Firemouth Cichlid – A Complete Guide (Care, Diet, Facts)

The fire mouth cichlid is a beautifully bright colored fish to add to your freshwater aquarium. They have an exciting personality which makes them fun to watch. This is the perfect fish to make your aquarium livelier.

This fish is easy to care for. They are hardy and usually peaceful. But they do get territorial at times. The firemouth cichlid fish has a bright red coloring that makes it popular in the ornamental aquarium trade. If properly cared for, this fish can survive in your tank for 8-10 years. They are not schooling fish. Males live separately in the wild and tend to their own territory. They like to have many plants and such in their tank, as they like to play and rearrange them.

They can grow up to 15 cm and need a 50-gallon tank. They are faithful to one mate throughout their lifespan. They are easy to breed and make wonderful parents.



The firemouth cichlid originates from the rivers of Central America (Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Salvatore, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama) and are found in the murky waters of the Yucatan Peninsula.  After human release, this fish has been found in some parts of North America and is now considered an invasive species. It has also adapted to places like Singapore, the Philippines, Israel and Australia.  Although they are an invasive species, they are not considered to be pests.

Their scientific name is Thorichthys meeki meaning leaping fish in ancient Greek.  They are not really considered to be avid jumpers, although all fish have that potential.  Especially since they are known to search for food on the bottom. These fish have been seen in all types of water conditions, meaning they are adaptable to different environments.

The fire mouth Cichlid lives in the bottom and middle layers of slow- moving waters that have a sandy or muddy bottom. They have been spotted in rivers and canals, also in ponds and ditches. This fish stays close to thick areas of vegetation where it eats the plant and animal food found at the edge of the water. They like to hide in this plant cover, as well.


The firemouth cichlid get their name from the bright red coloring that the males develop during spawning. Males and females look different. Males are larger and brighter with longer fin rays. Whereas the females have a more rounded appearance. Females get to 4-5 in and the males grow to 6 inches. They do not get as large in the wild.

All firemouth cichlids are an olive color on their heads and bodies. As youngsters, they have a bluish tint but as they mature, they become completely violet. Their coloring becomes more intense as they get excited or when they are spawning. The males have a bright reddish orange on the outer part of their bodies, from under the mouth along the underside.  Their coloring is more intense.  All cichlids have a black mark on the lower half of the operculum that can also serve as a defense mechanism. Some may have dark bars down the sides. These markings would confuse predators in the wild.  Their eyes are blue.

Firemouth cichlids belong to a class of ray-finned fish.  Their fins are formed by a web of skin supported by a set of spines. The fins are pinkish with some blue sparkles.  The colors go together perfectly to make a beautiful fish.


The firemouth cichlid is known as a peaceful fish. But they can get territorial during spawning season. This means that they can get aggressive if another fish enters their territory. They are not very tolerant and are easily stressed. They are not very good at handling stress, thus the need for a large tank and their own space.  Fire mouth cichlid are not schooling fish. In the wild, the males usually have their own territory.

Fire mouth cichlid are monogamous and are active parents. The male extends his gills to show off for the female and to warn other fish away from their territory.  The female takes authority and starts the relationship. Once spawning occurs, they both look after the young.

After a while the males go on their way, until next spawning. The females and the juveniles stay together. Once couples have spawned, they come together to divide up the offspring, not knowing who belongs to whom. This supposedly cuts down on inbreeding.

The firemouth cichlid spends a lot of time around plants. They like to rearrange whatever they can move in their tanks, especially plants. They love to hide and burrow. They prefer lots of plants in the tank. They should all be in a sturdy pot.


The firemouth cichlid is not a picky eater. They usually will go after whatever food is presented to them. But it must float to the bottom of the tank, or into the substrate. They will eat pellets as well as other small fish. In the wild they feed on small crustaceans and such. Feed them twice a day in small portions. They will eat flake, live, and frozen foods.

The fire mouth cichlid does prefer live food. They are omnivorous. They like bloodworms, white worms and brine shrimp. Some of their favorites are also; cope pod, organic detritus, water flea, daphnia and cyclops. They will also take blanched spinach and blanched cucumber. You can feed them frozen foods along with pellets and flakes. They are like hoover vacuums in the tank; they will make sure there are no leftovers laying around. The fire mouth cichlid has a scavenger appetite and behavior. They may also sift through mouthfuls of sand searching for leftover food.

Live food is essential, as much as possible. In the wild, cichlids feed on larvae and worms. Fire mouth cichlids like to feed on the vegetation that also serves as their cover.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

The natural habitat of the firemouth cichlid is a slow-moving stream with a muddy or sandy riverbed. They spend most of their time in the lower half of the water, in the protection of vegetation. . Fire mouth cichlids also enjoy the protection of caves that have been formed by sunken wood or rocks.

Whenever you set up an aquarium, it is always best to mimic the fish’s natural habitat as much as possible. This will ensure your fish lives a happy and healthy life. They are best in a community freshwater aquarium.

The firemouth cichlid needs warm waters, 75*-85*F. The ph should be ranging between 6.5-8.0. The water hardness should be kept between 8-15 dGH and there should be moderate water movement. The fire mouth cichlid is a freshwater fish but can tolerate brackish water conditions. This means that they can tolerate a bit of salinity.

One of the most important things to remember when setting up the tank is the filter. The filtration system cleans and oxygenates the water. It also adds a little movement to the water.  Include plants and rock structures around the edges. Make sure the plant root system is protected, as the fish may tear them up. Moderately diffused lighting should be used for the fish. The fire mouth cichlid should have about a 30-gallon tank or larger. This will be plenty for about two fish.

Tank Mates

The tankmates for firemouth cichlid should be similar in size and temperament. The firemouth cichlid are peaceful, unless they are spawning. During which time they get territorial and become aggressive.  Fire mouth cichlid may go after any fish that threaten to invade their territory. So, you may want to remove any threatened fish until spawn is over. It might be a better idea to move the breeding pair to a separate tank.

Males can be harassed and suffer by larger and more aggressive fish. Females are better at finding protection which is usually under the fins of other fish. The tank should be large enough to include enough plant cover and hiding spots for the fish.

Some ideal tankmates might be active schooling fish and fish that are the same size and aggression level. Firemouth cichlid are not schooling fish. They do like to have their own species as tankmates; those that are the same size, if there is plenty of space in the fish tank.  Some other ideal tankmates are tetras (serape glow light rummy nose)  or catfish. It is best to avoid slow fish and those types that are easily bullied such as dwarf cichlids or angelfish. Never introduce snails or shrimp to the tank as they are always mistaken for food.

How to Care for the Firemouth Cichlid

These fish need a tank with extra space to move around. They can’t stand congested spaces because they are easily stressed. They like cave like structures and protective places, especially during spawning.

The females prefer a sandy bottom or flat smooth surfaces to lay their eggs. They need to be kept away from other fish during breeding times. They are territorial and will try to kill anything that invades their space.

Infections can become a major problem for a fish keeper. Germs and parasites can be introduced into the tank in numerous ways. Keep an eye on the tank environment and the water conditions and you should have no worries. Like with many freshwater fish, the Ich disease is the most common, with their fins and gills covered in white spots. It is relatively easy to treat. High water temperatures for a few days should be treatment enough, they can tolerate it. If that doesn’t help, there is medication.

Keep a stress-free tank environment, stable water parameters and maintain a good diet. This should keep your fish healthy and happy. Remember to wash anything that you may be adding to your aquarium. Parasites, bacteria, and fungi can come from anything.


The firemouth cichlid are monogamous pairs. It is best to purchase your fish in pairs or buy enough fish that they can pair up evenly on their own. When you do find the pair that you suppose to be ready for breeding, you may want to move them to a separate tank.

During spawn, the male displays an aggressive stance where he inflates his bright red throat sac and gill covers to impress the females and warn other males to stay away. The dark spots that are at the gills are mistaken for large eyes and trick the other fish into thinking the fire mouth cichlid is larger than it really is.

They don’t require specific water conditions for breeding. But if they are in a separate tank, you can warm it to 82 degrees. You need to be sure that the breeding tank environment mimics that of their natural habitat. Make sure to feed them live food several times a day. The female usually lays 100-500 eggs neatly, and one by one, on a smooth, solid surface and then the male will fertilize them. The male and the female guard the eggs and then the fry (babies). They are very easy to feed. After the spawning season and the babies have matures somewhat, the males go back into their own territory.

Firemouth cichlid are ideal for a beginning fish keeper. They are very hardy fish. They are easy to care for and they eat anything you give them. Check water and tank conditions often and feed regularly; you will have happy and healthy fish.

This pearlescent turquoise colored fish is one of the most popular of its species. It has vibrant red-orange coloration edging its scales, along with blue sparkles in some places. It is beautiful to look at and fun to watch. Its shape is somewhat of a teardrop and is breathtaking when swimming. The species of cichlids present different coloring depending on where they’re from. So, you would have quite the array of color with a community aquarium of cichlid. They are generally peaceful except at spawning, when they become territorial. They are a beautiful and lively addition to the freshwater aquarium.

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