earmarked five of the devil parrots as “most likely to be male” and will attempt to pair them with the blood parrot females in the coming weeks.

November 4th, 2013 – Below are a number of recent photos of the surviving devil parrots. They’re just shy of 3.5 years old now and show an enormous range of traits — size, colour, and shape all vary wildly from fish to fish. Keep in mind that these fish are all siblings and have been raised together for the most part. I think these results provide a pretty strong case for why one should most definitely NOT hybridise fish. The unpredictable results and predominantly downright ugly specimens are just not worth the chance that you may get lucky and produce something amazing. Hybrids are generally a genetic soup of mediocrity that pale in comparison to their parent species, so I implore you, DO NOT CROSS-BREED FISH! Check out this post for a look at some truly ugly specimens adding further weight to the case for no hybrids.  If you’re still tempted, some questions to ask yourself: Am I willing to euthanise unwanted hybrids or keep them for their entire lifespan? If I choose to pass them on to others, can I guarantee that not a single person who ever receives my hybrids will breed them, intentionally or inadvertently, polluting the pure-strain gene pool? Can I guarantee that everyone selling each and every one of my fish or its offspring in the future will know that they are hybrids and will know to label them properly as such? If you can answer yes to ALL of the above, have at’r. Otherwise, please think twice about what you’re doing.

20131030-BP1 left20131030-BP1 right
20131030-BP2 left20131030-BP2 right
20131030-BP2 vent

BP1 & BP2.
A couple of female blood parrots, included for reference.

20131030-DP01 left20131030-DP01 right
20131030-DP01 snout20131030-DP01 mouth
DP01. (X) This one is labelled “devil parrot #2” in the above photos. This is by far the largest and healthiest of the batch and very clearly male. It has a slightly rounder shape and a more intense red colour, but for the most part resembles its red devil father.

20131030-DP02 left20131030-DP02 right
DP02. (X) This one is labelled “devil parrot #1” in the above photos. Initially, it looked to be the best of the bunch, but has grown to be anything but — stumpy fins, odd shape, disproportionate, blotchy colour. Ugly.

20131030-DP03 left20131030-DP03 right
DP03. Female. Very round and parrot-like. Slight black fringes on dorsal fin.

20131030-DP04 leftDSCF4790
 Not quite as round as #3, but still very parrot-like. Probably female. Notice the red eyes.

20131030-DP05 left20131030-DP05 rightDP05. Very red eyes on this one. Female.

20131030-DP06 left20131030-DP06 right
 You can almost see a barred pattern on this lighter-coloured female.

20131030-DP07 left20131030-DP07 right
 Red eyes and skewed shape, like the belly is being pulled forward.

20131030-DP08 left20131030-DP08 mouth
DP08. Really deformed mouth and blotchy colours. Definitely male.

20131030-DP09 left20131030-DP09 right
20131030-DP09 mouth20131102-"koi" BPs
DP09. (X) 
The “koi” devil parrot. Also has a deformed mouth. Looks like this is becoming the new trend in blood parrots, as observed at my LFS the other day.

20131030-DP10 left20131030-DP10 right
20131030-DP10 mouth20131030-DP10 vent
DP10. Really murky colours on this one. Looks like it will never turn fully orange.

20131030-DP11 left20131030-DP11 right
DP11. Runt.

20131030-DP12 left20131030-DP12 right
 Runt with white patches and red eyes.

20131030-DP13 left20131030-DP13 right
 Runt with black patches.

20131030-DP14 left20131030-DP14 right
 (X) Cadaver, lost in an unfortunate filtration failure, included for reference.

20131030-DP15 left20131030-DP15 right
 (X) Cadaver, lost in an unfortunate filtration failure, included for reference. The male from the pairing below, I believe.

20131030-DP16 left20131030-DP16 right
 (X) Cadaver, lost in an unfortunate filtration failure, included for reference. No big loss here.

Phase II:
Devil Parrot x Blood Parrot Spawning Attempts

January 3rd, 2011 – I’ve segregated these two – the largest round-bodied devil parrot male and the most shapely blood parrot female – as a first attempt in finding a fertile/compatible pair.

[ — updates to follow as more progress is made! — ]

Venting Parrots:

Below are some photos showing some some female blood parrots. Notice the ovipositor to the right of the anal pore in each photo. On females, the ovipositor will appear as a larger bulge next to the anal pore, while on males, the anal and genital openings will be about the same size.



As an ethically-minded pet owner, I do my very best to avoid species that have been mutilated, dyed or surgically altered. Please, please, please, if you see a blood parrot that is anything but a natural looking orange colour (or a dark striped colour if juvenile), avoid buying it. These artificially-tinted fish have been painfully stripped of their slime coating and dipped in coloured dye to give them their funky appearance. Even worse are the “tattooed” variety that display hearts and flowers and other such patterns on their sides. Chances are that these colours will eventually fade to the natural bright orange, so their purchase is not only unethical, but a waste of money over their unaltered counterparts, as their appearance is not permanent!


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143 Responses to Genetics of the Blood Parrot Cichlid

  1. Flowerhorn says:

    looks good, nice looking flowerhorn. thanks for the nice blog post, got some good informations about flowerhorn too.

    • Please don’t use the F-word regarding my blog! Hahaha. 😉

      • tai says:

        Hi, do you still have some marble convicts ’cause I really want to buy one male 2 to 3 inches

      • greg says:

        I have some balloon-gene marble males that are that size. They look like regular males, but they carry whatever genes they got from their pink balloon convict father. The marble appearance was inherited from the marble-gene regular black convict mother. Where are you located? We’ll have to figure out how to get it/them to you – timely shipping is not cheap from what I understand!

  2. Daniel says:

    Hey man great site and good info. I’m trying this exact thing right now, I have a large midas and parrot pair that get along so far, so this is really helpful to me.
    an update on your blood parrot parentage
    I’ve done much research and talked to breeders and this is my synopsis:
    the blood parrot is made by breeding dwarfism genes into crosses of
    Super red morph synspillum* x (SB midevil x Red labiatus) . I have parrot babies from 2 fertile parrot parents that show synspillum colours. This is because, as many male bp are sterile, most professional breeders make bp/kkp/rosequeen by crossing female blood parrot back to male red fish.
    This however brings into question your punnets square. As I’m sure you know the dwarfism gene much more complicated than simply having it or not, there is an enormous scale of SB traits that I’m sure most if not all of your offspring exhibit, (e.g. the rounding and “ballooning” nature of the fins of your parrodevils.), therefore the issue of BP vs. KKP shape is a much bigger issue than just “you have it or you don’t”.
    IF you’d really like to get into a discussion on this, i’d suggest mfk hybrid forums (monsterfishkeepers) or flowerhorn forum. You can read all the conjecture you want there.

    I hope that helps, contact me if you’d like to discuss possibilities further. I’m hoping to write a book on this sometime in the future and any input would be helpful.

    Also, If your’e close to oklahoma city, ok, I would love to trade offspring from you.
    I have two pairs currently. One koky citrinellum (m) x female kkp
    and one RED labiatus devil x female RED “purple” blood parrot.
    No babies right now but they’re gettin ready to go. I’m working on the perfect kkp
    rite now, so get in on the ground floor.

    Thanks, and hope that helps

    (******SRS or red shock as they’re called synsi’s have a square body, large nuchal hump, and if you’ve never seen one of these it will blow your skepticism out of the water about the synspillum blood in parrots, as they are the exact same colour and head and obviously an ancestral fish***)

    • Very interesting points, thank you! Perhaps I can try a redhead x blood parrot cross sometime and see what happens. It’s always been confusing about the species involved as a lot of the English-language Web sources state the involvement of the severum and midas, but a lot of the translated resources depict redheads and “red devils” (meaning midases) as the parents.

      I read about the wavy and fused spinal deformities, which cause the short-bodied/balloon shape and are what I’m assuming are involved in making blood parrots what they are. The Punnet squares were meant to refer to the genetic mutation part of what makes up blood parrots and not the selective breeding part responsible for the round body or happy mouth or hooked nose or anything else. Out of the whole red devil x blood parrot spawn, I selected the most shapely of the lot and kept 20 – 1 almost-perfect specimen, 17 very round-bodied specimens and two larger normal-looking specimens, which are all growing out presently. None of these appear to show any crooked or compressed spines, however. This leads me to believe that the process is something like this: first the hybridisation process produces offspring which will show an unpredictable variety of traits combined from their parents, then these are then selectively-bred for a particular look, and finally, the short-body/balloon mutation is bred in to arrive at the blood parrot we know.

      I’m hoping I can mate one of the male devil parrots to a female blood parrot (which takes care of the cross-breeding and selective-breeding parts) in order to breed in the genetic mutation that is the deformed spine. I will definitely incorporate your input into the updates that result from that pairing, whenever it may happen. 🙂

      I’m about 22 hours drive from you, unfortunately, so I don’t think a swap will be possible, sadly. But still, thank you, your input does help!

      • Daniel says:

        Good idea, I’m sure there’s a lot of potential there.

        The myth of the severum in bp in my understanding comes from a lot of poorly translated websites and misnaming the particular fish crossed with SRS in the process as “gold severum”. This fish (again, just my understanding, you’d have to speak cantonese to really get a good picture), refferred to as “jin gang ying wu” is a ‘sport’ed cross of midas x red devil that exhibits short body charachteristics. Therefore, people in asia started reffering to this fish as something that roughly equivocates to “gold severum” in the respective languages, as it is a golden or red fish with a SB midas shape and shortened spine, which makes it look very much like a severum.
        Coincidentally, “jin gang ying wu” translates to “macaw parrot”, which is the reason we today refer to them as “parrot” cichlids.

        This of course was only an intermediate step in the creation of the parrot, and these are bred with midas x rd x srs hybrids that exhibit the particular charachteristics mentioned.

        Here is a super red or red shock synspillum

        I believe it is a natural mutation of the synspillum, and a recessive one, which is why you can get blood parrots from 2 bp parents (given you have a fertile male : P) that exhibit synspillum colours, like the ones I have.

        Compare that fish to a king kong parrot and the similarity is obvious.

        Of course, there is much more srs blood in higher quality parrots, such as the mammon (highest quality )

        I believe our low quality “petsmart”-grade blood parrots are descendants of the “coin” parrot (the round one) more so than the mammon, which has a distinguishable srs hump.

        but then of course you get fish like this

        that can’t be accounted for by anything other than
        probably hundreds of generations or “aincent asian secret” to breeding crazy fish. They use lots of hormones in asia as well, so you never know. They even have a fish breeding institute in taiwan (where happybreed is).

        That fish above is called
        “father of the flaming phoenix”, and he’s one of Japro’s breeder males (from thailand). I saw pictures of him and his mate, who was fustigated(obviously) and was a regular king kong parrot.

        The crazy thing was, the babies from him and a regular king kong female were a perfect coin shape. They were calling them “M&M parrot” and selling them for $200 apiece on flowerhorn craze group buy. Aincent asian secret. There has to be one.

        I’m sure you’ve heard of mammon and ingot, darmo, etc. But just in case, the’res a whole range of KKp.
        The price to get a mammon in the states is $350 for a female and $250 for a male, they are microchipped and come with a certificate of authenticity.

        If only we could breed outside in ponds.

      • Thanks again, Daniel. I’ve reworded the paragraphs above that mention the ancestry thanks to your comments here. 🙂

      • Daniel says:

        Also, father of the flaming phoenix has white eyes. In my experience this is an inherrited trate from vieja, as devil’s have orange eyes.
        My synspillum crossed parrots have blue eyes.

      • Daniel says:

        BTw, is that a polleni I see in the background?

        If it is, get it out of the tank with the red devils

      • Not sure which photo you mean, but don’t worry, the 3 black diamonds I have are now all nicely segregated in their own tank. The red devil father has been sold and I only saved two of his non-mutant kids. I wouldn’t subject much to an adult red devil male in that small a tank! The biggest of the polleni was definitely boss in the 70 gallon when he was there though. Those huge mouths are enough to frighten a lot of fish!

  3. Daniel says:

    He’res another example.

    A fish I have called “ying wu”
    who is half way between a bp and a midas
    came from a cross of fertile bp from a cross of SRSxBP
    and MidasxBP parents.
    not quite a kkp, not quite a sb fader,
    just ying wu. A very unique fish.
    I have 8 of his siblings, and there is only one other that looks like him (allthough it did not fade)
    all the rest are just yellow and olive/synspillum coloured parrots.

    This is why I suggest we call them all “faders”
    this term would encompass all midevil nonsense bp, kkp, sb mid
    paromidas, midoparrus, labimidas, parrodevil,
    and would lead to a lot less confusion.

    Thats what I do.

  4. tai says:

    how can you sex a parrot cichlids cuzz i want a female parrot cichlids

    • greg says:

      Hey Tai,

      With blood parrots, it’s a little tricky. When a female is ready to mate, she’ll drop her ovipositor (egg tube), so look for this. Sometimes when they’re all swimming around in the store, you’ll see one or two in breeding condition. 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!

  5. tai says:

    hey how do you sex a balloon texas cuzz i got one?

  6. greg says:

    I don’t have a lot of experience with Texas cichlids, but they should be sexed the same as any other medium-large cichlid. There are four kinds of Texas cichlid, so you will have to determine which you have (there are 3 variants of the false/green/pearlscale/carpinte, plus the true/blue/grey/cyanoguttatus) before making a positive ID. I believe the females will turn almost black when they are in mating condition, plus show the typical female characteristics: smaller size, more rounded unpaired fins, narrower forehead/lack of nuchal hump, breeding tube, etc.

  7. tai says:

    ok thanks

  8. tai says:

    hi Greg, i need help by making my own divider for my 20 gal long. i need to fix one like one of yours like the one that you divide the red devil from the parrot. thnx i want a divider like yours so bad.

    • greg says:

      Not a problem, Tai. Just go to the hardware store and find some plastic egg grating that is used to cover large fluorescent light fixtures (like the ones in schools and offices) and cut a piece to fit your tank. This is what I used: You’ll have to cut it to roughly the right size and then “fine-tune” the shape to make a perfect fit. Remember: it’s a lot easier to cut small bits off than it is to reattach them when you cut off too much! I find if you get some heater clips, they work really well to secure the divider in place on the sides, and you can bury the bottom in the gravel to secure the bottom. You’ll have to cut the divider a little bit narrower than the tank is wide to allow for the clips, but not so narrow that a fish could slip between the divider and the glass.

  9. tai says:

    anything else how to make a divider, like homemade divider? does petsmart sells sponge that makes divider?

    • greg says:

      Hi Tai,
      I’m not sure how you would use sponge to make an effective divider. If you want a more commercial solution than the one I described above, you could try one of these:

      I found the edges to be pretty sturdy, but the mesh part wore out over time. When this happens, you can use plastic canvas (from the arts & crafts store) as a replacement though.

      Good luck!

      • tai says:

        hey greg but my petsmart, the 20 gallon divider doesnt fit in my 20 gallon. my friend that has a 20 gallon like me bought a 20 gal divider and it does not fit. they only have the 20 gal tall divider only. Srry greg im just a kid and i can not order stuff on online. thanks for your help so much. 🙂

      • greg says:

        No problem, Tai. Glad to help out. I just wanted to show some possible makes that were available; I didn’t necessarily mean for you to order them online. Do you have any Big Al’s stores down there in the southwest US? I think it’s a Florida-based company, so I figured you may have some big outlets down there the way we do way up here. I just wonder if there’s maybe an alternative to Petsmart that carries different makes and sizes? You could always cut the tall ones down to size if you can’t find a suitable fit for your tank. I think some of the larger models turn “sideways” to fit short/wide tanks, so that’s another idea. Still, I’ve found dividing tanks is a lot harder than it sounds.

  10. tai says:

    hey greg i live in north sacramento . ive never heard of a big als store before. hey greg i dont know how to sex or vent my 2 to 3 inch midas cichlid? i wanted my midas to be a female. can you try to sex it. it has short bottom and up tail thats pointy? mines is not pointy at all. i needed the help because im doing a project to cross a texas with my midas cichlid… thnx alot

    • greg says:

      Hey Tai,

      A midas female has the same general traits as most other female cichlids (more rounded fins, smaller forehead, smaller body size and growth rate, etc., as compared to males) and the venting is the same as I showed you with the JDs before. Are you trying to develop a red Texas? I think the formula for these fish involves the use of a Texas, a blood parrot/devil/midas and some very selective breeding.

  11. tai says:

    greg, yes im trying to create red texas because i wanna make money so i will have money to buy fish stuff. right now i have a male green balloon texas and a midas that i couldnt sex it. hey i might try to send pixs of my midas to you to take a look and ID it? thnx for the help

  12. tai says:

    oh greg i dont need to tell if its a male or female no more cuzz i just at my midas vent area it was a male 😦 thnx for your help

  13. Ryan says:

    Please update if you have made any progress. Have you been able to cross any of your “devil parrots” with anything else like another female parrot?

    • greg says:

      Hey Ryan,

      I’ll go take some pics, but I don’t think the devil parrots have quite matured yet. They’re still only about the size of the small Blood Parrots you’d see in stores, so I think they need a bit more time to grow out. I’ve just done a bit of tank juggling, so I’m hoping to spread the fish out in the next few days so that they have some more territories for pairing up and spawning. Check back soon!

  14. Ryan says:

    I will definitely check back as I have a similar project underway so I look forward to seeing your progress. The parrots I have been working with have less of the ugly protruding face and less mouth deformity they look much like the first picture on the top of the page. I have a tank ready to grow some king Kong parrots in as well.

  15. tai says:

    Hi Greg,

    I have a Question about the devilparrots?

    Can a Male Devilparrot Fertilize the female eggs?

    I’ve been reading online stuff that they said that if you sqeeze the males body near the vent area, some clear liquid will com out. I dont understand when i did it to my balloon texas and my midas cichlid, the clear liquid did come out for both of my fishes and i see that my midas’s vent has a U shape vent, and my texas has black spots on the dorsal fin when he/she is flaring at the mirrow? I dont get it and i am confused about it Greg. Please help. Thank You.

    • greg says:


      That is the very question I’m trying to answer by doing the back-cross to a red devil and seeing if any of the sons come out fertile. Typically, blood parrot males are sterile and cannot fertilize eggs. I have not yet had any of the devil parrots spawn.

      While it is true that you may be able to get a male fish to release sperm, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he can father fry. From my understanding, conception is a little more tricky than just whether sperm is released or not. If you’ve ever seen fish laying eggs, the parents will select a site, clean a piece of slate or dig a hole, the female will release eggs and the male will immediately follow and fertilize them. If you watch, they will take turns, each passing over the spawning site. If the male’s sperm are too weak to make the journey to the eggs or aren’t fast enough to reach them before the egg coating hardens, fertilization will not occur. If there is a physical deformity that prevents the male from releasing sperm or “aiming” properly, this may also have an effect on fertilization. I’d much rather let my fish try to mate naturally than stripping them to attempt external fertilization, but this may be another (although extreme) approach one could try.

  16. tai says:


    so if i have a female fish that had layed eggs and not fertilize yet, so if i try to squeeze the males vent area to the eggs? would the eggs be fertilized or not fertilize? THNX

    • greg says:


      I don’t know the answer to this. I’ve been trying to figure out if there is a time limit to how long eggs can be exposed to water before they cannot be fertilized. Male fish will typically swim really close to the eggs to fertilize them, so you will have to figure out if you can simulate this. Can you squeeze enough milt from the male? Can you deliver it to the eggs closely enough to avoid it scattering into the tank? Can you deliver it quickly enough to avoid the sperm dying off from exposure to air or water? Can you do all of this without hurting your fish? Do some reading and let us all know what you find out. 🙂

  17. tai says:


    What i think you are a Pro for me and i think that you should try to buy flowerhorn cichlid and u should tell about them? I really wanna see flowerhorns on your website. If I were you i would get a male flowerhorn and try to cross it with your DevilParrot or your Readhead.. Im just Saying though dont think wrong. THNX

    • greg says:

      Nah. Flowerhorns are what you get when you randomly mix the blood parrot, midas, red devil, trimac and redhead, so all the different “breeds” just depend on which are included in the mix over many generations. Flowerhorns are just a much more complicated (and, in my opinion, uglier) progression of the cross-breeding and selective-breeding for shape, colour and genetic mutation process I’ve written about above. Personally, I’d rather focus on all of the gorgeous pure breeds of fish out there and learn about how nature works rather than trying to create Frankenstein fish, but to each his own!

      There are some posts here you might find interesting though:

      • tai says:

        Hey greg,

        since you dont like to hybrid fishes but how about you try to cross a redhead to your parrot cichlid. Arent they the same RD+Readhead=parrot Parrot+Readhead = ????
        I think you should try it.
        Now im trying to grow my 2 new FH that i bought and tried to breed it if i get lucky. i was planning to cross breed it when the FH is big but i guess its gonna be hard to cross it.
        Hey greg how come i only have a 4 to 5 inch midas with a really good kok is agressive when i touch the tank? I was thinking that he is to small to be agressive chasing my finger around?

      • greg says:

        I’ve actually considered that. I have a lonely male redhead, so it may be a possibility to pair him up with a blood parrot to see what happens. However, the redhead used in blood parrots was apparently a special colour morph called the SRS (super-red synspilus?), so I may end up with a very flowerhorn-like fish if I did the cross with a regular redhead. We’ll see.

        Different fish have different temperaments, so maybe you have a really mean Midas that got aggressive at a really young age. Bigger koks usually mean more dominant/nasty fish.

  18. tai says:

    Nice i like my midas that has a big kok so i can breed it with some of my fishes so they’ll be aggressive and will have a big kok.. Hey Greg, when ever i tried to buy a female red devil or midas, i cant get the female cuzz i tried to pick females but end up getting males? Wen i bought my midas i thought it was a female because it was eating food not chasing others.. Greg, how to you tell if its a female at petsmart because i really want to try to breed my midas?

    • greg says:

      Not so sure it works like that. Are you mean and aggressive just because your father is? Some of it may be hereditary, but some of it may also have more to do with dominance within the tank. Also, keep in mind that some species usually develop bigger humps, so the more pure a midas you can get, the better. RDs generally have smaller humps.

      I’ve found Petsmart is a really bad place to buy these big fish. This is because they don’t have tanks big enough to accommodate more than a few specimens, so you don’t get a good selection. You could always buy a bunch of them and trade-in/sell the extras once you know which are the females. Of course, Petsmart doesn’t allow trade-ins, as far as I know.

      We’ve talked before about how to tell female cichlids from male: shorter, more rounded fins, narrower forehead, smaller size, etc. Find a store with a tank full of midases from the same spawn and pick out the smaller ones, double-checking their finds, forehead and vent, if necessary. These should be female.

  19. tai says:

    take a look at my midas at 4 to 5 inch.

  20. tai says:

    Hi Greg,

    I need HELP!! Now im trying to cross breed my balloon texas and my flowerhorn. My flowerhorn is like 3 inch and alittle big and the texas is like 5 to 6 inch. Earlier today 9/29/11i put my texas and my flowerhorn together and then the female flowerhorn started to flare around the male texas. The male texas just bite her and nip her. Idont get it. Is the flowerhorn trying to impress the texas or what? Please Help Me??

    • greg says:

      Hey Tai,
      That sounds like normal courting behaviour, but it might be that the male is totally disinterested and just chases her away with the biting. If the pair starts to lip-lock and test each other out, that’s usually a sign of them being a good pair (assuming the fighting doesn’t go on too long). Keep a close eye on them. If one fish starts to look damaged, the two fish may not be compatible and should be separated. Make sure there are enough territories in the tank so that each fish has its own and can retreat to it or defend it, and maybe one day soon you’ll notice the two fish hanging out together. Good luck.

  21. tai says:

    Thank You very much. I hope They paired up soon. Oh hey Greg How do you make a fish to like the other fish? If you dont know then its ok. THNX

  22. greg says:

    Perhaps my answer was too cryptic. There’s nothing you can do to make a girl like you if she doesn’t; there’s nothing you can do to make a fish like another fish. Sometimes it works and sometimes they just aren’t into each other. If a pair of fish the only fish in a tank (except for maybe dither fish), they may mate out of desperation/frustration/instinct, like a man and woman trapped on a desert island, but letting them pair by choice is the best way to go.

  23. tai says:

    Hey Greg,

    would my texas change his mind to not dislike my flowerhorn and like my flowerhorn?

    What kind of flowerhorn do i get if i breed my midas to my flowerhorn?

    • greg says:

      Hey Tai,
      It’s possible that your Texas may have a change of heart, you’ll have to wait and see! 🙂

      There are so many different variations of flowerhorns, but you’ll end up with a fish that has traits from each parent. With most hybrids, you’ll have fry that are quite varied, so they won’t all be the same like when you mate within one species. It’s really impossible to predict exactly what you’ll get with hybrids.

  24. tai says:

    hey Greg,

    never mind my texas cichlid killed her because i went to skool and the divider break, so my flowerhorn died. 😦

  25. greg says:

    Sorry to hear that, Tai. That’s what happened to my female blood parrot when I went away for the weekend and the red devil broke through. 😦 Still have 15 of their children though! 🙂

  26. tai says:


    i was pretty mad at my texas, im thinking imma go trade him or i might get a female balloon texas for him. how did you end up with 15 parrot? i thought u made alot of them?

  27. greg says:

    Well, there has only been the one RD x BP spawn so far, so these 15 are the survivors that have been saved for the short-bodied shape. The rest were put to sleep. I’m hoping to finish the experiment by crossing one of these males with a BP female to get closer to the blood parrot shape.

  28. tai says:

    Kool, hope the male DEvilparrot can be a fertile.

  29. tai says:

    Hi Greg,

    i have a question, do you get red texas from breeding two short body texas together?
    a texas x blood parrot= red texas, right, so if you breed two short body texas together would the baby come out to be red?

  30. greg says:

    Hey Tai,
    Not necessarily. You would probably just get more short-bodied Texas cichlids. Blood parrots are a short-bodied fish, but all short-bodied fish are not blood parrots. As far as I know, you’ll need to breed blood parrot to Texas, select the nicest of the offspring (they’ll all be slightly different because of the effects of hybridisation) and mate one of these again to a Texas to bring out the nice spotting.

  31. tai says:


    so hmmmm i have to get a blood parrot to breed with my texas abd pop out some red texas and then would i get more red texas from ak crossing the kids to the blood parrot mom?

  32. tai says:

    thnx Greg,

    i am hoping to get either a small blood parrot female if im lucky and im thinking to get a small red devil for my male little texas

  33. tai says:

    what if i breed a regular texas with a blood parrot ? what will it look like then?

  34. tai says:

    okay Greg,

    but sometimes my texas has alittle green on the gill plate and my texas doesnt even have big pearls.

  35. tai says:

    hey Greg,

    how do you paired up texas cichlid because i really wannna breed them. my texas are like 2 inches and what i think i got two males and one female 100% that its a female cuzz the black spot on the dorsal fin. the tank mates are a flowerhorn, short tail red devil and a little pink convict. Please help

  36. tai says:

    THNX Greg,

    i really appreciate your help.

    hmm i have a question, is the veija cichlid is named like redhead or synphilus something?

  37. tai says:

    Hey Greg,

    SRRY if i kept on asking the same questions.

    how do you crossbreed cichlids like flowerhorn x red devil or FH x Texas?

    howe do you breed FH to a Texas?

    • greg says:

      If you’re finding that the fish are too aggressive to live together in the same tank, try the (partial) divider method I used above. You may have to separate the male and female on the opposite sides of a divider, but it may be enough to give her a place to escape through the divider by cutting a hole big enough for the female, but not the male to pass through. If you give her a place (flowerpot, saucer, slate, etc.) to lay eggs near the divider, it should just be a matter of conditioning her with protein-rich foods and waiting, assuming your water parameters are conducive to spawning. See if you can get her to lay eggs in the same tank as a your male and we’ll go from there, k? Good luck!

  38. tai says:

    Greg, so even though they dont like each other, i can still try to spawn them huh, like ill put a flat surface near the divider and then she lay eggs then the male will fertilize it but do the male always fertilize it or no? So no matter what the male will fertilize the eggs? What if they dont like each other and will the male fertilize the eggs still?

    • greg says:

      Well, it can’t hurt to try, and the only way to find out if it’ll work is to try and see! You remember how my red devil and blood parrot had to be separated, but ended up making babies with the divider in place? Perhaps it will be the same with your fish.

  39. tai says:

    Ok Greg,

    thnx alot

  40. tai says:

    So Greg,

    your red devil and your parrot didnt even like each other?

    • greg says:

      Well, you may notice that sometimes two fish will be pretty hostile towards each other until they are ready to mate, come together to spawn and then go their separate ways again. Since the red devil ended up killing the blood parrot, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t like each other, yes. You’ll notice with egg-layers that the parents will prepare a nesting site and then once the eggs are laid, mom will take on the fanning duties, while dad will go on border patrol. I’ve had females kill males when they’re all alone in the tank to protect the fry, but sometimes it can happen the other way around if the male is much larger or more powerful…or if the tank is too small.

  41. is it fine to leave the babies with their parents or after hatching shift them to another..
    it’s my first time that my fishes have laid eggs…
    plz reply me in email who can help me out…:)

    • greg says:

      I usually remove the babies one they’re free-swimming to ensure the highest survival rates, but it’s okay to leave them with their parents in for a while. Usually the parents will defend their young, and will only eat the babies if a) they’re super-hungry, b) they feel threatened or c) they are ready to spawn again. Good luck!

  42. Tai says:

    Hi, I have a question. Why is my flowerhorn kept on swimming upside down and doing this flip in the water??

    • greg says:

      This doesn’t sound good, Tai. Google “swim bladder disease” and see what you can figure out. The first steps are generally to improve your water quality, stop feeding for a few days, then feed some crushed green peas or veggie flakes to help clear out the fish’s system. Good luck!

  43. Tai says:

    Hey Greg, Im trying to cross a flowerhorn with a parrot. Please try to help me how to spawn them. My male flowerhorn is doing the shaking thingy but sometimes bite the female parrot.

    • greg says:

      If the fish are locking lips, it’s usually a test of virility and a sign of mating behaviour, but if the male is biting the female’s sides or fins, it could be that he’s not interested and just chasing her away from his territory. Is the female showing any signs of getting plump with eggs or dropping her ovipositor? Some general guidelines:

  44. Tai says:

    My Female Parrot is dropping her tube. Right now they both are getting along but it seems like the female parrot is kind of scare of him. Sometimes my male flowerhorn does a shaky thingy. I bought my female parrot at my local farm and was paired up with another male parrot, so i snatch it and try to breed it.

    • greg says:

      If they’re getting along, why not give it some time and see what happens? You’re aware that male parrots are usually sterile, right? The female parrot may be paired up with that male, but unless they’re a proven pair that has spawed previously, it doesn’t guarantee that they will (or even are able to) reproduce. Chances are any eggs that are laid will go unfertilized. I’d stick with the flowerhorn. Question: what exactly do you mean by “a shaky thing”?

  45. Tai says:


    My female is now showing some agression to my flowerhorn when my male flowerhorn enters her pot.

    The shaky thingy is when the fish shows interest right?

    • greg says:

      Sounds like your female is defending her nest against a perceived intruder. This could be that she hasn’t accepted him as a mate, but usually the male’s job is to fend off other fish from outside the nest, so it could be just her way of saying, “You do your job and I’ll do mine!”

      I’m still not sure what you mean exactly by “shaky thing”. Please describe this behaviour, and I’ll let you know.

      • Tai says:

        Greg, I’ve heard about some fishes doing the head shaking. People says that this would mean that the fish is ready to spawn or they are showing interest.

      • greg says:

        Hmmm…well, I guess you can look at your fish and see if they spawn after doing the head shaky thing. 🙂

  46. Adam says:

    Hi Greg. I just bought some home grown parrots off a couple who bred them completely by accident from a female synspilum and a male Midas. They produced about 60 fry. Most of which were perfect little parrots. The rest were normal shaped. They are very spritely little things and are mostly juvenile parrot coloration although a couple are developing gold patches. So it seems synspillum female x male Midas is the magic recipe… Adam

    • Adam says:

      Forgot to mention that they even had a couple of ‘unicorn parrots’ amongst the fry. guess that dispels the myth about them being mutilated. They are just born that way 🙂

      • greg says:


        Thanks for sharing these results! It’s really interesting how the unpredictable nature of hybrid genetics can produce some pretty gnarly-looking fish. I admit I hadn’t heard of unicorn parrots before, but I’ve seen something similar on a convict, where it looked like something had taken a bite out of its forehead.

        I’d be curious to know where this couple got their midas and redhead, and how pure the stock was. I’d say more often than not, if you buy a red devil or midas in a pet store, you can really only guarantee you’re getting something bred from Amphilophus species. Unless the proprietor is dedicated to only obtaining these fish from really reputable sources, I get the impression that genetic purity is hardly guaranteed. I wonder if the same result would be obtained taking two wild-caught parents, or if the parents had some weird genes resulting from being domestic stock. Do you have some pictures of your parrots and their parents? Would be neat to see!

      • Adam says:

        my apologies. The father was a labiatum not citrinellum. It was really funny actually. They scored their 6 foot tank from hard rubbish collection and just bought a few random fish from an aquarium store. the pair spawned twice producing one clutch of fry (the other batch were eaten by two tiger Oscars that shared the tank) before the mother unfortunately. Died. I will try and upload some images from the add on gumtree and will take some pics.

  47. Adam says:

    How can I upload images?
    Here is the oiginal ad for these little guys. You can see the two very different body shapes as well as their father, the orange labiatum.

    • greg says:

      Neat! Yes, that father is definitely more red devil than midas – those big V-shaped lips are huge! I’m a little iffy on the females, however. Those colour patterns are off for a redhead. I know there are a lot of variants of this species (actually, I’ve read it’s recently been absorbed as a junior synonym of melanurus), but I’ve never seen one with stripes that are that pronounced or that much blue around the gills. Typically a redhead has red on the front third of the body and multi-coloured & yellow on the back two thirds, with black splotches on the lower half of the body. This photo is of one I had that came from a LFS I trust to provide pure stock: Those females look hybrid-like to me. I think you’ve been flowerhorned! 😛 What do you think? Is this possible?

      You can post links to videos in your comments, which will embed, I believe, but photos, you have to host elsewhere and link to them. I don’t believe WordPress allows photos to be posted within comments. I’d have to add them to the post above myself.

  48. Adam says:

    Hi Greg. Sorry I should have added more detail. The owners said the mother Synspillum died after the second batch of fry were eaten (bit of a shame) and there is no image of her. All the other fish in the pics are the offspring from the original crossing. The owners said that the “normal” shaped ones were selling better so they were trying to grow them up. They do look nice, I am sure some ameteur flowerhorn breeders would be interested. The fins are very synspilum like to me (amateur cichlid fancier that I am) and some of the parrots have really ruby red throats so I dont doubt the original cross.
    I will try and get some good pics of the fry I purchased this evening, then try and figure out what to do with them.
    I have two fish which i purchased as “flower parrots” from a local store. I dont believe that they have any “flowerhorn” blood but were created using a barred midas. They are very striking “parrot” fish with pink throats, heavy black barring and a smattering of green scales. They have spawned twice for me in the 3 weeks I’ve had them but alas…sterile, mouldy eggs.
    Also just wanted to menthion that all the fish absoluely love live mosquito larvae and bloodworms (which I culture myself). They have an absolute field day hunting them out of the gravel. They don’t look like natural fish but they love this very natural behaviour and it has done wonders for thier colour and condition.

    • greg says:

      Ah yes, this would make sense then. Some of Jeff Rapps’ photos show some neat red devil variants with bars. If one were to take a fish like this: and overlay the redhead colouring and shape, it would totally explain how your fish came to be. My red devil x blood parrot pairing yielded similar results: some parrot-like, some devil-like offspring, all with slightly different colouration, size, shape, etc. I imagine a red devil x redhead cross would yield an equally random variety of traits.

      I have also seen what are called Kirin parrots, which have flowerhorn patterns on a parrot body. There’s an image floating around that shows the evolution of the flowerhorn (, which would suggest the midas, ???, trimac, redhead and parrot are all involved, so these flowerhorn parrots are likely an artefact of the whole process. I get the feeling that “flowerhorn” is used as a much broader term than we perhaps think it should be, almost synonymous with “hybrid” at times. Some of these hybrid “accidents” are pretty crazy!

      Any tips on culturing those mosquito larvae? I’m already in enough trouble for having my own worm compost bin, but I figure it can’t hurt to learn how, right?

      Thanks for sharing all this info, Adam!

  49. Adam says:

    No worries at all. I am just glad that there are other people interested in uncovering the truth about parrot ancestry.
    It was interesting with the synspilum x Midas offspring that the fry were very polarised, either “perfect” parrots (meaning the triangular open mouth, humped back and long flowing fins) or Midas shaped with normal mouths. I had been expected only a couple of parrots after reading this article , but it was far from true!
    I live in a pretty mosquito infested area so it’s really easy. I just fill deep plastic tubs (garbage bins would be fine) with water and add a handful of pelletised chicken manure to each. I place them in partly shaded position (too much sun causes algal blooms) and after a few days you can see the larvae starting to swarm. Once they are larger I just scoop them with a fine net and run them under the tap before adding them to the tank. The only pitfall is making to harvest regularly to prevent the larvae maturing into adults. After a couple of weeks you need to empty the tubs and start again. You get a good mix of blood worms and mosquito wrigglers and with 5 tubs I have enough to treat all my fish.

    • greg says:

      Hey, don’t forget: Amphilophus labiatus = red devil, A. citrinellus = midas – they are not the same fish, though they are frequently confused. Check out “The Amphilophus labiatus Species Complex” referenced above for all the gory details on this topic. Yours are labiatus/red devil x synspilum/redhead/quetzal/(how/many/names/can/we/give/this/fish?!), right?

      I think what the PFK article is saying is that if you hybridise two species with the hope of obtaining certain specific characteristics in all the offspring, you’ll likely be disappointed. The more traits you need to put in line to get a certain outcome, the less likely it is going to be to happen. With hybrids, you will always get a smattering of different characteristics, some from each parent, so while you may get a good selection that are “perfect” parrots, in order to get that truly-perfect “perfect” parrot, you’ll be looking for only a very small number within a spawn, which you will then need to selectively-breed to preserve the desired traits and “evolve” the strain in this fashion. I found with my devil parrots that even the shorter ones that took after mom weren’t as short at parrots can be, so I still need to do some picking and choosing to see if I can get the next generation more in line with the desired “norm”, assuming they’ll breed at all for me. I think the über-roundness (where parrots are only about as long as they are tall) is actually a recessive trait that compresses the spine of the fish, so there’s no way to get it from a straight hybrid cross; it’s the result of a random genetic hiccough that has been accidentally discovered, then preserved through careful selective-breeding and out-crossing. Still, it is very interesting how the typically-parrot traits have been grouped together in the shorter fish and completely absent in the longer ones, you’re right. Did you find the shorter ones grew to be all fairly uniform or did they all have subtle differences?

      I’m reading up on raising mosquito larvae here. Interesting! I may have a problem starting colony at this time of year (not quite spring yet, still a little cold), but I think I could make it work. I’m assuming this is best kept as an outdoor activity, yes? How do you seed the colony? Is it just a matter of having green standing water and the mosquitoes will find their way to it? How do you ensure you get mostly mosquitoes and not some other critters? What is the function of the manure?


  50. Adam says:

    The manure adds nutrients to feed the bacteria that the wrigglers feed on. You don’t have to use it as bacteria and algae will start to grow naturally, but you get much higher yields of wrigglers in nutrient rich water. Plus it gives the bloodworms something to construct thier shelters from. It’s definately an outdoor persuit (a little smelly, but that goes after a couple days). I try to keep them in the shade (under 70% shade cloth) as strong sun causes a green scum layer to form, which makes collection difficult and reduces numbers. You dont have to seed or anything.The female mosquitoes will find the water and begin to lay thier egg rafts straight away. Other midges will show up, but thier larvae are like bloodworms so they’re just a little extra snack for the fish. I also have rosy barbs breeding like flies in my outdoor pools but I can’t bring myself to use them as feeders, they are much too friendly! (a seriously underrated fish, why people bother with goldfish is a mystery to me).
    Um, the parrots were all very nerly identical. Which i was happy about as I was afraid i would have to hunt for ones wih triangular mouths.
    Re: the bone structure, have you seen this x-ray. Pretty interesting.,%202012.htm

  51. Tai says:

    Hi Greg, can you do the venting on your Blood Parrot Cichlids to tell which ones are males or females?? Im thinking going to buy a female Blood Parrot Cichlid. Thank You.

  52. ritchy says:

    i have a 125 gallon tank with large parrrots and my son gave me a large red devil fish and now i have a baby fry from the red devil and a female parrot that mated…

  53. Tai says:

    Can you? Greg, venting your parrot to tell which one is a male or female? if not its ok

  54. Tai says:

    Ok, cool. I can’t wait to see it. heheheheh.

    • Greg says:

      There you go, Tai. I’ve inserted eight photos near the bottom of this post for you to see what female blood parrots look like. The first photos show a parrot that is near ready to lay eggs, while the others are not in breeding condition. Hope this helps!

  55. Tai says:

    Thank You, so females usually has a big dot O and males usually has a small dot o?

    • Greg says:

      Yes, if you consider the poop hole too, males are oo, while females are oO. This is the case with most cichlids species I’ve bred and works pretty well when you don’t have another way to tell the males and females apart.

  56. Tai says:

    So if i was a LFS and saw some blood parrot cichlid, how do you determine that its a male or female by looking at it?

    • Greg says:

      You typically can’t tell, but if the female happens to be nearing ready to spawn, her egg tube might drop a bit. Have a look at the ventral region and see if you can spot a bit of a bulge. If the staff at the store are willing and knowledgeable, just have one of them vent the fish before you buy it. Can’t hurt to ask!

  57. Tai says:

    So Greg hows the Devil Parrot x Blood Parrot going? Would like to know.

    • Greg says:

      I should probably take some new photos for you. Some of the devil parrots are quite stunted, while some are growing at a more normal rate. You get a really unpredictable range of traits with hybrids. A couple of them have been lip-locking, so I should probably try again to pair a male-looking devil parrot with one of the female blood parrots.

      • Tai says:

        Great. I am looking forward to see that. 😀 The only thing I wish is Hope the male Devil Parrot is fertile.

  58. Lewis says:

    Im Now Trying A Few Types Of Fish Cross Breeding I’ve heard on numerous times that u can cross a midas & a severn also to get a blood parrot. im Now Got A Femal Blood Parrot And Waiting to see if my true parrot will fertlize its eggs then im going to try do a 3 spotted chiclid crossed with a midas u get a flowerhorn. Also Trying 3 spotted chiclid plus sumthing to get a kiln parrot

    • Greg says:

      Hey Lewis,
      Check out the comments above by Daniel from January 2011. I’m pretty convinced that the midas x severum mix is not the way to get blood parrots (though I have also read it is numerous times as well), but it sounds like you have some fun projects to keep you busy.

      • Lewis says:

        yeh its just trying to get a trimac aka 3 spotted cichlid there so hard to find near to impossible so i hoping for a pair from sumwhere so i can then breed the pair and i no some who deals with aqauriums and he said woteva fry i get h will ave off me its al bout the genetics its a long hard understanding but only time will tell i will keep u posted with
        my luck

  59. Wendel says:

    Hi Greg,

    I’ve started my own attempts at trying to get blood parrot babies and I found your article most intriguing. I have not read any updates on the F1 (devil parrot) generation. Have you determined whether or not these F1 generation males are indeed fertile? I would love to see an update along with new pictures, if possible. Thanks for all of the in-depth explanations of your process. Happy breeding!

    • Greg says:

      Awesome, Wendel! Let me know if you have any luck, k? Honestly, I’ve been just growing out the males in hopes of trying again someday soon. I have a couple of empty tanks and have been meaning to port the BP females and DP males to it in hopes they’ll pair up, but just waiting for a surge of inspiration to do a fishroom overhaul and rearrange a bit. I’ll try to get some photos up soon.

      • Wendel says:

        Thanks Greg.
        I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Another question for you: When you want to find mating pairs, how do you go about it? There are 2 ways I can think of: 1) Put a bunch of males and females in a large tank and see who pairs up. Remove the pairs into their own tank. Or 2) Pair up one male and one female in their own individual tank and see if they mate. If so, leave them be and if not, maybe swap one of them out for another potential mate. Do you have a preference? Thanks!

      • Greg says:

        It really depends on the species I find. Convicts, for example, will pretty much mate with anyone, so the second method (isolate a pair) works fine. Some fish will just tear each other to pieces if you do this, so it’s better to use the first method of letting the pair form from a group. Sometimes you can move this pair to its own space, but sometimes the other fish are needed for dithering purposes, preventing aggression between the members of the pair. I prefer the second method since it doesn’t require raising and selling off extra fish, but the first method has an advantage in that you have backups for when a fish gets popped off or the pair proves incompatible.

        Will try to spend some time with my camera in the fish room over the next couple of days. Look for some photos over the weekend.

  60. abhilash says:

    this article is just too good!!!! =D keep it up !!!!

  61. Hi Greg, beautiful work your done there.
    I have 3 blood parrots and photos of their vents, could you help me identify their gender please.
    And do you think it is possible to cross them with yellow labs?
    Links to pics



    Thank you!

    • Greg says:

      Thanks, Amgad!

      It’s really hard to tell when there’s a shine on the vent like in the photos, but look to see if the two openings are the same size (male) or if the rear opening is bigger (female). If I had to guess, I’d say male, female, female.

      Once I do an update on this post with some photos, you’ll see why it’s a very bad idea to cross species. The results of hybridization vary wildly and are quite unpredictable — you end up with a genetic mess. Labs are mouth-brooding African cichlids, while BPs are made from egg-laying Central American species. I’ve heard of some weird African/New World mixes (e.g. jewels & convicts), but never between egg-layers and mouth-brooders and never with such a huge size differential. In a word: no.



      • abhilash says:

        if u have any pic of jewel X convict then please share it

      • Thank you for the help, I hope they are as you said. The first one is dominant and he is building a nest, so I think this is a male behavior right? he is picking on the other two keeping them hiding all the time I added 10 black skirts as a dither to ease stress a little bit, I hope it works.

    • Greg says:

      You’ll have to google those images. I have never done this cross and never will. I’m totally against making new hybrids.

    • Greg says:

      A great article!

      Why create hybrids when there is so much natural beauty to be observed? Example upon examples here (scroll down):

    • Greg says:

      There is no severum in BPs. The mix is from selectively bred strains of midas x redhead/synspilum. I think I talked about this above being an issue with similar naming or translation when two similar hybrid experiments were being described in the same article.

  62. Craig says:

    Hi mate I’m a big fan of your work can you email me or add me as a friend on fb tank mates is profile pic is a jack Dempsey email is thelinesclan@gmail but I don’t get notifications. Doing my own strains and would love your input I’m in the UK

  63. Amgad says:

    Hello Greg,

    My pair of Blood Parrot just laid eggs for the second time, they ate them the first time. but while observing them I haven’t noticed the male attempting to fertilize the eggs. So I was wondering if I can manually milk the male to fertilize the eggs. And how to do it properly?

    Thank you.

    • Greg says:

      I have never been successful at that, but I’ve read that it can be done with other species. Start by reading something like this:

      With blood parrots, it will depend on if your male is actually fertile or not. Some suggest the males have really weak sperm, some that the body deformity doesn’t allow him to release properly, and some that he just is shooting blanks.If you are successful, do let me know. Would be interested to hear!

  64. oda says:

    I have a female that regularly lays eggs but she has not in a while. She is looking bloated and visibly upset as she shows black spots when she’s mad or sick. Yesterday, I noticed a large bubble protruding from her already enlarged vent. Should I attempt to pop it? If so, how? I’m worried she is egg-bound and will die. Thanks.

  65. Brayden says:

    Any progress on the Devil parrot x parrot spawn?

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