King Kong Parrot Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Aug 31, 2021

king kong parrot cichlid care guide

King Kong parrots are undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous fish species to exist in the fishkeeping scene. But as popular as they are for their looks, there’s also so much confusion surrounding their lineage. And let’s not forget the ethical dilemma that comes with raising them. 

In this guide, I will explain all there’s to know about King Kong parrots and how to take care of them. 

So, let’s start with a quick intro first! 

Quick Facts On King Kong Parrot Cichlids

Common NameKing Kong Parrot 
OriginTaiwan 
Size8-9 inches
DietOmnivore
TemperamentSemi-permanent
Temperature70-82°F (21-28°C)
pH Range6.5-8.5
LightingModerate

King kong parrots do not occur naturally. Instead, like blood parrots and flowerhorns, these fish are man-made hybrids. 

They were first bred in 1986 in Taiwan from Central and South American species. 

There are several arguments about what cichlids were/are used to produce king kong parrots. The most common guesses are gold severums, red devils, redheads, and midas cichlids. 

However, Taiwanese fishkeeper Xi Eng, credited for pioneering the commercial breeding of king kong parrots, claims that these fish are citrinellum ‘sports.’ 

In the 2000s, king kong parrots became so popular that several breeding facilities cropped up just to fulfill the mounting demand for these one-of-a-kind fish. 

But on the other hand, it also fueled the ethical fishkeeping momentum, with activists howling how we can purposefully breed deformed fish just to fulfill our aesthetic needs. 

However, these fish live for an extended period, longer than many bulldogs who are also bred selectively for their deformed, smashed faces!

So, I will leave the question of ethics to the respective owners. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Lifespan 

King kong parrots have a comparatively long lifespan, although their lives are often marred with genetic defects. They live for around 10 years on average. 

If proper care and diet are ensured throughout life, they are known to make it up to 12-13 years. 

As a matter of fact, king kong parrots will most probably outlive almost all of your other fish pets. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Availability 

King kong parrots are pretty readily available both online and offline. They’re usually bred in East Asian countries like Thailand, Bangkok, and Thailand. 

So, there’s a good chance that your fish will have traveled a distance of thousands of miles before making it home. 

The downside to this adventure is that there’s also a good chance of them being severely tired or injured. So, make sure to inspect them for any sign of injuries or uncommon deformities. 

So, before ordering from a different corner of the world, we recommend contacting your local and, of course, credible fish breeders. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Price 

A juvenile king kong parrot will cost you anywhere between $15-25, whereas a full-sized specimen can be bought for around $50-100, depending on the breeder. 

King kong parrots are on the pricier side. They’re a tad bit more expensive than their cousins, parrot cichlids, who retail for around $8-15. 

The price is also subject to change depending on the body type and color intensity. A user on a fish forum reported witnessing a pair of king kong parrots being sold for $500. Hefty!

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Appearance 

Except for the size, king kong parrots look uncannily similar to blood parrot cichlids. They even closely resemble red mammon parrots and are often sold as one for some quick money. 

Juveniles sport a drab, dark color, but as they grow, their shade can range from tinge can go from bright reds to shades of orange-yellow. 

These fish have a slight nuchal hump and a more stocky body compared to blood parrot cichlids. 

They have a rounded body shape, iconic beak-shaped nose, and small upside-down triangle-shaped lips. 

The lip is one of their prominent deformities – characterized by a narrow vertical opening. Also, sometimes, the fish’s lower jaw will not move at all. Well, it isn’t a defect per se – just yet another anomaly in an already peculiar fish. 

They also have bent spines, which somewhat hinders their swimming ability. 

Like most cichlids, these fish have one nostril on each side – opposed to the 2 sets most fish have. And they have a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in the throat, as well as a set of regular teeth. 

And while the ends of their anal, pelvic, pectoral, and dorsal fins have spiny rays to protect them against predators, the front parts of these very fins have a soft texture to facilitate easy movements in the water. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Size 

King Kong parrots grow up to 8-9 inches long on average. However, with proper diet and care, they can reach up to 12 inches in captivity.

The most common selling size is 3.25-3.5 inches.

Although they reach a fairly large size, they grow slowly and thus reach maturity a bit later. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Male VS Female 

As it is with most cichlid species, the king kong male will sport more intense coloration than his female counterparts. He will also be a couple of inches longer/bigger than a female. 

Likewise, the male’s fins are longer and pointier, whereas a female’s fins will be shorter and blunter. 

Sexing king kong parrots is relatively easy. In addition to these above-mentioned subtle differences, just observe their bottom, right near the anal fin. 

Males will have a small white ‘spike’ sticking out, while females will have a flat-bottomed tube.

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Behavior 

Even though king kong parrots reportedly come from citrinellum origins, they don’t really have a mean bone in their body. Perhaps, it’s due to their bent spine that prevents them from swift movements. Or maybe it’s their only partially operable mouth that keeps them from biting and nipping. 

Thus, king kong cichlids aren’t too aggressive or territorial fish. At best, they can be semi-aggressive – that too, mainly during the breeding season. 

However, their parental lineage is often murky. For instance, if they have a midas cichlid’s genes in their body, there’s no doubt they’ll have a mean streak. 

King kong parrots are also known to be on the shy side. When you first bring them home, they will hide a lot during the daytime. Then, a week in, they’ll start displaying typical cichlid behavior. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Tank Mates 

King kong parrots should be kept with fish of similar size and demeanor. Don’t mix them with fish that are too peaceful or too dominant. 

Some suitable tank mates for your king kong parrots are:

  • Angelfish
  • Barbs 
  • Severums 
  • Oscars 
  • Corydoras 
  • Glass catfish 
  • Kuhli loaches 
  • Silver dollars
  • Swordtails 
  • Vieja cichlids 
  • Red mammons 
  • Kribs 
  • Firemouths
  • Yoyo loaches
  • Rainbowfish 
  • Acaras 
  • Bala sharks 
  • Plecos 

Also, these cichlids are relatively peaceful with their own kind. So naturally, you can keep them with others from their own species. 

King Kong Parrot Cichlid Diet 

Jellyfish are omnivores with a good appetite. They readily accept all kinds of aquarium food like pellets, flakes, live food, and even vegetables. 

Feeding food rich in b-carotene will help bring out the best colors. 

Here’s a list of food you can give your king kong parrot:

  • Flakes
  • Pellets
  • Small crustaceans 
  • Small feeder fish
  • Baby brine shrimp 
  • Bloodworms 
  • Frozen worms 
  • Blanched vegetables 
  • Ocean plankton 
  • Freeze-dried tubifex 

These fish have a strong inclination towards high-protein food. But giving food rich in protein could trigger bloat – so make sure you channel moderation. 

Also, since these fish have small, deformed mouths, the eating speed is quite slow compared to other fish. 

They also have a super hard time consuming the standard pellets. 

Thus, when buying pellets for your king kong parrots, make sure to purchase one that’s tiny enough for them to fit in their mouth and crush easily. 

Here’s one by Hikari that we always recommend:

What We Love About It

  • Scientifically developed color-enhancing formula
  • Fortified with beneficial living microorganisms 
  • Made with ingredients like chili pepper, krill, and phaffia yeast
  • Contains stabilized vitamin C

You can feed your cichlids 3-4 small meals a day. And since these fish eat slowly, give them an amount they can finish within 45 seconds each time. 

Giving small meals throughout the day as opposed to one big meal is thought to help mitigate aggression. 

And make sure to steer clear from animal protein like the beef heart. Live feeder fish like guppies and goldfish would suffice. 

Animal protein has a considerably higher melting point. And inside a fish’s body, it will take its sweet time before finally melting – leading to a good chunk of fat buildup in the liver. 

If you’re interested to know some more feeding tips for cichlids, don’t forget to click here

Water Parameters For King Kong Parrot Cichlid

Temperature70-82°F (21-28°C)
pH Range6.5-8.5
General hardness2-25 dGH
Nitrate Level <10 ppm
Nitrite Level0.0
Phosphate Level0.05 ppm
Ammonia Level0.0
Water RegionMiddle
Water MovementWeak

King Kong cichlids are some of the biggest cichlids in the fishkeeping scene. Naturally, therefore, they will produce an impressive amount of bioload. 

Also, they’re comparatively messy eaters owing to their deformed mouths. 

Thus, a king kong parrot cichlid’s tank will get dirty a lot sooner. So, expect to conduct 20-25% water change every week. 

And to scrape off algae from the glass panes, use an algae magnet or a sponge. And once it’s settled on the substrate, remove it using a siphon magnet. 

As you already know, king kong parrot cichlids come with a series of genetic deforms. Thus, even a seemingly minor health issue can escalate to become something deadly in no time. 

Thus, we strongly recommend testing the water parameters every week. 

For example, these fish love their water on the warmer side. And warm water contains more toxic ammonia than cold water. 

Consider getting an API Freshwater Master Kit that measures 5 different essential water parameters. Getting a master kit provides you more value for money than standard strips. 

Minimum Tank Size For King Kong Parrot Cichlid

Since king kong parrots get pretty big, the minimum recommended tank size for a single fish is 75 gallons. If you’re going to add multiple fish, aim for a tank that’s at least 120 gallons or above. The bigger, the better. 

Substrate For King Kong Parrot Cichlid 

Like blood parrot fish, king kong parrots love to dig around their substrate. Therefore, you should opt for something soft and smooth, like sand. 

Anything coarse like gravels and rocks will tear your fish’s skin and fins. 

Decorations For King Kong Parrot Cichlid 

Since king kong parrots are quite shy, they would benefit from hiding places in the tank. So add plenty of rocks, driftwood, and caves and position them strategically to create pathways and territories. 

This will also help with managing territorial aggression. 

When adding artificial plants, make sure they don’t have jagged, sharp, or protruding edges. 

As for living plants, these fish aren’t too interested in consuming them – at most, they will take a few bites. Some hardy plants like java fern and anacharis can be good options. 

However, since king kong parrots love to dig, don’t forget to securely anchor all plants and decors to the substrate. 

Top Equipment For King Kong Parrot 

Since king kong parrots are messy eaters and produce a good amount of bioload, a sponge filter or corner filter won’t do. Instead, you’ll need to get a high-performing canister filter. 

Likewise, they don’t take very well to sudden changes in temperature. Thus, you will need to invest in a reliable and safe heater that offers a stable temperature at all times and nullifies risks of electrocution. 

Here’s our list of meticulously researched and personally selected equipment for king kong parrots:

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

Options for smaller tanks are available.

What We Love About It 

  • Swimming pool style hose clamps 
  • Large-capacity, stackable filter medium
  • Filter material included for free
  • 360-degree rotation of flow valves for easy rotation

Hygger 800W Submersible Aquarium Heater

Option for smaller tanks is available.

What We Love About It

  • 3-digit digital display, accurate to 0.1°F
  • Double temperature probe
  • Outer casing made with ABS material
  • Intelligent thermostat 

Penn-Plax Krusty Krab Aquarium Ornament 

What We Love About It

  • Made with safe, durable resin
  • Easy to clean
  • Aesthetic appeal 

Breeding King Kong Parrot Cichlids 

Unfortunately, most king kong parrot males are sterile. It’s true for 99% of males. The 1% that’s fertile is kept by the breeder for breeding purposes or to sell later at an inflated price. 

There have been a few sporadic anomalies here and there, as claimed on the internet. Some have reported that they successfully bred king kong parrots, but I guess you have to be really, really lucky for that. 

The female successfully breeds with males with other genus and species, but this will often result in drab and dull juveniles. 

Males from species like convicts, flowerhorns, green texas red devil cichlids, and red-headed cichlids are known to readily breed with a king kong female.

Interestingly, even though the males are sterile, they will engage in typical mating behavior. Likewise, the female will start laying eggs once every six weeks or so from the age of 2. 

The male will develop deeper colors when he’s ready to mate. He will also make an effort to impress the female through various antics like showing off colors, shimmying, etc. 

Once the pair is formed, they will find a clean, flat slate or rock, and the female will lay the eggs. 

Although unfertilized, the parents will attentively tend the eggs – fanning and protecting them against predators. 

However, the unfertilized eggs will soon develop fungus. So next, the parents will consume or discard them. 

If by any chance, the eggs are fertilized and the fry are hatched, the parents will care for them until they’re about 1 inch long. 

You can move the fry to a separate tank, so they have a better chance at survival. And don’t forget to conduct a 25% water change daily and feed brine shrimp and pulverized flakes or pellets. 

King Kong Parrot Diseases 

Like any other fish, king kong parrots are susceptible to some common fish ailments like ich, stress spots, black spot disease, and swim bladder disease. Besides these, they also are plagued with infertility and a host of genetic defects. 

Ich 

Ich is a common aquarium fish disease caused by a parasite called protozoan ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It usually occurs in a foul and poorly oxygenated tank. 

It appears as tiny white spots like grains of salt all over the body and is quickly followed by other symptoms like panting, lack of appetite, and flashing. 

Ich is highly contagious. But what’s even worse is that it can quickly transfer from one fish to another without any host. 

To treat ich, you need to use a copper-based treatment coupled with elevated temperature. Don’t forget to remove the water conditioner before using the treatment. 

Also, stick strictly to the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to use and how much to use. The wrong application can be straight-up deadly for fish. 

If you want to educate yourself more about ich on cichlids, check this article.

Swim Bladder Disease 

Big fish like king kong parrot cichlids are particularly prone to swim bladder disease. As the moniker suggests, it’s characterized by unnatural bloating of the bladder region, making it difficult for fish to swim or maintain their balance. 

If it’s caused due to gastrointestinal problems, it will usually go away once you rectify the fish’s dietary pattern. 

Suppose it’s due to an internal injury. In that case, a fish surgeon may have to remove the bladder partially or put a small stone in there to correct buoyancy. 

Stress Spots 

Stress spots manifest themselves as tiny dark blotches all over the body when the fish is traumatized or under stress. The spots will usually go away on their own once the fish is distressed. 

And it usually appears when the fish is being bullied, is changing homes, or is suffering from an underlying illness. 

Genetic Defects 

Due to years and years of artificial selective breeding, king kong parrot cichlids are marred with several genetic deformities that can’t be eclipsed. 

For instance, they have a small beak-shaped mouth that they can’t close and is partially operable. As a result, they compensate by crushing the food using their throat muscles. 

They also have deformed nuchal humps and compressed vertebrae.

And their swim bladders are often deformed – causing them to swim in awkward patterns. 

Infertility 

Well, infertility isn’t a disease per se, but it could be a problem if you intend to breed your fish. Due to artificial hybrid breeding, almost all male king kong parrots are sterile. 

While a few methods are available these days to make them fertile, like inserting hormones like gonadotropins, GnRH, and LHRH, it’s honestly not worth the hassle!

Black Spot Disease 

Black spot disease can be caused by a parasite called paravortex turbellaria flatworm that can embed into the cichlid’s skin and leech off. 

These parasites are about as big as a grain of salt initially but will continue to grow as they feed on the cell fluid. And since they’re mobile, you will see the spots change position frequently. 

A freshwater dip and a formalin bath are the most commonly used treatments for this disease. 

However, not all black spots can be blamed on these parasites. It could be due to environmental factors, developmental changes, or an injury too. 

Final Words: King Kong Parrot Cichlid Care Guide

There’s a moral dilemma surrounding owning king kong parrot cichlids. I’ll leave the question of morale to respective owners, but we sure can’t deny these are some of the most attractive fish to exist in the freshwater scene. 

If you have brought one home or plan to, make a point to read up on its genetic defects so you can take its care in the best possible way. For instance, they need different kinds of pellets than regular ones. 

If breeding cichlids isn’t on your cards, these fish can be the perfect additions to your tank. However, since they produce a good chunk of bioload, get prepared to conduct frequent water changes!

Happy Reading! 🙂

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.