Red Devil 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.

Red Devil Cichlids are uniquely beautiful freshwater Cichlids that pop up in many conversations involving large, territorial species as pet fish.

They are such a playful and colorful species that even their aggressive temperament hasn’t stopped aquarists from pursuing Red Devil Cichlids as a wholesome addition to their aquariums.

For distant admirers or first-time Cichlid keepers, these feisty freshwater fish have specific requirements that you must first understand before heading to a local pet store.

If you love them for their fun personalities, you should go one step ahead to understand exactly what they need to flourish at home. And don’t hesitate to go through this guide to help you master what Red Devil Cichlid care is all about.

In the following paragraphs, we introduce you to the mesmerizing world of the eye-catching Red Devil Cichlids. The next section will cover the fish’s origin, general appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Species Overview

Red Devil Cichlid, sometimes called Amphilophus labiatus, is a lovable freshwater fish of the Cichlidae family. Many aquarists choose this fish because of its likable personality and the strong bond it develops with its owner over time.

But for first-time Cichlid keepers, keeping Red Devil Cichlids at home won’t be a walk in the park. They might be resilient for the better part of the days, but their aggressive tendencies could restrict them to experienced aquarists.

In our opinion, aquarists should only consider Red Devil Cichlids if they can commit to creating the best possible environment or at least have some foundational experience in keeping another aggressive species.

In the natural environment, Red Devil Cichlids have been identified in Central America, specifically in the lakes of Xiloa, Nicaragua, and Managua.

LifespanUp to 12 years
Care LevelDifficult
Behavior & TemperamentAggressive
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 15 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with plants and rocks
Tank Size (Minimum)55 Gallons


In general, Red Devil Cichlids live for around 10-12 years in a confined environment. Some aquarists have managed to extend the fish’s lifespan in captivity, but that depends on the actual living conditions.

Like most Cichlids, the average lifespan of Red Devil fish hinges on the overall tank water quality, the nature of their habitat, and diet.


Red Devil Cichlids are an intimidating species for many reasons, and if you are seeing them for the first time, you will be amazed by their beefy appearance.

But it doesn’t stop there. These fish have elongated and prominent dorsal and anal fins to effortlessly balance their bodies on the water.

There are no clear-cut differences between male and female Red Devil fish apart from the traditional nuchal hump in the former. Also, male Red Devil Cichlids appear larger than females.

In terms of general body coloration, you will spot several varieties depending on the genetic composition.

The standard coloration is brown and gray, but we’ve seen other popular varieties like bright red, yellow, and white Red Devil Cichlids in the wild. Don’t be surprised to see even the rarer multi-colored species like the black-tipped Cichlids from local pet stores.

Generally, most Red Devil Cichlids have fleshy, orange lips that can assume a black coloration depending on the species.

Also, they have big teeth with strong jaws that can be devastating during a fight. Their strong jaws alone emphasize the predatory instincts that have made them quite scary to small species, as you will find out if you select the wrong tank mates.


On average, a full-grown Red Devil Cichlid will measure about 15 inches in captivity. So, they are among the largest freshwater Cichlids, even though the standard size and growth rate will depend on the actual tank water conditions.

They enjoy a moderate growth rate and should have reached full maturity by three years.

Red Devil Cichlid Care

While beginner hobbyists may have trouble coping with Red Devil Cichlids’ behavior, advanced aquarists will find it easier to maintain these fish if they have enough experience keeping another territorial species.

These fish can adapt to different conditions, and their hardiness readily endears them to different aquarists. To help simplify the process, here’s what you should know about Red Devil Cichlid care;

Tank Size

Ideally, a single Red Devil Cichlid will be happy in a 55-gallon tank. That’s what we recommend to anyone willing to keep these fish at home.

However, you need significant investment to keep a bonded pair because they demand at least a 125-gallon tank capacity. It gets even more expensive for multi-species because the chosen tank should have at least a 200-gallon capacity.

Let’s be honest. Red Devil Cichlids are simply not the species to be confined in a small, cramped tank with unsuitable tank mates. And if you can’t set up the right tank from the get-go, you’d better consider other small-sized species. 

Starting with a small tank doesn’t help the situation either because it won’t be long before considering an expensive upgrade to the primary aquarium.

Water Parameters

The commonly ignored aspect of Red Devil Cichlid care is tank water conditions. If you dream of creating a perfect community, you must first set up an ideal environment with suitable conditions. And normally, this entails mimicking the actual conditions in the wild.

You can always tweak the tank water status depending on the existing environmental conditions. However, it’s important to stick to what works best for your fish at all times.

That means targeting the following range is the way to go;

  • Water Temperature: 75°F-79°F
  • Water Hardness: 6-25 dGH
  • pH Level: 6.5-7.5

As we’ve always emphasized, be sure to regularly cycle the tank water to promote the fish’s health in captivity.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Creating the best environment for Red Devil Cichlids starts with adequate preparation. Remember, we are talking about a highly aggressive species that will be furious in a subpar environment.

Sometimes, Red Devil Cichlids can be so restless that they completely rearrange the entire aquarium. When this happens, don’t despair. It’s your pet friend’s way of expressing their playful traits at home and shouldn’t worry you at all if you have the suitable substrate.

Talking of substrate choice, Red Devil Cichlids will be happy with fine sand at the bottom of the tank. Remember, these fish are passionate diggers, and introducing gravel or small rocks to the bottom of the tank readily predisposes them to physical injuries. 

Interestingly, Red Devil Cichlids are not fond of live plants in their natural environment. These aggressive species will want to attack anything on sight and instantly shred any live plants inside the tank. Also, they will want to uproot the natural plants when digging.

That being said, be sure to provide enough hiding places with the right decorative elements like wood and rocks. However, ensure the rocks have sturdy anchor points for the fish’s safety and comfort.

Finally, if it’s time to set up the right filtration equipment, choose powerful dual filters with moderately flowing current to guarantee your fish’s safety at home.

Airstones are an additional nice-to-haves to promote proper aeration inside the aquarium.

We mentioned that Red Devil Cichlids would want to attack practically anything on sight. So, be sure to protect your equipment from their wrath by dealing with reputable sellers.

Common Diseases

Red Devil Cichlids are not vulnerable to specific diseases affecting their family. Still, they may be predisposed to common diseases within the fish-keeping community.

Like most Cichlid varieties, Red Devil Cichlids are susceptible to Ich, a highly contagious parasitic infection that causes visible white spots all over the fish’s body.

An Ich outbreak can have a devastating effect without a timely intervention and, in some cases, may even have a lethal outcome.

Luckily, treating it is easier with common over-the-counter medications. Some aquarists have treated this disease using conservative methods like increasing the water temperature to about 86°F. But if both methods don’t work, it’s time to seek expert advice.

Ich is like any other freshwater ailment you can manage with the right medications, but the real elephant in the room is the hole in the head disease. It is sometimes called the Head and Lateral Line Disease and is abbreviated as HLLE.

Like Ich, this condition also presents with visible holes on the fish’s body, face, and head and results from reduced tank water quality and nutrient deficiencies.

We can’t claim that your Red Devil Cichlids will be entirely safe from common freshwater diseases.

However, we believe the first step to keeping a healthy community is to provide ideal living conditions at home. Always prioritize high-quality water by performing frequent changes at least every week and installing the right filtration system to eliminate contaminants.

If you can’t keep up with the conventional guidelines, simply stick to our recommendations for the standard water temperatures, pH levels, and water hardness to create the best environment for your cute-looking Cichlids.

What Do Red Devil Cichlids Eat?

Red Devil Cichlids are often mistaken for carnivorous species like most Cichlids, while in reality, they are natural omnivores. That means they will feed on any food available inside the tank.

An ideal diet for Red Devil Cichlids would include high-quality live food and dry food. Fish flakes and pellets supplemented with crickets, bloodworms, and krill would be great for a standard meal in captivity. 

To ensure your Cichlids acquire all nutrients, you can introduce them to vitamins from vegetable sources on occasion.

Many aquarists are tempted to include mammalian meats like beef and chicken in a Red Devil Cichlid’s diet. However, we strongly discourage that because it can cause endless intestinal issues in a healthy population.

Given their large size, be ready for an exciting adventure when feeding Red Devil Cichlids because they need huge amounts of food that you can provide at specific times of the day.

Behavior & Temperament

Red Devil Cichlids have an aggressive personality. Interestingly, they bond well with their owners and will show their enthusiasm from time to time.

But being such an aggressive and territorial species, these Cichlids don’t coexist with any fish in the same habitat. They can terrorize any small fish on sight and, when incensed, may even attack and destroy the tank decorations.

If they are tired of swimming, Red Devil Cichlids will spend much of their time fighting other fish or asserting their dominance over weaker species inside the aquarium.

As you may probably guess, these fish require enough swimming space to roam around the tank freely and at least control their aggression. Keeping these fish in a small tank or a subpar environment can only worsen the situation just in the same way as reduced tank water quality.

Red Devil Cichlid Tank Mates

With their aggressive tendencies, it’s almost impossible to keep another fish inside a Red Devil Cichlid’s habitat. That’s why we recommend just a single species inside the tank at any given time.

If you intend to keep Red Devil Cichlids with other species, you must first train the juvenile fish and ensure they don’t show any aggression towards the newcomers.

Young fish don’t seem as aggressive as the adult species, but this isn’t guaranteed either because some varieties will still be hostile in full maturity.

If you are going with multiple species in the same tank, be ready to create a sizable aquarium that can accommodate all fish at home.

Also, you can introduce enough distractors in the form of multiple hiding spots to limit aggression and control the fish’s territorial behavior.

And finally, some good news? It’s possible to pair Red Devil Cichlids in captivity. In that case, you will have to select a suitable male and female species as juvenile fish and couple them up inside the primary tank from a young age.


The good thing about most Cichlid fish is that they are easy to breed in captivity. So, the Red Devil varieties will be no exception.

Being a strictly monogamous species, it’s easy to pair Red Devil Cichlids in captivity from a young age. This allows the selected pair to form a strong bond and simplify the breeding process.

The ideal breeding conditions entail temperature adjustment up to around 77°F. Of course, we are assuming that at this point, you will have already started to feed your Red Devil Cichlids on high-quality protein-rich foods like worms.

As breeding continues, the female Red Devil Cichlids will select the right spot, like on the sandy substrate or flat rocks, to lay around 700 eggs. Then, the eggs will hatch in 3-4 days.

The best part? Red Devil Cichlids are super protective of their young ones. Sometimes, they may even transfer them to a new hiding spot to ensure the little ones are safe from potential intruders.

For the aquarist, the excitement of owning a new species only peaks when the new fry learns how to swim within a week.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve mastered Red Devil Cichlid care, are you convinced they are the best pets for your home aquarium? Honestly, we can never tell.

But as you can see, caring for these fish is not as challenging as many people insinuate. They can form the perfect bond with their owners in the right environment, which adds to their admirable personalities.

If you are committed to creating the best environment, these fish could quickly become your favorite pet fish in no time. As a beginner hobbyist, we’ve summarized everything you need to know to make your fish-keeping adventure less stressful. Probably it’s time to give it a try, then!