Firemouth cichlids is a popular aquatic that can amuse the fish enthusiasts with its plethora of colors, patterns, and eye-catching beauty.

It’s crimson and blue undertone is mesmerizing and not just the fish of the same species but other smaller companions are also threatened by its mean blazing red color.

The fiery red underside of the body is a distinct feature in the fish, with scattered incandescence spread across the scales, fins, and the fish’s snout.

They have delightful eyes, and within a dark-colored backdrop of an aquarium, this fish contrasts like a star in the midnight sky.

These fish make excellent pets due to their low maintenance and highly playful nature.

Species Overview

Attributes of the Species
Scientific Name Thorichthys meeki
Family Cichlid
Common Names Firemouth meeki, Fire belly Cichlid
Longevity 10 – 15 years
Maximum length 17 cm
Breeding Egg-laying
Habitat Native to Central America
Temperament Jolly
Type Freshwater

Place of Origin and Habitat

This species of cichlid was first discovered around the water bodies of Central America in El Salvador, Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala by a scientist in the early twentieth century.

They are prominently seen in the vast area, beginning from Atlantic slopes covering North-East of Mexico to the upper Yucatan peninsula region.

The most apparent occurrence of the firemouth cichlid is observed in the low-land regions of the major rivers that include Tonala, Pichucalco, Candelaria, Champoton, and Belize River.

They can suitably inhabit shallow waterbeds such as lakes, small streams, springs, brackish waters, lagoons, and sinkholes around the Yucatan.

Firemouths generally populate the motionless waters surrounded with soft turbid and rich plant growth where they can feed and burrow the sands or maybe lay eggs.

The species was brought to a few Asian countries like Singapore in the later years, which multiplied their existence.

Fact: The fire mouths are primarily found in slow-moving river ends that are just 150 meters above sea level, and their existence secludes the backwaters in the upper regions.

Maximum Attainable Size

A full-grown firemouth cichlid attains its maximum length of 6.7 inches, and larger fish tanks are quite effective in achieving this length.

However, the aquarists have found that they usually stay under-sized in captivity when compared to other the firemouths of the wild.

The male fishes in the aquariums have an average size of 5.5 – 6 inches, while firemouth cichlid females grow up to 4 – 5 inches in length

Appearance and Colors of the Fish

The silhouette of the fish resembles a Japanese shuriken blade-like shape. and the snout, is tapered like a triangle, hinting an acute angle.

The fish protects itself from predation with the help of small spikes present over the fins. While these fins are softly positioned at the front to enable swift movements in the water.

The body of the firemouth Cichlid is tinted in an anemic mixture of blue, grey, and orange colors.

They have black stripes and random luminous green or blue dots on the scales, head, and fins. Some of them possess a black-spots on the body.

The lower part of the mouth is red, which spans at least one-third of the fish’s body.

Fact: Large-sized caudal, pectoral, and dorsal fins, help firemouth cichlids to swim very fast in turbulent rapids, easily maneuvering their way across the water.


The firemouth cichlid can sustain a maximum of15 years in an appropriate healthy environment.

The fish can efficiently finish ten years in captivity. It isn’t hard to achieve the ideal water temperature, hardness, and cleanliness with proper food that keeps them healthy and long-lived.

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Male/ Female Firemouth Cichlid

Although there are some prominent differences between male vs. female Firemouth cichlid, but these are not easily recognizable. Here is a comparative analysis of the minutely observable physical attributes that may help identify the fish’s gender.

  • The females have circular fins while the males have the protruded form.
  • Unlike the male firemouths, the females have an unusually blunt-looking genital papilla opening.
  • Males are bright and vibrant in their colors, whereas females have a more blanched and pallid tone in their chrome.
  • Female fishes are smaller and a bit rounder in shape than that of a male. When the spawning season arrives, the fishes carry eggs in their belly, which can protrude and seem puffy.
  • The overall size of a male fish averages more than the female.

Quick fact: Male firemouths do not possess a projection on the skin covering the genitalia, which is biologically restricted only to a female.

Market Price and Availability of Firemouth Cichlids

The rainbow cichlid with a firemouth is a fascinating creature. This fish is generously available worldwide due to high demand from fish keepers, and enthusiasts.

Firemouth cichlids for sale were restricted to Central America and the USA in the latter part of the twentieth century, still, now Asian countries import these in bulk for commercial purpose.

The market price of a firemouth ranges from 5 US dollars to 10 US dollars. The best option is to purchase the mas juveniles.

Caring for a Firemouth Cichlid Step by Step

Quick Care Tips
Degree of Care Easy
Breeding Egg-laying species
Social Temperament Semi-hostile in nature
Dietary Habit Omnivore
Strength Hardy

Food habits

Firemouth cichlids are opportunivore fish; they prefer to feed on vegetables and organic plant matter, but whenever they get the chance to eat meat, they feed on that too. These fishes are not commonly finicky regarding their food choice.

While in the natural water bodies, these fishes can feed on the seaweeds, algae, and rockweed present at the surface of the waterbed. Plants and green vegetation growing over the water surface are also consumed.

Below is a preferred list of itemsthat you can feed them in the aquariums.

  • Pellets & Flakes frozen & dried as supplements.
  • Greens such as dried and shredded arugula can also be a staple food for maintaining a steady diet with rich nutrients and enough calories.
  • Spinach, or cucumber in the crushed form, is a good substitute for green vegetation.
  • Brine shrimps & worms (blood, white, tubifex) to fulfill meat requirements as a weekly diet.
  • Live foods can be given but should be limited; limitation ensures low chances of fatal diseases.
  • Larva, Daphnia, or Plankton can also be considered.

Behavior and Temperament

These fish are semi-aggressive in their personality and can share a tank with other fishes given that the mates are of the same size. The smaller ones will becomequick supper to them.

Firemouths are monogamous and are seen to form pairs that reproduce and live together with their offspring. They do not prefer to move in groups; instead, the males try to claim their territory.

During the time of laying eggs, the males can be hostile towards other fishes, be it the same species or different. They attempt to broaden the deep red gills and show dominance over other fishes or mating competitors.

Firemouth cichlids are usually seen swimming in the mid-water range but often lodge themselves on the substrate and nibble over aquatic plants with their snouts.


These are very casual and un-demanding species with a classic approach towards forming a family. The firemouth cichlids pair with a single partner and fulfil their duties as a parent.

The females do not make typical choices in laying eggs. It can be done over plain rocks, log holes, or shallow spaces over the substrate.

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Though it comes with an easy approach for breeding in an artificial setup, the young couples are often observed to feel stressed out in the process. In such situations, they might either feed on the eggs or not fertilize them.

So to avoid any negative impact on the breeding pair, you should follow the expert guidelines and provide favorable conditions to get the best output.


To begin the process, you should arrange a medium-level tank, and fill it with water at room temperature, with balanced acidity and hardness.

Induce the pair carefully, and leave them undisturbed for some time after feeding. The males make specific actions to attract the partner, and if there are multiple options for pairing, they often indulge in anguished behaviors to rule the situation.

Note: The males woo females with their beautiful colored gills by an act of gill flaring.


The eggs are laid after mating. These eggs are carefully spawned on artificial mops, plant leaves, or the tank bed.

The process of fertilization can take up to 15-20 days. During this time period, the females may carry the eggs inside their snout for extra protection. It might also burrow into the substrate to store the eggs.

Fact: These fishes are of egg-laying nature, and the females can deposit between 100 – 500 eggs at a time.


After mating, fertilization follows and then comes the stage of hatching. The fry of firemouth cichlid is protected by the parents even after they hatch.

The females act as the caregivers, while the males behave protectively towards the eggs, fry, and even after several days before they mature.

It takes a few days for the fry to begin swimming, and now you should provide them feeds like nauplii, or small worms.

Author Note: The males often show possessiveness towards the babies and harm the females. In such a case, you can either separate them or induce another fish to distract the father from the mother.

Common Diseases

Though being tough & adaptable in nature these fishes are prone to common freshwater fish diseases., ich is among the conventional diseases that disturb the health conditions of the firemouth cichlid

Ich can be diagnosed by spotting irregular white dots on the scales and the fish’s body. You can prevent this by regulating water conditions and proper diet.

Bacterial and fungal illnesses can also trouble the fish, for you need to take precautions and treat the disease at a prior stage with proper medicine from vets.

Author’s tip: Medicines with the appropriate quantity of copper must be used to treat freshwater fishes.

Tank Care

Tank Care Elements
Minimum Size 35 – 40 Gallons
Water Type Medium-hard water (8 – 15 DH)
Water Temperature 76 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 6.5 – 8
Substrate White sand
Lighting Not necessary

Tank Size

Adequate tank size should be maintained to motivate the optimum growth of these fishes. The tank size of Fire mouth cichlid should be no less than 140 liters for a pair of male and female fish.

They love to swim continuously, and it is seen that fishes in small aquariums do not reach their potential size because they do not get enough space for movement.

Therefore it is best to arrange a comparatively bigger tank if you are petting more pairs. If you wish to put them in a community tank having small companions, then increase the tank size to avoid stressful reactions.

Tank Attributes and Configuration


Anubias, Java ferns, and Hornworts are plants that have roots sunken deep into the aquarium bed. These are floating plants that create the natural habitat environment. Hardy plants should be planted in these fish tanks as they tend to excavate the sand that covers the plant roots.

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Lighting can be as per the choice of the individual. We would suggest lights that highlight the beautiful colors and glowing patterns on the fish’s body. Lighting the tank is necessary if there are plants in your tank; otherwise, lighting is optional.


Substrates other than gravels could be a good choice as gravel beds can’t be burrowed easily.

But for breeding them in a tank when firemouths need to burrow to lay eggs, a sandpit will be just the right choice. Any sand that will contrast the color of the fish will look aesthetic.

Oxygen and Filtration

Oxygen pumps such as an airstone or a sponge filter are necessary to create a surface agitation for oxygen. As long as the water’s surface has constant churning and turbulence, oxygen will permeate. A casket canister filter and a heater are highly suggested.

Decoration and ornamentation

Decorating the firemouth cichlid tank with stones and driftwood can be helpful as they like to hide inside cave-like structures. An appropriate colored poster at the back of the tank can highlight the fish in the foreground.

Plants with large leaf blades can be used to decorate the tank. Artificial plants can also suffice the need for decoration, as these fishes try to pluck plants off the substrate.

Water Parameter

Firemouth is a sturdy fish that can acclimatize to any changes in water conditions with ease.It is a freshwater fish but can adapt to brackish or saline waters if required.

We can deduce that these fishes require slightly hard water to survive properly. Firemouths are from the water bodies of the tropics; thus, water temperature should be around 24 degrees Celsius to 29 degrees Celsius.

The pH value of the water should be around 6.5 to 8, which is very slightly basic on the scale.

Tank Mates

The tank mates of Firemouth cichlid should be selected with considerable knowledge of the fish profiles into play. It is a known fact that they are relatively hostile towards other fishes, especially during mating season.

These fishes are non-aggressive until they are disturbed. Thus peace-loving tankmates similar or slightly bigger will be a good choice, given that there is enough room for all of them.

A list of compatible tank mates is given below:

  • Similar sized Tetra fishes
  • Clown Pecos
  • Severum fish
  • Blue Acara
  • Corydoras
  • Parrotfish
  • Giant Danios

Frequently Asked Questions

How many Firemouth cichlids should you keep together?

These fishes should be kept in pairs. Isolating a fish can trigger the fish to become more violent. 6-8 cichlids in a tank will be fine, as two males and females will form a pair and stick together.

Can I keep red wag platy with a firemouth cichlid?

Red wagtail platy fish is a small fish that grows to a maximum length of 2 inches. Keeping a firemouth with this fish can be risky as bigger fishes bully small fishes, and they feel a constant strain and tension in their life.

Can they live with guppies?

Due to the fierce nature of firemouths during the spawning seasons, guppies can be susceptible to attacks and can become their meal. Guppies are small fishes. It is not recommended to pair firemouths with guppies.

How fast do they grow?

Firemouth cichlids are very sluggish or steady in their growth. These fishes grow up to 2.5-3 inches in size in the initial year. After 4-5 years, these fish can reach their optimum size, which is 5-6 inches.

Do firemouths change colors?

Attractive metallic shades are the unique selling price of the fish, and they are indeed observed changing colors. They can form 16 recognizable shades over their scales. It usually happens as they age or enhance in size.


Firemouth cichlids are a fantastic specie with exuberant looks and charming behavior. If you are a beginner as an aquarist, we highly recommend you look forward and get this.

There is a wide range of cichlids one can select from to put in their aquariums. Due to their easy and simple caretaking regime, amateur and beginner aquarists are suggested to pet firemouths. The jaw-dropping beauty is the bonus.

Tending to its elementary requirements, you will not have to work much on any exclusive accessories. It can sustain well with a basic tank setup.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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