Why Do Blood Parrot Cichlids Change Color?

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If you’re not familiar with Blood Parrot cichlids, you have a lot to learn about this species. Despite these fish sharing many similarities to other cichlids, they are also rather unique in many aspects.

One of them is their ability to change color under numerous circumstances which can confuse novice aquarists.

So, under which conditions will Blood Parrots change their coloring and should you be worried?

We will discuss this today, looking to shed light on one of Blood Parrot’s most notorious behaviors.

Is It Normal for Blood Parrot Cichlid to Change Color?

Whether or not this behavior is normal depends on the situation. There are numerous reasons why these cichlids can change their coloring, including stress, poor diet, lack of food, disease, reproduction, etc.

These problems need addressing fast since they will aggravate and put your cichlid’s life at risk.

The change in coloring is a way for the Blood Parrot to highlight its stress. Soon, other symptoms will kick in, depending on the underlying problem triggering their response.

That being said, here are some normal occurrences when your Blood Parrots will change their coloring:

  • As they grow – Young cichlids are darker in coloring, displaying hues of grey, mixed in with some orange occasionally. They will begin to change their color at about 6-month of age, but this isn’t a universal rule. Some may change their color later. Also, many Blood Parrots will display black patches coming and going occasionally, until 2-years of age. These should go away naturally past the 2-year mark. These are typically the result of the hormonal changes that the cichlid experiences along the way.
  • During spawning/matingBlood Parrot females tend to get shades of pink or white when in their mating disposition. Some will always turn white completely. Males, on the other hand, will turn bright orange with brighter hues. The mating phase is the perfect opportunity to sex your cichlids since that’s when they display the most obvious color differences.
  • During nighttime – Blood Parrots will change their color slightly during nighttime as well. They will showcase a pastel orange, which is a lighter version of their daytime coloring. This is nothing to worry about, as the cichlid’s coloring will return to normal the next day.

It may be tricky to differentiate between benign and worrying color changes, especially if you’re not versed in Blood Parrots.

But, once you figure out their pattern, everything will become clearer. That being said, let’s look at the more concerning color changes.

Why is Blood Parrot Cichlid Turning Black?

First, you should know that Blood Parrot cichlids aren’t born orange. They are initially gray with some black stripes or spots around their mid-section and towards the tail.

The general consensus is that this coloring serves as camouflage for the small cichlids, unable to defend themselves from predators otherwise.

That being said, Blood Parrots will never turn grey or black again unless there’s something wrong.

This is where we need to discuss the common reasons why Blood Parrots can become black or display black patches over time:

  • Age-related color changes – Not all Blood Parrots will turn black as they age. Some will lose their coloring, while others will showcase stripes, black markings, blotches, etc. These may also change with time as the cichlid’s hormonal changes kick in. Unless the cichlid displays additional worrying signs like erratic swimming, lack of appetite, or stress, there’s nothing to worry about.
  • Black Ich – Despite its name, this condition has nothing to do with the regular Ich. Unlike the latter, black Ich is the result of the Paravortex tubellaria worm. This is a skin parasite that will linger just beneath the epidermis. So, the black spot you’re seeing is actually a worm that can change its position and even grow with time. The cichlid will display visible discomfort, rubbing against hard surfaces. While this condition isn’t as dangerous as White Spots, treatment is necessary to avoid the spread and prevent the infection from reaching the gills. In which case, the condition can turn deadly.
  • Artificial dye fading away – Unfortunately, dying cichlids to make them more appealing is a common practice in the industry. This practice is much more popular among Blood Parrots, which are not visually appealing during their first year or 2 of life. So, many breeders will inject artificial dye into their Blood Parrots to cover the natural black patches or stripes. The dye will naturally wear off after some time, allowing the Parrot’s natural coloring to come forth. This generally happens with younger cichlids, up to 2-years old.
  • Physical damages – The black patches are often the result of physical injuries that the fish may sustain in various circumstances. These can be either accidental or intentional as a result of spicy interactions with more aggressive tank mates. The fish’s skin will sustain the initial impact and most likely develop secondary infections in these cases. These will become visible as black patches at first, calling for immediate treatment to contain the infections.
  • Ammonia poisoning – Ammonia poisoning will display a variety of side effects, including suffocation, gill burns, external and internal bleeding, confusion, erratic swimming, etc. But it will also cause localized skin burns that may appear black. So, if your fish displays any of these symptoms, check water parameters immediately. Ammonia poisoning is deadly and can kill your Blood Parrot fast.

Some Blood Parrots will also showcase black patches in poor water conditions or when stressed.

Although, these situations aren’t always reliable since stressed cichlids won’t usually turn black. But it can happen.

Why is Blood Parrot Cichlid Turning White?

First, we will eliminate the breeding phase since that’s a natural occurrence where some Blood Parrots will exhibit white hues.

Some may even embrace a generalized white coloring that will disappear soon after the mating phase.

We will also ignore age-related discoloring since this is common among Blood Parrots.

Instead, we will focus on the more worrying instances of Blood Parrots turning white. These may indicate some health issues that need immediately tackling.

The most relevant ones include:

  • Disease – In short – Ich. This condition is the result of parasite infestation, with the culprit being Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This pathogen is highly viral and will insert itself under the fish’s scales, causing itchiness as well as skin damage. This can lead to secondary infections, putting the cichlid’s life at risk. Ich is often deadly, especially once it reaches the fish’s gills, causing asphyxiation and painful death.
  • High stress – Cichlids may become stressed for a variety of reasons, including parasites, bacterial infections, poor diets, inadequate water conditions, fluctuating parameters, aggressive tank mates, etc. If your Blood Parrot displays signs of stress, assess its situation and look for additional signs that could reveal the triggers. This will help you discover the solution necessary to fix the issue.
  • Artificial dye – We’ve already mentioned this point, so you already know how it works. As an addition, consider that the artificial dye will only last about 4-5 months at most.
  • Lacking nutrients – The Blood Parrot’s diet consists mostly of protein, but they will also eat a variety of plant-based foods. Some of these plants contain carotenoids which will change your cichlid’s coloring with time. Spirulina is a great example of that, along with wafers containing astaxanthin and canthaxanthin, which support the Blood Parrot’s yellow and orange coloring.

As you can see, it’s not normal for your Blood Parrot to turn white unless in very specific cases (old age and breeding phase.)

If your cichlid appears to lose its coloring or display white spots or markings, consider the following:

  • Test the water – Assess water parameters to make sure everything is within the optimal values. Dirty tanks and improper water parameters are often to blame for your fish changing coloring due to stress.
  • Assess the fish’s health – Look for signs of parasites, bacteria, fungal infections, or any other diseases that could affect the cichlid’s coloring. Many of these conditions are viral and will spread to other cichlids fast.
  • Adjust the cichlid’s diet – Consider feeding your Blood Parrot foods containing carotenoids if you weren’t already. In this sense, you might want to test the waters with several meal options (pun intended.) Spirulina is a great choice, but so are krill and shrimp, as their shells contain a healthy dose of astaxanthin.
  • Assess aggression levels in the tank – If your Blood Parrots don’t get along with their tank mates, you might need to step in. Constant aggression will stress all parties involved, eventually affecting the fish’s immune system. Stressed fish will eventually fall sick as they are more vulnerable to parasites and environmental chemicals.
  • Treat diseases early – You should quarantine and treat your fish’s health issues as soon as you’ve noticed the first symptoms. The longer you wait, the lower the chances of your Blood Parrot experiencing a full recovery. Disorders like Ich or swim bladder disease are difficult to tackle in advanced stages.

How to Cure Black Spot Disease in Parrot Cichlids?

Fortunately, the black spot disease isn’t nearly as serious or deadly as regular Ich. That being said, it can cause your Blood Parrot a lot of discomfort and can even kill it in some cases.

Especially once the parasite reaches the fish’s gills, causing respiratory issues. So, immediate treatment is necessary to eliminate the pathogen and protect the rest of the fish population.

The treatment should include:

  • Quarantine – Separate your sick cichlid from the main tank. This is necessary to prevent the parasite’s spread. Paravortex turbellaria will split into dozens or hundreds of smaller worms when reaching maturity. These can infect other hosts fast, spreading the disease to all tank inhabitants shortly. Quarantining the sick Blood Parrot will minimize the disorder’s spread.
  • Clean the main tank – Vacuum the substrate to eliminate fish waste, dead matter, food residues, and algae deposits. You should clean the tank thoroughly to eliminate all traces of the parasite. You might want to remove the fish from the tank during the procedure to avoid unnecessary stress.
  • Sanitize the main tank – Once you’ve cleaned the environment, consider using aquarium salt or an antibiotic to eliminate all dangerous pathogens. I recommend speaking to a fish professional about the treatment. Some antibiotics won’t disturb the tank’s biofilm, so prioritize those over anything other products.
  • Change the water – A 50-60% water change is necessary to refresh the environment and eliminate any lingering parasites. You can do this both before and after the antibiotic treatment. Monitor water ammonia and nitrates after the water change to make sure the tank’s biofilm is working as intended. If not, you may need to give it some time to recover.
  • Care for the sick fish – Perform partial water changes daily for your sick cichlid, no more than 10% each time. The goal is to keep their environment clear of residues with no ammonia, nitrites, or other harmful chemicals. Formalin may also prove useful in this sense, provided the solution contains at least 37% formaldehyde. This medication is extremely powerful against all types of external parasites, including Paravortex turbellaria. Check the product’s label to figure out how to use it safely or speak to your vet about it.

You can also increase your cichlid water’s salinity, boost water temperature to accelerate the fish’s metabolism, and provide a varied and optimized diet.

These will all support the fish’s immune system, allowing it to fight off the parasite and resist further infections.

With so many treatments available, you should always talk to a fish professional to prevent misusing medication or other substances that could kill your Parrots.

Normal Colors of Blood Parrot Cichlids

Red, orange, yellow, and grey. The latter is especially common among younger Parrots under the age of 2, although the timeframe may vary.

You may also notice some slight variations and hues between these colors, but nothing too serious.

Any other colors than these suggest artificial interventions. In that case, you should avoid those cichlids since purchasing them will only support the practice.


It’s almost impossible to tell the reason for your Blood Parrots’ color fluctuations at first sight. And it’s a bad idea to assume they’re benign or wait it out to see the development.

I recommend acting as soon as your Blood Parrot showcases any worrying color changes.

Today’s article has provided valuable insight into the causes, treatment, and prevention tactics to tackle the problems before they aggravate. Use it to your advantage.

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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