Purple Parrot Cichlids Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Oct 10, 2021

Purple Parrot Cichlids

No other fish in aquarium hobby stirs as much polarized view as parrot cichlids do. Some swear by them, while others are ready to lock horns with the breeders over questions of ethics. 

Parrot cichlids are not man-made – be they red, yellow, green, blue, or purple. And they are often plagued with deformities that compromise their survival capabilities. 

In this blog, we will not discuss whether it’s okay to raise them. My goal here is to just impart the knowledge I have to give your fish the best life possible. 

So, without further ado, let’s go through the care guide. 

Name Purple parrot cichlid
Family Cichlidae
Maximum size 10 inches
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size 30 gallons
DietOmnivore
Temperature 70-82°F (21-28°C)
pH 6.5-8.0
Care levelEasy

How Much Do Purple Parrot Cichlids Cost? 

When I first bought my parrot cichlids, they cost about £40 each. That’s roughly $55. Today, you can quickly get them for anywhere around $20-30 each

Back in the 90s, when they were first introduced, parrot cichlids sold for a hefty price tag of around $270 for a pair! 

Purple Parrot Origin 

Purple parrot cichlids were first bred in Taiwan in 1986. They instantly became super popular in the East Asian fishkeeping scene. And naturally, they didn’t take too long to be introduced in the West. The fish’s parentage is claimed to comprise Midas cichlid and red-headed cichlid. 

But there’s no one exact answer etched in stone. In fact, the answer about parentage differs from breeder to breeder. Therefore, some other fish thought to be used to create parrot cichlids are severums, convicts, and red devils. 

And don’t confuse parrot cichlids for saltwater parrotfish (family Scaridae) that’s naturally occurring. 

How Do Purple Parrot Cichlids Get Their Color?

Breeders sometimes claim that purple is a naturally occurring color. But the truth is parrot cichlids have to go through an excruciating process to gain the bright colors that sell. If by any chance, you get a natural purple parrot cichlid, the color would look more red than purple. 

Usually, young parrot fish of albino varieties are first chemically treated to remove the protective slime coat. They are then painted or injected with the desired color. Finally, they are given a bath in a certain solution to stimulate the slime coat to develop on top of the dye. 

Unfortunately, the colors will fade over time as your cichlid grows. Sometimes, they also develop black and brown blotches because of the chemical reaction. 

Purple Parrot Cichlid Appearance 

How do I even describe this fish… They look like those deep-bodied, stocky fish we all drew in our childhood. The only way I can put it – they look like a cross between a cichlid and a goldfish. 

Purple parrots have bulging heads and that iconic curve down from the top of their mouths. Their mouth closely resembles that of a parrot’s – hence, the moniker. 

More about their mouth – the bottom lips fold down steeply in the middle and do not match the upper lips. And due to this peculiar shape, they often have trouble eating. 

Also, they can’t really wholly shut their mouth owing to this deformity. 

Their mouth shape is one reason purple parrots are so controversial in the fishkeeping trade. 

They often have rounded, heart-shaped bodies that are achieved by cutting their tail at a young age. From the side, they resemble mini discs – much like severums and discus. They also have a bent spine, to begin with. 

And they have rounded, big puppy eyes that add to their already appealing appearance. They always look surprised – kind of in a cartoonish way! 

And like all cichlids, purple parrots have a fully developed set of pharyngeal teeth in their throats. They also boast of long, flowy fins that have spiny rays at the end to deter attackers. 

Purple Parrot Cichlid Size 

Purple parrot cichlids are heavy-bodied. They’re thick. And they grow around 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) long. They’re pretty substantial! 

However, sometimes, owing to genetic defects, they cannot reach their true size potential. 

Jellyfish Male VS Female 

There’s no sexual dimorphism in terms of color since both males and females are dyed purple. However, males usually have longer and pointier fins, whereas females have blunt, rounded fins. 

The males can also be slightly bigger than females. But this isn’t a sure-fire parameter to tell the difference. 

Purple Parrot Cichlid Temperament 

Don’t go by size. Purple parrot cichlids are gentle giants. For most parts, these fish are peaceful and keep to themselves. However, their temperament will largely depend on their parentage. 

For instance, if they have a convict cichlid’s aggressive gene in their body, we cannot rule out the possibility of aggression and hostility towards other tank mates. 

As juveniles, purple parrot cichlids have a timid, subdued personality. Maybe it’s because of the painful coloring process at a young age – just a random guess. 

Therefore, you must offer plenty of decorations that will serve as hiding spots for your cichlids to take refuge in when stressed. 

Also, purple parrots don’t adapt to their environment right off the bat. Instead, they take their sweet time. So if you find them aloof and subdued in the first few weeks, it’s probably normal. 

And since purple parrot cichlids originate from Central and South American cichlids, they tend to get territorial. They will mark random objects in the tank and try to fiercely guard them.

Thus, don’t forget to ensure ample space and decorations for everyone. 

We advise you to not add smaller fish in the same tank as purple parrots. Parrot cichlids have a natural hunting instinct. However, their deformed mouths don’t really allow them to bite or nip anyone. 

Purple Parrot Cichlids Love Digging 

Purple parrot cichlids have a thing for digging. You’ll often wake up to gravel in mounds, decors toppled, and plants uprooted. So, don’t forget to secure everything to the substrate. 

Best Tankmates For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

Since purple parrot cichlids are peaceful, you shouldn’t pair them with aggressive or territorial fish. Also, their deformed mouths mean they can’t put up a fight if there’s ever a smackdown. 

Here’s a list of some peaceful fish we recommend for purple parrots:

  • Angelfish
  • Swordtails 
  • Rosy barbs 
  • Clown loaches 
  • Acaras 
  • Firemouths 
  • Clown Plecos
  • Tiger barbs 
  • Bala sharks 
  • Yoyo loaches 
  • Honey Gouramis 
  • Rainbowfish 
  • Boesemani rainbowfish 

Purple Parrot Cichlid Diet 

The ideal diet for your purple parrot cichlid includes both vegetable-based and meaty food. Also, it’s best to feed them food rich in carotenoids such as beta carotene, making their coloration even brighter. 

Eating can be pretty tricky for these fish because of their deformed mouths. In a community tank, they won’t be able to compete for food with other tank mates. 

So, if they have trouble snacking on floating pellets, opt for sinking options. 

Here’s a comprehensive list of food you can give your purple parrot cichlid:

  • Flakes 
  • Pellets 
  • Blanched veggies like broccoli and carrot 
  • Bloodworms (as treats)
  • Small crustaceans (as treats)
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Feeder fish 

Regular pellets may not work for purple parrots. They need comparatively softer and smaller pellets to fit inside their tiny, malformed mouths. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many brands that cater to this need. 

But here’s one by Hikari that’s specially formulated for parrot cichlids:

Why We Love It

  • Color-enhancing effect – thanks to the scientifically derived formula 
  • Contains ingredients like chili pepper, marigold flower, krill, and phaffia yeast 
  • Fortified with vitamin C 

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Ideal Water Parameters For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

Temperature70-82°F (21-28°C)
pH 6.5-8.0
General hardness 2-25 dGH
Water movementWeak
Water regionMiddle
Nitrate<10 ppm
Phosphate<0.05

Purple parrots aren’t too picky with water parameters. However, they’re messy eaters and will quickly pollute the water. So, you will need to clean up after them more often. 

You can perform around 20-25% water change every week, depending on your stocking number. 

Also, since these fish come with certain bodily deformities, it’s best to always maintain the parameters to the T to avoid unsolicited stress and illnesses. 

Routinely use an algae magnet or a sponge to clean the glass panes. And once the algae settle to the bottom, use a siphon vacuum to get rid of it. 

Also, don’t overfeed your fish. This will only make a bigger mess. And make a habit to regularly monitor the filter and heater to ensure there’s no sort of anomaly going on. 

To maintain the water parameters, we use the API Freshwater Master Kit and recommend that you do so too.

This test kit offers more value for money than individual strips and measures five important parameters: ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, and pH. 

Here’s a link if you are interested: 

Recommended Tank Size For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

Purple parrots are active and have a knack for swimming. So although the minimum tank size recommended is 30 gallons, we advise you to at least get a 55-gallon tank

Mind you, these fish can get pretty big! They’re albeit territorial too. 

Best Substrate For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

Blood parrots fare best in sandy substrate. These fish love digging. So, don’t go for gravel or rocks. You will end up with an injured fish. 

Best Decorations For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

For decorations, you can add rocks and caves. Then, create hideouts and pathways using these decors to create an exciting and fun layout for your cichlids. 

Purple parrots prefer a habitat that combines both open swimming areas and large caves. So it’s critical to add caves for this shy fish to retreat in occasionally. 

You can also include some plants. Purple parrots aren’t really known to consume or destroy the plants. However, since they love digging, they may accidentally uproot the plants. You’ll need to securely anchor them. 

Recommended Equipment For Purple Parrot Cichlids 

Purple parrot cichlids grow big and produce a good amount of bio-load. And since they’re super sensitive to ammonia and nitrite buildup, you need to ensure the filtration system is really robust to tackle everyday waste. 

Likewise, they don’t react too well to sudden rises and drops in the temperature. Thus, you also need to get a reliable heating mechanism in place. 

Here’s a list of our top recommendations that we’ve either used ourselves or carefully researched:

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

Standout Features:

  • Suitable for tanks up to 150 gallons 
  • Large-capacity media baskets for customization 
  • Works at 315 GPH
  • Easily removable flow valves 

Hygger 500W Submersible Aquarium Heater 

Standout Features: 

  • Anti-dry protection 
  • Intelligent thermostat 
  • 5-second warming time 
  • LED digital display controller 
  • Built-in dual temperature probe 

Penn-Plax Krusty Krab Aquarium Ornament

Standout Features:

  • Made of durable and safe resin 
  • Super easy to clean 
  • Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater tanks 
  • Brings Bikini Bottom’s nautical charm to your tank

Breeding Purple Parrot Cichlids

The chances of successfully breeding purple parrot cichlids are few and far between. The pair will readily mate, lay eggs, and even guard them. But there’s a bummer. The males are infertile. 

The female can mate with another non-hybrid male. But this will result in another set of hybrid, drab-looking babies. So, we definitely do not recommend that. 

Once in a while, we hear about some random stranger on the internet claiming his purple parrots successfully mated and laid eggs. But we don’t know how much there is to that claim. 

Despite infertility, the male will get competitive and territorial during mating season. He will mainly be oversensitive towards bottom dwellers as he hunts for a suitable spawning site. 

And once the eggs are laid, both parents will fiercely guard them. However, soon, the infertile eggs will develop fungus. At this point, they’ll either consume the eggs or discard them. 

If, by any chance, miraculously, your purple parrot eggs hatch, feed the baby fish brine shrimp and pulverized flakes and pellets. Disclaimer: the chances are really, really slim! 

Purple Parrot Cichlid Diseases 

Like all fish, purple parrots are susceptible to some common ailments. On top of that, their bodily deformity means they’re sometimes more exposed to diseases than others. Some common purple parrot diseases are ich, swim bladder disease, and stress spots. 

Ich 

Ich shows up as tiny white dots all over the body – caused by ciliated protozoan ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Be careful – this disease spreads super quick and doesn’t even need additional hosts to transfer. 

To treat ich, you can elevate the temperature a notch higher – around 86°F (30°C) and use a copper-based treatment simultaneously. Make sure that you remove the water conditioner before using the treatment. 

Swim Bladder Disease 

Swim bladder disease can be caused by different factors like a physical injury, poor diet, tuberculosis, or even cancer. This condition compromises a fish’s buoyancy. As a result, the fish swims sideways or in strange patterns. 

Depending on the reason, swim bladder disease could be momentary or permanent. If it’s because of a poor diet, it’ll go away once the right diet is maintained. 

If it’s because of an injury, a fish surgeon can fix the buoyancy by removing a part of the bladder or placing a tiny stone on it.

Stress Spots 

Purple parrots can also develop black stress spots as a side effect of an illness or stress. These spots usually appear when the fish is changing homes, has an underlying illness, or suffers from anxiety. 

Genetic Defects 

Since purple parrots don’t occur naturally and are man-made, they, unfortunately, suffer from a wide range of anatomical complications. 

These include a beak-like mouth that does not close fully, deformed swim bladders, huge irises, and a deformed nuchal hump. 

Parting Words: Are Purple Parrot Cichlids Right For You?

No doubt, this kooky fish packs a lot of charm. Do you know they even recognize their owners and come to the front for some love and attention? 

This fish gets big and needs plenty of space. And owing to their size, purple parrots also produce a good amount of bio-load. So, you will be investing in a big tank and a sturdy filter mechanism. 

Also, since they’re on the docile side, you need to choose their tank mates carefully. You should never pair them with aggressive and territorial fish. 

So, are you ready to bring one home? Let us know! 

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.