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Parrot cichlid - Hoplarchus psittacus

Parrot cichlid - Hoplarchus psittacus

Scientific name: Hoplarchus psittacus

Common name: Parrot cichlid

Family: Cichlidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 26 - 33 cm (10.24 - 12.99 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 5.5 - 6.5

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 2 - 12°N (35.71 - 214.29ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 25 - 30 °C (77 - 86°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: South America

Temperament to its own species: peaceful

Temperament toward other fish species: aggressive to smaller

Usual place in the tank: Middle levels


South America; Parrot cichlids are found in the black water areas of Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela.


The expected life span for Hoplarchus psittacus is 10 years.

Short description

The parrot cichlid has been out of fashion in the aquarium trade but is slowly starting to make a comeback. They should not be confused with the coloured parrot fish that are so popular nowadays. Hoplarchus psittacus require soft, acidic water with regular water changes. These are not fish for beginners, they should be kept by keepers with some experience of keeping other large cichlids, they demand top water quality with many keepers housing them in RO water that has been re-mineralised.

As expected with the larger cichlids, these are high waste producers, an excellent filtration system must be used to cope with the waste levels. They also require a lot of room so a single specimen will require at least an 80 gallon (~ 364 litres, 96 US gallons) aquarium, with a pair this should be doubled. They can also be highly aggressive so only keep these fish with other species that can handle themselves and preferably of a similar size. It is best to keep these in a species only aquarium as some fights can lead to serious injuries.

A blackwater biotope would be ideal for these fish, subdued lighting and adding some floating plants such as Amazon frogbit should help with this.

Food and feeding

Quality flakes or cichlid pellets should be given to Parrot cichlids along with meaty foods like chopped earthworms, blood worms and shrimp pellets. Extra vegetable matter can be supplemented to the diet by the use of chopped spinach, spirulina flake or even chopped zucchini, this will keep the diet well balanced for overall health.


Parrot cichlids can be difficult to sex, but it is believed that the males are larger with a fuller body shape. There is no proven method of sexing these fish for the average fish keeper so if you wish to attempt breeding it may be best to try to obtain a proven pair.


Like most cichlids, these fish are bi-parental spawners. The male will clean a spawning site on a flat rock or the substrate and when the female is ready, she will lay her eggs there ready to be fertilised by the male. The batches of eggs will be relatively small (100-200 eggs), compared to other cichlids and both parents will look after the eggs and fry. This species can be very difficult to get to spawn.


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Parrot cichlid, picture 1 Parrot cichlid, picture 2 Parrot cichlid, picture 3

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