Firemouth Cichlid – Species Profile & Facts

The Firemouth cichlid is one of the most interesting choices for a freshwater tank. If you’re looking to add some colors and variety to your tank, then it might just be the perfect choice. The great news is that this fish is a great choice for beginners as well as for advanced tank-keepers.

They are very easy to care for. Also, they are very hardy and will survive in harsh conditions. However, they can get territorial against other fish species, which you certainly need to keep in mind. They’ll bring a lot of flair to your tank and liven it up.

If you’re new to fishkeeping and you’re looking to add a Firemouth cichlid to your freshwater fish collection, then you’re in the right place. Don’t worry, we have you covered when it comes to tank requirements for your Firemouth cichlids.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Firemouth cichlids. From their habitat, breeding, feeding, behavior, and tank requirements. After reading this article, you can consider yourself well versed when it comes to handling Firemouth cichlids.

Firemouth Cichlid Natural Habitat

Knowing what the natural habitat of a fish is can help you keep better care of the fish. You’ll know what the fish prefers and how to keep up to their requirements better.

Firemouth cichlids are mostly native to Central America. However, it’s not unusual to find them in rivers of Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Arizona, and Florida. Their main habitat, though, is Mexico. To be more precise, the Yucatan peninsula, the Mexico Belize, and northern Guatemala.

Firemouth cichlids prefer slow-moving rivers with a sandy or muddy substrate. They mostly swim on or around the bottom of the river, where they will show their flashy colors and try to fight competitors away in order to gain territory. While they can get aggressive towards other species, they also like to hide themselves among sunken wood and rocks.

These fish are nowadays considered as an invasive species in some US states. Namely, in states of Florida, Hawaii, and Arizona, the fish are seen as a threat and as an invasive species. These areas are not their primary natural habitat.

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Requirements

So now that we know the natural habitat of the Firemouth cichlids, we can predict the tank requirements better. You’ll want to replicate these as much as possible to ensure they survive for longer and live a more quality life.

The first requirement is that they live in a freshwater tank. And as it finds its natural habitat in tropical areas, you’ll want to make sure the water temperatures are relatively high. Namely, they should be between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And you wouldn’t want the water flow to be too strong; instead, go for a slow to moderate water flow.

The PH of the water should, ideally, be between 6.5 and 8, although it’s best to try and keep it at natural levels. And while these cichlids are primarily freshwater fish, they can also withstand saltwater conditions (to a degree).

As in the natural habitat, the substrate should be sand. Make sure you set up plenty of rocks and woods around the aquarium, giving the fish plenty of hiding spots. And the plants should be on the hardier side, as the fish might try and dig them out.

For a pair of Firemouth cichlids, the ideal tank size is 30 gallons. So for a single fish, the ideal tank size is at about 15 gallons

The lighting should be low to moderate, although it doesn’t seem to matter that much to these fish.

  • Water type: Freshwater
  • Tank size: 15 gallons per fish
  • Substrate: Sand
  • Lighting: low to moderate
  • Plants: Plenty of plants and rocks
  • Filtration: Strong filtration
  • Heater: Ideally, yes

Firemouth Cichlid Water Conditions

We’ve already mentioned some things about water conditions for the Firemouth cichlids, but let’s dive into more details.

As we’ve said, these fish are tropical fish and thus require slightly higher temperatures. Make sure the water temperatures are high enough for the cichlids. They should be at relatively high levels – between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. And you might find that you will need a heater to keep up the temperatures at that level.

As there will be plenty of plants in the tank, you’ll also need a relatively strong filtration system. It’s better to overfilter the tank rather than use a filter that’s too weak. And these fish are also not very tolerant of high levels of ammonia, so a powerful filtration system is warranted.

The PH levels should be somewhere in the neutral levels. Between 6.5 and 8 seems to work best, though. The water hardness should be kept somewhere in between 8-15 DGH.

Make sure you keep constant maintenance of your tank and improve the water conditions as often as possible. Regular water changes are necessary – at least once monthly.

  • Temperatures: 75-86 °F
  • PH levels: 6.5-8
  • Water hardness: 8-15 DGH

Firemouth Cichlid Diet and Feeding

The great news is that Firemouth cichlids are very adaptable when it comes to food and are not fussy eaters at all. You can get away with feeding them pellets and flakes, but these should be high-quality. Although they do primarily lean towards a meatier diet, they are also very likely to consume vegetables and plant-based foods.

In their natural habitat, these fish will gravitate towards eating smaller living beings such as copepods, cladocerans, and other small crustaceans. They also like to eat small invertebrates and molluscs. So you might want to steer away from having shrimp and snails as tank mates for these fish, as they might consume them. More about tank mates later.

When it comes to flakes and pellets, you can purchase high-quality pellets that are plant-based or meat-based. These pellets could be the main part of their diet, but they shouldn’t be the only source of food in any case. Make sure to keep the diet as balanced as possible, and combine these pellets with live foods at times.

They’ll also eat spinach, spirulina, and healthy diet supplements.

As for feeding times, they should be fed twice a day with smaller portions, or once a day with larger portions. Avoid overfeeding!

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Mates

Let’s talk about the tank mates for the Firemouth cichlids. You will have to keep a couple of things in mind. First, these fish will become aggressive towards other fish that might try to invade their territory, especially during the spawning season. That’s a key thing to keep in mind, and why you should opt for larger tanks with these fish!

But they are a great fish for community tanks nonetheless, if they have enough space. The best tank mates are other fish of similar sizes that are non-aggressive and will not try and invade their territory.

Avoid having larger tank mates with these cichlids as they can threaten the males and even intimidate them. That will cause a lot of unnecessary stress for the fish, and is one thing to keep in mind. On the other hand, avoid smaller fish species, too. Cichlids might try to attack them and might potentially kill them, especially if they feel threatened in terms of their territory.

Opt for similarly-sized fish. Some of the best tank mates for them are:

  • Other similar South American cichlids
  • Tetras
  • Pictus catfish

Species to avoid:

  • Dwarf cichlids
  • Angelfish
  • Snails and shrimp

Firemouth Cichlid Breeding

Many cichlid owners will tell you that these fish can be very caring fish for their babies. namely, these fish will make monogamous pairs and will take great care of their offspring.

The best way to breed these fish is to buy at least one member of each sex. They will form pairs naturally, but if you want a higher chance of success, you will do well if you buy 6 of these fish from different sexes.

And the even better news is that these fish don’t require any specific conditions to encourage the breeding. They will mostly breed naturally without your intervention, although you will do well to get a separate, breeding tank.

Not because the babies might be threatened, but just due to the sheer amount of eggs that these fish will spawn.

The spawning procedure is the following.

Eggs will be laid on a solid surface such as a rock, leaves, or even on the glass surface of the tank. Normally, these fish will spawn between 100 and 500 eggs. Keep in mind that the parents will protect the eggs ferociously against other fish, so make sure you keep them in separate tanks.


Firemouth cichlids can be awesome fish to own. They are very colorful fish and will make your tank much livelier and interesting.

They are a bright addition to any tank. But make sure that they fit your existing tank in terms of water requirements, tank mates, and other conditions. A proper tank maintenance and set up is necessary for any fish.

Hopefully, you now know how to care for these lovely fish. Now, you can get your Firemouth cichlid in peace.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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