How to Care for Blood Parrot Cichlid?

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Blood Parrot cichlids are popular fish that come with a fair share of controversy. These cichlids are the exclusive result of selective breeding which means they don’t exist in the wild.

But this isn’t the real problem. The real problem is that this cichlid hybrid has developed some features that compromise its ability to survive on its own.

One of them is the unnaturally small mouth for a fish its size, impending its ability to feed properly. Its bulky head and protruding eyes don’t help much either, making the fish more prone to injuries due to rubbing against rugged surfaces.

We can see the same problem with the telescopic fish, which is also the result of selective breeding.

All these problems aside, the Blood Parrot has gained a lot of popularity lately due to its charming personality and calm behavior.

Calm for a cichlid since the Blood Parrot will display aggression at times.

So, if you’ve decided to get one or more Blood Parrots, what should you know about their care routine? Let’s look into that!

Blood Parrot Cichlid Requirements

Fortunately, enough, the Blood Parrot is easy to satisfy in terms of water requirements. This is a tropical fish, so its water parameters reflect that.

The ideal temperature revolves around 75 to 80 F with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. These are rather standard requirements, typical for most cichlid species.

The water quality should remain impeccable as much as possible. Blood Parrots don’t do well with ammonia buildup or excess nitrites. Monitor water parameters to keep those chemicals at 0.

You also need to ensure a stable aquatic environment with as little fluctuation as possible. Blood Parrots are only meant to live in indoor tanks, so don’t think about keeping them in outdoor ponds.

They require a warm and stable habitat, and outdoor ponds don’t quite fit that description.

Tank Size

I suggest providing the Blood Parrot with at least 30 gallons of water. This is especially important when knowing that Blood Parrots can grow up to 8-10 and even 12 inches, albeit rarely.

They are active cichlids that require a diverse environment. You should provide Blood Parrots with both rocks and caves and a lot of open swimming spaces.

Fortunately, you don’t need to double the tank’s size with every Blood Parrot you’re getting. Adding 10 gallons for each extra Blood Parrot should suffice.

Providing your cichlids with enough space will allow you to:

  • Mitigate aggressive tendencies – Blood Parrots are generally peaceful fish, but they are also territorial, especially males. And they hate being trapped in a claustrophobic environment, especially in the company of other, equally territorial fish. The extra space will keep them calmer and more active, even qualifying them for a community setup.
  • Aquascape their environment – Blood Parrots are cichlids which is another way of saying they love rocks. Having a larger aquarium will permit you to aquascape their habitat and create a rocky setting for hiding purposes. Such an environment will help your Parrots feel secure and keep them occupied as they search their habitat for food.
  • Prepare to expand the fish community – You never know when you decide to buy more Blood Parrots or even form a diverse fish community. In that case, you’ll congratulate yourself for having invested in a larger tank, even if you didn’t need it at the time.


Substrate matters when it comes to accommodating any cichlid species, including Blood Parrots. These fish love to dig around the substrate at times, looking for food or simply playing around.

Using large gravel or rocks could hurt them. This is due to the Parrot’s large eyes and bulky head.

Any injuries then risk getting infected, making the situation even worse. I recommend using sand for your substrate, preferably with small-to-medium particles.

Which type of sand to use comes down to personal preference.

Live sand is a great option if you want a bacteria-packed substrate. This type of sand is great for tanks that haven’t been cycled yet since you can add the fish sooner.

The beneficial bacteria are already present and will get to work immediately, breaking up ammonia and nitrites.

Or you can go for dry sand, which requires an already cycled tank.

Either way, consider adjusting the substrate’s thickness depending on how active and large your fish are.

You need 1 pound of sand for every 1 gallon of water to achieve a 1-inch-deep substrate. For 30 gallons, you require 30 pounds of sand to achieve the depth of 1 inch.


Aquarium vegetation has always been a sensitive topic when discussing cichlids. That’s because these fish aren’t exactly plant-friendly.

First of all, Blood Parrots are omnivorous, so they will consume a variety of foods, including the plants you’ve used to decorate your tank.

They won’t eat them in bulk but will rather nibble at them occasionally, eventually damaging the plant beyond the point of no return.

Then there’s the cichlid’s digging behavior, as Blood Parrots will dig around the substrate a lot.

This behavior is a death sentence for most tank plants, except floating ones and those with powerful roots, earthed deeper into a thicker substrate.

This goes to show that there are plants you can use for your Blood Parrot tank, but you need to choose them carefully.

Here are a handful of options to write down:

  • Anubias – This leafy plant is perfect for any aquatic environment, especially a cichlid one. That’s because Anubias does 2 things right: it has a foul taste and doesn’t need a substrate. Rather, the plant will anchor itself onto any hard surface, be it rocks, driftwood, or any other decoration. Keep the plant in a clean environment, and it will last for years.
  • Java Moss – This is a great plant thanks to its adaptability and being almost impervious to cichlid attacks. Java Moss latches onto any hard surface and can spread throughout the tank fast. It enriches the environment like few other plants can and will withstand Blood Parrot’s aggression impressively well.
  • Hornwort – A great addition to your Blood Parrot tank due to the plant’s hardiness and fast growth rate. Your Blood Parrot may nibble on it occasionally, but it will never be able to destroy it.

There are several other plants to go for, including dwarf Sagittaria, Vallisneria, or Java Moss. Blood Parrots will nibble at some and avoid others, but generally speaking, you should look for plants with certain characteristics.

The lack of palatability (tastiness) is one, while strong roots or lack thereof is another.


The Blood Parrot’s well-being drastically depends on the quality of its tank water.

To provide your Blood Parrot with optimal living conditions, you should consider investing in:

  • A heater – As tropical fish, Blood Parrots require stable environmental temperatures, close to 80 F. Drastic or frequent temperature fluctuations will hurt your cichlids, affecting their immune system, appetite, and overall health. A reliable heating system will prevent that, keeping the water temperature within optimal parameters. Just remember to acquire a more powerful heater or even 2 pieces in case you have a larger tank that’s more difficult to warm up.
  • A filter – The filter is vital for any aquatic setting, especially a cichlid one. Blood Parrots require pristine waters with little-to-no residues, ammonia, or other chemical pollutants. Invest in a reliable filtering system capable of providing chemical, mechanical, and biological filtration for optimal results. The filter’s type and size depending on the tank’s size and how many fish you have.

You should also monitor your Parrot’s environment regularly to make sure that the water parameters remain stable.

Unexpected fluctuations in the water’s chemistry can kill your Blood Parrots if they’re drastic enough.

Blood Parrot Cichlid Diet

Blood Parrots are omnivorous, which is common for most cichlids. They prefer live foods like bloodworms and shrimps and veggies and plant-based meals.

You should provide your Blood Parrots with a diverse and balanced diet, focusing on sinking rather than floating foods.

Blood Parrots tend to look for food around the substrate instead of going to the water’s surface.

So, sinking flakes and pellets are better in this sense.

Also, consider including foods rich in carotenoids like beta carotene, astaxanthin, and canthaxanthin. These compounds will boost your fish’s coloring and ensure optimal nutrition at the same time.

Spirulina is a great option in this sense, along with commercial fish foods enriched with carotenoids and other vitamins and minerals.

Breeding Blood Parrot Cichlids

There are 2 main problems with breeding Blood Parrots.

  1. Infertility issues – Most, not all, Blood Parrot males are infertile. Females are not, since they can produce eggs, but they require a fertile male to fertilize them, and that’s hard to come by. Males are mostly infertile due to being hybrids, which is why so many people argue against breeding or keeping Blood Parrots. That being said, some males will be able to fertilize the eggs, but that’s very rare. In most cases, the eggs will turn white after a couple of days, and the fish will eat them to prevent the formation of fungi.
  2. Genetic faults in fry – It hasn’t been determined if Blood Parrot fry are at an increased risk of developing genetic problems, but the consensus is that they are. This mostly stands true for the fry resulting from Blood Parrots because females can also reproduce with non-hybrid cichlids.

These 2 issues explain why breeding Blood Parrots is extremely difficult and why few people succeed in this sense.

The fact that Blood Parrot males are infertile won’t stop them from mating and displaying reproductive behavior.

The male will dig into the substrate to prepare a place for the female to lay its eggs. The male will then attempt to fertilize the eggs with its milt and even guard the egg site until the eggs are supposed to hatch.

In most cases, all the male’s efforts will be in vain since the eggs will turn white soon.

The Blood Parrot may eat them if they’re unfertilized to prevent fungi formation.

That being said, Blood Parrot females can reproduce with other cichlids, although this is also a questionable phenomenon.

Many aquarists advise against this practice since it risks producing subpar fry, displaying genetic faults.

Blood Parrot Cichlid Tank Mates

While Blood Parrots are generally peaceful, they will only retain their easy-going attitude on their own terms. In other words, you should provide Blood Parrot cichlids with enough swimming space and an adequate tank layout with rocks and large open spaces.

Once they’re comfortable in their environment, they won’t mind sharing their space with other fish species.

When selecting your Blood Parrot’s tank mates consider the following:

  • Avoid small fish – Make sure that the fish are at least 3-3.5 inches in size. Your Blood Parrots may take them as food if they’re smaller than that. Which they are known to do since all cichlids will eat smaller fish, provided they’re small enough.
  • Avoid overly aggressive fish – Extremely aggressive and territorial species may come into conflict with the Blood Parrots, leading to fighting and even injuries and death. Best-case scenario, your Blood Parrot will go into hiding and become stressed, which is a death sentence in the long run.
  • Prioritize environmentally compatible species – This means you should go for fish species that don’t share your Blood Parrot’s living space. Blood Parrots spend their time in the mid-area, occasionally diving around the substrate in search of food or hiding. Work your way around this behavior to figure out compatible tank mates.

Based on these factors, some viable tank mates include gouramis, tiger barbs, clown loaches, bristlenose pleco, swordtails, Corydoras, etc.

Just make sure to provide both species with their desired tank setup and water parameters to accommodate them perfectly in their environment.

Blood Parrot Cichlid Diseases & Treatments

Blood Parrots don’t have any genetic predisposition toward specific disorders. This means that they will mostly battle common fish disorders like Ich, swim bladder disease, and various viral infections.

These tend to result from poor water conditions, improper diets, fish stress, or physical injuries becoming infected.

The treatment will vary in type and intensity, depending on the disorder but will mostly follow the same outline:

  • Quarantine – This is a must when it comes to treating fish diseases. One of the reasons is that diagnosing your fish’s disease is more difficult than it seems. Many disorders display similar symptoms, while others only showcase symptoms in advanced stages. Another reason for that is prevention. You need to contain viral and contagious diseases that could spread among other fish. And finally, using antibiotics or other medication in the main tank could affect other fish, the plants, or the tank’s biofilm.
  • Adjust water conditions – After moving the sick cichlid into the hospital tank, make sure the water parameters remain within optimal values. You may need to perform daily partial water changes, remove any fish waste or food residues immediately, and monitor water conditions 24/7. The Blood Parrot will require pristine water conditions to strengthen its immune system and improve its recovery chances.
  • Use antibiotics – These are especially necessary when dealing with skin infections or external parasites. The type of antibiotic to use depends on the condition and your vet’s recommendations.
  • Use aquarium salt – Aquarium salt is useful for treating external parasites and bacterial infections. The extra salt will help the fish produce more mucus which will promote faster healing. It will also kill off many viral pathogens which cannot survive past a certain salinity value. You should generally use 1 teaspoon of salt per 5 gallons of water, but this isn’t a universal rule. Discuss with your vet to see how much salt your Blood Parrot can take based on its health, age, and condition.

I also recommend looking for a reliable water conditioner to promote mucus production and mineralize the water with essential nutrients.

These products will boost your cichlid’s recovery rate.

That being said, not all treatments will work. Sometimes, your Blood Parrot won’t be able to recover, at which point euthanasia remains your only option.

How Long do Blood Parrot Cichlids Live?

Blood Parrots can live around 10-15 years in good conditions and with proper care.

This is quite an impressive lifespan for a fish supposedly lacking the genetic fitness of pure breeds.

I suggest providing your Blood Parrot with a properly balanced diet and keeping its environment clean and stable.

Weekly partial water changes are necessary, along with tank maintenance work every several weeks.

Are Blood Parrot Cichlids Aggressive?

No, Blood Parrot cichlids aren’t usually aggressive. However, you shouldn’t take their easy-going attitude for granted.

Blood Parrot cichlids can become aggressive if:

  • They’re overcrowded – Overcrowding your cichlid tank is a sure way of making their existence miserable. They will become stressed, boost their aggression levels, and experience health problems due to excess fish waste. One Blood Parrot should have at least 30 gallons of water at its disposal, and you can add 10 extra gallons for each additional Parrot. This is without considering the space necessary to accommodate other fish species.
  • They’re paired with aggressive fish – Aggression will always be met with aggression when it comes to cichlids especially. Blood Parrots don’t do well when paired with territorial and violent fish. Avoid species like red tail sharks, flowerhorn cichlids, jaguar cichlids, pufferfish, etc.
  • They’re kept in poor conditions – Unstable temperatures and dirty waters will stress your Blood Parrots and increase their aggression levels. This is why regular maintenance and stable water conditions are necessary to keep your cichlids healthy, happy, and calmer long-term.
  • Their diets are lacking – As omnivorous fish, Blood Parrots require a healthy and diverse diet. Ensure optimal nutrient intake and mix veggies with live foods to provide your cichlids with a healthy and nutritious diet.

You can also use your tank’s layout to mitigate your fish’s aggression. Blood Parrots require a diverse environmental layout, consisting of rocks, driftwood, and plenty of open spaces.

Cater to their needs, and they will be forever grateful.

Are Blood Parrot Cichlids Good for Beginners?

Yes, they are. It’s atypical to recommend cichlids to beginners, but Blood Parrots are different.

So long as you ensure a nutritious and diverse diet and keep their water parameters within the optimal values, your Parrots will ask for nothing else.

They are easy to care for since they are mostly low maintenance and will go along just fine with other fish species.

Provided you stick to my recommendations in terms of space, tank layout, and other areas.


Blood Parrot cichlids are quite easy-going, despite their controversial reputation. Outside of any philosophical debate on the subject, I would say there’s nothing wrong with keeping Blood Parrots.

The only situation where you should feel morally inadequate is when neglecting your Blood Parrot, affecting its wellbeing as a result.

Other than that, everything goes. Just remember that Blood Parrot males are mostly infertile.

Plus, even when capable of reproduction, the resulting fry are at high risk of displaying genetic faults incompatible with life.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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