A Complete Guide to  Flowerhorn Tank Setups

Properly setting up your Flowerhorns tank the first time will save you lot’s of time and money. More importantly it will ensure your Flowerhorn has a comfortable home.

Your Flowerhorn will be happy, healthy, and reach its full potential if you follow the tips in this Ultimate Guide to Flowerhorn tank setups.

Here is a summary of what you’ll see in this Flowerhorn tank setup article:

  1. What Size Tank for a Flowerhorn?
  2. Does a Flowerhorn need a filter in its aquarium?
  3. Do Flowerhorns need heaters?
  4. Bare Bottom Tank vs Substrate
  5. Decorations for Flowerhorn tanks
  6. Water Parameters
  7. Unique tips for Flowerhorn Tanks

Related Flowerhorn Posts:

Flowerhorn Tank Setups

flowerhorn tank setup

Setting up an aquarium for a Flowerhorn fish the very first time could seem very overwhelming. My first time I made tons of mistakes. Not cycling my tank, overstocking, not adding a stopper on my air pump, buying too small of a tank, and the list goes on…

My goal is to prevent you from experiencing any of those things!

What Size Tank For a Flowerhorn

flowerhorn tank size diagram

There is a lot of debate on Flowerhorn tank size : How large of a tank do you need for a Flowerhorn? While there is flexibility for fry and baby Flowerhorn fish, I would recommend at least a 55 gallon tank for keeping one Flowerhorn.

If you have the budget and space for a 75 gallon aquarium, that would be the sweet spot for someone getting started keeping Flowerhorn.

I’m actually keeping my male Flowerhorn “Etro” in a 75 gallon aquarium with his live in girlfriend “Jewel” my female Flowerhorn. I find the 75 gallon aquarium the perfect size because it’s not too large and fits into most homes.

You can easily fit a 75-gallon tank in an apartment, condo, bedroom, spare bedroom, living room, family room, etc.

Does a Flowerhorn Need a Filter

While filtration might seem obvious to some there are quite a few people asking the question: Does a Flowerhorn Need a Filter? The answer is simply “YES”!

Flowerhorns are large cichlids that produce a lot of waste. To keep your aquarium clean and more importantly your fish healthy having adequate filtration is key.

Depending on how many fish you’re keeping you might be able to get away without a large filtration system.

I find that a simple combination of a HOB or hang on the back filter and a sponge filter will work well. This method gives you the best of both worlds in that it will provide heavy mechanical filtration when necessary but save electricity and be very quiet when you want silence.

AquaClear Fish Tank Filter, Aquarium Filter...
The Fluval AquaClear series is my preferred HOB filter. The only downside is the trickling sound could be a little loud. To prevent this you can baffle the outlet to make it almost silent.

Do Flowerhorns Need Heaters?

Do you need a heater for a Flowerhorn? Flowerhorn fish are tropical fish that need extremely warm water. It is recommended that your keep a Flowerhorn in 80–85 °F or 26.67 degrees Celsius.

To consistently reach those temperatures in an aquarium a heater is absolutely necessary. Right now I’m currently running the Aqueon Pro 300 Watt aquarium heater. I’m very happy with the performance as I had to replace a Fluval heater that wasn’t keeping my tank temperature high enough.

Aqueon Pro 300 Submersible Aquarium Fish Tank...
Aqueon Pro Series heaters are my top choice, I switched to this exact model after my Fluval M200 couldn't keep my water temperature consistently warm enough. Flowerhorns need water in the low 80's Fahrenheit,

Bare Bottom vs Substrate 

Does a flowerhorn need gravel in their tank? No, Flowerhorns do not need gravel, sand or any other substrate in their aquariums.

In fact most Flowerhorn keepers including myself keep a bare bottom tank. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to keeping a bare bottom tank and one with substrate. There isn’t a right or wrong answer it just comes down to preference. Here are some advantages for both options.

Reasons to Keep a Bare Bottom Tank :

  • Easier to clean
  • Minimalistic appearance
  • Flowerhorn is the focal point

Reasons to go with Substrate:

  • Substrate looks cool
  • Allows for more decorations
  • Allows planting

While I’ve never had the problem, I have heard of Flowerhorns getting substrate especially gravel stuck in their mouths and getting injured. Depending on the quality of your Flowerhorn it might sense to er on the side of caution and keep a bare bottom aquarium.

Decorations for Flowerhorn Tanks


Adding decorations to a Flowerhorn tank isn’t really too common. Most of the time when you see Flowerhorn setups they are bare bottom with little to no decor.

The reason aquarium decorations aren’t used often in Flowerhorn tanks is that they can damage and injure the fish. If the fish were to get spooked and try to swim away quickly they could run into decorations and get hurt.

Flowerhorn fish are known for being messy and destructive. If you keep plants in their tanks they’ll dig them up, if you keep gravel they’ll move all the gravel to one side of the aquarium.

If you must add decorations to your Flowerhorns tank, add them sparingly.


Lightning for your Flowerhorn tank is pretty simple. Often times the lighting that is included with an aquarium ensemble will suffice.

If you need to buy a light for your aquarium set up, opting for a simple bar LED light should get the job done. Flowerhorns aren’t too picky when it comes to lighting. In fact my aquarium lights are usually on for about 12 hours per day.

Flowerhorn are beautiful fish so illuminating the tank properly is important to be able to enjoy the beauty of your Flowerhorn.

hygger 42W 24/7 Lighting Aquarium LED Light,...
A simple LED light will work just fine for your Flowerhorn tank. This light from Hygger is awesome because it comes with a built in timer. Just make sure you get one long enough to fit on your tank.

Water Perameters

Water is to a Flowerhorn what oxygen is to a human.

As human beings we need clean air to breath, likewise Flowerhorns need clean water to breath and be healthy. Measuring water parameters is critical to maintaining a aquatic environment conducive to keeping fish.

For Flowerhorn fish monitoring the Ph and Ammonia of their water are major factors.


The pH scale measures how pure or acidic water is. Starting with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being alkaline. The ideal pH reading for your Flowerhorn is going to be a pH of 7.2–7.6.

There are debates online about what level of pH contributes to brighter colors and large nuchal hump growth. Personally I have no experience measuring the difference in color vibrance or kok size based on pH.

According to different forums keeping the pH lower on the spectrum around 7.2 will improve your fishes coloration. Whereas keeping the pH higher on the spectrum closer to 7.6 will increase the kok size.


Ammonia and Nitrite are highly toxic to all fish. One of the worse mistakes beginner fish keepers make is buying an aquarium and immediately adding fish. I was just at PetSmart this week and the manager stopped a customer from making that mistake.

Before your aquarium fully cycles, there is no natural bacteria present to convert ammonia into nitrite.

To get your tank properly cycled it is important to add nitrifying bacteria into your aquarium. You can do this a variety of different ways. The first way is to buy it, using a solution like Quick Start Plus. The second way is using filter media that has pre-existing bacteria in it. You can get this by getting media from a filter running on a cycled tank.

If you failed chemistry and find conducting water tests too difficult most tropical fish stores will do tests for you. Sometimes these water tests are free other times they are done for a modest fee.

Alerts Combo Pack, 2 Monitors,2 Count (Pack...
A cheat code I implore is the Seachem Alert Series monitors, these helpful meters suction into your aquarium and give on-demand water parameters. We love them and recommend them!

Tank Mates

flowerhorn tank mates with divider

How many Flowerhorns in one Tank? Usually it’s wise to only keep one Flowerhorn in a tank by itself. This is due to the Flowerhorns aggressive nature.

If you want to try to breed Flowerhorn or keep more than one in your tank you’re going to need to split your tank into sections.

To keep other types of fish with your Flowerhorn it will depend on the personality of your individual fish. Some Flowerhorns are aggressive towards anything moving, while others are only aggressive to fish of similar shape and size. I’ve had fish that were chill and got along with Arowana, and Plecos but others that would try to kill them.

When trying to breed Flowerhorn you’ll need to have a male and female together. The best practice is to keep them divided and slowly introduce them to each other. Once acclimated you just might form a pair that don’t need to be separated anymore.

Unique Tips for Flowerhorn Tanks

Immediately Cycle Your Tank for a Flowerhorn

If you’ve spent all the money and done all the work to setup your new aquarium, the last thing you want to do is wait 5 to 7 days for your aquarium to cycle. Well I have good news for you! You can add fish immediately with the help of a few products.

The first product you’ll need is SeaChem Prime.

SeaChem Prime will serve as a water conditioner, but with added benefits. This conditioner lowers and controls both ammonia and nitrite levels.

To immediately add fish you’ll also need Seachem Stability.

Stability is an amazing product that keep new stank syndrome under control. All you have to do is add it every day for 3 to 5 days and your fish will

Seachem Prime Fresh and Saltwater Conditioner...
  • POWERFUL TREATMENT: Seachem Prime is a complete and concentrated conditioner for...
  • REMOVER: Seachem Prime immediately and permanently removes chlorine and...
  • DETOXIFIER: Seachem Prime effectively detoxifies ammonia, nitrite, and heavy...
Seachem Stability Fish Tank Stabilizer - For...
  • TANK STABILIZATION: Seachem Stability will rapidly and safely establish the...
  • TREATMENT: Stability is formulated specifically for the aquarium and contains a...
  • BACTERIA GROWTH: The necessary conditions for the growth of Stability's bacteria...

Want More than One Flowerhorn? Get a Divider!

When you look at most Flowerhorn keepers they will have their tanks split into multiple sections. This happens because we get hooked on Flowerhorns and just can’t keep one. We’re optimistic that two will coexist but it rarely happens.

Save yourself the stress and just get a divider right away. That way once you see that Flowerhorn at your local fish store you’re prepared for the impulse buy.

I use a local plastic supply store called Tap Plastics and get custom-cut acrylic sheets. Then I pair them with these cool suction cup holders. Pro tip: Get your suction cup holders first! This way you can ensure your acrylic sheets fit.

Intake Sponge Filter

If you’re using a hang on back filter on your Flowerhorn setup then I’d recommend you use a intake sponge on it. These intake sponges serve two purposes.

First, it will serve a place for beneficial bacteria to live and build up. Second, the intake sponge will protect your filter from sand, gravel, or anything else for that matter getting into your filters propeller.

Aquarium Technology, Inc. Filter Max III Foam...
These intake sponges are on all of my tanks. They protect your hob filter impellers and catch free particulates creating clearer water.

Aquarium Vacuum

Having an aquarium vacuum can prove to be invaluable for a Flowerhorn owner.

As you may know Flowerhorns are messy eaters and messy poopers. After eating they will release the food pretty quickly leaving a lot of waste behind. The easiest way to clean up after them is by using an aquarium vacuum.

There a few different models on the market however I find the best vacuum to be the Ehiem Quick Vac Pro. This particular aquarium vacuum is battery operated making it much more convenient than always have to plug in the Fluval Vacuum.

EHEIM Quick Vac Pro Automatic Gravel Cleaner...
Investing in either the Ehiem Quick Vac Pro or the Fluval ProVac will keep your aquarium looking good and remove ammonia producing waste quickly and efficiently.

Grooming Mirror

Flowerhorn owners take pride in the appearance of their fish, therefore Flowerhorn fish care is important. We want our Flowerhorns to display bold colors and large koks or nuchal humps. One way to encourage both is using a grooming mirror.

A grooming mirror will allow your Flowerhorn to look at its reflection, this will trick your fish into thinking another fish is present. This illusion will tap into the Flowerhorns instincts to be dominant to the intruding fish.

The results are a more prominent kok and brighter colors displayed.

Flowerhorn Tank FAQs:

Can you put plants in a Flowerhorn tank?

Adding plants into your Flowerhorns tank is possibly, but it is not recommended. Flowerhorns will usually eat or uproot any plants in their aquarium.

If you absolutely have to add plants to your Flowerhorn tank opting for artificial plants will be the best solution.

Can a Flowerhorn live in a Planted Tank?

Complete Guide to  Flowerhorn Tank Setups Summary

Hopefully you found value in this Flowerhorn tank setup guide! We went over the proper tank size for keeping Flowerhorn fish. Discussed the filtration requirements, heating requirements, and water parameters.

We even talked about the pros and cons to keeping a bare bottom aquarium vs adding sand or gravel. If you want to add fish right away there tips on how to quickly cycle your aquarium.

Lastly, we answered commonly asked Flowerhorn questions and even gave a few pro tips to make your Flowerhorn aquarium a success! Here’s to you having the best Flowerhorn tank setup possible.