Over the past few years a number of friends and readers have asked me about the Blood Parrot. My stock response is short and sweet, "Don't buy them!". Then a reader posed the following question :
"We recently purchased a pair of parrot fish. They are bright orange and very friendly. Unfortunately we fell in love and didn't get a lot of information on them. We understand that they are a cross breed of some kind, possibly red devils. The thing is, they have laid eggs, and we are wondering what we should do, or if the eggs will hatch. We would really appreciate any information you can give us. Thanks"
Although I have reservations about this fish and believe they should not be bred or sold, there is little doubt that they have proliferated the market. Because so many people are looking for information, I decided to profile the fish so owners (or potential owners) know where they come from and how to care for them properly.
Where They Come From
Parrot fish are not a naturally occurring fish. Instead they are a man-made cross-bred fish, and a controversial one at that. Although they've been on the market for well going on two decades, they were not seen widely in pet shops before the year 2000. Usually sold under the name of Blood Parrot or Bloody Parrots, they should not be confused with freshwater Parrot Cichlids (Hoplarchus Psittacus), or the saltwater Parrot Fish (Callyodon fasciatus).
Many fish enthusiasts feel strongly that they should not be allowed on the market. Some go so far as to boycott shops that sell them. Controversy even exists over their parentage. Although other combinations may occur, the most likely pairings are the Midas Cichlid (Cichlasoma citrinellum) and the Redhead Cichlid (Cichlasoma synspilum), or a green or gold Severum (Heros severus or Cichlasoma severum) with the Red Devil (Cichlasoma erythraeum).
I personally believe many of the "calico" Bloody Parrots seen on the market are from the latter pairing. It is also possible that Amphilophus labiatus, or even Archocentrus species are used in creating Bloody Parrots. Regardless of their heritage, one thing is certain - they do not exist in nature
While the debate rages over the ethics of creating this fish, of most concern to me is the physical effect their hybridization has on the fish itself. The Bloody Parrot clearly has numerous anatomical anomalies, some of which can cause hardships for the fish. One of the first things an observer will notice is that their mouth is quite small and oddly shaped. This can affect their ability to eat, and at feeding time makes it more difficult to compete with aggressive species who have large mouths. They also have spinal and swim bladder deformities, which affects their swimming abilities. I believe creating a fish that inherently has such deformities is not only unethical, but cruel as well.
Should you choose to purchase one, care should be taken when choosing tank mates. They should not be kept with aggressive fish, as they are not well equipped to compete for food or turf in the aquarium. Owners have kept them successfully in community tanks with a variety of peaceful fish. Mid sized tetras, danios, angelfish, and catfish are all good possible tank mates.
The habitat for the Bloody Parrot should be roomy and provide plenty of hiding places, so they can set up their own territory. Rocks, driftwood, and clay pots on their sides are good options. Like other cichlids they will dig in the gravel, so choose a substrate that is not too rough. Temperature should be maintained at about 80. Lower temperatures will result in the loss of color and generally weaken their immune system, leaving them more susceptible to disease. The pH should be about 7, and the water soft. Lighting should be subdued. Water changes should be performed twice a month.
Blood Parrots will eat a variety of foods including flake, live, frozen, and freeze dried foods. Sinking foods are easier for them to eat than floating foods. Most owners report bloodworms and live brine shrimp as a favorite treat. Foods high in b-carotene and canthaxanthin will help maintain their vibrant colors.
Although Parrots have been known to mate and even lay eggs, generally they are infertile. There have been sporadic cases of successful spawnings, generally when they have been crossed with a non-hybrid fish. Like other cichlids, Blood Parrots will tend the eggs and resulting fry fastidiously. As with any eggs, those that are infertile will turn white and rapidly fungus. The parents will eat infertile eggs to prevent them from spreading fungus to the fertile eggs.
Once the eggs hatch, daily water changes of 25% are critical to ensure the health of the fry. Fresh baby brine shrimp are the optimum food during the first couple of weeks. Often pet shops will carry frozen baby brine shrimp, which can also be used. As they fry grow, they can be weaned to fine fry food.
Regardless of how you feel about crossbreeding, if you take a fish home you should provide the best care possible for it. If you have chosen to keep Blood Parrots, you'll find good reference sites in the link section on the right side of this article. Have comments to share about the Blood Parrot? Join a discussion about it right here --> Bloody Parrots