The Flower Horn Cichlid
Rarely has there ever been so much excitement stirred up by a single fish! Not only is this fish consistently sold out at many pet stores, it is sold for unbelievable prices! Believe it or not, some people will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for just one of these brightly colored fish! And some people even trade them like stocks! What makes this fish so popular and so expensive?! Would you believe this fish reportedly can bring its owner everything from wealth to love?! It's the fish that all of your freshwater fish hobbyist friends are talking about and wishing they could afford: the Flower Horn Cichlid!
I have to admit that I am a relative newcomer to the flower horn cichlid. However, it is almost impossible to be a freshwater fish hobbyist and not hear some of the talk about this amazing fish. When the hype finally reached me, I had no choice but to investigate this latest fish fad. Imagine my surprise when I learned that the flower horn cichlid is a relative newcomer, as well!
The flower horn cichlid came into existence in Malaysia sometime in the mid to late 1990s. The flower horn cichlid is a type of South American cichlid, and is often believed to be a descendant of a wild cichlid known as Amhilophous Trimaculatus. This particular flower horn cichlid wasn't exactly as popular or as attractive as the flower horn cichlids we see today. The change in the flower horn cichlid's appearance could be attributed to any number of factors, including changes in food, water chemistry or climate. However, the biggest change is attributed to selective crossbreeding.
No one knows for sure the breeding history of the flower horn cichlid. That is apparently a breeder's secret. However, it is suspected that the flower horn cichlid has been crossbred with fish like the giant blood parrot, the Cichlasoma Trimaculatus, the Cichlasoma Festae or the red devil. Due to this crossbreeding, the flower horn cichlid often gets the bad reputation of being a "man made fish." This is not exactly true.
Unlike the blood parrot, the flower horn cichlid isn't a man made fish since the flower horn cichlid does exist in the wild. The crossbreeding of the flower horn cichlid actually involves a flower horn cichlid and another fish. The flower horn cichlid is not the end product of two different fish. The flower horn cichlid's crossbreeding is simply to improve on the coloration, traits and characteristics of the fish. Reportedly, this crossbreeding is even accomplished without the use of any chemicals or biogenetic engineering. So why is it so important to improve the flower horn cichlid's appearance and coloration? Would you believe that it could lead to fame, fortune, love, happiness and more?!
The flower horn cichlid is considered a "feng shui" fish by the Chinese. Like certain arowanas, the Chinese believe the flower horn cichlid can bring its owner good fortune and a whole lot more! In fact, the Chinese call the flower horn cichlid "Hua Luo Han", which, in its Chinese pronunciation, sounds almost identical to "flower horn." However, unlike the arowana, it's not the presence of the flower horn cichlid that is supposed to bring its owner good fortune. Believe it or not, many flower horn cichlids will have black markings on the sides of their bodies that very closely resemble lucky numbers, Chinese characters or symbols!
The appearance of lucky numbers, Chinese characters or symbols is purely left up to chance and the hobbyists' eyes, but it's impossible to deny what some of these markings look like on some flower horn cichlids. There have been flower horn cichlids with the Chinese word for prosperous on their sides. Some people buy the flower horn cichlids with numbers on their sides and then use those numbers to play the lottery! And there is the undeniable image of a heart on the side of another flower horn cichlid! It's flower horn cichlids like these that demand huge, often outrageous prices!
Usually the most affordable flower horn cichlids are the juveniles. This is because the young flower horn cichlids haven't completely developed their side black markings yet. When purchasing young flower horn cichlids, it's anyone's guess as to what the fish's markings will say when it matures, if it says anything at all. I have seen juvenile flower horn cichlids available anywhere from $10.00 all the way up to $65.00 apiece! Even at those prices, there is still no guarantee that the flower horn cichlid will have any lucky numbers, Chinese letters or other symbols when it matures.
It's the mature flower horn cichlids that usually demand high and often unheard of prices. I have seen adult flower horn cichlids sell anywhere from $25.00 for an unmarked adult all the way up to $5000.00! And there are many reports of adult flower horn cichlids with "prized" markings selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars! Some flower horn cichlids demand such a high price that they end up being traded like stocks!
Another characteristic that many hobbyists claim demands a higher price for the flower horn cichlid is the hump on its head. Often one of the few ways you can tell the male from the female flower horn cichlid, the hump on the fish's head demands a higher price if it is bigger and more colorful. Color and body shape also seem to factor into the flower horn cichlid's retail price, as breeders have been striving to produce fish with wider bodies and more elegant fins.
If you are one of the lucky hobbyists who can find a flower horn cichlid, and one of the even luckier hobbyists who can afford a flower horn cichlid, you may find care information hard to come by. Just keep in mind that the flower horn cichlid is basically a South American cichlid, and should be treated as such. While the flower horn cichlid is a hardy fish that can often tolerate water conditions that most other fish can't, it is not wise to treat such an investment with that attitude. If the flower horn cichlid is treated properly, this fish can very easily live anywhere from 6 to 10 years.
Most flower horn cichlids will appreciate an aquarium with a water temperature somewhere between 74 to 82 degrees, and an alkaline pH. For the flower horn cichlids to remain both colorful and healthy, the fish will also need to have water with good filtration. As for the interior of the aquarium, many hobbyists choose to keep the tank somewhat bare. Tanks without any decorations are much easier to clean, but many hobbyists do choose to include some wood or rockwork in the flower horn cichlid's tank for the fish to establish as its territory.
The flower horn cichlid can grow to be somewhat large. Many juveniles are sold at a length of only 2 to 3 inches long. These small flower horn cichlids are usually only 2 or 3 months old. Once the flower horn cichlid reaches adulthood, it can reach a length of 18 to 20 inches long, or even bigger! For this reason, it is recommended that you keep the flower horn cichlid in at least a 55 gallon aquarium.
Since the flower horn cichlid is a South American cichlid, it is a very territorial and aggressive fish. For this reason, many hobbyists suggest that you keep the flower horn cichlid as a solitary fish, since it will often fight with its own species. If the flower horn cichlid is placed in a tank with smaller fish, the smaller fish may very well end up as light snacks. And if the flower horn cichlid is placed in a tank with larger or similar sized fish, the end result will almost always be in tank fighting. If the flower horn cichlid wins the fight, it will drive the loser into a corner and kill it! However, if the flower horn cichlid loses the fight, it will likely hide or try to jump out of its tank! If the flower horn cichlid does hide, it will become shy and take a while to regain its confidence. It should be noted that if you have a large tank with plenty of space, some hobbyists have had some success with keeping the flower horn cichlid with cichlids like oscars and blood parrots.
Feeding the flower horn cichlid will be as easy as any other South American cichlid. They will eat nearly anything! The flower horn cichlid will readily accept flake food, pellets, blood worms, beef heart, shrimp and goldfish. Many hobbyists choose to feed their flower horn cichlids food that contains vitamins and growth and color enhancers.
The flower horn cichlid likely won't be found in every pet store. This often expensive fish is usually an "order on demand" only fish, and even then, the pet store may have trouble getting a flower horn cichlid for you. Usually your best bet for finding a flower horn cichlid is one of the online flower horn cichlid retailers. Many of these online retailers are also flower horn cichlid breeders. Since the flower horn cichlid craze has taken off everywhere, many of these breeders are looking for wholesalers to help them move these popular fish. There are now even fish stores that sell nothing but flower horn cichlids! However, if you want to catch the wave of this latest fish, before you plunge in, you might want to make sure you've got a deep pocketbook!