Red Devil Cichlid is a species of the Cichlidae family known for its anger and viciousness among the aquarists.

These are popular among many aquarists because of their high-spirited nature and are often petted as solitary fish since they don’t settle down well with other species.

This fish is native to Central America but was introduced in some parts of Asia, where it became a threat to other fish and started showing invasiveness.

A unique catastrophe is that the species has to share its general name, “Red Devil” with another family member, A. Citrinellus, also called Midas. They both have yellow shades with similar behavior, so the confusion arises.

Lets’ find out more about this destructive creature from the waters with the guidelines you must follow to pet them successfully in an aquarium.

Species Details

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name Amphilophus Labiatus
Other Common Name Red Devil Fish, Mojarra Rayada
Family Cichlidae
Origin Lakes Nicaragua(Central America)
 Average Lifespan 10 to 12 years
Max. Length 24 cm
Type Freshwater
IUCN Red List Not Evaluated/ Not Listed

Origin & Habitat

Red Devil Cichlid is a widespread habitat in the Central & South American region and is prominently found in the lakes of Nicaragua.

These are freshwater species from the tropical zones but are rarely seen in the rivers of America until the water flow rate is too slow.

Their significant dwelling places include Lake Managua, Lake Xiloa, and Lake Nicaragua, close to the Atlantic slopes around Costa Rica.

They have also been introduced to other regions in North America- Peurto Rico, Oceania- Hawaii, Florida, and the Asian continent- Singapore.

They are mostly found at the bottom in the wild, swimming among the dead logs and big rocks with crevices.

Fact: An astonishing fact is that the red devil fishes are also found in the brackish waters of Singapore, which is opposite to their natural habitat preference.

Their habitat is very dangerous as the lake where they are found inhabits one of the deadly predators of the aquatic world like Bull Sharks or Lake Nicaragua Sharks.

How Long Do They Live?

The red devil fish possess high sustainability and hardy nature. They live up to ten years in the wild while competing for food and defending themselves from predators. 

These fishes robustly complete about 10 – 12 years in captivity, provided they get a healthy and stress-free environment with nutritious food.

Size & Appearance

Red Devil Cichlids are strong, bulky fish. They have spiky dorsal and anal fins that help them swim faster and spurt in water when they need to escape from predators.

They usually look dull shaded in the wild and appear to be brownish-gray or greyish-green, which is an adaptation to help them hide in the natural vegetations and rocks.

It also comes in various colors, such as red, orange, yellow, and white, with black spots or irregular bands on the tail and fins.

The lips are in beautiful orange or black shade, with sharp, large-sized teeth, and strong jaws. It clearly defines their predation abilities towards the potential prey.

There is a slight disagreement between the researchers to accept the average or max size of the red devil cichlid. The official documents conclude it to reach a maximum of 9.5 – 10 inches in length.

Fact: The species caught from the wild habitat tend to have big pouty lips, but the thickness decreases reasonably in these fishes living in captivity. The reason is presumed to be the food choices in different orientations.

But few individual fishkeepers claim to have observed them enlarging about 15 inches when fully grown, gathering an approximate weight of 2.4 to 2.6 pounds.

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Detecting Gender of the Fish

These fishes are almost identical in appearance, but for the observers, it is not difficult to identify the gender of these fish, as they have few significant differences. Here are the identified attributes you can notice in the fish.

  • A major distinguishing factor that picks up the male red devil cichlid over females is that they have a nuchal hump as a forehead crown. It is most prominently seen in captive-bred specimens but less noticeable in the wild, in which it is seen mainly during the breeding season.
  • Another difference is the size because the males are comparatively larger than the females.
  • The male is also seen with a pointed genital papilla, while females, on the other hand, have a blunter and more rounded genital papilla.

Availability and Price

Fish lovers highly demand Red Devil Cichlids as it attracts the viewers with elegance, beauty, and stiff attitude. They are global aquatics and conveniently available in local and online stores.

Their price varies a lot concerning their color variations, size, age, and gender, ranging from $6.99 to even $24.99.

Care Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Moderate to Difficult
Breeding Easy; Egg laying
Social Temperament Extremely Territorial
Diet Omnivorous

Best Food for Red Devil Cichlids

Red Devil Cichlidsare omnivores, so their diet consists of green vegetation and animal food. They tend to feed upon creatures that live at the bottom, such as snails, worms, and small fishes in the wild.

These fishes have often termed carnivore animals because they tend to hunt living creatures. But the fact is that red devils require a vegetable diet to maintain good health and prevention from conventional diseases.

You can provide them with a variety of foods in captivity

  • Fish pellets
  • Flakes
  • Supplements of Carotene
  • Vegetables- cucumber, carrot, plantains, etc
  • Krill
  • Live or frozen bloodworms
  • Spirulina
  • Night Crawlers
  • Crickets
  • Red Meat
  • Earthworms
  • Brined Shrimp

Expert Tip-Red meat should be fed only once a week since the red devil fishes cannot easily digest excessive protein content.

Temperament & Behavior

Though attractive, the red devil cichlids are petted mainly by hobbyists & professionally experienced keepers since they are difficult to manage sometimes in aquariums.

They are popular to behave contentiously with other mates and sometimes get too irritated to attempt damaging the decorations or electric equipment in the tank.

The territorial behavior makes it a solitary fish but can be kept with other species when they are immature, as the aggression level stays under the limit during this stage.

Author Note: Few aquarists had written about their experience with red devil cichlid when it tried to bite their hands while feeding.


The red devil cichlid is single partner species and does not put-up unnecessary tantrums for breeding in captivity. Hence, large quantities of these fish are harvested artificially in many parts of the world.

During the breeding season, their anguish temperament rises too high. Even with peaceful companions, it is better to put them in a separate tank to ease the process.

These fishes can be kept in a separate tank during the complete reproductive cycle, as they stay with the hatchlings until they are grown up a bit.


To mate the red devil cichlid in an artificial setup, you primarily need to arrange a separate tank. Flat stones or wooden pieces with holes and sand substrate are preferable locations for laying eggs by the females.

You can feed the fish with nutritious food to relieve the stress and achieve better results.

Tip: At times, the females had to face the natural aggression of the male red devils and usually get hurt. Therefore, it is necessary to watch them and protect the pair from any harm.

As the pair is induced in the tank with optimum warmth and other favorable conditions, the males attract or force the females to spawn.


After successful courtship, around 600 – 700 light-golden colored eggs are spawned. Eggs are laid on a flat surface for the male to fertilize them.

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The fertilized eggs take about 3 – 4 days to hatch into fry-sacs. Keep the temperature of the water at 25°C.

Maturation of Larva

Unlike many other aquatics, these parents do not tend to eat their baby eggs; thus, you do not need to transfer them back to the original tank after fertilization.

They are genuine parents, as the mothers look after the eggs and hatched larva while the fathers guard the territory.

They stay there for about a week until the larva turns into a juvenile and can swim independently. In about 15 – 20 days, the babies start pinching the parents and demand food.

The hatchlings can be fed with Artemia Nauplii or crushed cichlid flakes until they are old enough and fully grown to eat regular fish food.

Fact- Red devil cichlids take a prudent step to save the young ones from predation. The parents dig a small trench-like area where the fry-sac is put and looked after.


Red Devil Cichlids are prone to similar diseases as other freshwater fish. It is always suggestive to make regular water treatments and maintain cleanliness to avoid infections. A few common conditions seen in these fishes are listed below.

  • Hole-in-the-head disease

It is a common disease in large cichlids species. A depth or pit is formed in the head and facial area.

Unhygienic condition of the water or over filtration may be one reason, while lack of vegetables in the diet causing deficiency in Vitamin C, D, Calcium, & Phosphorous, may also lead to the hole formation.

Treatment – Increasing the vegetarian portion of the diet. Use a high-quality filter to keep the water clean. You may also induce driftwood to lower water hardness and pH levels.

  • Dropsy

Untreated bacterial infection results in kidney failure and causes dropsy in fish.

Disruption of fluid regulation inside the fish causes swollen body followed by low energy and lethargic movement, which gradually results in a slow death.

Treatment – Transferring the fish to a different tank and adding Epsom salt to release some fluid stress from the body.

Broad range antibiotics can be used if caused by a bacterial infection. Maintain a diet of organic and fresh food.

  • White-Spot Disease (Ich)

It is a life-threatening disease caused by a freshwater protozoan parasite known as Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.

Tiny white spots appear all over the fish’s body. Each white dot is a parasite on its own.

Treatment& Prevention – Transferring the fish to a quarantine tank and keeping the temperature at 30 Degree Celsius for three days is helpful. You can provide medications with copper content on prescription or add Zinc-free Malachite to prevent the further spread of parasites. Maintain a diet of high-quality fish food, mainly fresh worms, krill, and vegetables.

Tank Care

Quick Tank Facts
Water Temperature 75.0 ° F to 79.0 ° F
Minimum Size 55 Gallons
Water Hardness 6 – 25 dGH
pH Level 6.5 – 7.5
Maximum population 1 – 2 (breeding pair)
Nitrate Content 0 – 40 ppm

Ideal Tank Size

Red devil cichlids are long-lasting fish that grow to become a big aquarium pets. Therefore, it is essential to arrange a big-size tank, if not in the beginning, then at least after a year when they start elongating.

You must have a tank of more than 200 litre and keep them as a single fish. For a breeding pair, the tank capacity should be above 470 liters.

Increase the tank space accordingly if you are planning to put some selective companions in the tank.

Tank Setup

It doesn’t matter which plants you put in the tank; these fishes will habitually try to uproot it. So, getting plants with strong roots that can anchor into the substrate to counter the sheer strength of the fish is a good choice.

The lighting requirement is modest. Not too bright, not too dim. It would be good to use halogen lamps as they tend to warm up the water. Red Devil Cichlids enjoy warm waters.

But extreme warmth is not suitable for any fish. Hence, keep an eye out for increasing temperature while using halogen lamps.

  • Substrate
    Wild Red Devil Cichlids love to dig holes and trenches in their habitat. Whether it be during breeding or just casually, it’s their tendency.
    Avoid using small gravels and stone chips. You can put soft mud or sand as a substrate in the tank. Even if they ingest it by accident, it won’t harm them.
    They also like to hide in gaps and large spaces. So, big rocks with holes and hollow driftwood are also a good option.
  • Filtration and Other Apparatus
    The purity of tank water is critical as Red Devil Cichlids cannot handle unhygienic conditions for long. Installing high-performance filters can help cope with this.
    You can also use intense air pumps to enhance oxygen levels.
    Installing a water heater is sometimes helpful in keeping temperatures warm, especially during the breeding season.
  • Decorations
    It is suggested not to put too many decorations as they tend to fiddle with it and damage it. Whatever you put in the tank, make sure they should not break easily.
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Water Parameters

They prefer a temperature between 24° C to 26° C, with pH being 6.5 to 7.5. However, they like slightly acidic waters.

Water should be of at least six dGH hardness but should not exceed 25 dGH. Ensure to keep the water current at a minimum level to simulate their natural habitat.

High nitrogen content is not healthy for them and should be towards 0 ppm or a maximum up to 40 ppm

Tank Companions

It is not advised to put two males together in a tank or else they will fight till one of them is badly injured or even dies. They are generally kept in solitude or with a mating partner.

Red devil cichlids tend to bother other fish of their size and constantly indulge in combats. The smaller mates have a lesser chance to live long before becoming prey to them. They can also harass large fishes in the tank, if not predate them.

Considering the unfriendly attitude of the fish, we have listed some species of American cichlids and catfish as possible tank mates that are strong and big enough to defend themselves.

  • Jaguar Cichlids
  • Firemouth Cichlids
  • Convict Cichlids
  • Suckermouth Armored Catfish
  • Long-Whiskered Catfish


How many Red Devil Cichlids can I put in a 30-gallon tank?

It will be hard to keep them in such a small space considering their size and behavior. They might get angry and start hitting the tank glass or even destroy equipment in your tank. It is recommended to use at least a 50 – 55Gallon tank, which is enough for one.

How many times a day should these fishes be fed?

It is advised to feed them several times a day with small portions of food that can be consumed under three minutes. The uneaten particles can raise the nitrogen levels and make the tank murky.

Are Red Devil Cichlids and Red Texas Cichlids the same?

They are different species, but Red Texas Cichlid can be considered a relative of the Red Devil Cichlid.

The Red Texas Cichlid is across-bred offspring of a Male Texas Cichlid and a female Red Parrot Fish. The Red Parrotfish, on the other hand, is a cross-breed between a Red Devil Cichlid and a Redhead Cichlid (Vieja melanurus).

Can we keep Flowerhorns with Red Devil Cichlids?

Yes, you can keep these fish together. Although Flowerhorns are calm and peaceful, they are enormous, and their size may intimidate the red devil cichlid to some extent.

Still, it is better to avoid their co-existence, considering the lousy behavior of Red Devil Cichlids with other species.

How fast do they grow?

These fish present relatively slower growth in the initial years, and it takes about three years for them to gain full-length of their capacity.

Are Midas Cichlids and Red Devil Cichlids the same?

No, they are not the same, although they look similar. Midas cichlids are Amphilophus citrinellus, whereas Red Devil Cichlids are Amphilophus labiatus. These are two different species of the same genus.

Final Thoughts: Should We Get Them Home?

Yes, they are worth having in fish tanks at your home. The red devil fishes are large, colorful, and energetic species. You will not regret getting one, but caring for them may sometimes be difficult for beginners.

You must be cautious while handling them at home aquariums, as they sometimes hit the glass walls if you get annoyed. But if you are experienced with caring for big fishes, you will find Red Devil Cichlids worth your while.

About the Author

Shirlie Sharpie

Shirlie is an aquatics expert with nearly two decades’ experience raising and caring for ornamental fish. She has produced a book on aquarium setup and a slew of fish-related articles. Her expertise has been recognized by organizations like the Minnesota Zoo and the National Aquarium, where she has worked on notable initiatives.

Career Highlights:

Educational Highlights:

  1. Attended Argosy University Twin Cities.

Writing Experience

The marine life lover Shirlie has written hundreds of articles about fish and teamed up with public aquariums & nonprofit organizations to create content. She’s contributed aquatic information for almost 20 years writing for‘The Spruce Pets,’and has also worked for FAMA, the FishBase, and “Ask Heloise show.”

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