Firemouth Cichlid: The Ultimate Care Guide

With a name like Firemouth, you can expect a fiery fish that dominates the tank. The Firemouth Cichlid, or Thorichthys meeki, their scientific name, can add a bit of spunk and color to your otherwise monochrome tank. This is a species of fish that are native to Central America, ranging from countries such as Mexico to Guatemala.

The Firemouth Cichlid is a monogamous fish, pairing with their mate for life and are quite easy to care for. This is what names them quite popular with many aquarists and they sport some bright colors to make the tank more interesting. Their more common name, the Firemouth, was taken from the bright coloration that is seen running from their underside up to the bottom of their mouths.

Let’s take a closer look at these interesting and colorful fish.

Information Chart
Care Level:
Easy
Temperament:
Peaceful (aggressive during spawning)
Color:
Red with some blue spots
Lifespan:
15 years
Size:
Up to 7 inches
Family
Cichlidae
Diet:
Omnivorous
Minimum Tank Size:

30 gallons

Temperature:
75-86 ºF (24-30 ºC)
Water Conditions:
pH 6.5 to 8 and water hardness should be at 8-15 dGH
Tank Mate Compatibility
Other peaceful fish

Care Level

The Firemouth Cichlid thorichthys meeki is considered a beginner care level fish. They are an invasive species, which is something to consider when introducing tank mates. Invasive species being ones that are capable of forcing native species out when introduced to a new area. To this day, they can also be found in other areas of the world including Australia, Singapore, Phillippines and Israel.

Knowing about the Firemouth Cichlid’s natural habitat will allow you to create a more suitable environment. Since they are tough and quite peaceful, the Firemouth Cichlid will give beginner and experienced aquarists alike an easier time. However, that’s not to say that they don’t have an aggressive streak at times, but more on that later.

The thorichthys meeki got its name from Ancient Greek meaning “leaping fish” eand the second part of its name actually pays homage to a Mexican fish expert, Seth Eugene Meek.

Temperament and Behavior

As previously mentioned, the Firemouth Cichlid is quite a peaceful fish but are Firemouth Cichlids aggressive? Their aggression tends to rear its face during spawning season. They can also get quite territorial despite their peaceful nature, and will do better in larger tanks. This will allow them to draw out their own territories and limit the aggression that may occur. Even if you have many Firemouth Cichlids in your tank, they still keep to themselves individually as the thorichthys meeki are not a schooling fish.

They are exemplary fish in terms of relationships and parenting, being monogamous and completely dedicated when they have children. It’s also useful to note that the thorichthys meeki aren’t naturally aggressive and don’t resort to violent behavior suddenly. During spawning or when a male fish want others to stay out of their territory, they expand their gills to warn off potential intruders.

There is another really cute trait about the Firemouth Cichlid thorichthys meeki, and it is that they are slighty OCD. They like to move things around in the tank and rearrange things just so. If you watch their behavior day in and day out, it includes moving the substrate you put in and maybe even digging things up. This is something to consider when choosing how to decorate your tank.

Appearance

Size

How big do Firemouth Cichlids get? Well, the males are at least an inch larger than the females, and that alone makes them easy to identify in a tank. The Firemouth Cichlid size can reach up to 7 inches! The usual color of the Firemouth Cichlid is a greyish blue tinge and the males develop the bright orangey reddish color. All Firemouth Cichlids sport a darker stripe across their sides.

Sexing between the male and female is quite easy. The males are subjectively the more attractive of the sexes with brighter colors, longer fins and are larger. Similar to humans, the female Firemouth Cichlids have a rounder and more voluptuous shape.

Color

As said before, the Firemouth Cichlid have red undersides that give them a unique look. It is said their color variations affect their behavior. This is a very interesting fun fact and also makes sense since the red color develops during spawning season, which is also when they happen to be more aggressive. There are species that are almost indistinguishable between the sexes, but the Firemouth Cichlid is not one of these cases.

Male and female Firemouth Cichlids have fins with red around the edges and occasionally some blue spots can decorate the surface of the fin. Their appearance is greatly affected by their environment. If you take a look at ones from Central America, they tend to be brighter and more vivid in color.

Lifespan

For such small fish, the Firemouth Cichlid does live for quite a long while. We’re looking at 15 years in the aquarium if raised under the right conditions. The best way to ensure your fish live long and healthy lives is to give them the right environment. They are a freshwater fish that are used to more tropical temperatures.

Be careful to feed them what they are used to and not to overfeed. Adhering to the right water qualities and cleaning the tank regularly will also ensure your cichlids will live longer.

Diet

What do Firemouth Cichlids eat? Like many fish, the Firemouth Cichlid isn’t picky when it comes to food. This is a good thing because they will never go hungry, but it’s also a danger to them because they will eat anything you give them even if it’s not the best. Again, the best care you can give to your thorichthys meeki is to provide them with what they could get in the wild.

In their native environment, they can be seen feeding on smaller crustaceans, which is why brine shrimp is a good idea. It’s also why you shouldn’t consider snails and shrimps as Firemouth Cichlid tankmates. They like to dig and rearrange things, but sometimes they are looking for food. It’s not uncommon to see them gulping mouthfuls of substrate.

Don’t overfeed them. Try feeding smaller meals (about twice per day) and give them a varied diet to cover all bases of their dietary needs. You can feed them a mix of greens, live food, flakes and supplements.

Family

The Firemouth Cichlid Thorichthys Meeki is part of the Cichlidae family.

Tank Conditions

Central America is where the Firemouth Cichlid is indigenous to. As you can imagine, you may be looking at warmer waters and weather compared to where you set up your aquarium. The water flow rate in these areas are slow but can get muddy. The Firemouth Cichlid often like to hide and dart around rocks and spend most of their time in midstream.

They are freshwater fish, but since they can be found in other areas of the world, they are able to withstand saline up to 10% with no trouble. The Cichlids need to have a good filtration system installed to keep their habitat clean. They can be quite sensitive to ammonia and nitrogen buildup in the water.

They like to dark around plants, driftwood and rocks, so having lots of that in your tank is ideal. Just be sure to prick pants that have strong roots since they like to move things around and dig things up. They are not too sensitive to sunlight so having moderate sun by placing the aquarium near a window is a good idea as well.

Temperature

Now that you can a clearer picture of what their life is like in the wild, you can try to mimic that in your aquarium. You are looking at warmer temperatures between 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (about 24-30 degrees Celsius), yes very warm waters.

Water Conditions

The pH levels should be between 6.5 to 8 and water hardness should be at 8-15 dGH. There should be some flow in the water but nothing too strong and sand substrate would be the best to imitate sandy shorelines.

Minimum Tank Size

The tank size they need isn’t too large, and most spaces can accommodate a 30-gallon tank. This size needs to be larger with the more fish you intend to keep. If you only have one, then a 15 gallon tank should be enough, but we recommend having two because they so very well in pairs (male and female) and you can even look into breeding in the aquarium.

Maintenance and Care

They are tough little creatures and as long as you abide by the tank conditions they tend to thrive in and feed them proper food, they should live long and healthy lives. Like a lot of other freshwater species, the Cichlids are susceptible to Ich, which means they grow fungal-like white spots on their bodies.

It can be tougher to find as they mostly grow on gills and fins because the Firemouth Cichlids can sometimes have spots on their fins due to natural coloration and their natural hue is a greyish-blue tone. But if your Cichlids do happen to catch this disease, it’s very easy to treat due to how common it is.

Always keep the tank clean and maintain water conditions with the right pH and dGH levels as well as the temperature. Before you introduce new substrates, make sure they are clean as well as new objects in the tank is what often causes illnesses in fish.

Suitable Tank Mates

What is most important to ensure a peaceful cohabitation is to get a tank that is large enough. A large enough tank will give them enough space to thrive, therefore reducing stress and the potential for diseases and more territorial attacks. Peaceful tetras and catfish are also good tank mates for your Thorichthys Meeki to have.

Compatibility

They are generally peaceful, which makes them easy to live with. Just remove the other fish when it’s spawning season as the Cichlids will do better in tank conditions they are used to during this crucial time. What fish can live with Firemouth Cichlids? Other Cichlids can do well with the Thorichthys Meeki and finding tank mates of a similar size is also important.

Breeding

As we have mentioned the Firemouth Cichlids are what we humans strive to be in a relationship. They are monogamous and great to their fry. You could be able to purchase a bonded pair from the start and just take home two of the species. However, if you don’t, then you can purchase at least 6 (males and females) and have them pair off together naturally in the aquarium.

They do not need you to make too many adjustments for breeding to happen, but slightly raising the pH level to 7 would help. Just make sure all the other parameters are in place. Their eggs aren’t usually hidden away and are found on flat surfaces, which can include the aquarium glass.

Each laying will produce 100-500 eggs with the parents guarding the babies with their life. Breeding can occur several times a year, so it’s good to have an extra tank ready. The fry can eat anything small, but make sure you choose good food (microworms are a good choice).

They are free to swim on their own within a week but their parents will continue to care for them for a while after that. If you don’t intend to breed, you can keep one or two of the opposite sex but a male and female pair is best. Just be aware of how many fry you can end up with and make the proper arrangements for them.

Firemouth Cichlid or Firemouth Meeki, thorichthys meeki

Conclusion

The Firemouth is a freshwater fish species that is quite easy to care for. This is why they are great options for beginners and they possess an exotic look with their namesake red underbellies during spawning. They are also easy to feed with the only thing you really need to pay attention to is their tank conditions (best if it imitates their natural environment) and look out for other fish during spawning (if you have any).

There are suitable tank mates you can keep with these fish but just make sure you have a large enough tank to accommodate everyone so the males and females can carve out their own territory and limit aggression.

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