Firemouth Cichlid
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FireMouth Cichlid – A Complete Care Guide for beginners

Named Thorichthys (which means Leaping Fish) meeki (the first ichthyologist to write book on Mexican freshwater fish) in 1918. These FireMouth cichlid is native to the warm and slow waters of the Yucatan Penninsula, Mexico, Belize and northern Guatemala. It is a hardy fish that is considered an invasive species in Philippines, Singapore, Israel and Australia because when it was taken there by enthusiasts, it managed to adapt to the environment and make its room within foreign habitats.

Due to its bright and vivid coloration, it is considered a jewel for any aquarium, which is why it is in demand. Something made easier when an easy-care level is included in the minimal aggression package (unlike a majority of cichlids).

Read on to learn more about how to care for the Firemouth Cichlid.

Scientific NameThorichthys meeki
OriginCentral America
Size7 Inches
Aquarium Size30 Gallons
Lifespan15 Years
Ease of CareBeginner
TemperamentSemi-Aggressive (Mating season aggression)


It is said that the color of Firemouth Cichlids often depends on their habitat, the most colorful variant is said to be found in the lower Grijalva in the state of Tabasco, Mexico.

They are called the Firemouth because the lower part of their body, from the jaw till the tail while covering the entire abdomen, is in a shade of red. The other parts are covered in a majestic shade of blue. During a fight, they puff up and expose the red skin under their gills to intimidate the rival fish, two black spots right below the operculum, one on either side also serve their purpose of scare tactics.

They feature a cylindrical body with thick black stripes going from top to bottom (much like a convict cichlid). Blue spots and a red edge are featured on all their fins with the exception of the pectoral fin. Firemouth Cichlids belong to the class of Actinopterygii, a class that features ray-finned fish. These fins are skin held by rays or spines

Fish Size:

Males grow up to be 6 inches and females grow up to be 5 inches. These fish show rapid signs of growth but only if they are well taken care of. It is vital to ensure everything inside the tank mimics their habitat perfectly so they do not undergo stress and that does not hamper their growth.

Difference between male and female:

Like most fish, Firemouth Cichlids are also sexually dimorphic. Males, as usual feature bright and vivid coloration while females are dull in color. Males also feature longer fin rays, bright red or orange colors on the underside of their head, while females feature a larger, rounded belly and grey to olive-blue colors.

all about firemouth cichlid
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Life Span

They will have an average lifespan of 10 years, provided the prerequisite that proper care was given. Some fish have been known to live up to 15 years, but those cases are exceptions.

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Another factor to look into is the reputation of the breeder you will buy these fish from because the way they were bred and raised also plays a role in how long they will live.


Quite like their brethren, Firemouth Cichlids also do not know when to stop eating, so it is vital to keep a strict feeding schedule either twice a day or at regular intervals. In the wild, these cichlids feed on crustaceans, snails and other small invertebrates along with the occasional plants.

In captivity, you can mimic their natural habitat but feeding them good quality flakes and pellets also gets the job done. Along with those, supplements like frozen brine shrimp, blood worms and mosquito larvae will fulfill their dietary needs. They will also feed on live insects by hunting them just like they do in the wild. Some people also feed them vegetables like carrots, but that is not sufficient enough for their nutritional needs.

It is the tank owner’s responsibility to keep the tank clean in case of excess food being left behind or excess waste being produced by the fish due to overeating.

Behavior and Temperament

They are not schooling fish and will always prefer to remain in their territory. Firemouth Cichlids are known to be peaceful but when the aquarium is small and too many fish are crammed in one place, which can be a recipe for disaster. They can get extremely territorial during mating season where they have to impress the female along with fending off potential contenders. They will use their gills to attract the female and will also protect their young once they are born.

Firemouth Cichlids are known to actively swim around the entire tank and inquisitively interacting with the decorations. Very much like cichlids, they will move the substrate in search of food and will also uproot plants and redecorate the entire tank.

Aquarium and Water Parameters

Their native habitat consists of the warm, slow-moving waters of Central America and Mexico. The river beds are soft and muddy having plant overgrowth. Firemouth Cichlids love to swim near the bottom or middle, where they can hide in vegetation or caves within rocks or sunken wood.

They are hardy fish and are known to even survive in brackish water with a 10% salt quantity. Caring for them is easy, which makes them ideal for beginners, but we would still recommend keeping a close watch on water parameters so they do not go off the charts.

PH Level6.5-8.0
Water Hardness8-15
Temperature75-86 F
Firemouth cichlid care

Tank Size:    

30 Gallons for a pair of Firemouth Cichlids is recommended because unlike nano fish, these are big and active, along with being territorial. Experts suggest that for every new Firemouth you add to your 30 gallon tank, it is a safe bet to add 5-10 gallons of water.

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Try keeping soft substrate like sand because very much like other cichlids, Firemouth cichlids also tend to dig around in search of food. They have a habit of redecorating the tank.

These are territorial fish, so it pays to have lots of decorations like rocks and logs with holes that can be used as hiding spots for Firemouth Cichlids. This will prevent aggression.

Additionally, the plants you keep should be hardy and rooted in pots or else the will be uprooted and thrown away by cichlids. Plants such as the Sagittaria are recommended. Plants should always be planted near the borders of the tank so there is enough room to swim around in the middle.


An efficient filtration system is of paramount importance because the buildup of nitrogen compounds in the tank can prove fatal for tropical fish like Firemouth Cichlids. Investing in a good water testing kit will help monitor water parameters so they do not reach harmful levels.

Moderate lighting should be used to keep the plants healthy and to make these fish visible for onlookers in the dark.

Tank Mates

Firemouth Cichlids are ideal for community tanks because of their docile nature. However, during mating season it is recommended to keep them in a separate breeding tank because they might kill any fish that comes near their mating territory.

Apart from this, any fish of a similar size and nature would be a suitable tank mate for Firemouth Cichlids. These are not schooling fish but they do not mind the company of others like:

Worst Tank Mates:

The worst possible tank mate for Firemouth Cichlids would be any crustacean, be it a shrimp or snail because they are a part of Firemouth diet. Other fish to avoid would be any that are too big in size (does not matter if harmless or not) because their size alone will result in the Firemouth living its entire life in stress. Another fish to avoid keeping with them are African Cichlids, because there have been numerous reports of them not getting along with each other.


The Firemouth Cichlids in your tank will form a monogamous pair if you buy a batch of them, or you can buy a pair from a fish store. These fish do not require any specific water parameters or prerequisites for breeding. The only requirement will be a flat surface like a rock, wood or leaf for the female to lay eggs on.

Breeding can be catalyzed by tweaking the water parameters, this is not necessary because there have been reports of Firemouth Cichlids breeding without this tweak, but this trick does help speed up the process. Set the pH to 7 with temperature set to 75-79F and the water hardness to 10dGH. This will mimic the ideal breeding environment for Firemouth Cichlids.

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Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized by the male, they will be ferociously guarded by both parents, killing any fish that comes too close. The female will lay some 100-500 eggs out of which fry should hatch, after 4-5 of hatching, they will start to swim around freely. It should be noted that even after learning how to swim, the parents will protect them against any and all threats.

The fry should be given high quality food, such as Artemia Nauplii and microworms.

firemouth cichlid
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Common Problems

Firemouth Cichlids do not have any diseases specific to them. They are community fish and are prone to suffering any common community tank illnesses that might result due to bacterial or fungal infection.

Ich is a very common disease, it results in white patches that start from the fins and gills. The remedy for this is easy, just crank the temperature up to 86 F and if that does not seem to be working after a day or two’s observation, then medicine should be opted for.

Perfect workaround for any disease is preventive care, the diet of your fish, water parameters of the tank and overall environment of the community are factors involved in this. If your fish have a healthy and balanced diet, if your tank’s water parameters remain stable and if the tank mates do not cause Firemouth Cichlids stress, then there is no reason for them to get sick.

Introduction of foreign objects can also compromise the environment because they are potential carriers of disease. This is why it is recommended to thoroughly clean your tank without using chemical before adding a fish.


Q: How to tell the gender of a Firemouth?

They are sexually dimorphic, so males will be bright and vivid in color while the females will be a dull shade of grey or olive green.

Q: How big does a Firemouth Cichlid get?

Males grow up to be 6 inches in size and females grow up to be 5 inches.

Q: Can I keep Red Wag Platy with a Firemouth?

Firemouth’s will live comfortably with any fish as long as other fish do not cross into their territory during mating season.


We hope all your curious queries regarding Firemouth Cichlids were answered by this article. These fish, despite being cichlids, are ideal for community tanks because their docile nature makes them easy to be around other fish from the community. They are recommended for beginners, because they are not only easy to care for but they also look magical in a fish tank. Water parameter requirements are also quite relaxed and do not require a vigilant watch.

Firemouth Cichlids are also ideal for breeders because they do not require any conditions prior to breeding. All they need is a flat rock, leaf or wood surface to lay eggs on under normal water parameters.

We hope this article proved useful, but if you still have further queries, please get in touch.

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