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Firemouth Cichlid Species Profile & Care Guide

Looking for a great addition to your freshwater aquarium? Firemouth Cichlid could have been your answer.

They would not only add some color to your aquarium but also showcase their adorable behavior that you can enjoy every day.

This cichlid is quite popular in aquaria trades as they require easy care.

Firemouth Cichlid is peaceful and hardy but can be territorial as well. Even if they’re not too large, you’d need a larger tank to provide them with more space than they claim as their territory. Of course, you’d still have to work on the tank and dietary requirements.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
AppearanceBright red coloration
Life Expectancy8 years
Size7 inches
DietCarnivorous Omnivore
Tank Size30-gallon
Tank EnvironmentTropical water environment
Tank MatesBetter kept in pair
Community tank should host same sized, non-aggressive species

Firemouth Cichlid has the scientific name Thorichthys Meeki which is a member of the Cichlidae family.

Even though you can find them in North American rivers, they has been recorded as invasive species in other countries like Australia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Israel. It’s because the species is highly adaptable and reproducing.



Firemouth Cichlid has an ornamental bright red coloration.

The coloration would intensify in the spawning season. You can differentiate between male and female fish.

You can find the male usually has longer fin rays, a larger body, and brighter coloration. Female fish have bigger, rounded abdomen.

While males show a reddish body and orange under the head, females have a shade of grey to blue-olive color.

Both sexes have dark lateral bars extending in the sides and black marks on the lower part of the operculum.

Firemouth Cichlids have ray fins and spines. The actual coloration would depend on the actual habitat. It’s interesting as you can find this cichlid in different coloration and your tank setup would determine it as well.


Males can grow up to 6 inches while females up to 5 inches.

Behavior & Temperament

The Firemouth Cichlid is generally a  peaceful species but can be territorial when spawning.

This can be a problematic situation in the tank environment where they can hardly claim their territory. Aquarists need to use larger tanks to keep a group of this cichlid.

In their natural habitat, males typically lives separately within their territory instead of schooling or shoaling.

Their territorial nature make them good parents that keep their eggs within their territory.

Moreover, these are monogamous.

This cichlid may spend most of their time around the plantation and try to rearrange them. They may uproot plants in the aquarium.  You better choose the strong plantation if you want to use one in the tank.


It can live up to 10 years or 8 years on average when kept in captivity.

Pair of firemouth cichlids

Firemouth Cichlid Care & Tank Setup

Firemouth Cichlid doesn’t require special care and anyone with adequate knowledge and consistency can keep one in there successfully. The important elements include water conditions, tank size, and tank setup.

Tank Size

If you want to keep a group of two, the minimum tank size is 30 gallons.

You can always use larger tanks but it’s not recommended to use nano tanks as they’re conflicting because they’re territorial.

From the minimum requirement, you can enlarge the size around 5-10 gallons for each additional fist.

Water Parameters

Water conditions are a crucial element to keep any tropical species in the tank. By resembling what’s in the natural habits as much as possible.

Keep the pH levels of 6.5 to 8.0 and the hardness around 6.5 to 8.0. Maintain the temperature at a range of 75 to 86 F throughout time.

At this point, you need to invest in a pH test meter, thermostat, and aqua heater. A cooler water environment may not be good for your Firemouth Cichlid.

You can condition the water to slightly brackish with water salinity concentrations. However, maintaining cleanliness and filtration is enough.


You better invest in a robust filtration system to prevent nitrogen compound buildup in the tank that can cause health issues to your Firemouth Cichlid.

You can also do regular water changes 10-25% of the volume per week. There would be a large number of bio-loads if you keep several fire mouths in the tank.


Since Firemouth Cichlid isn’t a schooling species and tends to be territorial, setting up hiding places would become important.

You can set caves or fixtures where they can hide and call that also play a key role in their spawning time.  Additionally, you can set hard plants, pieces of driftwood, and rocks that give them more hiding places.

Use the sandy and soft substrate but avoid any coarse-sharp gravels or materials. They’re curious diggers that may scratch themselves in search of nutrients.

Good filtration and water treatment can reduce the bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections that Firemouth Cichlid and other tropical species are prone to. T

hese include the common fish affliction called Ich that manifests in whitish spots in the fish body and fins. Other contributing factors include a stressful environment and poor diet.

Elements of the environment include plants, rocks, driftwood, and substrate.

  • Plants: You can use live plants and synthetic ones. However, live plants must be hardier varieties resistant to the uprooting and harsh treatment underwater.
  • Rocks: Use plenty of rocks in the tank but choose the smooth and flat ones. These would be more hiding places they can explore.
  • Driftwood: You can set a network of branches and roots with driftwood that enables them to navigate around in the tank.
  • Substrate: Fine sandy substrate could be the most comfortable setup to dig and spawn.

The general setup should accommodate slow water flow that can get muddy. They’d likely spend most of their time darting and hiding in midstream.

Firemouth Cichlid is sensitive to nitrogen and ammonia levels in the tank.

If you want to keep a pair, then you should be ready for breeding. They’re better kept in pairs than in a group of males since they can be territorial and aggressive toward each other.

Tank Mates

Juvenile firemouth cichlids shoal

Firemouth Cichlid is a territorial species but they can live well in a community tank as long as it’s large enough and they’re not provoked.

Generally speaking, similar-sized fish could be good tank mates. Bigger fish can stress out your cichlid even if they’re peaceful and not provoking.

There are some ideas of tank mates in the community tank :

  • Pictus Catfish
  • Cory Catfish
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Kuhli Loach
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Clown Pleco
  • Peacocks
  • Swordtails
  • Platies
  • Rainbowfish

Don’t add snails, cherry shrimp, assassin snails, or other crustaceans as Firemouth can potentially prey on them in the tank.

Aggressive species are certainly out of our list as they may attack your fire mouth. Proper tank setup and generous territory should be worked on for the species or community tank.

Since they’re monogamous, you better purchase a pair at a time for a specific tank. Introduce them to the tank altogether instead of separately.

Food & Diet

Firemouth is a big eater and will take pretty much anything you offer. That’s why you need to plan a varied and balanced diet to ensure their health in the tank.

While crustaceans and nibbles are the main sources of food in wildlife, you can feed them with flakes and pellet foods as a staple.

You can use high protein live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp to supplement their diets.

If you want to add vegetables, keep them in portions that they can finish within two minutes. Don’t overfeed and apply two-time feeding a day.

They’re not picky about food but it doesn’t mean that they can eat as much as they want. On the other hand, uneaten foods may decay in tanks and reduce the water quality which may cause health problems.

That’s why good filtration and water changes are mandatory for community tanks.

Breeding & Reproduction

Breeding them in the tank is possible and not difficult. You can start with a pair since they’re monogamous species.  If you have some fire mouths, you can let them pick their soulmate for breeding.

Rocks and flat surfaces in the tank would be where Firemouth Cichlid lay their eggs. You can increase the water temperature a bit to trigger spawning even though it’s not mandatory. Set the pH value around 7 to 7.2 while the temperature is between 75 to 80 F.

Female would lay hundreds of eggs on the prepared space. The male fish would then protect the eggs until they hatch into fry after several days. You need to feed the fry with quality brine shrimp or micro worms as they start swimming in the tank.

It’s highly advisable to learn more details about breeding in the species or community tank. Use only high-quality products to support breeding projects.