How to Enhance Flowerhorn Color

A Guide on How to Improve Flowerhorn Color

Enhancing the beauty of flowerhorn fishes is not confined with improving the size of their nuchal humps alone. Equally important is increasing flowerhorn color intensity.

Natural Colors
The most popular color for flowerhorn fishes is red. It is extremely popular among people who practice feng shui. Other popular colors include yellow, orange, blue, and silver, as in the case of Thai Silks.  

Which Color Should I Enhance?
Your goal as owner should enhance the natural colors of your fish. A common mistake that beginners do is forcing the fish to develop red colorations even though is natural base is blue. Never do this as this could make your fish sick or develop some form of allergic reaction, especially if too much enhancer is used.

Intensity and Spread of Coloration
In enhancing the natural colors of the fish, consider developing both intensity and spread of its coloration. Its colors should be vivid and crisp, and their coverage should be as wide as possible. Often, there are lines that separate or surround the colors, enhancing those lines are also recommended.

Flowerhorns often have different colors at varying width and intensity. If one of its colors is more intense than the others, it is recommended to enhance the less intense ones more. This would make the colors of your fish more balance and that no part of its entire body appears dull.

Caution: Darkening of Colors
This often occurs when the fish has developed a certain type allergic reaction because of too much enhancer. A good example of this is feeding blue dragon flowerhorns with red enhancing pellets thinking that this will make the fish red. As a result, the fish would turn dark for months even after feeding of the red enhancing food has already been stopped.

Other causes of color darkening are disease, poor water condition, injury, or stress.

Golden base flowerhorns would normally turn dark before they shed off their scales to reveal its new coloration. 

Some fishes naturally have dark colors. In some cases, nothing can really be done to change that. As a rule, it is better to choose light colored flowerhorns than dark ones to avoid this problem. 

Pellets with Color Enhancing Pigments
Many flowerhorn and cichlid fish food contain varying amounts of color enhancing pigments. The most common is astaxanthin, which is used for enhancing red and orange coloration. Some may contain xanthophyll for enhancing yellows and spirulina for enhancing blues. Ideally, it is recommended using fish food that contain balanced amounts of all of these pigments.

Fish foods that focus on enhancing a specific color are typically used by those who participate in flowerhorn competitions.

Astaxanthin, enhances red and orange coloration of fishes. It is perhaps the most widely used in flowerhorn fish foods among other color enhancer.  Astaxanthin is derived from natural sources such as krills and shrimps. Some fish food would indicate containing canthaxanthin. This is the synthetized form of astaxanthin.

When using astaxanthin, be careful not to feed too much to blue-based flowerhorns as this may cause unwanted allergic reactions. XO Super Red Syn is known for such so use this fish food only according to instructions. 

Recommended flowerhorn fish food containing astaxanthin are XO Ever Red, Alife, XO Super Red Syn, and Cyclop Flowerhorn Food.  My personal favorite here is XO Ever Red. It takes a bit longer for this fish food to show desired results, but the enhanced redness is much beautiful and does not fade easily when feeding is discontinued.

Spirulina is used to enhance blues. In nature, they are abundantly found in blue green algae.

In most cases, blue-based flowerhorns are somewhat dull in coloration. To address this, you must feed your fish with spirulina rich pellets consistently. It may take as long as three months before you notice the difference, but trust me it's worth the wait especially if you like classic flowerhorns.

Another common use of this enhancer is for the pearly dots or wormlike pearls found in many new strains. Thai Silks would also benefit from Spirulina-rich fish food.

I have tried different brands containing Spirulina, but I always go back to Ocean Free XO Starry. I consider it as the best one in its category.

If you have been shopping around for flowerhorn food that enhances yellows (those containing Xanthophyll), you should have already known that there is not many around.  As an alternative, you may cross-over to fish food intended for other cichlids or even to goldfish pellets. I have tried Tetra Goldfish Pellets and I really liked the results. 

You may also check your local pet shops and go over the ingredients lists of the fish food they carry.  Look for those containing xanthophyll, marigold powder, dried egg, or corn gluten meal. These ingredients enhance yellows.

Live Food
At one point, a hobbyist would try using live food to enhance the coloration of their fish. Shrimps and frozen blood worms may be used to enhance redness and dried egg yolks for yellows.  I have tried these ones, and I don’t necessarily recommend them as they could expose your fish to a variety of diseases. I assure you, you are better off using color enhancing fish foods.

Lighting plays a crucial role in enhancing the coloration of your fish. It has been noted that fishes exposed to ample indirect sunlight project more vivid colors. As a rule, your flowerhorn tank must be placed in a well-lighted room and much better if the light source is indirect sunlight. You may check our guide on flowerhorn lighting for more information on this matter.

Age plays a role in the color development of flowerhorns as well. They commonly start to develop their coloration when they are around two to three inches in size. For male flowerhorns, colors would continue to intensify and spread in area until they are around six to eight inches in size. After this, their coloration will start fading slowly, a sign of aging.

At around 3-5 inches in size, golden base flowerhorns will also change their coloration characterized by first shedding off of old colors. After this, new coloration is revealed and intensified after some time.

When breeding flowerhorns, it is a common practice to stop using any color enhancing feeds. Some believe that too much enhancers could adversely affect the the breeding process.