The firemouth cichlid, also known as thorichthys meeki, is a freshwater fish common to the rivers of Central America. They are great for beginners and are easy to raise in a tank or aquarium. These beauties are peaceful except when they are spawning; thus, they can be kept with many other fish species.

Caring for your firemouth cichlid is crucial to their health and quality of life. In this article, you will find the necessary information you need as a beginner to raise this cichlid species.

Firemouth Cichlid Stats

Quick stats:

Origin Central America
Temperament Peaceful except when breeding
Hardness 8-15 dGH
Tank Size Minimum of 30 gallons for one fish
Temperature 75-86℉
pH  6.5 – 8.0
Size 7 Inches
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan  10 – 15 years
Care level Beginner


Order: Perciformes
Suborder: Percoidei
Family: Cichlidae
Genera: Thorichthys


– Appearance

Young firemouth cichlids have a light-gray or olive-gray color on most of their body and a bluish tint. As they reach maturity, the light gray color gives way to violet color.

Depending on where they are raised, they may spot other colors and markings. You can find the most colorful of the firemouth cichlid species in Grijalva in Tabasco, Mexico.

Some American cichlids have broad, dark lines running down their entire body length. You may find a black spot or horizontal stripe in the middle. One unique characteristic of these cichlids is their eyespot and pink-colored fins flecked with blue. Firemouth cichlids have the most astonishing eyes; blue-colored eyes with black pupils.

– Do Firemouth Cichlid Have Teeth?

Yes, they do. Firemouth cichlids have sharp teeth in their upper and lower jaw. They also have razor-sharp spines at their dorsal fin that can prick you and scar you real good. For this reason, we advise that you handle them very carefully while trying to move them out of the pond, double the net or bag.

– How Can You Differentiate Between the Male and Female

It is almost impossible to tell the sexes apart when they are still young. Thus, we advise that you buy an even number of firemouth species and raise them in your tank. As they grow, you will notice that they begin to form natural pairs; crisis averted.

However, as firemouth cichlids reach adulthood, it is easy to tell the sexes apart. The males are bigger and brighter than the females and grow bigger. They have more pointed and longer anal and dorsal fins.

The females’ firemouths, on the other hand, are smaller and not as bright as the males. Full-grown firemouth cichlids also have a dark spot on their dorsal fin and around the abdomen as the breeding season nears.

– How Big Do They Grow

Surprisingly, firemouth cichlids grow bigger in captivity than they do in the wild. In captivity, the males can grow up to 8 inches quite quickly. The females are usually smaller by nature, measuring only 4 inches. The female firemouth cichlid max size is 5 inches.

– Behavior and Traits

Firemouth cichlids are peaceful but territorial fishes. The male firemouth cichlid is more aggressive than the female. It displays its aggression by expanding its throat sac and flaring its gills all year round. The females are less aggressive except when they are breeding; they are very protective of their eggs.

Firemouth cichlids do not handle stress well and prefer larger tanks because it allows them to establish their territory. In their natural habitats, they tend to live separately; thus, they are not schooling fish. One thing we love about these fish is that they are monogamous; they pair for life.

– Lifespan

Firemouth cichlids have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. They may live more than that or die before the ten years mark. It depends on the quality of their life, how you care for them, and the diet they are placed on.

Firemouth Cichlid Care

If you want your cichlid to live a long and healthy life, you must care for it. To do that, you must understand critical aspects about firemouth cichlids.

– Breeding

The firemouth cichlid is so-called because of the fiery red coloration the male displays during the breeding season. Their aggression is necessary for them to find a mate for spawning; you will need to find a way to manage the aggression.

Breeding this fish is quite simple once you know what to do. You will find guidelines for breeding the firemouth cichlid below.

a) Mating Process

The breeding process starts with a parental pair. A simple way to get these fishes to pair up is to raise both sexes from their young age. They form monogamous pairs and make great parents. There are certain things you can do to increase the rates of breeding.

b) Conditioning the Parental Pairs

By increasing the temperature of the tank, you can induce spawning. Warmer temperatures favor the breeding process. The water should have a neutral pH (7.0) and hardness of no more than 10 dGH. Take care to place solid surfaces like flat rock, wood, and leaves directly on the glass surface of your fish tank. These help to catch the eggs when they are laid.

c) Firemouth Cichlid Spawning

Once the breeding tank has been set up with favorable conditions, it is time to introduce the mated pair. The male chases the female down and traps her. The fertile female then begins to look for a place to lay the eggs (this is why you need to lay rocks, leaves, etc., at the bottom of the tank). The male fertilizes the eggs.

Both breeding parents look after the fertilized eggs; the male stands guard over the territory while the female tends to the eggs. The eggs hatch within 3-4 days.

d) After Hatching, What Next?

After 3-4 days, the eggs hatch into fry. The fry is then moved into a more protected location by the parents. They are moved into pits made by the parent firemouth in the sand and cared for until they reach six weeks. At six weeks, the fry can take care of themselves, and you can move the parents out of the breeding tank.

е) Feeding Firemouth Cichlid Fry

Within the first few days after the fry has hatched, you do not need to feed them. However, by the 7th or 8th day, you can start feeding them when they start swimming. We recommend that you provide them with high-quality food for the first three weeks after they become free-swimming.

Typical high-quality food to feed your firemouth cichlid fry includes brine shrimp, micro worms, ground flake food, and other fry feed sold in pet shops. As they mature, you can gradually introduce them to the same foods you feed the mature fire mouth cichlid.

f) How Many Eggs does they Lay?

The female firemouth cichlid can lay around 100-500 eggs in a single breeding season. They can mate several times in a year and raise their brood.

g) Can You Pair Firemouth Cichlids With African Cichlids?

No. Some people have tried to pull it off but have failed at it. One reason for this could be their temperaments. During the breeding season, both the firemouth cichlid and African cichlid become highly aggressive. The aggression and territorial behavior will most likely mean that they will fight and kill each other.

To learn more about possible tank mates for your firemouth cichlid, jump to the next section.

– Tank Mates

Once you have a tank large enough to house your fish community, the next tank is pairing your firemouth cichlid with other fish species. Thanks to the firemouth, cichlid is generally peaceful; you won’t have a tough time finding tank mates for them.

However, while selecting tank mates, you must consider the firemouth cichlid compatibility. As a rule, you should choose fish of a similar size that are not aggressive. Those more diminutive than the firemouth cichlid may end up as the cichlid’s dinner, while those that are extremely big will stress out your firemouth.

We have made a list of some of our favorite tank mates for the fire mouth cichlid:

Our shortlist should be a starting point for you to pair your firemouth cichlid successfully. As long as you follow this guide, you should have a harmonious tank.

– Setting up a Tank

The first thing you must tackle in setting up your tank is getting a tank large enough to house your fish comfortably. Once you get that right, you can now focus on the other aspects.

We have detailed all that you need to consider when setting up a tank for your fire mouth cichlid.

а) Tank Size

We recommend tank size for a firemouth cichlid is 30 gallons. If you plan to raise more than a single firemouth cichlid, you will need a bigger tank; the bigger, the better. Adding an extra 5-10 gallons for every new fish is a great rule to follow.

b) Water Conditions and Ideal Water Parameter

When setting up your tank, you must mimic the fish’s water conditions and parameters in its natural habitat. Since their natural habitat has warmer waters, your tank temperature should reflect this.

  • Filtration – It is crucial to filter your tank water at least once a week to maintain its quality. Dirty water gives room for bacteria and other nasty bugs to breed. Also, filtering helps remove nitrite and ammonia from the water. Another way to control nitrate and ammonium is to add lava rocks.
  • Temperature – The recommended temperature range for the water in the firemouth cichlids’ tank is 75-86℉. If you want to induce spawning in your firemouth, maintain your tank temperatures at the higher range.
  • pH and Hardness – The recommended pH range is 6.5 to 8.0. During breeding, it is recommended that you make the waters slightly acidic for the eggs. Try to maintain the water hardness at 8 to 15 dGH.
  • Plants – Having live plants in your firemouth cichlid tank helps maintain the water quality. They act as a buffer and prevent sharp changes in water parameters.
  • Water Salinity – Try to keep the salinity in the tank below 10%. Although firemouth cichlids are freshwater fish, they can withstand moderately brackish water.

c) Tank Decoration

Firemouth cichlid is peaceful but territorial; they prefer to establish their territory. That means that you have to provide them with a large enough tank and places to hide. The latter is especially important if you want them to breed.

Plants, driftwood, and flat-surfaced rocks are great additions to your tank. They serve as functional decorations; your fish can find solace there, hide and breed. You can also add a bit of plant to your tank, preferably artificial ones, so they don’t get eaten by the fire mouth cichlid.

We advise that you choose a soft substrate; sand to be preferred. The soft substrate prevents your firemouth cichlid fish from getting hurt when they play around in the substrate.

– Feeding Firemouth Cichlid

In the wild, Firemouths, like all the other Cichlids, have a varied diet. They are omnivorous but primarily carnivorous. It is essential to replicate what firemouth cichlids eat in the wild; this ensures that you feed them with what they need to grow. It is vital to note that everything you provide them must be of high quality.

Fair note of warning: newly bought firemouth cichlid fish are shy and timid and may refuse to eat when they are still unfamiliar with their surroundings. However, with time, they will adapt and begin to eat. Their shy phase can last for months, so don’t let it bother you.

a) Diet

We have listed some of the components you can give your firemouth cichlid to keep it healthy. Remember to add some form of variety to their meals; after all, variety, they say, is the spice of life.

  • Protein – We recommend that you feed your firemouth a healthy amount of quality protein. Try giving them live worms, small fish, mosquito larvae, and invertebrates. They can also snack on algae.
  • Worms – Bloodworms, tubifex worms, and white worms are great meal options for your fire mouth cichlid. Both juvenile and adult firemouths can feast on them.
    Bloodworms and white worms are great options for fulfilling their meaty needs. As are brine shrimp and tubifex worms.
  • Small Crustaceans – Firemouth cichlids love to eat small crustaceans. Try adding cladocerans, small invertebrates, copepods, organic detritus, and snails to the tank; they will gobble them up. Their fondness for snails and shrimps is one reason why they won’t do well as tank mates.
  • Vegetables – Firemouth cichlids are omnivorous, so you should balance their diet with vegetables. Some great vegetable options are pieces of cucumber, blanched spinach, and finely chopped spinach.
  • Frozen Food – In the absence of live food, you can feed your firemouth cichlid frozen food. Foods like flakes, shrimps, cyclops, and tablets go down just fine.
  • Others – Ocean plankton, daphnia, bloodworms, and shrimps work fine as well. However, shrimps and blood worms should be given once in a while (almost like treats). A fair amount of algae is also needed seeing as they eat them in the wild.

b) How Often Should they be Fed?

Firemouth cichlids should be fed small portions of food multiple times daily. If you are a beginner aquarist, we advise that you experiment to get the exact quantity of food they need. The portions should be small enough for the cichlids to finish in three minutes or less. Overfeeding your firemouth cichlid can result in unpleasant outcomes.

– Common Diseases

Firemouths Cichlids are pretty hardy fishes and, if properly cared for, can go on to live past five years. To ensure that your water quality is right, keep an eye on the parameters; that way, you won’t have any problems.

Firemouth cichlids do not do well with any form of stress, so create the best possible environment for them. Stress can be induced by their diet, frequency of feeding, tank mates, poor water conditions, etc.

Another tip to keep diseases at bay is to meticulously clean each object before adding it to the established tank. Newly bought fish should be quarantined and kept an eye on for any manifestation of diseases. After a few days, you can add them to the established tank.

1. Ich Disease

A parasite causes ich; symptoms include white spots, especially on the fish gills and fins, and loss of appetite. Thankfully, Ich disease is relatively easy to treat.

Start by increasing the tank temperature for a few days; this should take care of the problem. After a few days, if the symptoms persist, treat the affected firemouth cichlid with copper-based medications.


  • Firemouth cichlids are beautiful and easy to raise
  • They are monogamous and highly territorial when breeding
  • During breeding season, the male displays an intense red color almost like a flame; that is how they got their name

Their peaceful nature makes it easy to pair them up with a variety of other tank mates. To minimize aggression during breeding, we advise that you raise them in a big tank. With the information you have gleaned from our article, you can go ahead to add firemouth cichlids to your aquarium.

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