Firemouth Cichlid: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

Firemouth Cichlids are a vibrant, ornamental Central American Cichlid with bright red mouths and luminescent fins. Even with their subtle aggression, these fish are an excellent option for newbie aquarists and can be a colorful addition to home aquariums.

Like many Cichlids, Firemouth is one of those select varieties that can add a fiery appearance to a community tank, but only if you provide ideal conditions. 

In the fishkeeping world, Firemouth Cichlids rank highly among the most colorful, classical Cichlid species that are perfect for community tanks, and it’s easy to see why.

You probably have to read this guide if you need a distinct Central American Cichlid with straightforward care requirements. Even if you are just a newcomer to the Cichlid world or a distant admirer, this guide still got you covered.

In the next paragraphs, we discuss every aspect of Firemouth Cichlid’s care, from the fish’s lifespan to appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and much more.

Species Overview

The eye-catching Firemouth Cichlid is a Central American fish of the Cichlidae family. They originate from the free-flowing rivers of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Besides, some varieties of the Firemouth Cichlids have been discovered in Guatemala and Belize.

Generally speaking, the Firemouth Cichlids can be considered an invasive species in many regions, considering their presence in remote locations no one could ever imagine.

The Firemouth given name comes from the brightly colored orange-red jaws, probably the most noticeable feature in these species. The beautiful jaws are even more pronounced in aggression, as the fully infuriated fish shows their flaring behavior to scare away fellow males.

The Firemouth Cichlids prefer warm, slow-flowing waters in murky environments in the natural habitat. They are skilled at navigating through shallow waters with poor visibility, which is critical for an ideal tank setup.

Now, the best news? Caring for the Firemouth Cichlids at home is pretty straightforward. And their presence in captivity is a sight to behold.

ColorRed and gray
LifespanUp to 15 years
Care LevelBeginner
Behavior & TemperamentSemi-aggressive
CompatibilityActive fish of similar size
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 7 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater; plants and sandy substrate with caves
Tank Size (Minimum)30 gallons


An average Firemouth Cichlid will easily live for up to 10 years with quality care. However, some species have lived for as many as 15 years in recent years, although under rare circumstances.

The fish’s average lifespan depends on the tank water conditions. However, the key determinants of good health like the general appearance will also define how long they will live in captivity.

So, be sure to pay attention to the fish’s appearance during purchase to ensure their health can sustain them for many years.


Firemouth Cichlids give a spectacular view in captivity, and you may want to keep them at home because of their beauty alone. Literally, it will be hard to turn them down once you spot these Cichlids at a local pet store. 

Usually, they have a prominent red coloration towards the edges of their beautiful scales to neatly complement their shiny, turquoise-blue bodies.

There are clear-cut differences between the male and female Firemouths which will be evident at first sight. For instance, the male Firemouth Cichlids boasts a vibrant red coloration with long fin rays. Conversely, the females have large, well-rounded bellies.

That being said, Firemouth Cichlids have a notable black mark just beneath the operculum. They might be widespread around the world, but some of the most colorful Firemouth species are not even found in their natural habitat. Instead, they’ve been located in Guatemala.


So, how big do Firemouth Cichlids get? A typical male Firemouth Cichlid will grow to about 6 inches in maturity. On the other hand, the females will reach approximately 5 inches in the right environment.

Firemouth Cichlids have a faster growth rate, and limiting them to a small tank won’t help them reach their optimal size.

So, be sure to have the right tank setup from the start. That implies Firemouth Cichlids will want a suitable aquarium with proper decorations from the first time you introduce them to the new habitat.

Firemouth Cichlid Care

Firemouth Cichlid care should be straightforward if you take every guideline seriously. Of course, everything won’t be a walk in the park, but caring for these fish at home should be less stressful, especially when compared to most Cichlid species.

First things first, the tank water quality matters most to Firemouths, and you can handle that by maintaining everything within the stable levels.

You will want to create a natural-looking habitat at any given time while also paying attention to the possible tank mates. So, let’s review the actual care guidelines in the next section;

Tank Size

We recommend a minimum tank size of 30 gallons for Firemouth Cichlids. Of course, they aren’t the largest Cichlids out there, but they deserve enough swimming space thanks to their activity levels.

Furthermore, restricting them to a cramped environment could easily destroy their mood in captivity or even shorten their lives. A lesser-known rule we’ve always lived with is the 30-10 strategy.

By this, we mean 30 gallons should be enough for a single Firemouth Cichlid, with an extra 5-10 gallons for any new fish joining the same habitat. That alone gives you a great chance of keeping healthy Firemouth Cichlids even as a newbie aquarist.

Water Parameters

As part of effective Firemouth Cichlid maintenance, routine care entails maintaining ideal tank water conditions. And here, you will find it less stressful if you tailor everything to match the fish’s natural habitat.

These fish would readily flourish under the following conditions;

  • Water Temperature: 75°F-86°F
  • Water Hardness: 8-15 dGH
  • pH Levels: 6.5-8.0

An interesting note about Firemouths is that they can tolerate slightly brackish waters despite being a freshwater species. Targeting such conditions would be pointless, and we would never recommend it to aquarists, but it’s something these fish can readily endure if they have to.

In conclusion, you must set up a suitable filtration system for your Firemouth Cichlids. This is key to eliminating contaminants to give your fish just the right environment to thrive.

The bottom line is to keep your fish in the best possible environment. And a suitable aquarium testing kit can be handy at this point to ensure the water parameters always stay within the recommended levels.

Plus, it’s only by measuring the tank water status frequently that you will understand if it suits your Cichlids.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Firemouth Cichlids come from Central America, a region dominated by slow-flowing, shallow rivers with plenty of mud. They favor quiet environments and spend much of their time towards the bottom of the rivers, safely protected by vegetation.

The same behavior pattern is dominant in captivity. And at any given time, Firemouth Cichlids will prefer their own space inside the tank.

With that in mind, the ideal tank setup should involve plenty of hiding places with the right elements. We could go as far as saying that’s the most important thing to Firemouth Cichlids.

Regardless of how you look at it, you will have plenty of options to help you achieve that, including driftwood, rocks, and plants.

As far as the general tank layering goes, the fish’s behavior and activity levels will come in handy during substrate selection. We recommend soft sand to limit the risk of physical injuries, given the fish’s persistent digging habits.

Common Diseases

Like most freshwater fish, Firemouth Cichlids are vulnerable to common bacterial, parasitic, and fungal infections.

You must pay attention to the possible Ich symptoms, a contagious freshwater fish that results from increased stress levels inside the primary tank. Normally, Ich presents with white spots on the fish’s body, including the fins and gills.

As far as Ich management goes, you can opt for natural remedies like adjusting the tank water temperature to up to 86°F or simply getting the right medicines. Sometimes, you will have to seek expert advice or contact experienced aquarists if the disease symptoms persist.

Apart from Ich, the Firemouth Cichlids are also quite susceptible to skin flukes and a range of parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections. The takeaway point is to understand most of the diseases affecting these fish and how to detect them.

Understanding the early signs to look out for will help you design the right treatment plan just in time and might be enough to save your Firemouth Cichlids from a more devastating outcome.

Like many species, we can’t think of a more effective way to prevent Firemouth diseases than maintaining stable water conditions. As long as you take care of the tank water status, your fish will be free from a range of freshwater diseases and will live their best life in captivity.

A more stressful way to keep Firemouth Cichlids is to constantly predispose them to unhealthy living conditions, including poor diet and the wrong tank mates. And certainly, you don’t want to follow that path. Or, do you?

What Do Firemouth Cichlids Eat?

Firemouth Cichlids will gladly accept most food items available in captivity. So, it’s your responsibility to ensure they feed on the right amount of high-quality food from the start. They are great hunters in the wild and specifically target crustaceans and the occasional plant supplements.

However, everything changes quickly in captivity, where they will most likely nibble on high-quality pellets and flakes as the primary meal.

Introducing them to protein-rich foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp from time to time is important to give them additional nutrients for survival.

Blanched vegetables are an important vitamin source, but Firemouth Cichlids can sometimes reject them.

A twice-a-day feeding plan is effective in limiting overfeeding. Also, be keen enough to ensure they complete a standard meal in as little as 2 minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

Firemouth Cichlids are a peace-loving species in the right environment. In other words, their behavior largely depends on the tank setup and the nature of the new habitat.

Keeping multiple species in the same environment will instantly trigger aggression, and the male species may be almost uncontrollable at this point.

Also, Firemouth Cichlids’ aggressive behavior may reach extreme levels during the breeding season. Tensions will easily rise inside the tank if the males fight over mating partners. So, you must control that by having more females than males.

As far as Firemouth Cichlids’ activity levels go, they are a reasonably active species and love to swim towards the middle of the tank. They can occasionally check on the substrate as many Cichlid species do.

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Mates

Firemouth Cichlids have a long list of possible tank mates with the right tank size. Usually, they don’t want to be the ones to start trouble inside the tank, so you must save them from the wrath of large, aggressive fish.

Also, small fish won’t be ideal tank mates for Firemouth Cichlids because they can constantly terrorize them and make life quite unbearable to the little fish in captivity.

That being said, these are some of the best tank mates for Firemouth Cichlids;

Other fish may not be on this list, but they are ideal tank mates for Firemouth Cichlids. And that goes to show just how expansive the list of suitable companions for Firemouths can be.

By the way, Firemouth Cichlids can’t coexist peacefully with shrimps and freshwater aquarium snails, and you must avoid them.

Another interesting bit of Firemouth Cichlid care is their relationship with the African Cichlids. Can they live together in captivity? Some will ask.

Well, if you are on the verge of introducing the African Cichlids to a Firemouth’s habitat, we have some bad and good news for you. The bad news is that these species don’t live together in the same tank.

And the good news, a few aquarists have managed to do it successfully in captivity. So while this appears like a classic case of trial and error, we would encourage you to keep these species separately just to be on the safer side.


Fortunately, Firemouth Cichlid breeding in captivity is straightforward once you understand the requirements.

The trickiest and most important step is to identify and pair the right species at a young age.

Here, you have two options. Firstly, you can purchase two or more species and pair them up in captivity right away. Alternatively, you can let your fish exercise their freedom by choosing their preferred mates in captivity.

Like with most fish, Firemouth Cichlids will need suitable spawning conditions and the right tank elements in place like rocks to lay their eggs. As far as the general spawning conditions go, start by adjusting the water temperatures to slightly higher levels as you observe the fish’s response.

In many cases, a neutral pH at around 7 to 7.2 and a 75°F-80°F water temperature will be efficient enough to induce breeding.

As usual, the females will lay many eggs as soon as mating is complete. Then, the highly agile male species will protect the eggs as everybody eagerly awaits the hatching period.

The new fry will accept baby brine shrimp, micro worms, and other high-quality juvenile fish food as they slowly learn to swim.

Final Thoughts

Now, that’s everything you will probably want to know about Firemouth Cichlid care and, even more importantly, why you should consider one for your aquarium.

We love these fish and think they would do with an even greater following in the aquarium community. They are just as captivating in captivity as they are in the wild.

For first-time keepers, you would be doing a great injustice to your Firemouth Cichlids by failing to maintain ideal tank water conditions throughout their lives in captivity.

At this point, it should be pretty clear whether you have everything it takes to maintain a thriving Firemouth Cichlid population or not. In other words, this is your time to decide if you need these species as part of a community tank.