I was quite stirred reading your debate about Parrot cichlids in PFK’S Spring 2018 issue. Before I start with my points, I wish to make it clear that I’m neither for nor against Parrots and hybridisation. I also currently own several parrots and associated hybrids.
I think that the point made about people voting with their wallets rings true, but we also have to appreciate that not everyone is going to suddenly decide not to purchase Parrots and wipe out the market. So, as aquarists, we have to accept, even if begrudgingly, that these fish are here to stay.
Hybridisation and genetic modification (GM) has been going on for years outside of the fishkeeping industry. Many people are drawn to Parrot cichlids due to their ‘quirky characteristics’, such as their body shape and colour morph. While some will say this is unnatural, how many of us are guilty of looking at pug dogs (with their similar ‘squashed up faces’) and thinking “those are cute?”
These dogs, just like Parrots, have been bred to alter their genetics and give those short snouts and tiny skulls which cause health issues for the animal. But these animals have been accepted and are fast becoming one of the nation’s favourites. Why are Parrot cichlids deemed repulsive while their fluffy equivalent is revered and adored?
I know this subject was briefly touched upon in the article as line breeding – line breeding is essentially inbreeding. Surely inbreeding is worse than hybridisation? I know which of the two words personally draws the strongest emotive reaction for me.
Answering the point around Parrots diluting interest in ‘real fish’, do you genuinely think this is the case? I don’t.
Prior to keeping Blood parrots and hybridised Parrots I had a South American cichlid set-up. I eventually grew tired of the lip locking and having to quarantine fish over territorial disputes. I only kept Blue acara at that time and they aren’t even deemed particularly aggressive. Although Parrots are guilty of the occasional squabble, these are minimal and, due to their ‘deformities’, they cause little damage to one another and any aggression is shortlived. The best way to describe them would be like boisterous teens.
To context this, I currently own Parrot hybrids that have been crossbred with Texas cichlids, Flowerhorn and Midas cichlids, and can see the typical colourations of these fish in my Parrots. This is an aesthetic that I wouldn’t be able to achieve in my tank with the ‘real fish’, they’d simply not be compatible. Does this mean I no longer hold interest in ‘real fish’? No it doesn’t – it just means I haven’t got the means to house them all in separate tanks because I simply don’t have the room.
I don’t believe that the ‘creation’ of the Blood parrot represents progress, but its happened. We are now starting to see Parrots emerge on the market that are capable of closing their mouths so, in this sense, ‘tinkering’ must represent progress. Although I will admit, in my limited experience, that those capable of closing their mouths display more aggression than those who can’t.
Can I just clarify at this point that while I’m not against hybridisation, I’m categorically against the other means of modification that fish are subject to. Dyeing and tattooing can only be deemed as animal cruelty, and the less said about the horrors that ‘Heart parrots’ are subjected to, the better. This truly is profiteering over welfare and is something that should be banned globally.
When we strip it back, the most rewarding thing about the fishkeeping hobby is looking after the fish we keep, interacting with them, providing the best care we can and, all in all, sitting back and enjoying our beautiful set-ups.
Given that the Parrot fish is not going anywhere anytime soon, then surely we should accept this and give these fish the best possible lives rather than berating them. They may be ‘man-made’, but this doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same care, – and I’m sure even the so-called ‘hardcore aquarists’ can’t dispute that. Jamie Thorpe, by email
Nathan replies: Huge thanks, Jamie, for your comprehensive response to our discussion piece. While I agree with most of the points you raised, I’d certainly dispute the very last one. I know of some aquarists who take an extremely hardline approach to hybrids (or ‘abominations’ as they call them away from polite company) and would be happy to see them all gone. While I don’t hold this view myself, it is worth remembering that these fish do draw a range of opinions, sometimes reaching well in to the extremes.
Jamie’s bright orange Parrot hybrid.
The Texas c in this p stand