Firemouth Cichlid – Care, Size, Breeding, Tank Mates & Details You Need!

Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) is very popular among aquatic lovers and keepers because of its natural care. It is being kept by aquarists all over the world for centuries and is the oldest fish among those who love this hobby.

Quick Stats

Scientific name: Thorichthys meeki
Common name: Firemouth cichlid
Diet: Omnivorous
Temperament: Territorial
Maximum size: 6 inches
Colour: Pearlescent turquoise-blue body with red coloration (adult)
Minimum tank size: 29 gallons
Temperature: 68-89°F (20-32°C)
Care level: Moderate
Water conditions: 6.5-8.5 pH and soft to very hard

Firemouth Cichlid Description

The firemouth cichlid is a beautiful fish with a turquoise-blue body and red coloration on the edges of its scales. The breast and throat of this fish are red, which varies from a brick red to a fiery red shade.

There are vertical black bands that are present along the body of the firemouth cichlid, starting from the eyes.

There are turquoise spots on the membranes of the fins and red shade on the dorsal fin. The female firemouth cichlid is not as bright as the male ones.

The irises of these fish are blueish, and the unpaired fins are reddish or pinkish, as stated earlier. The cichlids become brighter when they are excited or are going through the spawning period.

The fish is hugely compressed laterally and has a sloping forehead and a pointed snout. The appearance of this fish depends a lot on its state, conditions, and environment.

Thus, there are slight changes within the same species, and not all firemouth cichlid looks precisely the same.

This fish has an aggressive territorial behavior, so it tends to attack or harass smaller fish in the tank. Its spawning period is a bit difficult, which is why it is recommended to keep the big fish of this species in a separate tank where there are no small fish.

Overall, this fish is excellent for both novice aquarists and professional ones, as they are easy to take care of

Firemouth Cichlid Care

The firemouth cichlid is a peaceful species and can be a good companion, but there may be aggressiveness if there are different fish sizes in the same tank.

Therefore, it is a good idea to keep a group of such fish in a single tank because they get along with each other well.

A 50-gallon water tank is good for keeping a group of cichlids. You can also keep some plants in the spacious aquarium to keep the fish happy.

Overall, the fish have an easygoing nature as they aren’t too demanding. It is good to keep these fish in an aquarium filled with plants and fine, soft sand substrate.

It is essential not to use sharp sand as the fish expel harmful materials through their gills while they eat food morsels.

This type of fish is mostly found in still lowland or slow-moving waters and the middle and lower sections of canals, ditches, rivers, rocky ponds, and lagoons.

The waters of these environments are filled with submerged branches, leaf litter, and smooth rocks and are sandy or strewn.

Aquarium Condition

The tank in which you’re keeping these fish should be adequately covered with smooth rockwork or driftwood. The fish should also have a functional space for swimming.

You can also create a more territorial atmosphere by placing clean and unused flower pots to make a cave. You can also use dried Indian almond leaves to provide a realistic look of leaf litter.

You must make sure that there is enough space in the sand so that the cichlids can sift through it quickly.

If there is more space available for the firemouth cichlid to swim, they’ll behave more naturally and will be happier. However, they can reproduce even if the aquarium is small.

Having good water quality that is free of nitrate is imperative for the health and wellbeing of cichlids. The recommended water temperature is 24 to 26 °C. The pH values and water hardness don’t have a tremendous impact on these fish.

If you have adult cichlids, you must have an aquarium measuring around 5 to 6 ft, but for smaller fish, an aquarium measuring at least 4 ft will do.

The purity of the tank is also an essential factor. You should make sure that there are lots of live plants and an external filter for the purpose.

Though the cichlids aren’t big diggers, they still dig and would love it if there is a clay pot for spawning.

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Mates

Firemouth Cichlids are not very aggressive and settle down comfortably. They flare their gills to show their aggressiveness or superiority. These fish are usually only aggressive when they are breeding. Overall, they are peaceful and shy.

However, a piece of good advice is to keep these fish in a species-only tank or aquarium because if there are other more noisy or energetic fish, things might get worse.

Some good tankmates of cichlids include splitfins, swordtail fish, rainbowfish, armored suckermouth, and small to medium-sized central American characins.

Firemouth Cichlids can’t handle too much stress and don’t feel confident or safe when there are more abundant and more aggressive species around.

A surprising fact is that cichlids can die out of fear because of the larger fish around.

Female cichlids are better at handling stress and can find other protectors in the tank, while the male cichlids only feel harassed.

If you’re creating a one-species setup, the right idea is to keep 2 to 3 cichlid couples in the tank.

Firemouth Cichlid Feeding

Firemouth Cichlids are omnivorous, but too much protein intake can lead to indigestion. In the natural environment, cichlids eat larvae, worms, and various spineless species.

Frozen food is an excellent source of protein for cichlids, which include brine shrimps, Mysis, bloodworm, blackworm, white mosquito larvae, and daphnia.

They also love eating dried foods such as green flake, slow-sinking granules, cichlid pellets, and crushed algae wafers. You can also include some fresh vegetables in the cichlids’ diet to keep them healthy and happy all the time.

Hence, the diet of cichlids mostly revolves around crustaceans, and they also feed on invertebrates in the wild. You can add organic detritus and plant matter occasionally into their diet.

You have to make sure that your cichlids have a varied diet. For this purpose, you should introduce high-quality pellets or flake food on a daily basis. The frequency of feeding should be several times a day, and since these species are not picky eaters, you won’t find any difficulty feeding them.

Firemouth Cichlid Breeding

Firemouth cichlid breed in captivity without any difficulty. They can even mate without any intervention from the aquarist. Still, it is essential to provide them with a quality diet, and the water should be changed regularly so that the breeding condition is improved.

If you can’t find any mature pair of cichlids, you can keep a group of 4 to 6 juveniles in the same tank, and they’ll make pairs when they mature. The best way to keep cichlids is to have a proven mated pair for breeding, but juveniles will also do.

After the fish have paired, they’ll soon breed and lay eggs on a flat surface. Most female cichlids lay eggs on flat rocks, so it is recommended to arrange such an environment. You might also notice that some of them lay eggs on the aquarium wall, while others do so on the driftwood or decorations.

If this is the first time that the cichlids are laying eggs, they might not be aware of parenting and may consume their own eggs. Don’t worry if your cichlids are destroying their eggs; they’ll learn after a few tries.

Firemouth Cichlid Fry

The female firemouth cichlid lay eggs in a long row, and the male cichlids move along the row and fertilize them. A female can lay hundreds of eggs in one go, and the male will fertilize every last one.

Once the parents have learned to protect their eggs, they will take good care of them. The male cichlid guards the eggs very aggressively, so if there are other tank mates, it can be dangerous. It is, thus, advised to keep the pairs in a separate tank when they are breeding.

The fry will be seen swimming within a week after the eggs have been fertilized. You can feed them powdered flake food and baby brine shrimp. The parents will also help them find food in the tank and care for them for six weeks, after which the fry will grow up and can be separated from the parents.

Firemouth Cichlid Diseases

As they are freshwater fish, the firemouth cichlid is subjected to various diseases and infections. One common condition is an itch in which white spots occur on the body of the fish.

Since the firemouth cichlid can tolerate high temperatures, to treat this disease, you can increase the temperature of the tank to 30°C for a few days. If this remedy doesn’t work, you can use copper-based medicine as a cure.

Firemouth cichlid is also prone to fungal, bacterial, and parasitic infections. Thus, it is essential to know the symptoms of these infections and their treatments.

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