Firemouth Cichlid Care: Habitat, Tank Requirements, Breeding & more

The Firemouth Cichlid, also known as the Red-breasted Cichlid, can bring fiery red colors to a freshwater aquarium. The species is easy to care for. 

Firemouth cichlids are peaceful but occasionally will show signs of aggressivity. This is most common during spawning when the pair begin digging in the substrate.


The Firemouth cichlid is similar to other Thorichthys fish. The biggest differentiating factor is the bright red color on their throat and abdomen. The body of Firemouth cichlids is yellow and green with horizontal black marks on the operculum, and vertical marks on the flank.

Firemouth cichlids are sexually dimorphic. 

Generally, mature males are 12 cm in length whereas females are 8 cm in length. Males will show colors more intensely especially during the breeding season.

A member of the Actinopterygii class, the T. meeki is borne with fins like rays. Typically, males will have longer fin rays than their female counterparts.


The firemouth cichlid that originates from Central America. The species is most often found in Guatemala and Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

Since Firemouth cichlid is an adaptive species. In the wild, they are generally in rocky streams. 

As with all fish, firemouth cichlids will need a filtered aquarium, that is free of ammonia and other harmful compounds. This can be achieved when the tank is fully cycled. 

Water conditions

pH6.5 to 8
Temperature74 to 86 degrees

Invasive species

The Firemouth cichlid, also known as the Thorichthys meeki, is currently considered an invasive species. Due to human activity, Firemouths have new habitats throughout the world. Currently, the cichlid can be found in over 7 countries, including the USA, Africa, and Australia.

Distribution map

Due to their size and aggressive behavior, the firemouth cichlid appears higher on the food chain. In new environments, this can be catastrophic for the native population of fish, which must now avoid predation and compete at a higher level for food and shelter. 

Furthermore, Firemouths show high levels of care for their offsprings, resulting in fast growth rates. During the spawning stage, Firemouths create spawning pits in the substrate through digging. During this stage of the breeding cycle, the pair becomes extremely territorial and further endangers native populations. 

How to Build Firemouth Cichlids Aquarium

Photo retrieved from the Central Florida Aquarium Society.

In my opinion, a Central American biotope is the best for Cichlids. The Central American biotopes typically have clear water, with a rocky bottom floor and a sand substrate.

Like most cichlids, they enjoy digging and rearranging their environments. It can be difficult to maintain a planted tank with cichlids.

Sagittaria by Tropica


Like most cichlids, Firemouths are likely to dig in the substrate, and rearrange plants around this. Hardy plants like Anubias, Echinodorus, Sagittaria and Vallisneria are good choices. 

Tank size

Since firemouths can be territorial, it’s better to have a bigger aquarium. This way, the cichlid will have enough space for his own, which can avoid in-fighting. 

Choose a relatively large aquarium, at least 20 gallons per Firemouth cichlid. If you plan to have a pair, you should get a tank that is at least 40 gallons. If you plan on creating a community fish, sure to get a larger tank. First, add a layer of sand. Choose a thick/pebbly natural sand. Add rocks and pebbles, and wigs and or thin tree branches.


The firemouth cichlid is an omnivorous species. In the wild, their diet consists primarily of algae and insect larvae. In an aquarium, the red breasted cichlid can have a wide variety of foods, including flakes, brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii), microworms, bloodworms and algae wafers. 

It is recommended that the offspring of the firemouth cichlid eat brine shrimp to have them grow fast and healthy.


Firemouths are monogamous and are highly committed to their young. 

The pair will watch over the eggs and rear the fry once they hatch.

The spawning stage can be induced by setting the temperature of the aquarium between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the spawning stage has begun, the pair will begin digging a spawning pit. This is where the female will lay between 100 to 500 eggs. Afterwhich, the male will fertilize. 

Cichlids will become increasingly aggressive and increasingly territorial during breeding season. This is why we recommend a large aquarium if the cichlids are living in a community. This will prevent in-fighting. 

Tank Mates 

Firemouth Cichlids can live in community aquariums with fish that are comparable in size or small schooling fish.

Other cichlids like the Jack Dempsey Cichlid or Blue Acaras make for perfect fit. Avoid smaller cichlids as they’ll be prone to harassment due to their slowness.

Schooling fish like neon tetras are also a good choice.


Most varieties of cichlid show signs of aggressivity. In the case of the Firemouth cichlid, the fish will flare its fiery red throat. This is typically enough to avoid an all-out fight. Ensure that other fish in the aquarium can quickly evade aggression, using hardscapes and plants.


Eukaryota KingdomMetazoa
SpeciesThorichthys meeki


“Thorichthys Meeki (Firemouth Cichlid).” Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, 10 Dec. 2019,

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