Why is Blood Parrot Cichlid Not Eating?

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Blood Parrot cichlids aren’t pretentious when it comes to food or feeding habits. They will mostly eat anything, including flakes, pellets, live food, veggies, anything that fits their omnivorous diet.

They only have difficulties consuming floating foods since they don’t go to the water’s surface that much.

But what happens when they straight up refuse food? The first thing that comes to mind is that the cichlid may be sick.

But is this the only reason why they might refuse their food? Let’s have a look!

Reasons Blood Parrot Cichlid Not Eating

If your Blood Parrot refuses food, consider the following:

Bad or Expired Food

In terms of expired food, the situation is pretty much self-explanatory. Your Blood Parrot will sense that the food isn’t good for consumption and will spit it out.

However, the notion of ‘bad’ food is an umbrella term that encompasses several aspects, such as:

  • Poor nutritional profile – Just because your Blood Parrot is omnivorous doesn’t mean it will eat absolutely anything. And even if it were, the fish still needs a varied diet. In other words, Blood Parrots love brine shrimp, but they won’t eat brine shrimp exclusively. If your fish rejects the food, it may be because it ‘got old’ and the fish got sick of it. Provide your cichlid with a healthy food variety to avoid this problem.
  • The chunks are too big – Blood Parrots have very small mouths, which is a genetic fault due to them being hybrids. This unfortunate feature renders them incapable of consuming large chunks that would typically pose no problems to fish their size. If you notice that your Blood Parrot cannot consume the flakes or pellets you’re feeding, break them into smaller pieces. If the Parrot still spits them out, the problem may be elsewhere.
  • Contaminated food – This generally happens with live food, as many aquarists feed their fish worms or larvae straight from the wild. This is bad for several reasons. Wild live food can be contaminated with parasites, bacteria, or even dangerous chemicals seeping into their tissue. Consider yourself fortunate if your cichlid detects the danger and refuses the food. Others are not so lucky as they eat it and die soon after. Always feed your Blood Parrot live food from trusty sources to avoid this issue.

If your Blood Parrot doesn’t display any signs of disease, the problem is most likely with the food or feeding pattern.

Water Parameters

This ranks, without a doubt, among the most widespread causes of fish refusing food. The tank water represents the fish’s living environment as they eat, play, sleep, poop, and move in it.

Any change in the water’s chemical composition or temperature will affect your Blood Parrot directly.

Some of the water parameters to consider in this sense include:

  • Temperature – Blood Parrots will display low or lack of appetite when the temperature drops or increases too much or too abruptly. The same happens due to repeated temperature fluctuations, stressing the fish and disrupting its biological rhythm.
  • Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates – Ammonia and nitrites should always remain at 0, while nitrates are acceptable up to 10 ppm. If these chemicals spike for some reason, your Blood Parrot will let you know. The fish will display signs of ammonia and nitrite stress and even ammonia poisoning, which can be deadly. The lack of appetite is but one of the many symptoms to consider.
  • pH fluctuations – Blood Parrots require pH values between 6.5 and 7.5. If the pH fluctuates too much one way or the other, the cichlid will display signs of stress, including poor appetite. In this case, rebalancing the water’s pH is urgent since massive or prolonged fluctuations are generally deadly.
  • Low dissolved oxygen/High dissolved carbon dioxide – Both these problems will impair the fish’s ability to breathe properly. In this case, your fish will display signs of heavy breathing via rapid gill movement, swimming near the surface, laying still, or refusing food. Fixing the problem fast is paramount to preventing death by asphyxiation.
  • Water toxins – Sometimes, the tank water may become contaminated with various chemicals from various sources. These include medication, chlorine due to using tap water during water changes, or different chemical solutions used in cleaning the tank equipment. Depending on their type and concentration, these chemicals can kill your fish.

Water quality is essential for your Blood Parrot’s wellbeing. I suggest monitoring their water quality regularly, especially if you have more than 1 Blood Parrot or are in charge of a community tank.

New Environment

It’s normal for your fish to experience some stress when placed in a new environment as adults.

They will need time to accommodate to their new setting and may take some time to do that. Fortunately, this is typical among most fish, not only Blood Parrots.

There’s nothing to worry about, except if your Blood Parrot refuses food for days in a row. Most Blood Parrots will resume their natural feeding habits soon, usually within a couple of days, after they accommodate within their new setting.

You can prevent this problem by avoiding changing the Parrot’s environment too often. Set up its habitat, decorate it properly, add the fish, and avoid interacting with it too much.

Blood Parrots will establish their territory based on their habitat’s layout. Alter it too often, and they will become stressed.

Aggressive Mates

Blood Parrots don’t do well with aggressive tank mates. They will retaliate at times to preserve their territorial integrity, and because they’re cichlids, they have to fight.

But overly aggressive or inquisitive fish species will soon stress them out, forcing them into hiding. This holds true, especially for species like red tail sharks, pufferfish, Oscars, and many others that are notoriously territorial and violent.

The constant stress will cause the Blood Parrots to retreat into hiding, display low appetite, and soon show signs of infections.

That’s because the fish’s mental health will influence its physical health. If your Blood Parrots get into conflict with other fish or among themselves too often, you might need to intervene.

You can mitigate the problem by:

  • Increasing the tank’s size to provide the fish with more room
  • Adding more rocks and driftwood to the environment for a plus of hiding areas
  • Adding more plants, prioritizing plant species that will withstand your cichlids’ interest and digging behavior (java moss, java fern, anubias, Vallisneria, etc.)
  • Removing the aggressor(s) from the aquarium if nothing works

Disease or Parasites

Sick or infected Blood Parrots will generally display a lack of appetite along with multiple other symptoms.

These may include:

  • Itching, causing the fish to find relief by rubbing against hard surfaces
  • Lethargy or generally low levels of energy when swimming
  • Erratic swimming patterns (instability during swimming, tipping on one side, going nose-down too often)
  • Spending too much time around the substrate in a lethargic state
  • Floating at the water’s surface
  • Displaying atypical color changes
  • Displaying skin sores or lesions
  • Displaying white or black spots on the skin and head
  • Red or bloody gills
  • Rapid gill and mouth movements, etc.

Unfortunately, many of the fish’s conditions will display overlapping symptoms, so you’ll never know for sure what the problem is.

To solve the problem, I recommend quarantining the fish until you discover what’s wrong with it. The treatment will larger depend on the nature of the problem and its severity.

In this sense, you should consider:

  • Keeping the fish’s water parameters stable and within optimal values (perform daily partial water changes, remove fish waste and food residues, clean the tank)
  • Provide a nutritious and diverse diet several times per day
  • Use antibiotics and other medication to counter internal and external parasites
  • Keep the cichlid in a fasting state for several days in case of constipation
  • Use aquarium salt to eliminate bacteria, fungi, or external parasites and speed the fish’s healing process

In this context, nothing matters more than timely treatment. Many fish disorders are contagious and will aggravate fast.

Only early treatment can save your fish, and not even that works all the time.


Technically speaking, Blood Parrot females don’t get pregnant, they get gravid. We only use pregnancy to describe animals that give birth to live offspring.

Blood Parrots are egg-layers, so they qualify as gravid.

That being said, your Blood Parrot female may refuse food when she’s about to lay the eggs.

This is normal behavior, as the female will resume its normal feeding behavior shortly after.


Blood Parrots are hardy fish, despite their not-so-flattering reputation.

They usually display a healthy appetite, so always be wary if your cichlid spits out the food or refuses to eat.

You can now easily identify the causes and employ the proper measures to fix the situation.

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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