Despite its bird-like name, the blood parrot is a type of fish. It is a member of the cichlid family, and is actually a hybrid type of fish that is man-made. This fish was created in the mid-1980s, most likely by crossing the Midas cichlid with the redhead cichlid, and is typically bright orange. There is some question as to whether or not those were the two types used to created the new hybrid, but this pairing is accepted by many people. Although the fish has been widely available since about the year 2000, some cichlid fanciers feel that it should not be bred due to inherited deformities.
One of the biggest difficulties the blood parrot faces stems from the shape of its mouth. Its head is large and bulbous and somewhat resembles a parrot’s beak, giving rise to the fish’s common name. Its mouth, however, is extremely small and is oriented vertically, which makes it difficult for this fish to eat. It is not unusual for a blood parrot to become very malnourished and even starve to death when kept by an inexperienced owner.
The blood parrot has some other significant deformities as well. Its spine is curved up in a way that makes it hard for this fish to swim normally. A deformed swim bladder is also a frequent complication in the blood parrot, which contributes even further to the difficulties this fish has with routine survival. These problems are generally considered to be related to the heavy inbreeding used to develop this fish, and it is unlikely that selective breeding will be able to correct them.
A male blood parrot is usually sterile, but not always. In some cases breeders have had success injecting the males with hormones to stimulate successful breeding. The females are normally fertile. If spawning results the parents will act like many cichlids, with both parents guarding the nest. Adults often take the fry into their mouths to protect them, and will continue this behavior until the young can survive on their own.
There is some concern among fish fanciers that unscrupulous fish breeders will dye the blood parrot fish that they sell in order to pass them off as different color strains of this fish. The dying process is harmful to the fish and they typically become ill and will not live long after they have been dyed, perhaps a month or so. Anyone wishing to buy an unusually colored blood parrot should be certain of the source before making a purchase.