How Long do Flowerhorns Live?

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Flowerhorns are cichlids, which already speaks volumes about their water requirements, diets, circumstantial behaviors, and overall personalities.

That being said, flowerhorns are anything but normal cichlids since they also come with a variety of differences, making them unique specimens.

To answer the question in the title, flowerhorns live up to 10-12 years in optimal conditions and with a proper diet. Several factors will influence the fish’s lifespan, either decreasing or increasing it, depending on how they influence the fish’s physiology.

So, let’s see what you should do to boost your flowerhorn’s lifespan over the years.

How to Make Flowerhorn Live Longer?

Like all cichlids, flowerhorns are very pretentious about their environment. There are a variety of factors capable of influencing the flowerhorn’s life quality, from food to tank mates, water parameters, and environmental setup.

Before diving into these factors, you should consider that the flowerhorn is a genetically-engineered fish resulting from mixing 2 other cichlid species, the Blood Parrot and the Red Devil.

So, the flowerhorn is not fit for living in the wild due to its preference for more stable environments and healthier water parameters. That being said, here’s how you can improve your flowerhorn’s life quality and boost its lifespan:

Feed Quality Food

Flowerhorns are omnivorous, so they require plants and animal protein in balanced quantities. Adjusting your cichlid’s diet carefully is key to keeping them healthy, active, and comfortable.

Otherwise, they could experience a variety of health problems, most of them stemming from nutritional deficiencies and a lot of them deadly in the long run.

Here are some suggestions in this sense:

  • Live food – Anything that your flowerhorns can consume with ease, including bloodworms, shrimp, daphnia, crickets, etc. Just make sure you don’t go overboard with the protein. While cichlids require more protein in their diets compared to other omnivorous fish, there is such a thing as too much. Your flowerhorn food shouldn’t contain more than 40% protein. And you can go to 45-50% for the fry since they need the extra protein to sustain their accelerated growth. Adult flowerhorns don’t need as much.
  • Plant-based foods – Here, we include homemade veggie paste and pellets and other fish-food commercial options coming with a balanced nutritional content. Cichlids require foods like spirulina, algae, and other plants that can provide them with proper vitamins and minerals. Make sure you read each product’s label to see which nutrients it contains.
  • Feeder fish – Feeder fish are a popular option for cichlids since it caters to both their nutritional requirements and hunting behavior. Cichlids are partly opportunistic feeders, partly predators, so providing them with some healthy and nutritious feeder fish makes for good exercise. Guppies, mollies, platies, and other small fish species are perfect in this sense. Just make sure they’re healthy and disease and pathogen-free. You don’t want to feed your flowerhorn sick fish that could pass on parasites and bacterial infections. In this sense, you should never feed your cichlids wild fish since these are notorious for being infested with a variety of pathogens. Instead, I recommend keeping a feeder tank to grow your feeder fish yourself.
  • Supplementation – Assess your fish’s dietary needs and see whether it lacks any vital nutrients. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be deadly in some cases. Consider supplementation for omega 3 and 6, salt, insoluble fiber to aid in digestion, and even pigment enhancers to boost your flowerhorn’s colors.

Good Water Parameters

Flowerhorns are picky about their water parameters, but this is cichlid-specific, so you should have seen this coming.

When it comes to providing your flowerhorn with the ideal water parameters, there are 2 aspects to consider:

  1. Ensure the ideal water values – Temperature should revolve around 78 to 84 F since cichlids are warm-water fish. The warmer waters aid in digestion and keep your cichlids active and healthy in the long run. If the water is too gold, your fish will experience digestive issues, lethargy, hiding behavior, and a weaker immune system, leaving the flowerhorn vulnerable to fish-specific disorders and viral infections. The pH should remain around 7-8, while water hardness is fine between 8 and 20 dGH.
  2. Prevent dangerous fluctuations – Any fluctuations in the water parameters will affect your flowerhorns, depending on how severe or massive the changes are. Drastic temperature fluctuations can send the flowerhorn into temperature shock, which can be deadly. Any ammonia and nitrites will lead to ammonia stress and even ammonia shock in more severe cases. I suggest investing in a filter and a heater and monitoring water parameters constantly to prevent such unfortunate scenarios.

Flowerhorns require a stable environment with as little fluctuations as possible. If you see your flowerhorns displaying signs of stress, you should immediately measure the fish’s water values to make sure everything’s right on that end.

Reduce Stress

This measure will provide your flowerhorns with a longer and healthier lifestyle for years to come. The main issue here is that cichlids, like any other fish, will display signs of stress for a variety of reasons.

It’s basically their one tool for informing you that they’re experiencing some discomfort that needs addressing.

Knowing how to tell when your cichlids are stressed and learning how to determine the cause is key in preventing similar situations in the future.

Overall, here are some reasons why your flowerhorns might appear stressed:

  • Improper diets – Not eating enough or overeating will affect your cichlids differently. In one case, they will starve. On the other, they will experience bloating, constipation, and compaction. Nutritional deficiencies will also cause a variety of other health problems along the way. In all cases, the flowerhorn will first display signs of stress to showcase their discomfort.
  • Improper water parameters – If the water is too dirty, the temperature outside the fish’s comfort zone, or ammonia and nitrites accumulate beyond the acceptable limit (above 0), the flowerhorn will become stressed. In this case, addressing the issue fast is a race against time before the fish’s health deteriorates beyond the point-of-no-return.
  • Improper tank mates – Cichlids aren’t exactly your best options for a community tank, flowerhorns especially. While some cichlids like to live in larger societies, the flowerhorn will do just fine on its own. Keeping it with aggressive and territorial fish species can result in extreme stress due to bullying, constant aggression, territorial fights, and competition over food and space. I suggest keeping flowerhorns alone in their tank or only pairing them with other flowerhorns, provided you have the available space. This brings us to the next point.
  • Insufficient space – One adult flowerhorn typically needs around 70 gallons of water. This is primarily because flowerhorns tend to grow up to 16 inches in some cases, with an average size of 10-12 inches. They are also quite territorial and active and will protect their swimming space with a fierce demeanor. Keeping the fish in an unnecessarily small habitat will cause stress and could lead to additional health problems long-term.
  • Diseases and parasites – All fish will display signs of stress when sick or infested with parasites or bacteria. This is usually the first sign that something’s wrong before any other symptom will show up. So, it’s worth taking your flowerhorn’s hints seriously and assessing its condition whenever the fish begins to display signs of stress.

But what does stress look like in flowerhorns or even fish in general? There are several signs to watch out for:

  • Rapid and frantic swimming for no apparent reason
  • Subtle or even drastic changes in color
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hiding behavior and spending more time around the substrate
  • Lethargy throughout the day
  • Changes in appetite or even refusing food
  • Unexplained aggression, etc.

While some symptoms will differ in intensity and may be more difficult to observe, others will immediately appear abnormal.

Treat Diseases Quickly

Flowerhorns struggle with the same conditions most fish encounter, like Ich, swim bladder disease, parasitic and bacterial infections, hole-in-the-head syndrome, bloating, etc.

The cichlids will also display a variety of symptoms depending on the type of condition they’re struggling with, including stress, aggression, lethargy, hiding behavior, etc. The problem with most of these disorders is that they aggravate with time, sometimes faster than you would expect.

In this context, prevention and early treatment remain your most powerful tools to keep your flowerhorns safe and healthy.

In this sense, I recommend:

  • Assessing your flowerhorn’s behavior and overall health pretty much daily to identify even the smallest changes and symptoms
  • Monitoring water parameters to make sure everything sits within the fish’s comfort zone
  • Act at the first signs of trouble and quarantine the fish in case you have several flowerhorns in the same tank
  • Diagnose the condition fast and begin the treatment immediately, especially if it’s a serious disorder that depends on early treatment
  • Monitor the fish during the treatment process to observe its response and progression

This structured approach is necessary to treat any disease or infection fast before it moves on to more severe stages.

Avoid Overfeeding

Overfeeding is a common problem for novice aquarists and especially inexperienced cichlid owners. Cichlids tend to eat more than they’re supposed to, which can cause digestive problems fast.

These fish are notorious for their rather weak and ineffective digestive systems, which means you need to embrace a more balanced approach when feeding them.

Never feed your adult flowerhorns more than twice per day. Give sufficient food for them to consume within 3-4 minutes. This is enough to keep them safe from overfeeding, which could have devastating consequences for both the fish and its environment.

If you’re overfeeding your fish, expect:

  • More fish waste and food leftovers – These will accumulate on the substrate and decay in the water, increasing ammonia levels and producing a toxic environment for your cichlids. Depending on how severe the problem is, neither the filter nor your tank maintenance routine may not solve or contain the fallout.
  • More harmful bacteria and algaeAlgae feed on dead matter and thrive in messy environments. Having a lot of food residues sinking into the tank will cause algae bloom that could transform your cichlids’ environment fast. The same food leftovers will serve as nutrition for harmful pathogens and bacteria that could infect your fish soon.
  • Digestive problems – Flowerhorns cannot tolerate too much food, but that won’t stop them from eating in excess. As a result, they will become vulnerable to digestive issues like constipation and even compaction, which can be deadly.

To prevent all these problems, set a balanced and healthy feeding routine for your flowerhorns and stick to it.

Do Flowerhorn Live Longer with a Filter?

Yes, so long as you don’t rely on your filter to ensure the tank’s hygiene in the long run. Cichlids, flowerhorns included, are extremely sensitive to dirty waters and chemical changes in their environment.

A filter will dilute some of the ammonia content, promote the tank’s healthy biofilm, oxygenate the habitat, and keep the waters cleaner and clearer. But it won’t suffice in the long run.

You also need to perform regular tank maintenance and do routine water changes to keep your flowerhorns’ environment healthy and stable.

Do Flowerhorn Live Longer in a Group?

Not necessarily. African cichlids tend to live longer in groups since they have well-defined social behavior. But that doesn’t stand true for all cichlids.

And it definitely doesn’t stand true for flowerhorns which are too large to live in a group anyway. Since one flowerhorn requires around 70 gallons of water, picture what keeping 5-6 flowerhorns in the same tank would entail.

Flowerhorns have no problems living alone, provided you ensure optimal living conditions. On the contrary, having a tank mate could spike their territorial aggression, so I wouldn’t worry about them getting lonely anytime soon. That being said, you can pair them with some fish species if you’re looking for some variety.

Some compatible mates include leopard pleco, tiger Oscar, other flowerhorns, and jaguar cichlids, to name a few.

Just make sure you invest in a larger tank to provide all fish with enough space.

What is the Oldest Flowerhorn?

There is no official data regarding the oldest flowerhorn. As a general rule, expect your flowerhorn to exceed a 10-year lifespan under optimal living conditions.

Some may even reach 16 years of age with adequate care, optimized diets, and stable and fitting water parameters.

Conclusion

Flowerhorns are amazing fish that can grow to immense sizes by tank standards and display a variety of colors. Healthy and happy flowerhorns can live well over a decade should their genetic makeup and quality of care allow them.

Take this care guide and use it to make your flowerhorn’s life worth living, and the fish will keep you company for years to come.

avatar 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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Questions and Answers

Lot’s of great information. This is the first flowerhorn I have ever bought. They are so beautiful. Thanks so much for all your information.

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