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16 Safe Tank Mates for Flowerhorn Cichlids (Compatibility Guide 2022)

Elizabeth Gray

By Elizabeth Gray

Flowerhorn-cichlid-fish_Wirestock-Creators_shutterstock

Flowerhorn cichlids are a colorful, human-created hybrid species of freshwater fish. The product of crossing several different species of cichlid, these fish are distinguished by the prominent bump on their heads. Flowerhorns are popular pets thanks to their unusual looks and interesting personalities. However, like most cichlids, those personalities are usually both aggressive and territorial, among other qualities. This can make it hard to find compatible tank mates for these big, dominant fish. Here are 16 of the best tank mates for the flowerhorn cichlid.

The 16 Tank Mates for Flowerhorn Cichlids

1. Jaguar Cichlid (P. managuense)

jaguar cichlid
Image Credit: VallaV, Shutterstock
Size: 14-16 inches (36-41 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons (379 liters)
Care Level: Advanced
Temperament: Aggressive

Jaguar cichlids are gorgeously spotted, highly aggressive, predatory fish. Their large size and territorial nature make them a good match for flowerhorns. Jaguars need tank mates the same size or larger and flowerhorns fill the bill in that regard. The silver-gold body and dark spots of the jaguar cichlid are a nice visual contrast to the brightly colored flowerhorn as well.

Related Read: 10 Best Tank Mates for Jaguar Cichlid


2. Bichir Dragonfish (Polypteridae sp.)

bichir in the tank
Image Credit: Rollibolly, Shutterstock
Size: 12-30 inches (30-76 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons (341 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Bichirs are often described as looking like the combination of an eel and a dragon. These long, slender fish aren’t as aggressive as flowerhorns but are big enough to live safely with the more combative cichlid. They also have hard scales that can help protect them in the event a flowerhorn does get nippy. Like the flowerhorn cichlid, bichirs need large tank mates because they’ll make meals out of any smaller fish you try to put in their aquarium. Any of the 12 species of bichirs can live with flowerhorns as long as they are the same size or larger.


3. Texas Cichlid (H. cyanoguttatus)

Texas cichlid
Image Credit: Dennis Jacobsen, Shutterstock
Size: 12 inches (30 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons (208 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Aggressive

Sometimes called Rio Grande perch, Texas cichlids are sparkly but fierce fish who can hold their own when sharing space with flowerhorns. Adaptable to both warm and cold water, Texas cichlids live at all levels of a tank. Even though Texas cichlids can live with other fish of similar size and temperament, a breeding pair should be kept alone when mating and laying eggs. Even other Texas cichlids aren’t safe from attack during this period.

Related Read: 5 Best Tank Mates for Texas Cichlid


4. Giant Gourami (O. goramy)

giant gourami
Image Credit: Watcharin Tadsana, Shutterstock
Size: 18-24 inches (46-61 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 250 gallons (946 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Usually peaceful with large fish

If you have space for a really large fish tank, consider the giant gourami as a companion for a flowerhorn cichlid. Giant gouramis get along with other large fish except for, oddly enough, other members of their own species. You should only keep one giant gourami in the tank with your flowerhorns but considering the size of the gouramis, that’s usually all your tank can handle anyway! Gouramis have huge appetites and are sturdy enough to stand up to any aggression from a flowerhorn cichlid.


5. Midas Cichlid (A. citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid
Image Credit: kostudio, Shutterstock
Size: 14 inches (36 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 90 gallons (341 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Aggressive

A striking gold and silver fish, Midas cichlids bring beauty and a bad temper into the tank with flowerhorns. The two species are closely related, with Midas cichlids being one of the fish used to develop flowerhorns. With both being aggressive and territorial species, you won’t want to skimp on tank size when housing these cichlids together. Midas cichlids are fairly easy to care for, as they can eat a wide variety of food and tolerate a range of water temperatures. The major issue with this species is their aggression. Keeping flowerhorns with Midas cichlids requires a bit more planning and experience than some of the other tankmates, but it can be done.


6. Tinfoil Barbs (schwanenfeldii)

tinfoil barb
Image Credit: PingPasslens, Shutterstock
Size: 12-14 inches (30-36 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 70 gallons (265 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Peaceful

Large and flashy fish, tinfoil barbs must be kept in a school of at least six. Although this species is peaceful, they can live with flowerhorn cichlids because of their size and speedy swimming. Keeping a schooling species like tinfoil barbs with flowerhorns helps the cichlids feel safer because in the wild they rely on observing the behavior of smaller schooling fish to warn them of danger.


7. Green Terror Cichlid (rivulatus)

green terror cichlid
Image Credit: Photofenik, Shutterstock
Size: 8-10 inches (20-25 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 50 gallons (189 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Aggressive

Usually slightly smaller than flowerhorn cichlids, green terrors are still a good choice of tank mates because their aggression level makes up for their smaller size. With a large enough tank, both cichlids can figure out how to co-exist. Green terrors are brightly colored but in different shades than the flowerhorns resulting in a lovely rainbow effect when they are kept together.

Related Read: How Many Green Terrors Can Live In a 55 Gallon Tank?


8. Silver Arowana (bicirrhosum)

Silver,Arowana,Swiming
Image Credit: Contentus, Shutterstock
Size: 30-36 inches (76-91 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 250 gallons (341 liters)
Care Level: Advanced
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

These massive fish aren’t easy to care for simply because of their size and fast growth rate. They aren’t as aggressive as flowerhorns but their size guarantees the cichlids will think twice before challenging the arowana. Silver arowanas prefer to swim at the top of the tank and are talented jumpers who’ve been known to make a daring escape from time to time.

Related Read: 5 Best Foods For Silver Arowana Fish


9. Oscars (ocellatus)

black and orange oscar fish
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock
Size: 10-14 inches (25-36 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 125-150 gallons (473-568 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Oscars are colorful, easy keeping cichlids who can tolerate, if not quite match, the aggression level of the flowerhorns. A large tank allows oscars to keep their distance if the flowerhorns get a little too pushy. Oscars are fun pets because they are quite interactive and have unique personalities.

Related Read: 10 Best Tank Mates for Oscar Fish


10. Wolf Cichlid (dovii)

Size: up to 28 inches (71 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons (473 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Aggressive

Wolf cichlids are one of the largest and most aggressive cichlid species. They can live with flowerhorn cichlids but only in a very large tank with plenty of space for each species to stake out their own territory. Wolf cichlids are beautifully colored and patterned fish but not a good choice for beginning aquarium keepers due to their size and aggression level.


11. Silver Dollar (Metynnis sp.)

silver dollar fish
Image Credit: boban_nz, Shutterstock
Size: 6-12 inches (15-30 cm)
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Tank Size: 125 gallons (318 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Peaceful

Silver dollars are related to piranhas but are plant-eating fish, unlike their carnivore cousins. Fast, shiny fish, silver dollars should be kept in groups of six or more. If kept with flowerhorns, silver dollars help the cichlids feel safe and provide mental stimulation. Make sure the tank is large enough for the silver dollars to dash away from the more aggressive flowerhorn if necessary.

Related Read: 10 Best Tank Mates for Silver Dollar


12. Red Terror Cichlids (festae)

Red terror cichlid
Image Credit: Michal Sloviak, Shutterstock
Size: 12-20 inches (30-51 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 110 gallons (416 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Aggressive

Red terror cichlids are nasty-tempered fish who make compatible and combative tank mates for flowerhorns. While red terrors can live in a smaller tank on their own, it’s best to go for 150 gallons or more if keeping them with flowerhorns. Red terrors are smart fish who won’t hesitate to nip at a human hand if it strays near their eggs or babies. They are fierce guardians of their young and must be given their own tank when breeding.


13. Common Pleco (H. plecostomus)

Common Pleco
Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock
Size: 15-24 inches (38-61 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons (568 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

These bottom-dwelling catfish species are big enough to withstand living with aggressive flowerhorns, even though they are generally friendlier than the cichlids. Common plecos have strong armored plates along their back that help protect them as they forage along the bottom of the tank. Most active at night, common plecos generally hide during the day. They’ll help keep the aquarium clean by munching on any algae that builds up as well.


14. Three-Spot Cichlid (trimaculatum)

three spot cichlid
Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shutterstock
Size: up to 16 inches (41 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons (568 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Aggressive

These fish are one of the species used to create flowerhorn cichlids. Three-spot cichlids have bright red eyes and usually stick to the bottom levels of an aquarium. Their size and temperament allow them to co-exist with flowerhorns given a large enough tank. Make sure their tank has the right size filtration system, as both cichlid species are messy eaters who produce a lot of waste.

Related Read: 20 Types of Cichlids for Your Aquarium


15. Pacu (Serrasalmidae sp.)

three pacu fish in the tank
Image Credit: Afanasiev Andrii, Shutterstock
Size: 12-24 inches (30-61 cm)
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum Tank Size: 250 gallons (946 liters)
Care Level: Medium-Hard
Temperament: Peaceful

If you have the space for a really large tank, consider placing a pacu species with your flowerhorn. Some pacu species can grow up to 3 feet in the wild but captive fish usually won’t get that big. Pacus won’t start trouble with a flowerhorn, but they will stand their ground if they have to, allowing them to share a tank with the troublesome cichlids. Pacu fish have teeth that look eerily similar to human teeth.


16. Clown Loaches (macracanthus)

clown-loach
Image Credit: Joan Carles Jaurez, Shutterstock
Size: 12 inches (30 cm)
Diet: Carnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons (379 liters)
Care Level: Medium-Hard
Temperament: Peaceful

Colorful, active, and fun to watch, clown loaches also make suitable tank mates for flowerhorns. While not an aggressive fish, clown loaches are big enough and fast enough to stay out of the way of any flowerhorn temper tantrums. Clown loaches also prefer to be kept in small groups of 4 or more and they live by the saying that there’s safety in numbers!

Related Read: 10 Best Tank Mates for Clown Loach

divider fish plants 2

What Makes a Good Tank Mate for Flowerhorn Cichlid?

The ideal tank mate for a flowerhorn cichlid is the same size or larger, with a similar temperament. Flowerhorn tank mates must be able to handle or quickly escape the cichlids’ aggressive behavior. Some less aggressive species can survive living with a flowerhorn but usually only if they are bigger. Small tank mates will wind up as dinner, especially non-aggressive ones.

Where Does Flowerhorn Cichlid Prefer to Live in the Aquarium?

Flowerhorn cichlids don’t prefer one level of the tank over another. They’ll swim up and down the water column and are tough on aquarium decorations because of their size. Live plants won’t be safe and they tend to ram into rocks or other similar objects. Make sure anything you place in their aquarium is sturdy enough to withstand a flowerhorn battering ram!

Flowerhorn Cichlid Colorful fish
Image Credit: Huy Thoai, Shutterstock

Water Parameters

Flowerhorn cichlids were created by mixing several different cichlid species. Because of this, they prefer to live in warm water tanks with a moderate flow.

Temperature: 80-89 degrees F
pH: 6.5-7.8
Hardness: 9-20 dGH

Clean water is essential for keeping flowerhorns healthy and they produce a lot of waste due to their size. Make sure you have a filtration system designed to keep the larger tanks flowerhorns require clean.        

Size

Flowerhorn cichlids can be anywhere from 12-16 inches in size, depending on what exact species they are. Males are usually bigger than females, as well as more colorful. These fish grow very quickly so if you start your baby flowerhorns off in a smaller tank, be prepared to size up relatively soon.

Aggressive Behaviors

When they decide they don’t like another tank mate, flowerhorn cichlids display a variety of aggressive behaviors. They may chase and harass other fish, although flowerhorns aren’t very fast themselves. If guarding their eggs or their territories, flowerhorns may attack, bite and even kill their tank mates. They also aren’t above biting human fingers that get too close during feeding or a water change.

close up flowerhorn red pearl cichlid in aquarium
Image credit: AKF Production, Shutterstock

2 Benefits of Having Tank Mates for Flowerhorn Cichlid in Your Aquarium

1. Lowers Stress Levels

Adding certain tank mates to your flowerhorns’ aquarium can help lower their stress levels. Solitary predator fish like cichlids rely on the behavior of schooling fish, like silver dollars, to help them feel safe in their environment.

2. Keeping The Tank Clean

Flowerhorns have huge appetites, are messy eaters, and create a large volume of waste. Certain tank mates, like plecos, can help clean up after their cichlid neighbors by eating algae and other plant matter that builds up in the aquarium.

aquarium plant divider

Conclusion

Flowerhorn cichlids are entertaining pets with a unique appearance. Like other aggressive species, it’s easiest to keep them alone or as part of a breeding pair. However, if you want the full aquarium habitat experience, as well as giving your flowerhorns a more stimulating environment, consider adding tank mates.

As long as you choose carefully, like one of the 16 species we discussed, your underwater neighbors should co-exist with minimal conflict. Make sure your tank is large enough for all your fish to have their own space and pay careful attention to keeping the water clean. Cichlids and their tank mates require a higher level of care than some other species so make sure you’re prepared to devote some time to their care and upkeep.

See Also: 5 Best Tank Mates for Bolivian Ram Cichlid


Featured Image Credit: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

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