With a pink chest, green ground color, and red eyes, the trimac influence is very clear in this flowerhorn.
Now, how is it fair to bring flowerhorns
into this discussion? Well, on one level
it isn’t. Most flowerhorns you see will be
extremely healthy fish that haven’t been
injected or dyed and won’t have the health
problems that go along with those practices.
In fact, there’s always been discussion of
hybrids actually having a hybrid vigor to
them, which may or may not be true in this
case. The issue of ethics arises in regard to
some hybrids, like the blood parrot cichlids,
which are now being sold with tattoos,
including heart-shaped ones! The appeal to
people who don’t know better is obvious,
and of course ethically questionable.
There’s also the issue of hormones, which
have been used to help color up African
haplochromines (which have colorful males
and drab females). The nuchal hump of
flowerhorns is a hormone-related feature that
can actually come and go with breeding
cichlids. Using hormone-laced foods or
injections is a questionable practice that may
get short-term results, but it can have a variety
of long-term health effects that will shorten a
fish’s life and affect its capacity to reproduce.
One last ethical issue involves deformities.
There are flowerhorns that have been bred
to have a shortened, stunted body, and
some are even bred to not have a tail fin!
Such practices can be considered genetic
mutilation and cross a clear line of ethics
because of their impacts on the health of
the individual fish.
Do You Want
to Keep One?
So, what if you want to keep a
flowerhorn? A likely question you may
initially have would be, are they worth the
hype? The short answer is sure, because
most of these are as advertised: large,
colorful, active, aggressive, and actually
relatively tough fish! The ones that are
sold for a decent price are often well on
their way to having good color, with the
large nuchal hump on their forehead and
in good health. Also, if the good luck of
the characters along the fish’s sides and its
nuchal hump affect your feelings of feng
shui or good fortune in general, who am I
to argue against that!
If you’ve ever kept a large cichlid, their
care is easy. If not, you need to learn about
the feeding, aggression levels, and large
amount of waste-output issues involved.
For those who enjoy keeping a community
of fishes, flowerhorns are not the best
choice. Some folks think they have been
bred for aggressive behavior, but anyone
who has kept a trimac or Midas cichlid
(or even a full-grown Vieja species) can
tell you that flowerhorn aggression can
be from their component species as well.
Flowerhorns are not the easiest fish to
breed, and they sometimes have infertile
young. They can also have aggression levels
so high that only experienced hobbyists
can breed them with divider techniques.
There’s also this question: Why not a
natural-species bruiser? Before you decide
you want a flowerhorn, you may want to
ask some old-school hobbyists to see their
trimacs, red devils, Midas cichlids, etc.
A full-grown Haitian cichlid Nandopsis
haitiensis has characteristics that many—
myself included—think make it one of
the most amazing and beautiful (and evil)
bruiser cichlid species out there.
Regardless of what you choose (natural
or manmade bruiser), the important thing
is not to contribute to the negative. Choose
only healthy fish, ones not tattooed or so
mutated that they have fin or body shape
issues. Keep these and any other fish out of
native waters, and support fish stores that
are very clear about what is a hybrid and
what is a true species.
Having done that, you’re not hurting
anyone by getting a flowerhorn. There won’t
be any permanent decrease in the interest
of true species either. There will always be
a supply/demand cycle where many people
will get bored with flowerhorns and thirst
for things like true wolf cichlids, trimacs,
green terrors, etc. I’m not sure if I look
at Captain Insano or Ike differently after
writing this, but I hope the information
here helps many of you to become better
aquarists and how to enjoy the hobby in
additional and deeper ways.
Now let me go fix that mangled filter
Tropical Fish Hobbyist www.tfhmagazine.com