What to Know About Blood Parrot Cichlid

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on December 10, 2022
5 min read

Cichlids are a striking type of freshwater fish with over 500 species. They're usually found in warmer regions and in various bodies of water, including ponds, rivers, lakes, and streams. Most species of cichlid can be found in nature, while others have been bred by humans. 

The Blood Parrot Cichlid (more commonly known as a "Parrot Fish") is a man-made species of cichlid created through cross-breeding. You can usually find them sold under the name "blood parrot" or "red parrots".

The Blood Parrot Cichlid was first artificially cross-bred in the 1980s in Taiwan, though they did not come into the market for sale until 2000. It is said that these fish are a hybrid of the Severum (Heros severus) and the Red Devil (Amphilophus labiatus), though there is still a lot of speculation as to their exact parentage.

Ornamental fish like the Blood Parrot Cichlid are hugely popular around the world because of their unique color patterns and behaviors. Farmers in various parts of Eastern Asia have been breeding and selling these hybrid fish for decades, many of which are the ones you can find for purchase at your local pet store.

Many hobbyists also breed Blood Parrot Cichlids through a method called hybridization, which involves breeding the most desirable DNA traits of two different species to create a new one. 

While the hybridization of Blood Parrot Cichlids gives them their highly sought-after characteristics, some unethical practices within the ornamental fish industry have brought about complications.

A 2004 study found that more than 30% of invasive species translocations came from the ornamental fish industry. This is mainly caused by pet abandonment –– pet owners have been dumping artificial cross-breeds like the Blood Parrot Cichlid into ecosystems they are not adapted to live in.

The Blood Parrot Cichlid has a round and balloon-like body that looks rather unnatural. They have large eyes and a small mouth that looks similar in shape to that of a parrot's beak, hence their name. These fish also cannot close their mouths, so it looks almost as if they're smiling. They have teeth, but they're deep down near their throat. These distinct features further add to the comical appearance they're known for.

Size. The size of the Blood Parrot Cichlid size is usually around 10-12 cm long, though adults can grow up to 20 cm long, with males being slighter bigger than females.

Color. These fish are normally a solid red-orange color, though you may find them in calico (red, brown, and black), slightly lighter varieties of red-orange, and even some in gray. Unfortunately, these hybrids are often artificially colored through inhumane methods of dying or tattooing.

Female vs male. It's pretty difficult to distinguish the male Blood Parrot Cichlid from the female, but you might be able to tell them apart from their color, as the males sometimes have more vibrant reddish-orange color around the gills and throat area.

Blood Parrot Cichlid behavior. If you plan on keeping a Blood Parrot Cichlid as a pet, you shouldn't have to worry about it getting along with other varieties of fish. They are fairly easy-going with each other and other species. 

However, make sure to observe them carefully as every now and then, you could get a 'rogue' fish. This is because when breeding Blood Parrot Cichlids, one or both of the parents is considered aggressive, so this trait can sometimes transfer to the offspring. Generally speaking, these fish do best with non-aggressive, peaceful tank mates. Other fish should also be around the same size or larger, or else your Blood Parrot Cichlid might consider them a snack. 

It's best not to mix them in with betta fish or other combative breeds, as they won't be able to compete with them for food or turf in your aquarium. Blood Parrot Cichlids also swim relatively slowly, so chances are they won't get to food before their faster moving tank mates. Their small mouths also don't make it easy to grab food.

Some ideal companion fish include:

  • Gouramis
  • Large Rainbowfish
  • Catfish
  • Danios 
  • Barbs
  • Larger, deep-bodied Tetrafish
  • Severum Cichlids
  • Firemouth Cichlids
  • Acara Cichlids
  • Some varieties of Geophagus

Overall, the Red Parrot Cichlid is an intelligent and curious breed. Over time, you might notice your Blood Parrot Cichlid show signs they recognize you, as they'll come up to the aquarium glass and beg for food.

Feeding your Blood Parrot Cichlid. The Blood Parrot Cichlid is an omnivore and feasts on a variety of foods, including flakes, frozen pellets, bloodworms, brine shrimp, Krill and Mysis, mosquito larvae, freeze-fried foods, and even live fish.

Keep in mind that pellet foods that sink to the bottom of the aquarium are easier for them to eat. You should even be able to find food specific to their breed at your local pet store or online. 

According to most owners, frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp are the Blood Parrot Cichlid's preferred treat. Foods that are high in b-carotene and canthaxanthin also help keep your Blood Parrot Cichlid's vibrant and healthy red-orange coloring.

Aquarium care. Provide your Blood Parrot Cichlid with a large tank. An aquarium around 60-70 gallons, or a tank that's at least 6ft x 2ft x 2ft, gives them plenty of space to swim. Be sure to also decorate the bottom of the tank with driftwood and fine gravel as they're a curious breed and like to dig.

These fish also need plenty of places to hide, so you should also decorate their tanks with vegetation. Just make sure you use artificial plants, as real plants become a source of food for them.

Keep the water temperature in their tank around 78 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 degrees Celsius. Temperatures any lower than that could weaken your Blood Parrot Cichlid's immune system and even make them lose their color. Avoid harsh water and keep the pH level at about seven to help your Blood Parrot Cichlid thrive.

Blood Parrot Cichlid lifespan and breeding. While Blood Parrot Cichlids do lay eggs and have been known to mate, they are generally infertile. You might notice your Blood Parrot Cichlid lay eggs in the tank, usually in clay pots if you give them one, but these almost always turn white and won't hatch.

With the right care and nutrition, your Blood Parrot Cichlid can live an average of 10-15 years.