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Parrot Cichlid

(Hoplarchus psittacus)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 15"
• Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons   • Water Conditions: 80-88° F, pH 4.5-6.5, dH 4-8
• Diet: Carnivore   • Origin: Amazon Basin, South America   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Parrot Cichlids   • Aquarium Type: Cichlid-New-World

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Species Information

Parrot Cichlid native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Parrot Cichlid is a beautiful, metallic-green species with bright red eyes that is native to flooded forest regions and blackwater habitats of South America. Parrot Cichlids (not to be confused with the man-made, hybrid, Blood Parrot "cichlids" that resemble fancy goldfish) are large Cichlids that get their scientific name "psittacus" based on parrots that are members of the Psitticidae family.

The Parrot Cichlid is available within the aquarium hobby; however, they are much more rare than a lot of similar Cichlid species that are collected from the same Amazonian waters. Hobbyists looking to purchase a True Parrot Cichlid may have to look at specialty fish sellers or the special fish sections of more mainstream fish retailers in order to find one to purchase.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Parrot Cichlid in the home aquarium.

Parrot Cichlids require an aquarium of at least 75 gallons and should be provided with a fine sand to smooth gravel substrate and a few structures for shelter (driftwood, rocks, and/or vegetation). Live plants are appreciated as they help with natural, biological filtration and are abundant in their native blackwater environment, but any live plants in their tank should have strong root structures and be attached to driftwood or rocks; or even potted as Parrot Cichlids grow to be large and powerful fish.

They prefer warmer water and absolutely demand that it's pristine; high quality biological and mechanical filtration is very important as well as a low pH (acidic) and soft water. Lighting intensity in their tank can vary with enough light to support a few live plants, but with lower intensity areas where they can relax in some shade.

Parrot Cichlids are relatively peaceful Cichlids but can become territorial as they get older; it's recommended that they be housed within a community environment, but are more commonly kept in species or biotope-specific aquariums. Tank mates should be considered carefully and should be comparable in size (Geophagus and Severum species would be wise choices).

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Parrot Cichlid and provide a healthy diet.

Parrot Cichlids are carnivores and eat insects, crustaceans and minnows in the wild. They should be provided with a variety of meaty and vitamin enriched foods such as live, frozen or freeze-dried ghost shrimp, krill, minnows, bloodworms, blackworms, mealworms, earthworms, crickets, and nutritional Cichlid pellets (Spirulina too).

They should never be fed fancy guppies or goldfish as bacteria and disease may be introduced into their tank, not to mention the fat and total lack of nutritional value in common "feeder" fish. Care must be taken not to overfeed as they are very sensitive to polluted water conditions. Feed once every other day to once daily and only what they will consume in a few minutes.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Parrot Cichlid in the aquarium environment.

Parrot Cichlids have no apparent sexual dimorphism, but it's said that a male will be larger and more rounded in shape. They are egg layers that practice brood care and although breeding is extremely rare in captivity, a pair might spawn at two to four years of age when housed in pristine conditions.

After the pair beats each other up fairly well, the female will lay one to three hundred eggs on a semi-vertical surface (flat of a rock or slate) and the male will fertilize them soon afterwards. Both parents will look after the eggs and fry. The fry will grow to be around half an inch within 6-8 weeks.

The fry should eat small foods (daphnia, encapsulated rotifers) for the first few days and then moved on to freshly hatched brine shrimp for the first few weeks. Once grown out a little bit more, the fry and be fed chopped bloodworms, Spirulina flakes and micro-pellets. Be careful not to spook the mother with any changes to the environment and wait to do a water change until the fry are separated, or they may be killed.

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