Marziyas Super Red Dragon Flower Horns Breeding Pair, a photo by firoze shakir photographerno1 on Flickr.
The Flowerhorn is a very hardy fish and is relative easy to rear. However, there are also certain techniques and measures to take if you want the best quality out of your fish. No fish can survive in captivation without some control over the environment on the owner's part.
Basic Environmental Control
The Flowerhorn fish is able to thrive best in water of tropical temperatures, ranging from 24 to 30 degrees Celsius. The optimum temperature would be between 26 and 28 degrees Celsius. It is advised that you maintain the optimum water temperature when keeping a baby or premature fry.
Flowerhorn fish can survive in water with a neutral pH value of 6-8. Similarly, it is advised that the pH is maintained at 6.5-7.2 when keeping premature fish. Changing the water of the tank regularly once a week is a good way to maintain pH stabitlity. If you are unwilling to change the water so often, you can also mix some crushed coral with the gravel. This will help to prevent any drastic fluctuations in pH levels, which will be detrimental to the fish. If you have the right apparatus, it would also help to check the pH of the water regularly.
Change of Water
Overly clear or clean water is also not necessarily the best for the fish, as it is of course difficult to maintain, and more importantly clear water from the tab is treated with chlorine and other minerals which are not too good for the fish. It is therefore advised that when changing the water, it is better not to change all the water, but leave a little bit of "dirty" water in the tank. Changing all the water at once will also cause too drastic a change in the fish's environment, giving stress to the fish to adapt to a new environment all over again. It would also be difficult as changing all the water in the tank would involve getting the Flowerhorn out of water, and being the aggressive and active fish that it is, it would be difficult to simply hold it on a small net for a while. It would probably jump out, or even attack the owner.
Cleaning and Filtration Systems
It is essential to have an efficient filtration system when keeping any fish in a fish tank, or the fish's waste or the fish food will contaminate the water, causing it to be very murky and dirty. The filter should be cleaned regularly. Some people keep sucker fish in the tank together with the other fish because the sucker fish is known to be able to feed on the fish's waste and algae, serving as a good cleaning agent. This is not applicable however when keeping a territorial and aggressive Flowerhorn Fish, as the sucker would probably end up being killed, or even eaten as it is a relatively small fish. It is therefore inevitable that you have to spend time brushing and cleaning the tank frequently if you wish to keep a Flowerhorn. Filtration systems are in no way functional as a substitute for water changing, as too much waste will eventually clog up the filters, and not all waste particles can actually be filtered. They are also unable to filter up the waste and algae that sticks to the sides of the tank, so it is very important that the water is changed and the sides of the tank are cleaned and brushed regularly.
Oxygen Pumps and Water Flow
Oxygen pumps are also essential to the well-being of any fish kept in a tank, as this will replenish the dissolved oxygen in the water. The pumping of air into the water will also cause mild currents and keep the water flowing, preventing uneven distribution of water temperature oxygen concentration. Water must also be flowing in order for the filtration systems to work.
Salt and its Benefits
Salt is good as a stabilizer of sorts. It helps maintain water conditions and keep the fish healthy by acting as a disinfectant and killing some parasites in the water. Also, although the Flowerhorn is a freshwater fish, even freshwater ponds and rivers have a certain concentration of salt, thus adding a little bit of salt in the water also helps to make the fish feel "at home". A "little bit" would mean one or two teaspoons, too much salt will also kill the fish!
Background Pictures or Fake Plants in the Water
This will also help to make the Flowerhorn feel that the environment in the tank is more similar to its natural habitat. Contrary to belief, fake rather than real plants are better for the fish because real plants are hard to maintain without extreme care, and should the plants end up dying, they will contaminate the water. Some people think that plants will actually help to convert carbon dioxide in the water to oxygen. Although the plants may seem helpful in this sense, you need a lot of plants to produce enough oxygen to replace an air pump, and as mentioned above, air pumps are more useful in creating mild water currents. Fake plants and background pictures will also help to decorate the tank and complement the appearance of the fish.
How often the fish should be fed
The Flowerhorn fish has a voracious appetite. There are no so called "optimum" times when it should be fed, but it is advisable to feed the fish in small amounts spread over a period of time every day.
The Flowerhorn is more carnivorous in nature and prefers meat or live feed. This includes small fish and shrimps. Blood worms and mealworms are exceptionally popular feed sold in Singaporean aquarium shops. Some of these insects are even enhanced with chemicals like colour enhancers to increase their size and nutritional value. Some of them are said to be able to brighten the colours of the fish, increase the size of its nuchal hump etc. It can feed on either fish feed or live feed.
Processed Fish Food
Processed pellet feed that is high in protein is recommended to be used together with other live feed, as they also contain colour enhances and other chemicals that are meant to be perfect for tank fish. It is not advisable to replace live feed with such foods however, as overdose of the different chemicals in the food will be harmful to the fish. A balance between natural live feed and fish food should be maintained.
Other Tips and Techniques
Keeping Multiple Fish
The Flowerhorn fish is aggressive and territorial in nature, and it is not advisable to keep another fish with it. If you wish to keep two fish in the same tank however, it is a must to partition the tank to prevent the fish from fighting or killing each other. This technique is useful should you intend to breed some baby Flowerhorn. Keeping a male and female Flowerhorn in the same tank separated only by a transparent plastic partition will allow the two fish to be more accustomed with each other, before removing the partition for more intimate contact.
Flowerhorns show their best colours when agitated. When the Flowerhorn sees its reflection in a mirror, it will also be agitated and look its best. Putting mirrors and colourful images in the tank is actually a technique used by competition breeders so that they get the best quality from their fish and increase their chances of winning a competition.