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FAQs on Parrot, Jelly-Bean... Cichlids, Systems

Related Articles: Blood Parrots & Flowerhorn Cichlids: maintenance and healthcare of two popular hybrid cichlids by Neale Monks, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Parrot Cichlids 1, Parrot Cichlids 2, & Parrot Cichlid Identification, Parrot Cichlid Behavior, Parrot Cichlid Compatibility, Parrot Cichlid Selection, Parrot Cichlid Feeding, Parrot Cichlid Health, Parrot Cichlid Reproduction, & Neotropical Cichlids 1, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,


need help on ph      9/21/17
Hi guys need your help........Had a doubt in mind and as always hoping to get a solution of it. My question is in regards to pH and kH I have been reading about it and find it to be very complex to understand. Of what I
understood I realized was that I need a pH of 6 to 8 for my red blood parrot fishes. On enquiring I came to know that the pH of tap water here is
7 to 7.5.
<This is a good range for this hybrid cichlid>

But I also felt that pH of tank could be going down as my tank is properly socked so more dissolved organic compound which would be lowering pH which I am afraid would be affecting the nitrogen cycle
<Mmm; yes to captive systems being more reductive, decreasing in pH over time... as biological processes nick away at alkaline reserve. But, not usually a problem; given regular maintenance; in particular partial water
changes. If you simply siphon out (best by gravel vacuuming) about a quarter (25%) of the system water each week, and replace, the new/replacement water will have sufficient alkalinity to keep the system (and pH) stable>
Hence after reading much to increase my pH I added 1 tsp of baking soda for 5 gallons of water understanding that it will buffer the water which in turn will increase my pH Till now my fishes are fine. Am I right in doing
this and can I continue the same ?
<Likely is a good routine; not harmful here. I would get/use an alkalinity test kit (KH or GH) to check all; only add the baking soda to new water>
Also this all is based on my assumptions and I have not used any test kits
Kindly advise
Regards, Raj
<Have you read Neale's pieces on the subject on WWM? Do so. Bob Fenner>

Please help (newbie) 10/26/10
I have recently become addicted to fish. I started off with a 3 gallon tank then a 10 gallon and now 36 gallon tank. The tank is about 10 weeks old and I have a few different species in the tank they all seem to get along! I take samples of my water to be tested every week and PetSmart has advised me that all my levels are perfect! My concern is my parrot cichlids. I have a orange one that was the first in the tank, I thought he was so great to watch and was a sociable fish so I went and found a white one with black spots, they were not friendly towards each at first but now are inseparable my question is today I noticed that they are both in the same decoration cave, I do not know the sex of either one of them but today both of them have and forgive me I do not know what it is called but the area that determines what sex they are seem to be larger and both have them sticking out and the orange one keeps rubbing its bottom side against the walls of the cave upside down on the side and against the rocks and the black and white one is very protective keeping all the other fish away even attempting to bite my hand something they have never done before today. I love them so much I do not want to lose the orange one he/she did not even come out to eat today the other one did but the orange one stayed in its cave. Another problem is that my tank is still cloudy after all this time I know it has to do the cycling but I change 10% of the water about every 3 days and like I said the levels are perfect, so is there anyone that can help me with my cichlids and why they are doing this and also why my tank is not clearing up and is so cloudy? The tank came with a 40 gallon filter I even added the filter I had from the 10 gallon tank just to help even more, I've even added gravel from the petstore to help and also put the nitrite bag / filter in my filter system as well to help the process and nothing is helping. Desperate and worried am I doing something wrong and is this normal behavior for the cichlids all the other fish are doing great there are no signs of any problems with them Signed Desperate and worried Please Help Sondra
<Hello Sondra. The short answer is that your aquarium is probably too small, and the ultimate cause of problems is poor environmental quality. You say your "levels" are "perfect" but I really do need numbers here! In particular you must have zero ammonia, zero nitrite, a pH between 7 and 8, and crucially, a hardness that is moderately hard to hard, i.e., 10+ degrees dH. Your water is cloudy almost certainly because it's either immature (i.e., the filter hasn't matured, which takes at least a month) or the filter is too small for the job, and my money would be on this being at least part of the problem because a filter for a 40 gallon is designed for a 40 gallon tank stocked with tetras, not big cichlids! You need a turnover rate of at least 6 times the volume of the tank per hour. Given Blood Parrots need a minimum of 55 gallons, that's at least a 330 gallon/hour turnover filter. Do bear in mind they're not sociable animals and get very large and very territorial when mature, so two specimens may not tolerate one another even in a 55 gallon tank. In the meantime, read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/FHParrotCichArtNeale.htm Cheers, Neale.>

Parrot Cichlids, beh.  -- 09/03/09
Hi there!
Sorry to ask a question very similar to another that's already been asked but I'm really worried about our two parrot cichlids.
They've always been pretty outgoing and spend a lot of time swimming up and down their tank as we walk through the room. Lately, however, they've become really nervous and dive for their hiding places to the point where they've almost knocked themselves out a couple of times.
<Can be various things. Most commonly environmental stress, so check ammonia, nitrite, temperature. Since these are basically Central American cichlids, you need to make sure the water isn't acidic or too soft, since both of these things will cause them to become skittish (and ill). Aim for a pH around 7.5 to 8, and 10-25 degrees dH. But other factors to consider are ambient noise, since this carries into fish tanks and scares them. Loud TV sets, slamming doors, general child-induced mayhem are all the kinds of things that make fish go loopy. Next up, think about sunlight. Direct sunlight isn't something most fish appreciated. On the whole, they like shady conditions. Have the fish grown much since you've bought them? These cichlids certainly need something around the 55 gallon/210 litre size upwards given their adult size of 8 inches/20 cm, and in small, cramped tanks fish become nervous. Finally, did you add anything to the tank?
Ornaments for example? Cute bubble-blowing mermaids might appeal to you, but some fish find them very distracting. Likewise additional air stones, new filters, etc.>
They are eating without problem, they're not lethargic, we've tested the water quality and all is well within range. We've tried changing the water as well. The tank isn't in direct sunlight and there's no exterior noise.
The temperate is 79 degrees.
They are sharing the tank with a Bottlenose Catfish and a Royal Whiptail - these are pretty small just now and certainly don't bother the Cichlids.
<Assume you mean a Bristlenose Catfish, and if that's the case, I agree, neither it nor a Whiptail should be causing problems. However, you get the odd specimen of some Loricariidae that takes to scraping the mucous off the flanks of large cichlids, typically Otocinclus but I've heard Hypostomus have pulled this stunt, too. If you see scratches on the sides of your fish, then that's a possibility.>
Could there be anything else that we could / should try? I would really appreciate your help.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids, hlth.-env.  9/5/09
Hello again!
Thanks very much for the advice.... I really appreciate you taking the time to reply.
<Not a problem.>
We've checked all of the levels, including ammonia, nitrate and temperature. Temperature was showing to be around 74 degrees so we've increased it a little.
<Good; around 25 C/77 F suits most cichlids well.>
The pH and water hardness is within limits.
<By which you mean a pH around 7.5, and hardness somewhere on the "moderate hard" to "hard" range? I mention this because acidification is one common reason fish become jittery. You might care to test the pH at different times of the day, at least before the lights go on and then at the end of the day. See if the pH is stable. This is more of an issue with tanks that have live plants than tanks without, because photosynthesis can have a profound impact on pH.>
There is minimal noise in the room - its mostly quiet as I tend to read rather than watch TV and there is no direct sunlight.
We've only had the fish for around 8 weeks and they've not really grown in that time.
<Surprised; in a couple months, juvenile cichlids should grow fairly substantially.>
The largest Parrot Cichlid is around 4 inches and we have two of them in a 180 litre tank. The catfish are just an inch or so, so pretty small at the moment. The only think we have added recently (about a month ago) is some wood which is especially for aquariums. We've a couple of plastic plants and a couple of ornaments which were in the tank at the aquatic centre where we bought them.
I did mean Bristlenose (oops!) and there's no sign of any scratches on the Cichlids. They are out and about in the tank at times but dive for cover when we walk past. This is really unusual behaviour for them as they
normally swim to the side of the tank when we walk past.
<Catfish often are jittery, especially in tanks with lights but little in the way of cover. By "cover" I mean things like floating plants; the odd rock or plastic plant won't do much to make a catfish feel secure. They
really need to be constantly covered by some source of shading.>
I'm really concerned because we did have 3 Bamboo Shrimp in the tank until a week or so ago and these seemed fine but died suddenly.
<These shrimps are sensitive to poor water quality, in particular a lack of oxygen, so review filtration. For Parrot Cichlids, I'd want a filtration system rated at 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So
assuming a minimum suitable tank size of 55 gallons, this would be 6 x 55 = 330 gallons per hour. Check water circulation is adequate as well.
Hang-on-the-back filters for example tend to have the inlet and outlet close together, and a single unit is often a bad choice for big tanks. If you put a bit of flake on the substrate at the far end of the tank, does it
quickly get washed away, or does it kind of sit there? If the latter, you likely have poor circulation, and that means oxygen isn't being evenly distributed. For cichlids, there's a good argument for either having two or
more HOB filters, one at each end, or a big canister, with the inlet at one end and the spray bar at the other.>
Having checked everything in the tank and the water quality, etc, I am really at a loss as to what to try next.
<Honestly sounds like water quality issues. Try doing a nitrite test after feeding the fish, say, 30 minutes later. Check the nitrate as well. Have a look how clean the substrate it: if it's dirty, then filtration might not
be as good as you think, and oxygenation could be an issue because the lower level of the tank is receiving less circulation than it needs.>
We have taken water samples from the tank to the aquatic centre and they have confirmed that all of the levels are well within limits.
<Depends how they define "limits". A lot of test kits and retailers suppose "low" levels of ammonia and nitrite are safe, or at least tolerable. They are not. You MUST have ZERO ammonia and nitrite at all times, and for cichlids, the nitrate level should be well under 50 mg/l, and preferably less than 20 mg/l. For whatever reason, cichlids are peculiarly sensitive to nitrate, and while it doesn't kill them immediately, it does make them prone to diseases, particularly Hexamita and Hole-in-the-Head, neither of which are easily treatable but commonly fatal.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids 9/5/09
Hi there
<Hello again,>
We've done another test for General and Carbonate Hardness. The GH (General Hardness) is 2dH and Carbonate Hardness (KH) is 11dH.
<Odd combination. Are you sure these are right? It's important to understand that what aquarists call "hardness" isn't (usually) the total mineral content of the water, but selected bits of it. General hardness is
a measurement of (chiefly) calcium and magnesium salts, whereas carbonate hardness is specifically carbonate and bicarbonate salts. Adding the two gives you something called Total Hardness, and that's somewhat equivalent to the total mineral content of the water (Total Dissolved Solids, or TDS).
Anyway, my point is that your overall hardness is fairly high, and the carbonate hardness level at least is very high, and should secure very stable pH levels.>
Our pH levels can sometimes go up to 8 and so we've been adding 7.2 Buffer to the water on a regular basis.
<Ah, have you by chance been adding the buffering salt mix to tap water? Is your tap water passed through a domestic water softener? Or perhaps simply soft anyway? A pH-up buffer will typically raise the carbonate hardness since this is what maintains a basic (i.e., above 7) pH. However, adding pH buffers without fully understanding what you're doing and why can lead to problems.>
The pH is 7.4 currently. Its looking as though the water is way too soft.
<What's the hardness of your tap water, before you treat it?>
Might you possibly have some advice on how to redress the balance?
<What I suggest you do is have a read of this article:
About halfway down there's a recipe for Rift Valley salt mix. It raises both carbonate and general hardness, and fixes the pH nicely around 7.5 to 8. For Central American cichlids, like your Parrots, you should find a
half-dose ample, though the full dose would be fine too. Either way, it's very easy to make, costs pennies, and works better than adding buffers.>
Thank you so much for all your help. We really appreciate it.
Kind regards
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids, sys.  9/6/09
Hello again!
<Hi Debbie,>
We've tested our tap water and the GH is 15 dH. KH is 10 dH.
<Ideal for Parrot Cichlids.>
The pH of our tapwater is 7.5.
We don't have a water softener built in.
What we've been doing is adding 'Tap Safe' to the tap water and then adding the buffer to that water and storing it in containers so that we can change the water on a regular basis - we change the water at least once a week, sometimes more - could we be overdoing the water changes?
<Weekly water changes are fine for most fish. More than weekly can be good, provided water chemistry and temperature are stable. But if you're "noisy" when doing the changes, then overdoing such things might alarm them. That said, I don't find water changes stress fish unduly, and usually find them readily taking food again within an the hour.>
I'm wondering if we are stressing out the fish by changing the water too often?
<Doesn't seem terribly likely to me, to be honest. But there's an easy test: for the next month, do just weekly 25% water changes, and see what happens.>
Thanks for the article and the recipe for the Rift Valley Salt Mix - we will give that a try. Should we do a major water change using the Salt Mix?
<No; just do your regular water changes, let's say 20-25% this week, adding to each bucket of water you add the appropriate amount of Rift Valley salt mix.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids... sys.  9/11/09
Hello - me again!
I've just done a water test for GH and KH and the GH level seems pretty low (the colour changes after just 2 drops). KH is 10 dH. GH seems very low
<If you have been adding just a pH buffer, then very likely this is what you will find. KH is carbonate and bicarbonate, and these are the salts used in pH buffers. GH has little to no impact on pH, and is important
because of the salt/water balance of the fish, osmoregulation.>
- is that something that the Rift Valley Salt Mix should help to fix?
The parrots appear to be less skittish than they were... one suggestion from an aquarium owner was to add more fish to the tank so that the parrots feel less vulnerable... I'm not sure that is such a good idea though, given that you've said that our 180 litre tank is just about big enough for 2 parrots. Do you think that we have reached the limit for our tank with 2 Parrots, 1 Royal Whiptail and 1 Bristlenose Catfish?
<Yes. Parrot Cichlids can reach 20 cm/8 inches. Grab a ruler, or else rather side plate. Stick in front of the tank. See how big these fish are going to be!>
Kind regards
<Cheers, Neale.>

re: Parrot Cichlids 9/11/09
Hi Neale
Thanks for the quick reply. We didn't add any buffer to the last water change but I guess there's still some trace in the tank as we only changed around 25%.
<Seems likely.>
Rift Valley Salt Mix here we come! :-)
<Will find this cheaper, more effective, and better. Half the dose quoted for Rift Valley cichlids should do.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids, and FW KH f'  9/13/09
Hi Neale
We've just tested the water we're prepared for the water change and the values are showing as KH17 and 36 dH (GH). pH is 8.
<Try using only one-third to one-half the amount of Rift Valley salt mix; this is rather high.>
The water in the tank currently is KH10 and the dH (GH) is 3.
<This is from just using the pH buffer, right?>
I followed the amounts for the recipe for 40 litres so effectively doubled them.
<Hang on... you don't EVER add all the salt mix ingredients for the whole tank in one fell swoop. Here's the deal: To start with, you only add enough for each bucket of water you add to the tank. Let's say you take out 2.5 gallons and pour that down the drain. You now fill up a 2.5 gallon (10 litre) bucket, and add to it 0.5 teaspoon baking soda, 0.5 tablespoon Epsom salt, and 0.5 teaspoon marine salt mix. Stir well. Do a quick GH and KH test. Let's say you got 20 degrees dH and 10 degrees KH respectively (the precise numbers would depend on how soft or hard your tap water is). That's fine for Malawi cichlids, but a bit high for community fish. We really only want half these levels of general and carbonate hardness. So we throw away what we just made, and then fill up another 2.5 gallons in the bucket, and this time add one-half the dose recommended by the Rift Valley cichlid salt, recipe, i.e., 0.25 teaspoon baking soda, 0.25 tablespoon Epsom salt, and 0.25 teaspoon marine salt mix. This time we get about 10 degrees dH and 5 degrees KH. Ideal for Parrot cichlids, and well within the tolerances of most community fish! Perfect. We right this down on a post-it note, stick in somewhere handy, and every time we make up a bucket of water, we remember to add this precise recipe of salts. Now, don't change all the water in the aquarium. Simply remove one or two 2.5 gallon buckets this weekend, and replaced with "hardened" water. Do the same thing next weekend, and so on. This will expose your fish to only small, incremental changes in pH and hardness.>
Seems that I have done something wrong, given the extremely high GH?
<You do need to tweak the amounts a bit first time around, because your tap water has some hardness and carbonate hardness.
Would really appreciate some help on this one.
<Hope this is clear now. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Parrot Cichlids 9/13/09
Sorry... one other question... will our Royal Whiptail and Bristlenose be OK with an increase in GH and KH?
<At about 10 to 15 degrees dH, 5-10 degrees KH, yes, they should be fine.
Community tropical fish don't really get miserable until the general hardness exceeds 20 degrees dH and 10 degrees KH. Cheers, Neale.>

re: Parrot Cichlids 9/13/09
Thanks for the information. I wasn't planning to change all of the water in the tank.
We planned to change 40 litres worth of a 180 litre tank, hence adding 2 x 20 litre mix.
<Makes sense. Reminds me... I have to change the water in my Rio 180!>
Thanks for setting me straight... I'll start again! :-)
<Cheers, Neale>

re: Parrot Cichlids 9/13/09
Hey Neale
At the risk of driving you mad... my 'homebrew' mix is 1/4 of a 1/4 teaspoon of Baking Soda, 1/4 teaspoon of Epsom Salts and 1/2 of a 1/4 teaspoon of Marine Salt which gives me a dH of 11, KH of 7 and pH between 7.5 and 8 (though towards 7.5). This is for 10 litres of water. I'm not sure I can get the quantities any smaller with any accuracy... will that work, do you think? :-)
<If it works, go for it! As I say, the precise GH and KH readings you'll get will depend on your tap water. So if you had a GH of 10 degrees out of the tap, adding the mix will result in something different to what you'd get if the GH was only 5 degrees. Accuracy isn't desperately important, what matters is consistency: if you "decide" one-quarter of a one-quarter measuring teaspoon is a certain amount, then that's fine. Check your water chemistry every month for the next few months, and provided nothing much changes, then you're probably fine.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. Lunacy... again!    5/11/09
I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank.
<Should be fine by themselves in such a tank. Not big enough for two, unless you got a pair perhaps, but even then, male cichlids can become "wife beaters" if the female isn't receptive. When you move a pair of adult fish, there's no guarantees they'll stay a pair in the new aquarium.>
Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen?. Do they need more then 1 to feel happy?
<No, they're fine in solitary.>
How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches.
<That's about the range. They're hybrids, so it's impossible to predict with any accuracy. 8 inches/20 cm seems typical, but they can get bigger.>
What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc? I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get.
<Need conditions similar to other Central American cichlids.
Hard, alkaline water, plenty of oxygen, low nitrate. Since they can't swim properly, provide strong but not turbulent filtration; 6-8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour would be good. Use a cichlid salt buffer if you live in a soft water area.>
How often and how much water should be changed per week?
<25% per week.>
<Alex, I'm pretty sure you've sent this message before! But for the benefit of other readers, have answered in again! Cheers, Neale.>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. Same idiot questions? Sigh...  4/20/2009
I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank. Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen?. Do they need more then 1 to feel happy? How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches.
What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp ect?
I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get. How often and how much water should be changed per week?
<... Please... you've asked these same questions over and over... Go elsewhere or read here:

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank.  Again?  04/03/09
I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank.
<Perfectly happy on their own.>
Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen?
<They don't "stunt". They will keep growing. In a tank too small for them, water quality will drop, and they'll get sick. But that isn't stunting.>
Do they need more then 1 to feel happy?
How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches.
<They're hybrids, and can get to both those lengths, or anything in between. You can't predict.>
What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc. ? I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get.
<Much like any other Central American cichlid; see here:
How often and how much water should be changed per week?
<With cichlids generally, nitrate is a killer. So large, regular water changes are important. 25% per week would be a good idea.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. 3/12/2009
I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank. Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1in a 53 as a single specimen?
<Certainly viable, though do make an effort to keep up with water changes and provide adequate filtration. Parrots can get to about 20 cm/8 inches in length, and like all cichlids are sensitive to nitrate as well as ammonia and nitrite.>
Do they need more then 1 to feel happy?
How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12 inches.
<Correct. Generally towards the lower end of that range, but bigger species are known. Since they're hybrids, you can't predict, so expect the worst.>
What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc.?
<Similar to other Central American cichlids; aim for 5+ degrees KH and 10+
degrees dH. Assuming these, you should have a pH around 7.5. Concentrate on hardness, particularly carbonate hardness; do that, and pH takes care of itself.>
I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get. How often and how much water should be changed per week?
<With cichlids, 25-50% weekly is recommended.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

New Tank With New Parrot Cichlid, sys.  1/25/09 Hello, I bought a new tank and filter system yesterday, set it up, and added 1 teaspoon of aqua safe to the water. I ran the heater and the filter overnight, and when the water was a steady 79 degrees F I went to the store and picked up the fish I purchased yesterday, but they requested I leave at the store while the temperature in my tank stabilized. Unfortunately, my tank is only 10 gallons. When I bought the set-up yesterday, the pet store owner told me this was sufficient for the fish I wanted, and furthermore that I could add several more fish if I wanted I've since come to the conclusion that the pet store owner is an idiot, and rather unethical to boot as he failed to tell me when I was asking about the Blood Parrots that they were deformed, could live for several years, could get quite large, what they needed to be fed, how often to feed them, etc. I've looked up most of this information myself but I have some concerns about my Parrot that I haven't been able to find on Google. When I went to pick up the fish today, the pet shop employees started hassling me about my tank not being ready, that I should have bought 10 Neons (@ $7 a piece I have no idea if this is just a scheme to get me to spend $70 on fish he will probably eat...) to throw in the tank for a few weeks first, that I was going to kill the fish if I took it home today, that I really should have brought a water sample to them first, and that if I saw the fish hanging around the bottom of the tank that he was probably dying. I've had fish before, but never one this big or that I paid this much for. None of these things were told to me yesterday when I had the $$$ in my hand, and I find it rather odd that they neglected to tell me any of this today, and I have no idea what to think. I did a pH test, and it said my water has a pH level of 7.5. Everything I have read says something different, some say 6.5, some say around 7, some say around 7.5. Everything says different temperatures as well. My heater is set to 79, since it was in between what all the different articles said. Do you think this is okay? <Parrot cichlids can probably handle between 75 and 82 F.> When I brought the fish home, I set his bag in the tank for 30 minutes, maybe a few more minutes, before letting him out. I opened the bag and held it in the water so he could swim out on his own, and he seemed okay at first, then swam to the right side of the tank and swam back and forth frantically for a few minutes, and then slowly started to adventure out into the rest of the tank. What I'm really freaked out about, is that he spends most of his time in the lower portion of my tank, often burrowing around in the gravel. I read that this is normal for them, but the pet store owner really has me scared since he kept insisting my water isn't good enough for fish, that I'm going to kill him, and that if he was swimming in the bottom that there wasn't enough bacteria in the tank. He seems to be calm, he explores the tank, but he does spend a lot of his time hanging out in one corner of it, usually around the plants I bought for him. I'm sorry about my probably silly questions, I just wasn't really prepared for the commitment that apparently is a Blood Parrot, especially since the store owner made them seem like not such a big deal yesterday, and then freaked me out and lectured me today. I've tried to do everything to make his tiny tank comfortable for him, and I've kept it pretty minimal so he has room to swim. The only things in the tank are two plants, a submersible heater, a filter, and a small pot that I flipped over on the side so he could hide if he wanted to. I really like my new fish, and I'd like to keep him around as long as possible, even if it means rearranging my house and investing in a larger tank. I don't plan on buying any other fish to go with him, either. Any feedback on whether the store owner's lecture was true or just bogus is really appreciated! Thanks WWM Crew, Tiffany < Parrot cichlids are an artificial fish developed from three different cichlid species. All of them get at least 8 inches so be prepared to get at least a 40 gallon tank in the not to near future. Get some test kits to check the water quality for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. A pH of 7.5 is fine for this fish. Don't depend on the same store to test the water for you. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. They can be controlled with water changes until the bacteria get established. Keep up on water changes to control these waste products. The nitrates should remain under 20 ppm. When you cannot control them with water changes then it will be time for the bigger tank. Not all store owners are great aquarists. Not all store owners are great businessmen. It doesn't sound like you were well treated. It would probably be best if you took your business somewhere else.-Chuck>

Re: Blood Parrot New Tank With Parrot Cichlid II -- 1/30/09 Hi, Thanks so much for e-mailing me back. I went to a different pet store and bought some stress coat, and one nitrite and one nitrate testing kit as well as a Live NH3 meter. About 3 days ago I was a little concerned because the Live NH3 read at "Caution" so I replaced about 2/3 of the water and added more stress coat. The next day my fish had started to develop black spots on his fins. Even after the water change it was between "safe" and "caution" so I've been keeping my eye on it. This morning it was back up between "caution" and "stress" so I took out about 80% of the water and scraped as much waste as I could off the bottom of the tank. I also removed the filter and cleaned it out, and I think I finally found the culprit. My fish had chewed up a plant in the tank, and pieces of the plant had made their way into the filter and had coated it in a layer of brown rotting mush. I rinsed it all out with cold water and then put it back in. After about an hour the Live NH3 reads "safe" and I've tested nitrate/nitrite and it says 0ppm for nitrate and a bit above 0 ppm for nitrite. My fish's spots are darker though, and it seems like every time I do something to help I'm just making it worse? I've recently changed his food as well from TetraMin tropical flakes to TetraMin Crisps Select-A-Food. I feed him crisps in the morning and granules at night and throw a few of the shrimp in the tank every once in a while. I doubt this is making him turn black but want to cover all my bases. He does seem to like the new food better and eats it rather quickly. I also removed the plant that he had been chewing up to keep it from breaking up anymore. He seems to be a lot calmer since I changed the water this morning. He was swimming around a lot the last couple of days really frantically, and now he's still moving a lot but not bobbing back and forth and swimming almost sideways like he was. I've been reading about the black spots and it seems like there's not really any solid information on what they are. I've read bad water, parasites, bad temperatures, bad ph, I just don't know what to do about it. Should I treat it as if it were parasites? Thanks again, Tiffany < The trouble with parrot cichlids is that they have a mixed heritage between different cichlid species. Not all of them are a solid color. I think the spots have more to do with genetics and color enhancing foods rather than parasites. Monitor the water quality until you start to see some nitrates showing up on the test kits. When the nitrates reach 20 ppm them you need to do a water change. Use the test kits to determine how much water you need to change and how often it should be changed.-Chuck>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. Sys.  I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank. <Yes they're fine on their own, and yes, a singleton would be happy in a 53 gallon system.> Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen? <Cichlids generally don't "stunt" in captivity; indeed, not many fish other than carps are known to do so. Your problem with two specimens is aggression: two males will surely fight, and a male might bully a female.> Do they need more then 1 to feel happy? <No.> How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12 inches. <20 cm/8 inches is about the average.> What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc. ? <Much like any other Central American cichlid. Aim for medium to very hard water conditions, 10-20 degrees dH. Also ensure carbonate hardness is fairly high to keep the pH stable; I'd recommend around 5-7 degrees KH. Do that, and you should get the right pH, 7.5-8, without any additional work. Temperature should be around 25 C/77 F.> I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish I get. <Much written about these fish. See here, and also follow the links: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/parrotcichfaqs.htm I'm not a huge fan of these hybrid fish, and would encourage you to consider some of the "real" Central American species, such as Cichlasoma salvini, Vieja synspila or Amphilophus citrinellus. Hybrid fish suffer from various complaints and weaknesses because they are inbred and, like it or not, deformed. So things like swim bladder problems and constipation are bigger issues than otherwise. "Real" species are hardier, better able to display their natural instincts, and in my opinion at least, better looking.> How often and how much water should be changed per week? <Much written about this on WWM, and hopefully in the aquarium book you've already bought/borrowed! But basically 25-50% weekly changes is good, assuming temperature and water chemistry changes are minimal.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. 01/07/2009 Parrot Cichlid Info Thank you. The tank dimensions are 3 feet long, 20 inches high and 15 inches wide. Is it possible the one fish could outgrow this setup? < It should be fine for a long time.> What foods do Blood Parrots need/like? < I would recommend a high quality pellet food.> What would be a good filtration system and what temp do I keep the water at? < I like outside power filters that are easy to clean. Check out cichlid-forum.com on product reviews for filters. <Based on the original species of cichlid that the parrot was derived from I would recommend a water temp of 80 F.> Also how long do they live? < I would think at least 10 years.-Chuck>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. 12/02/08 I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank. Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen?. Do they need more then 1 to feel happy? How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches. What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc.? I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get. How often and how much water should be changed per week? Thanks <Hello Alex. Blood Parrots are hybrid cichlids, and consequently it is impossible to predict their maximum size or behaviour. In general though they work reasonably well in odd-numbered groups (3, 5, etc) given space. In your case, a trio would be viable. They can be extremely aggressive when mature, and make poor community fish. Conversely, being physically handicapped by deformed spines and distorted swim bladders, they can't swim/fight as well as other cichlids, and get bullied in cichlid tanks. Most specimens get to around 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) in length but much larger specimens do exist. They are essentially similar to Central American cichlids (from which they were derived) and do best in hard, basic water. Provided the water has a high carbonate hardness, pH should balance out just fine. Lots of people fixate on pH, but that actually doesn't matter much provided it is stable. Instead concentrate on ensuring the carbonate hardness is reasonably high; I'd recommend 7+ degrees KH. Various ways to do this, the simplest being adding a measure of Malawi salt mix (purchased or home-made) to each bucket of water, around a half dose usually being adequate unless you have very soft water. Temperature isn't critical, and as with most other fish, 25 C (77 F) is fine. There is much else about Central American cichlids and water chemistry issues at WWM; use the search tool and enjoy. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. Parrot Cichlid Info II  12/3/08 Thank you. The tank dimensions are 3 feet long, 20 inches high and 15 inches wide. Is it possible the one fish could outgrow this setup? < Sounds like it is approximately a 40 gallon tank. If you have a male it could get a little cramped, but it would probably be fine for a female.> What foods do Blood Parrots need/like? < I would stick with a high quality pellet food like Spectrum as a basic diet. Occasional light feedings of other things would be OK as long as they are not fed too heavily.> What would be a good filtration system and what temp do I keep the water at? < The best filter is the one that you are able to service regularly. I would recommend an outside power filter that pumps at least200gallons per hour. Go to Cichlid-Forum.com and check out the product reviews from other aquarists. I have found that the reviews are very helpful. I would keep the water between 75 and 77 F.> Long do they live? <When the fish are young and growing they need more protein than an adult that is no longer growing. When your fish reaches an adult size you can start to give it foods with more vegetable matter to prevent bloating. If all goes well your parrot cichlid should live to be at least 10 years old.-Chuck>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. Sys.     2/3/09 I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank. <One specimen in a tank that size would be fine, assuming it didn't get too big. A second specimen might be possible, depending on filtration and water changes.> Would keeping two of them stunt their growth, is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen? <Isn't so much "stunting" (which cichlids generally don't do) but that high and/or rapidly increasing levels of nitrate harm cichlids. When nitrate gets above, say, 20 mg/l, they become very prone to disease, especially Hexamita.> Do they need more then 1 to feel happy? <Territorial; don't need friends, won't tolerate them if the tank isn't big enough. Males are more aggressive than females, but you can't sex them.> How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches. <They are hybrids, so it is impossible to predict. Yes, they can grow to between 20-30 cm/8-12 inches.> What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp etc? <Much like any other Central American cichlid. Aim for a medium to high level of hardness (10+ degrees dH), a significant amount of carbonate hardness (5+ degrees KH) and a basic pH around 7.5-8. Do look over this month's Conscientious Aquarist; there is a detailed article on Central American cichlids. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/CA_Index.html> I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish i get. How often and how much water should be changed per week? <Sand fine; they dig though, so use only a little, and be prepared to smooth it out periodically. For Central Americans, a mix of 4 parts smooth silica sand to 1 part coral sand is recommended. As with all cichlids, big, regular water changes are critical; 25-50% per week.> Thanks <Cheers, Neale.>

One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank -Parrot Cichlid Info 11/6/08... Where's W.C. Field's? I was wondering if blood parrots do okay by themselves and whether or not if a blood parrot could outgrow a 53 gallon tank.? < A single parrot cichlid would be fine in a tank of that size.> Would keeping two of them stunt their growth? < Two would be OK as long as you watch for excessive nitrates and keep up on your water changes.> Is it better to keep just 1 in a 53 as a single specimen?. <If you keep just one then it cannot get beat up or harassed by the other.> Do they need more then 1 to feel happy? < They will start to respond more to the activities outside the tank and become more personable to people in the room.> How big can these guys get? I heard anywhere from 8 to 12, inches. < Males will get larger that females but that size range is about right.> What would be an ideal tank setup for this fish? PH, water temp ect? < They prefer clean warm water and are not to picky about pH as long as it is not too far from 7.> I have a sand substrate in place right now, and I want to research all about this/or any other type of fish I get. <Sand will be fine as long as it is not abrasive. Some sand like sand blasting sand is crushed and is very angular. As the fish moves the sand around it damages the tissues in and around the mouth. Look for a substrate that is well rounded .> How often and how much water should be changed per week? < Check the nitrates and keep them under 20 ppm with water changes.-Chuck> Thanks

Re: One blood parrot in 53 gallon basement tank. 11/09/08 Parrot Cichlid Set Up II Thank you. The tank dimensions are 3 feet long, 20 inches high and 15 inches wide. Is it possible the one fish could outgrow this setup? <Over time you parrot cichlid may out grow this set up especially if it is a male. A female may get up to 8 inches or so.> What foods do Blood Parrots need/like? <I would go with a high quality pellet food like Spectrum or Ultracolor.  Occasional earthworms and ZooMed canned shrimp make an excellent nutritious treat.> What would be a good filtration system and what temp do I keep the water at? < The best filtration system is one that you find the easiest to maintain.  I would recommend a outside power filter like a Marineland Emperor with a Bio-wheel attachment. I would recommend keeping the water temp up around the upper to mid 70's F. Also how long do they live? < The parrot cichlid is a recent "designer" fish with not much published data on longevity. Based on the true species that this fish was derived from I would assume that this fish could live up to 20 years with a little luck.-Chuck>

Black patches on parrotfish... FW! Cichlids, poor svc. work 11/4/05 Hello Crew! Firstly, I wanted to let you know how wonderful your website is--it is a gem!  I work for a company that has a fish tank that is serviced by a local company on a monthly basis. They do a horrible job--I can't even tell you how many fish have died since I started working here a year ago. I would guess 50, at least. Unfortunately, no one who works here is a fish expert and we are sort of at the mercy of the company who does the monthly cleaning. <Fire them. Either take over the job in-house or hire a capable company> We just went through a horrible ich problem and lost most of the fish in the tank, including a lovely parrot fish that everyone adored.  <This family (Scaridae) are not easily kept in captivity> His mate survived the ich, but she now has many black patches on her body, including a line that runs right down her back. They look like dirty smudges and they are not raised like blisters. <Likely "stress markings"> When we called the cleaning company, the owner said that this is normal and happens to all fish on occasion. <... no... Fire them> Of course, since we are mere employees and not fish keepers ourselves, we cannot really argue with this supposed expert. Do you have any idea what this is? A fungus? <Evidence of poor care... toxic, incompatible environment, poor nutrition> It is definitely getting worse each day and she is hardly moving around. There isn't a thermometer on the tank and we don't own any water-testing equipment so I can't tell you much about the tank except that it is a 55-gallon freshwater tank.  <Oooh... pardon me... a FW Parrot, as in the tweaked cichlid cross... even worse... these are very hard to kill...> Some of us are very unhappy with this service but it is not our decision to hire a new company--this company was the cheapest in the area and that is who our higher-ups decided to go with. I am suggested many, many times that we have plastic fish instead of real ones, but management doesn't seem to care about our tank of death and insists on restocking when something goes wrong.  Any suggestions/ideas would be appreciated! We would hate to kill this parrotfish, too. Laura <Learn a bit (not hard to do) and do the maintenance yourself... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsubwebindex.htm.  Follow the blue/linked files through set-up, maintenance and all there is there on cichlids, the family including the Parrot. Bob Fenner> 

Parrot Cichlids Stressed By High Nitrates  9/19.5/05 I had 2 parrots and a Pleco in a 30 gal. tall tank.  They were all about 5 inches long.  Unfortunately, I let the nitrates get too high!  The parrots started hovering around the bio-wheel filter like they couldn't breath and then sunk to the bottom of the tank. I started with an aggressive water change of about 40% to reduce the nitrates and the gravel was cleaned and filter changed.  Nitrites were non-existent, PH was good. The only problem seemed to be the nitrates.  The next day 1 of the parrots was dead and the nitrates were sky high again!  I did another water change and headed to my neighborhood aquarium and fish store.  They specialize in fish and their tanks and fish always look clean and healthy. Their answer was the nitrates removed the oxygen from the water.  They recommend not adding any meds for ich or internal bacterial infection although parrots are prone to infection with bad water quality, because this too will remove oxygen from the water.  They recommend adding an aerator powerhead to add oxygen and also aquarium salt to help with the stress. Since then I have continued testing nitrates and making water changes and the tank seems to be stabilizing to 10 to 20 ppm in nitrates, but the parrot is still not eating, spends most of it's time on the bottom of the tank seeming to gasp for air, or perhaps just too weak to swim. It also seems to be showing slight signs of ich.  The Pleco doesn't seem to have been effected by any of this. The tank is about 82 degrees (normal for this tank).  It's been about seven days since this all started and about 6 water changes later.  Will the parrot recover?  Could there be anything else wrong?  Have I done the right things, or can anything else be done?  When should I treat with meds for ich or bacterial infections, if at all? Thank you, Angela < The 82 F will take care of the ich. You parrots have been stressed by the high nitrates and probably have an internal bacterial infection. Keep the nitrates down and treat with Metronidazole for internal bacterial problems.-Chuck>

Fresh Water filtration, HLLE questions   1/2/07 Hi Folks. <<Hello, Jim, and Happy New Year. Tom here.>> I have two large Blood Red Parrot Fish in a 55 gallon tank and am wondering what I can do to remove dissolved waste from the water like my Berlin airlift skimmer does for my 55 saltwater tank. The other day I noticed algae growth in the fresh water tank and cleaned out the tank.  Currently I am using two large filters on this tank.  One is a Bio wheel filter (pinquin <<Penguin>> I think)  and the other is an Aqua Clear 500. My question is what can I do to lower the algae growth and improve the over all water conditions and prevent  hole in the head worms from ever showing up? <<As with any 'problem', Jim, eliminating the root cause is key to success. In your case, as you most likely realize, excess nitrates and phosphates 'feed' the algae but lighting is, of course, another major consideration. In a great many cases, simply reducing light levels or the duration of lighting exposure can greatly reduce algae build-up in the tank. Ensuring that the aquarium isn't exposed to natural sunlight should go without saying. As for overall water conditions, vacuuming the substrate deeply in conjunction with regular water changes is an absolute must. (When I suggest 'deeply' vacuuming the substrate, I mean to the bottom of the tank.) Now, by way of explanation, Hole-in-the-Head disease (HITH) is the degeneration of the sensory organs in the head and/or lateral lines of the fish (you'll also see reference to HLLE which is Head-and-Lateral-Line-Erosion). Even though the disease has been arguably tied to high nitrates (>40 ppm)/poor water conditions, there aren't any 'worms' involved. In reality, improper diet and lack of appropriate vitamins/minerals are the commonly-held culprits of this illness. In a nutshell, regular water changes and substrate cleaning to keep your fish stress-free along with a varied, high-quality diet will all but guarantee that your Cichlids will never suffer from HITH/HLLE.>> Would a UV light help?    <<Not worth the money, in my opinion, Jim. You have little to no-cost options available to you -- might even save some money if you reduce lighting -- that make a UV sterilizer unnecessary. If, on the other hand, you have money burning a hole in your wallet and you find a unit suited exactly to your tank, water conditions, etc., it can help in reducing the 'suspended' algae and microorganisms in the water. Worthless for anything that  doesn't make it to the contact chamber, however.>> What about a canister filter with a built in UV?      <<A better option but you've plenty of filtration now and, again, there are more cost-effective options to exercise here.>> Would adding sand and live plants help? <<Now we're on  to something. The sand, in itself, isn't really necessary but the plants would be an excellent consideration if your Parrotfish will leave them be. Certainly a natural and inexpensive way to go if you're looking for something to out-compete the algae for nutrients. I wouldn't go crazy with this without a little experimentation to see if your fish will keep from tearing them up, though.>> Jim <<Well, now you've got my two-cents-worth, Jim. Hopefully, I've given you something to work with. Good luck with your tank. Tom>>

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