Maximum size : 20 cm

Parrot Cichlid - Amphilophus citrinellus-Vieja melanurus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

Table of contents


Parrot Cichlids (Amphilophus citrinellus + Vieja melanurus) is a captivating and intriguing freshwater fish species, with their origins steeped in controversy and speculation. Initially developed by a Taiwanese breeder in 1986, these hybrid fish are not found in the wild, and their specific parentage remains a topic of heated debate among enthusiasts. While they are undoubtedly a sight to behold, it should be noted that Parrot Cichlids are not ideal for novice aquarists. These fish have unique needs that require intermediate-level knowledge and expertise to ensure their health and well-being.

Given the potential size of Parrot Cichlids, it is imperative to provide them with a spacious aquarium complemented by durable decorations capable of withstanding their inquisitive digging behaviour. To ensure their well-being and thriving, adults necessitate an aquarium measuring at least 6 feet in length, 2 feet in width, and 2 feet in height. It is advisable to arrange driftwood and rocks at the aquarium's base before adding substrate to prevent the fish from undermining these structures. Due to their propensity to uproot and consume plants, opting for robust artificial vegetation securely anchored within the Red Parrot aquarium is the wisest choice. 

The habitat should incorporate an abundance of hiding spots and engaging features for the fish to explore while also offering ample open swimming space along the front of the tank. Efficient filtration, preferably in the form of an external canister, is essential due to the species' proclivity for producing significant waste as messy eaters. Although Red Parrot Cichlids are renowned for their hardiness and tolerance of suboptimal water conditions, it is essential not to compromise on water quality. They thrive best in a clean environment with thorough filtration and moderate oxygen levels.

Parrot Cichlids can exhibit varying temperaments, although the majority tend to coexist amicably with their own kind and other species. Nevertheless, it is crucial to maintain vigilant observation, as there have been instances of individuals displaying more aggressive behaviour. When selecting tankmates, it is advisable to choose peaceful species that are of a sufficient size to avoid becoming prey, thereby eliminating the possibility of smaller fish like Neon Tetras being considered as potential snacks.

Compatible companions may include Gouramis, larger Rainbowfish, Barbs, larger deep-bodied Tetras, Severums, Firemouths, as well as certain Acara or Geophagus species. It is worth noting, however, that Red Parrot Cichlids tend to be slower swimmers and can sometimes face challenges when competing for food against faster-moving tankmates – a situation exacerbated by their unique mouth structure. Noteworthy on occasions when kept in groups with suitable tankmates, Parrot Cichlids are known to exhibit schooling behaviour, which fosters a sense of community and confidence. 

One of the most striking features of Parrot Cichlids is their distinct physical characteristics, which include large, round bodies, prominent nuchal humps, and small, vertically opening mouths that resemble those of birds. These fish also possess a brilliant colouration that is sure to delight any aquarist, with shades ranging from solid orange to multi-coloured patches of white, yellow, and red. Despite some genetic deformities, Parrot Cichlids remain a highly prized and sought-after species in the aquarium hobby, known for their intelligence, curiosity, and the potential to develop a bond with their owners over time. The rewards will surely be worth the effort if you possess the knowledge and experience necessary to care for these remarkable creatures.

Parrot Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Identifying the gender of Parrot Cichlids can pose a degree of difficulty. Nonetheless, a general rule of thumb is that male specimens tend to exhibit slightly larger dimensions than their female counterparts. Additionally, females can be distinguished by their comparatively shorter body length, as well as a more rotund and plump physical constitution.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameAmphilophus citrinellus-Vieja melanurus
Year Described1986
Other NamesBlood Parrot Cichlid, Red Parrot Cichlid, Purple Parrot Cichlid
GenusAmphilophus citrinellus × Vieja melanurus
Max Size20 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle
Best kept asGroups 6+
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 10 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 6.5 - 7.5
GH 6 - 18
Ideal Temperature
76 - 80
24 - 26

Natural Habitat

Parrot Cichlids, fascinating creatures that they are, present a curious circumstance in aquatic life: they lack a natural habitat, having been brought into existence through human intervention as an artificial hybrid. Yet, despite this peculiarity, researchers have posited that their lineage can be traced back to South American Cichlids, from whom they inherited their distinctive features and intriguing behaviours.


The breeding of Parrot Cichlids in captivity is a relatively uncommon occurrence. Although females are capable of laying eggs, male fertilization is a rarity due to the high incidence of infertility. However, select fish farms and breeders have introduced the practice of injecting male Parrot Cichlids with hormones to enhance fertility.

In the event that a healthy pair of these Cichlids is obtained, it is typical for the female to deposit her eggs on a smooth, firm surface, such as a flat rock, although, in some instances, they may be found in a cave or adhering to the aquarium glass, which the parents meticulously clean prior to egg-laying. Both parental figures will vigilantly guard the eggs, only ceasing their surveillance in the event that the batch develops a fungal infection, which may prompt the consumption of the eggs by the parents or other fish.

Upon hatching, the fry will maintain proximity to their parental figures, who will continue to protect them until they attain a length of approximately 2.5cm. In certain instances, female Parrot Cichlids may crossbreed with other Cichlid species, ranging from Jaguars to Convicts. However, many aquarists aim to avoid such crossbreeding to prevent the emergence of additional hybrid species.

Diet & feeding

A well-rounded feeding regimen for your Parrot Cichlids would entail providing them with a diverse array of dried foods, such as granules and flakes, as well as a specially formulated pellet designed for their unique dietary requirements, in addition to incorporating vegetable matter and frozen or live foods, such as Mysis shrimp, krill, and vitamin-fortified brine shrimp, among other options. Nonetheless, it is critical to remain attentive during feeding times to ensure that faster-swimming counterparts are not outcompeting these slow eaters. In this regard, incorporating foods rich in carotenoids is advisable as it serves to maintain the vivid hues for which these cichlids are renowned. By adhering to these practices, you can help to optimize the health and vibrancy of your Parrot Cichlids.

Other South American Cichlids of interest