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

If you consider yourself even a mild fan of home aquariums and marine pets, it is likely that you’ve heard of the Texas Cichlid. Not the biggest of its kind, but certainly one of the more aggressive of its species, being a territorial and independent type of fish.

Also known under a few different names, such as the Rio Grande Perch, or the Pearl Cichlid, this fish is popular in home aquariums due to their beautiful appearance, feisty nature and active lifestyle.

Taking care of one or more Texas Cichlids can be moderately difficult, and there are a handful of considerations and precautions to take into account before committing, as well as some advice that will help you on your home aquarium journey.


Texas Cichlid Overview + Behavior

The Texas Cichlid is the northernmost species of Cichlids that you can currently find, often populating the waters of rivers, streams and lakes in southern Texas and Northern Mexico.

As for their appearance, their bodies often consist of dark to light green, or darkish gray, covered in a beautiful array of dot patterns, that will reflect and scatter light upon impact. The artistic display on their scales make them desired by many. Captive breeding has made more colors available.

When they are young and small, Texas Cichlids are very passive, becoming scared often and hiding behind objects. This attitude gets pushed to the side when they grow to around 5-6 inches in length, when they inevitably grow more aggressive by nature.

Popular in home aquariums, but sometimes willingly avoided by others, aggressive fish species, such as Texas Cichlids, will see smaller tank mates as food, leading them to harass then eat them. Due to this, keeping them in a shared aquarium can prove to be a bit of a tricky task. The recommended option would be to keep one or a pair in their own tank, separate from other fish.

A full grown male Texas Cichlid can reach up to 12 inches in length, with females being just a bit smaller. A mature male can be identified by the cranial hump that grows near its forehead.

The average lifespan of this fish is around 10 years, but they can reach up to 15 in good tank conditions with a nutrient-rich diet.

As an egg layer species, female Texas Cichlids will lay eggs and protect them until they are ready to hatch, as opposed to developing them within and delivering when fully developed.

Feeding them is relatively easy, as they will eat most anything, but they require a strict timing schedule, and are quite messy in their tank! Read below for advice on tank set ups and feeding recommendations.

Habitat + Tank Set Up

As mentioned, Texas Cichlids are an aggressive species, and often don’t mingle well with other fish in a shared aquarium, especially those that are smaller. Fish of the same size can be tolerated in a big enough tank, but it may still come down to the particular fish’s attitude.

For this reason, it is recommended that Texas Cichlids be kept alone or as a pair in their own tank, in order to reduce the risk of stress and violent behavior displayed by your fish. If you are an experienced home aquarium owner, perhaps you may be aware of some species that will convene well with Texas Cichlids. Some will be listed in a later section.

For a single Texas Cichlid, you will need a tank able to hold at least 55 gallons of water. If you plan on owning two of them, you will need a tank able to hold at least 110 gallons. Texas Cichlids are active fish, and need space to explore with enough room to not feel intruded upon.

In their tank, you should maintain a recommended temperature range of around 71 to 77 Degrees F, with a water hardness of around 8-15 dGH. This will be most reflective of their natural environment.

To further reflect their natural environment, keeping moderate to faster flowing waters, such as those in rivers and streams, will help them be more active, as well as helping to keep the water clean for longer by reducing algae buildup.

The recommended pH the water should be maintained at is within the range of 6.5-8 pH. Keeping a pH test kit readily available will be useful to consistently monitor the alkalinity of the water in your tank.

Sudden and drastic changes of pH and temperature can throw your fish’s immune system off balance, and potentially cause them to go into shock, with possible fatal consequences. Keeping daily supervision of your tanks water parameters will help ensure the safety and healthy growth of your fish.

Texas Cichlids are big fans of digging around in the substrate, moving it around and exploring what it has to offer. To keep them happy, a substrate mix of gravel and sandy materials would be recommended. This is representative of their natural environment, where sand and small rocks flow and become deposited down river banks and stream sides.

They are messy eaters, so this requires that you change the tank water more often than some other fish. Weekly, it is recommended that you change at least 25% of the water. This helps to reduce waste, and keep excess algae from growing.

As with most home aquariums, the use of an algae scrubber or magnet is recommended, in order to reduce the amount of algae build up that will take oxygen out of the water. Texas Cichlids need oxygen rich water in order to thrive.

Known to destroy plants and be a bit destructive in their tanks, recommended aquascaping would be with more rock and wood materials as opposed to a lot of vegetation. They like to have lots of room to swim, and their habit of digging around in the substrate can uproot plants. A more minimal aquascape in your tank is recommended for Texas Cichlids.

Feeding Your Texas Cichlid

Lucky for their owners, Texas Cichlids are far from picky eaters, and will eat most anything you feed them.

But, this does not mean that you quite literally should feed them anything; they still need a well rounded, nutrient filled diet for their health and longevity.

Being omnivorous, Texas Cichlids can thrive off a diet consisting of live foods, flake foods and vegetation.

At a young age, proteins are important, so feeding them frozen foods such as brine shrimp and tubifex can work. The protein intake helps the young fish grow larger and healthier.

As they grow older and larger, they are able to eat live foods, possibly consisting of guppies and goldfish. As an aggressive species, Texas Cichlids will naturally grow and adapt to hunt and eat smaller fish. Feeding them live fish will help to keep them even more active during feeding time.

In addition, as they grow larger, feeding them pelleted foods and earthworms can help provide them with nutrients. For larger fish, pelleted foods may be more preferable over smaller flake foods.

It is recommended to feed your Texas Cichlid about 2 to 3 times per day, doing your best to maintain a regular feeding schedule. Feeding in moderate amounts a few times per day rather than a large amount once a day is recommended, in order to help keep the fish sustained and reduce waste within the tank.

Texas Cichlids are intelligent fish, and will become more active when they know it is almost feeding time, and are known to push up to the front of tanks towards their owners when they are about to feed.

Other live or frozen food that you can feed your Texas Cichlid are worms, insect larvae and insects themselves.

Vegetational supplements included in their meals will help to provide vitamins and minerals, keeping them healthier and boosting their immune system.

Feeding your Texas Cichlid red meat from mammals should always be avoided. This species of fish is unable to properly digest the meat, with no ability to properly synthesize the proteins within.

Sexual Differences + Breeding

When they are smaller, seeing the difference between a male and female Texas Cichlid may be a bit difficult, just as with a lot of fish species.

This changes as they grow in size. Males will begin to appear a bit more brightly colored than the female, and, as mentioned, develop a noticeable cranial bump that protrudes off of their head at a mature age.

In comparison, the male has a more pointed dorsal fin than their female counterparts.

Present on female dorsal fins are black spots. These black spots are not found on males.

Males will reach up to about 12 inches in length, with the full grown female just a bit smaller.

As an egg layer species, female Texas Cichlids will lay their eggs on large rock which they have personally cleaned off, after deeming it has enough space to provide.

Preparing the tank with new, larger rocks and substrate will help to ease the process of breeding, giving them more of a selection.

Keeping the tank temperature within a range of 77-82 degrees F will help to promote breeding. Start at around 72 degrees F, and gradually increase the temperature to more than around 82 degrees F.

Other water parameters considered are the pH and hardness of water. The pH should be neutral at around 7, and the hardness should be a recommended 5-12 dGH.

Females can lay around 500-1000 eggs at a time. Even though the parents are protective,  they may still tend to eat their young after they are hatched.

Due to this, keeping the offspring in a separate tank away from the parents after they are hatched will help to see them grow larger and healthier, reducing the amount of casualties.

Tank Mates

As known, Texas Cichlids are an aggressive species, and don’t make the best community fish.

Due to their tendency to attack and see smaller fish as food, it is risky and a bit tricky to find fish that can peacefully share the tank with them.

It is often recommended that Texas Cichlids be kept alone in a tank, or as a pair. They are naturally independent creatures, and prefer to have room for themselves to swim and explore, being rather territorial.

Experienced home aquarium owners have successfully mingled their Texas Cichlid with other fish, with occasional signs of aggression. To be noted, these are fish of the same size, or bigger, and are able to protect themselves due to their own aggressive nature.

Possible tank mates could include other types of Cichlids, such as the Convict Cichlid, or the Black Belt Cichlid.

Larger catfishes have been successfully communed with Texas Cichlids. Black Ghost Knife Fish can also possibly commune with Texas Cichlids.

During breeding periods, Texas Cichlids become even more aggressive and territory independent, so keeping them in a separate tank during these times is recommended.

Overall, aggressive fish of the same size could possibly share a tank with your Texas Cichlids, but this could always be subject to your particular fish’s attitude.


By now, it is clear that the Texas Cichlid is a highly desired home aquarium fish, due to their beautiful appearance and feisty attitude. As they do require a bit more care than other, smaller fish, there is no doubt you can you take care of your Texas Cichlid in a healthy fashion with the help of this care guide.

As an aggressive fish, they can make or break your shared home aquarium, so the choice to keep them in a tank with other fish is up to the owner, making responsible choices and observing how the fish convene with one another.

As a larger and hungrier-than-average fish, maintaining a regular feeding schedule of 2-3 times per day, as mentioned, is always recommended.

Being territory independent and enjoying having room to swim, a more minimal interior of the tank would be recommended. Texas Cichlids can be a bit destructive, and may take down whatever aquascape you have created.

With care and consideration, a Texas Cichlid may make an excellent addition to your home atmosphere in their own tank, or in a shared aquarium with fish of the same size.

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