Hybrid fish are very popular these days, I’ve never been a huge fan of hybrid fish personally, however, this weekend I visited my favourite fish shop and came away with one. That inspired me to do this short article on hybrid fish.
Many hybrid fish commonly on sale are a mix of various species of American Cichlids. Cichlids, in particular, will readily cross-breed, this includes African Cichlids too.
So, if you don’t have much experience with Hybrid Fish, you may be wondering: Why the high price tag if they breed so readily? Some hybrids attract a large price tag, and this is due to the amount of selective breeding that has gone into creating that fish. Whilst Fish will breed quite quickly, quality offspring are rare in hybrids and it often takes several generations to create the intended look and traits of the Fish. This drives the value up, along with the demand for quality specimens.
A good example of this is Flowerhorns. Flowerhorn fish often have price tags of around £200, with some being even more expensive. Another example is Red Texas, or Super Red Texas, which can fetch a similar price.
As I mentioned, creating hybrids is fairly simple, many fish will readily breed with a different species and produce offspring. But how do we create quality offspring?
As an example, I’m going to use red Texas as an example. Red Texas Cichlids are a sought after fish that are created by mixing a Texas Cichlid or Carpintis (usually the male) with a number of options, most commonly a Parrotfish (already hybrids), Amphilophus or Vieja (this is where the red colouration comes from). They are also sometimes mixed with a red strain of Flowerhorn.
Breeding aggressive cichlids isn’t quite without challenge though as they are aggressive fish and can potentially do a lot of damage to each other, which sometimes ends in fatality.
By breeding these two species together, there is a chance that some offspring will take on the Texas body shape but with the Red colouration of whatever the Texas was bred with. The chance is low though and out of 1000 offspring, you may only end up with one or two that look how they were intended to.
With this in mind, it can be expensive and time-consuming to breed these fish, which again drives prices up.
Better results are achieved by breeding 2 quality offspring (from separate parents). But as you can imagine, you will need a lot of real estate to do this, plus there are other issues with breeding hybrids that will have an effect.
Creating hybrid fish of high quality requires a lot of culling. Whilst many aquarists are fairly ok with culling Ill or deformed fish, culling batch after batch of what are likely happy fish won’t sit well with everyone.
But culling is necessary as many of the fish produced will not show the intended colours or attributes that were intended. Whilst many of them may still become good looking fish, finding homes for thousands of ‘funny looking’ hybrid fish will be quite a mission. It’s unlikely a shop will take them as they won’t sell, and who has room for thousands of 10-inch hybrid cichlids? Unless you have somewhere for these odd-looking offspring to go then culling is, unfortunately, necessary in creating high-quality hybrids.
So, the results of the offspring can be improved by breeding quality specimens from the first generations of two separate pairs. But, with hybrid fish, it is really common for males to be infertile.
This, I believe, is natures way of preventing further hybridization. Most male Parrotfish are infertile, Parrotfish are hybrids and this is why it is more often the female that is used to create a red Texas.
This means that creating good quality hybrid fish is a little more difficult, and expensive.
The holy grail for creating a high-quality red Texas would be to breed a Fertile male red Texas with the likes of a King Kong Parrot female or a red mammon parrot. This would give you the best chance of creating a high number of what would be viewed as high-quality red Texas from the fry.
The trouble here is finding a fertile male red Texas Cichlid. Waiting for your own first batch of fry to become mature is time-consuming and maybe a huge waste of time if they are not fertile, or they don’t display the intended colour. Buying one would be very very expensive, plus it’s a gamble unless you have evidence of the fish breeding.
Flowerhorns have been bred for quite a while now and various strains are fairly well established, so they are able to create the intended colouration and features fairly reliably, which has seen their prices drop slightly as the number of quality specimens increases.
Red Texas have not been bred for quite as long and this is why quality varies wildly. It is now quite common to see ‘red Texas’ for sale in aquarium shops now, but you may notice that they are not red. These guys are often sold as ‘unfaded’, which means that their red colour has not come in yet, it may, or may not in the future.
So buying an unfaded red Texas can be a gamble, but chances are that it will turn into a beautiful fish either way. If you are after a high-quality red Texas, then you will need to buy a faded specimen that is already showing its full colouration, you will also need to dig quite a bit deeper into your pocket.
Should I buy a hybrid?
The answer to that question is: it’s up to you. Hybrids are becoming very popular and are widely available these days. Many are high quality and show fantastic colouration. They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so if you like the look of the fish, have the space for it, and it won’t turn your other fish into tasty snacks, then why not?
As I said, I have never been too interested in hybrid fish, but I came across one this weekend that I had to have. He was labelled as a red Texas, though his colour is currently more Orange than red I would say, he does have some blue fading into his fins which is looking quite nice too. He is a cross between a Thai green Texas and a red Monkey Flowerhorn, time will tell how he turns out as an adult, but I thought he was worth a shot, here he is:
Whilst I have used Cichlids as a common example, hybridisation is not restricted to just Cichlids. Many Catfish have been hybridized and many other ‘categories’ of fish too.