Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. While new fishes occasionally enter the trade (much to our delight!), it’s not often that an entirely new species is created by breeders. But that’s exactly what happened in the early 1990’s, when the incredible Flowerhorn Cichlid burst onto the scene. Since then, “fine-tuning” has resulted in a fish with perhaps the most complicated parentage of any hybrid – 7 to 10 species have contributed their genes!
Flowerhorns Arrive in NYC
In the late 1990’s, lower Manhattan’s fish-keeping community was alive with talk of an unusual fish that had just arrived on the scene. Originally developed in Taiwan and Malaysia, the huge, aggressive beasts were said to have arisen via a complicated series of pairings between several different Latin American cichlids.
I decided to investigate. The new fish was then only available in shops along Mott and Mulberry Streets, in the New York City neighborhood known as Chinatown. I’ve always loved the Chinatown markets, and have haunted them since childhood. The food stalls supplied me with live Snakeheads, huge Loaches, frogs and others, and the pet shops yielded many surprises, such as odd eels, Amphiumas and colorful shrimps.
Auspicious and Expensive
I found the Flowerhorns right away. It seemed they had taken on a great degree of importance to some people in the neighborhood, and might soon eclipse the famed Arowana as a possible means of ensuring prosperity, luck and other desirable states.
Individuals with particularly large head protuberances, (“head flowers” or nuchal crests), and those resembling Chinese characters or bearing certain patterns, were sold at astronomical prices…the neighborhood is famous for good deals, but not in this case! Known throughout the city for their business savvy, local Chinese merchants formed something of a “fish stock market” – buying and trading Flowerhorns with astonishing exuberance.
History of a Hybrid
With the help of a friend fluent in the local dialect, I ascertained that 2 specific strains of Flowerhorn were being sold, with the Pearl-Scaled or Zhen Zhu types being most popular.
My friend questioned folks about the parentage of the new fishes, and she eventually (“very eventually”!) learned that the most likely candidates were Red-Headed Cichlids, Vieja/Cichlasoma synspila, Red Devils, Amphilophus ladiatum, Trimac Cichlids, A. trimaculatum and Midas Cichlids, A. citrinellum. Some of the fishes produced from crosses of these 4 species were then paired with Severums, Heros severum and Red Parrots. Red Parrots, themselves a hybrid, really stirred the genetic pot!
Flowerhorn Cichlids vary greatly in appearance, with some individuals showing strong traces of one parent species, others of another. However, nearly all resemble the irascible Red Devil in temperament…they are a quite a handful!
In time, Texas Cichlids were also bred to Flowerhorns, and it is said that other species were added to the mix as well. While this has made their colors ever more extravagant, problems have also emerged. Today, many Flowerhorns sport underdeveloped tails, malformed mouths and other flaws.
While some folks maintain careful records of the composition of their lines, many have no idea how their fishes will turn out once mature (appearance cannot be predicted before adulthood). I hope to spend some time speaking with my friend and her contacts about the situation in the future, and will post an update.
There are problems associated with hybrid fishes, especially when they become established in the wild (as is reported in Singapore and Malaysia). Please write in with your thoughts and experiences.
Thanks, until next time,
Video: Flowerhorn and Red Devil Breeding
Flowerhorn images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by InkPassion