The Firemouth Cichlid


The Firemouth Cichlid is so named because of the fiery coloration on the under side of the mouth. It has a vivid red throat and belly, starting at the base of the tail and extending to the mouth. The body is generally blue-gray with several black blotches and it has brown fins streaked with blue. There are coloration differences, however, depending on each fishes place of origin.

The Firemouth Cichlid is peaceful with tankmates except when spawning. During breeding they are aggressive towards other fish and especially towards smaller members of their own species.

During spawning, the male Firemouth Cichlid displays an impressive bluff, an aggressive stance where he inflates his fiery red throat sac and gill covers. It has been discovered by ethologists that the red coloring itself is intimidating to other fishes!

They like a tank bottom of fine sand and plenty of hiding places among rocks and wood. Plants are also appreciated by the Firemouth Cichlid. Place hardy plants, such as Sagittaria, around the inside perimeter leaving an open area in the center for swimming. The plants should be potted to protect the roots.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Distribution:
The Firemouth Cichlid was described by Brind in 1918. They are found in Central America; Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. They inhabit the middle and bottom areas of slow moving rivers, ponds, and canals with sandy or muddy bottoms. They stay close to vegetation near the shore where they feed on algae along with some meaty foods.

Status:
This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:
The body of the Firemouth Cichlid is strongly compressed laterally with a sloping forehead. The color is is generally blue-gray with several black blotches and it has brown fins streaked with blue. They are named for the coloration on the under side of the mouth. It has a vivid red throat and belly, starting at the base of the tail and extending to the mouth. There are some coloration differences, but is dependent on each fishes place of origin. Male have a more pointed dorsal and anal fins and are more intensely colored, especially during breeding.
All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense “smells” in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being “sampled” for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to “smell” the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

Size – Weight:
These fish get up to 6 inches (15 cm).

Care and feeding:
Since they are omnivorous the Firemouth Cichlid will generally eat all kinds of flake, fresh, and live foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food or pellet everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat.
A minimum 20 gallon aquarium is suggested for a pair, though a larger tank would be needed if keeping several. They need good water movement along with strong and efficient filtration. Provide a bottom of fine sand and plenty of hiding places among rocks and wood. Plants are appreciated but should be hardy, such as Sagittaria. Place the plants around the inside perimeter leaving an open area in the center for swimming. The plants should be potted to protect the roots.
The Firemouth Cichlid can be rewarding specimen for a beginning aquarist as they are relatively easy to keep. Do water changes of 15 to 20% a week depending on bio load. They are subject to infections as well as other diseases that ail all freshwater fish.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom:
These fish will swim in the middle and lower areas of the aquarium.

Acceptable Water Conditions:
Hardness: 8 – 15° dH
Ph: 6.5 – 8.0
Temp: 70 – 75° F (21 – 24° C)

Social Behaviors:
The Firemouth Cichlids can be a good community fish and are not usually aggressive except when spawning. They should be kept with similar sized tankmates. In a large tank several pairs can be kept. They are monogamous and will pair off, developing a strong nuclear family. They get territorial when spawning and also may burrow, damaging plants at that time. They are, however, very good parents.

Sexual Differences:
The male has a more pointed dorsal and anal fins and is more intensely colored, especially during breeding.

Breeding/Reproduction:
The Firemouth Cichlids are egg layers A monogamous cichlid, they form a nuclear family. The female spawns 100-500 eggs on carefully cleaned rocks. The fry are protected in pits by both parents.

See the description of how these fish breed in Breeding Freshwater Fish.

Availability:
The Firemouth Cichlid is readily available both online and in fish stores and will run about $10.00 – $20.00 USD.

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