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Texas Cichlids – A complete care Guide

Discovered a long time ago in 1854, the Herichthys cyanoguttatus also known as Texas Cichlid or the Rio Grande Cichlid is the only cichlid native to the USA, or in other words “The NorthernMost Cichlid”. This large species of cichlids was being imported into Europe as early as 1912. Their large size, hardiness and aggressive personality make them an invasive species, allowing them to survive in other ecosystems by making their mark.

Native to Texas, Texas Cichlids are also found in Florida and Louisiana, but there they are considered game fish and are regularly caught and eaten by the locals. They are fairly large in size and their aggressive temperament makes them a bit tricky to control in the fish tank.

Read on to learn more about how to set up an aquarium and care for the Texas Cichlid because this species will keep you busy for a good 13 years if well taken care of.

Scientific NameHerichthys cyanoguttatus
OriginUnited States of America
Size12 Inches
Aquarium Size55 Gallons
Lifespan13 Years
Ease of CareIntermediate


Appearance wise they have a typical cichlid outline, having a smooth curve from head to tail, with a prominent, rayed dorsal fin ending right near the caudal fin. The anal and caudal fins are also quite large and smooth, ensuring stability during swimming.

The Texas Cichlid has large fleshy lips and mature males are known to have a nuchal hump on their head that grows bigger during mating season.


There are numerous color variations in the market that are loved far and wide but those are quite rare compared to the standard Texas Cichlid coloration. We will list down color features of the standard Texas Cichlid.

Having a base color of dark grey, they feature various iridescent dots on the body of varying sizes. The rest of their body is covered by sparkling speckles, including the fins! One unique feature of these fish are the black dots near the tail that mimic eyes. They sometimes extend as far as the middle of the body, correlating with the top to bottom black stripes (common among cichlids).

Their bodies sometimes also feature a light green shade, but the most prominent features are those several iridescent dots that glow in the light. They shine as if the Texas Cichlids have been lit up by lights, this makes for a marvelous light show in your aquarium, your personal disco ball of lights!

Fish Size:

They max out at around 12 inches in length. When they are bought from fishing stores, they are merely a few inches in size but their growth rate is quite fast and within no time they will turn into formidable tanks!

Difference between male and female:

Distinguishing between genders can be quite difficult because of a lack of major differences. Males have a nuchal cranial hump that grows larger during mating season and are also slightly larger in size then females.

Types of Texas Cichlids

There are numerous variations of Texas Cichlids in the market, mainly a result of selective breeding. Some of them we will list below so you can have a clear idea what you are looking at when you go shopping.

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Red Texas Cichlid:

An interbred hybrid between the standard Texas Cichlid and another Central American species. They are bright red in color with white shimmering dots and shades of black.

Green Texas Cichlid:

Also called the lowland cichlids that are not technically from Texas. Brighter than the standard variation, they feature a shade of green with spots that project a yellow or green neon hue when hit by light.

Electric Blue Texas Cichlid:

This shares coloration features with the standard cichlid, the only difference being in the intensity of blue. The speckles give off a turquoise color, giving a much more vibrant view.

Life Span

They can live for a period of 10-13 years in captivity but that depends on the amount of care and vigilance of the aquarist. To help them reach the upper age limit, their water parameters and dietary needs need to be fulfilled with minimal room for negligence.


Being omnivores, these fish will eat anything you give them, but that does not mean that you keep feeding them whatever you can find. To ensure a healthy life, a balanced diet should be maintained with a mix of dry stuff like flakes and pellets along with protein rich food like frozen or live brine shrimp, blood worms, insects and crustaceans. A healthy amount of algae and vegetables also go a long way.

Take extreme care not to overfeed them because leftover food can quickly go to rot and destabilize your tank’s entire ecosystem by messing up the water parameters.

Behavior and Temperament

These are quite territorial and aggressive fish that will not show mercy to even their own kind. A large tank is recommended because of their size and personality. They are known to eat any fish smaller than them and during casual hours they will dig around in the substrate in search of food or mainly because of curiosity, uprooting plants and redecorating the aquarium in the process.

These fish are also known to be quite intelligent because they recognize their owner or the one who feeds them. When that person approaches the tank, they will swim near the glass in anticipation of food.

Aquarium and Water Parameters

Belonging to a sub-tropical region, these fish prefer warm waters that are slightly acidic. The parameters listed below must be ensured in your tank, Texas Cichlids will tolerate slight fluctuations as long as they are within the ranges shown below.

PH Level6.5-7.0
Water Hardness12 dGH
Temperature68-75 F

Tank Size:

55 gallons for a single Texas Cichlid, but if you plan on keeping more or if you plan on making it a community tank, we would recommend nothing less than 125 gallons.

A larger tank will not only make your life easier, but it will give a sigh of relief to other fish sharing the tank with the Texas Cichlids. Larger tanks mitigate their aggression and allow them to peacefully coexist (which is still not guaranteed considering their personality).

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Texas Cichlids prefer natural environments instead of artificial ones with fake plants. They are large fish and they need space to swim around freely, keeping this in mind you need to make sure not to overcrowd your tank with decorations. They also have a habit of redecorating the tank and for this reason your plants and decorations should be firmly placed in the tank so they cannot be uprooted.

When you add the substrate, keep in mind that sand works best for them because it not only resembles the river beds of Texas but it is also soft and will not injure them when they start digging for food or just for fun.

Keep the lid closed because these fish are agile and might jump out of the tank if they feel like it.

Last but not least, adding driftwood or bogwood will not only help with privacy but it will also mitigate aggression by giving each fish its own turf to rest in.


We would recommend adding a good quality filter suited for large tanks because they will need to clear up all the dust created by Texas Cichlids when they dig. A slight water flow is necessary to make them feel right at home

Tank Mates

In the wild, Texas Cichlids tend to stay isolated and all to themselves. However, as juveniles they are known to socialize but as soon as they grow up, their behavior completely changes and they start spontaneously attacking anything that gets too close for their liking.

When you keep Texas Cichlids in an aquarium, you need to absolutely make sure that the space is not tight, otherwise this will elevate the already aggressive personality of these cichlids.

If you want to place them in a community tank, the following fish will have a better chance at surviving with Texas Cichlids:

·         Jack Dempsey

·         Silver Dollars

·         Green Terror Cichlid

·         Firemouth Cichlid

·         Convict Cichlid

·         Jaguar Cichlid

·         Giant Gourami

All of these fish are large and fairly aggressive enough to survive in a tank with Texas Cichlids. The only requirement is space and lots of space.


These open spawning fish are quite easy to breed because they form their own pairs. When you see that your Texas Cichlids have picked their mates, it is best to place them in a separate breeding tank because their aggression multiplies during this period and their tank mates will suffer because of that. The breeding tank should have similar water parameters as the main tank, also remember to place a flat faced, clean surfaced rock on which they will lay eggs.

Once inside the breeding tank, you can condition them for spawning by feeding them a protein rich diet. When they are ready, they will initiate a mating ritual where they will chase each other around the tank, slap each other’s tails and even kiss their mates! They will then select a flat surfaced rock or dig a hole in the substrate, where they will lay some 500-1,000 sticky eggs.

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The eggs will hatch within three days, during which time the parents will viscously guard them against any that get too close. Once the eggs hatch, the fry will feed off the egg sac until 4-5 days, after which they will be able to swim freely. At this stage the aquarist can feed them powdered spirulina or baby brine shrimp.

Common Problems

Texas Cichlids are hardy fish and there are no illnesses specific to them but they are prone to parasitic, bacterial or fungal infections like any other fish in a community tank. Diseases such as ich and fin rot can set in if the conditions are favorable for them.

Ich is caused by parasites and is said to be related to stress. An easy way to tell if a fish is infected is by identifying white patches on its body. This is the early stage of ich, which can later lead to kidney and liver failure, eventually leading to death. This disease is highly contagious so it will require proper treatment. Infected fish should be quarantined and treated with over the counter medicine after consultation with a veterinary expert. The tank should be cleaned up and for future protection, the aquarist should carefully monitor water parameters because that is what results in the onset of this disease.

Another illness to worry about is fin rot. This is followed by injuries to the fins, especially the large dorsal fin of the Texas Cichlid. These injuries are often sustained during a fight with another fish (which they proactively take part in) or it can also result from rubbing against pointy decoration pieces. It can be treated with over the counter medication but a long term solution is the removal of pointy decoration pieces and creating more space to prevent aggression and fighting.


Q: How big does a Texas Cichlid get?

They grow to a size of 12 inches.

Q: How to make a Red Texas Cichlid?

It is an interbred hybrid between the standard Texas Cichlid and another Central American species.

Q: Are Texas Cichlids stacked in ponds in Texas?

Texas is their native habitat and they are commonly found in rivers and ponds there.


Just like any other Cichlid, these ones are also a bit tricky to handle given their aggressive personality but their large size is an added challenge for aquarists. Their care level is not easy because of a complete lack of compatibility with many community fish, they will survive a bit of instability in water parameters but they have a very bad personality to counter that weight.

We hope this article answers all your curious queries regarding Texas Cichlids but if you have any further questions or want to explore other cichlids for your tank, please do follow the links to other articles on our website. This is the place for you if you’re a fish nut like us!

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