Red Devil Cichlid Care Guide

Are Red Devil Cichlids livebearers?

Red Devil Cichlid Care Guide7 mins read

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Tal Halperin
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Red devil cichlid care guide
Image from Flickr

Have you heard of the red devil cichlid? This ferocious sounding Cichlid gets its name because of its famously aggressive behavior. But all fish are suited for different environments and thus aggression in fish (as humans see it) is generally a response to their condition.

Whilst you can’t keep the Red Devil Cichlid with many other fish, they can actually be amazing companions – even in a community tank – if you get their environment right. This guide will break down red devil cichlid tank mates, behavior, and more. Read on to discover all about how you can care for these fish in a way that gives you a happy, healthy, and trouble-free companion.

Breed Overview

OriginNicaragua, Central America
Lifespan10 to 11 years
SizeUp to 15 inches or 40cm
Colorspink, coral red, orange-red
Water TypeFreshwater
Tank SizeMin 75 gallons or 150 gallons for a pair (283 – 567 L)
TemperamentTerritorial, active, and bond-forming but can display aggression
Water Temperature23-28 C (73 – 82 F)
Water pH6.5 – 7.5
FoodMostly carnivorous


The Red Devil Cichlid has a very distinctive look and once you have seen one you will easily be able to spot them in any tank. In fact, if you frequently go to aquatic stores or other environments with fish you may already have seen these guys and not known their name.

Red Devil Cichlid Head Bump

One distinguishing feature of the Red Devil Cichlid is a large head bump that gives them a rounded forehead. This is just part of the fish’s natural appearance and doesn’t bother them. However, it does enable you to tell the age of your fish quite easily. Generally, the larger and more pronounced the bump, the older the fish.

Red Devil Cichlid Size

The Red Devil Cichlid generally grows up to 15 inches. This may not sound like much, but the full red devil cichlid size is actually 40 centimeters, so can be over the length of a human forearm. That’s why you need to start with a tank larger than your fish is initially, as they will definitely grow.

Varieties Of Red Devil Cichlids

Red devil Cichlids can come in two different color morphs, and these can determine how safe your fish feel in different environments.

That’s right – fish behavior can even vary amongst the members of an individual species! This is one of the main bits of knowledge that separates advanced from intermediate fish keepers.

Essentially, fish like to be in an environment where they can easily camouflage. This is because for the Red Devil Cichlid, even though they are pretty large, they still would have predators in the wild. Thus, an environment where they blend in helps them feel safe.

Sounds confusing? Don’t worry. Otherwise, the dark and gold morphs don’t share a huge amount of differences behaviorally.

Tank Setup And Maintenance

Tank setup and maintenance for red devil cichlid
The ideal tank size for a male Red Devil Cichlid is 75 gallons (283 L) or 55 for a female (208 L).

Ideal Tank Size For Red Devil Cichlids

The ideal tank size for a male Red Devil Cichlid is 75 gallons (283 L) or 55 for a female (208 L). However, for a pair you would always want double the size of the tank for the male, making 150 gallons (567 L) at least. This may sound large already, but it’s not even finished yet!

If you keep tankmates such as Pleco fish, you will have to factor in the extra capacity that they need as well.

So, how do you go about figuring out the initial tank capacity?

How Many Cichlids Should You Keep Together?

Apart from red devil cichlid size, the number of same-species tankmates affects how large your tank is.

Although you may hear about their aggressive tendencies, the Red Devil Cichlid should never be kept alone. You may worry about them turning on each other, but instead, this charismatic species finds mates for life.

Therefore, so long as you keep an even number of males and females, you can keep a group without worrying about aggression. Instead, you can be sure they will pair up and will not compete with each other.

Thus, the minimum number of Red Devil Cichlids you should keep together is two. This is because they are social fish, and they do get lonely without the company of other tankmates. For tankmates, see our section on behavior.

Plants And Substrate For Red Devil Cichlids

As stated above, sometimes you will see these fish kept in bare-bottomed tanks. However, is this ideal for your fish?

Whilst they can certainly survive like this any fish will always do better in a proper habitat. That’s if you don’t have much extra budget, some basic gravel and aquatic plants can still mean the world of difference.

For this, you can plant any tropical aquarium plants such as Amazon sword, java fern, java moss, Brazilian pennywort and so on.

Heating, Water Testing, And Filtration

The best filter for a Red Devil Cichlid tank is a hob or canister filter ideally as sponge filter is often too weak for them. These are active fish and they are carnivorous for the most part. This means they can indeed produce a lot of waste, and this can quickly make the water dirty.

A filter that filters 10x the tank capacity per hour is generally best.

When you set up your tank, it’s best to run the filter for a minimum of one month or maybe even two. This is best if you want to guarantee all plants are thriving, and conditions are optimum.

What final steps will you need? As you can see, setting up a tank takes some forethought. The last stage is to test for nitrates, ammonia, and pH. Luckily, you can find three-in-one tests cat any decent aquatics store or even your neighborhood pet shop.

Author’s Note: never try to run a Red Devil Cichlid tank without a heater! You may hear that some tanks can be kept warm without a heater but these are generally on the smaller side and thus they heat up more rapidly when placed in a warm spot. Your large Red Devil tank will take a while to heat up and simply won’t be able to provide enough warmth.


Have you ever wanted to feed your fish more than just fish food? Just like humans, fish get bored eating the same thing every day.

Feeding the red devil cichlid isn’t a simple matter of just giving them Cichlid pellet food. Generally speaking, a good professionally formulated diet is always the best start. This enables you to get your fish’s balance of nutrients correct.

However, these fish always do better when their diet is enriched. This helps stimulate their natural hunting behavior as well, so read on for some tips.

What Do Red Devil Cichlids Eat?

These attractive fish are carnivorous, though they will occasionally eat plant matter. Nonetheless, the bulk of their diet takes the form of meat. This involves small crustaceans, other aquatic bugs and larvae, and even small fish.

In captivity, you can simulate this with free swimming live protein.

Good invertebrates to feed are daphnia, tubifex worms, bloodworms, and brine shrimps. You can buy them from all good aquarium stores, but remember they are quite small. If they are too small to satisfy your fish’s appetite, the frozen ones often come in larger blocks. These can prove more substantial for larger fish.

Want to provide larger prey for your fish? You can add chopped-up earthworms and other insects, which you can likewise find in good aquarium centers.

Can Red Devil Cichlids Eat Other Fish?

Make no mistake, these fish have a predatory nature. As a result, if you expose them to small fish like zebra danios, minnows, and rasboras, they may attempt to eat them.

Thus, it is best to keep smaller fish out of your Cichlid tank.

How To Enrich Your Red Devil Cichlid’s Diet

Establishing a feeding schedule can help you form a bond with your Red Devil Cichlid. They will eventually come swimming up to the front of the glass, expecting you.

Once they are used to this, feed live food and live insects like earthworms at more sporadic intervals. This means you keep things interesting for your Cichlid, which helps them express their natural behavior.

Behavior And Temperament

Behavior and temperament in red devil cichlid
Red Devil Cichlid behavior is one of the things that attracts pet owners to them, as we mention in the feeding section, they are very interactive and can easily form a bond with their owners. Image from Flickr

Generally, Red Devil Cichlid behavior is one of the things that attracts pet owners to them. As we mention in the feeding section, they are very interactive and can easily form a bond with their owners. However, they are not without their difficulties.

Red Devil Cichlid Aggression

Are Red Devil Cichlids aggressive?

Simply put, any fish can become aggressive when in the wrong environment. However, these guys are very active and territorial. This can easily translate into aggression if they come into competition with other fish in their tank.

Red Devil Cichlid Tank Mates

Due to their territorial nature, the Red Devil Cichlid doesn’t do well with all tankmates. Even some other kinds of Cichlids are not a good idea to mix with them.

Suitable tankmates include other large Cichlids such as:

  • Blood Parrot Cichlids
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Oscar Fish
  • Convict Cichlids
  • African Great Lakes Cichlids

In addition, you can keep them with the following Plecos and other bottom dwellers that are large enough not to become prey – however, be warned they need a very different diet!

Pests And Diseases

The red devil cichlid is prone to the same diseases as all other cichlids. Read on for a rough guide as to some of the most common – and how to cure them.

1. Hole In Head Disease

Hole-in-head is a serious parasitic infection caused by hexamita that can affect large Cichlids especially. It’s important to treat because, as its name suggests, it leads to painful holes in and around your fish’s head and mouth area.

2. Fin Rot

Fin rot is an external bacterial infection where the edges of your fish’s fins may look sore and ragged. In addition, they may show red, black, and white growths and patches.

It’s generally a sign of dirty water. Therefore, clean the tank regularly and test for ammonia, nitrate, and nitrate levels. If the problem persists, treat it with over-the-counter antibacterial medication in a quarantine tank.

3. Swim Bladder Disease And Other Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections can take many forms. Those found internally tend to be more serious than external ones, too.

Swim bladder disease is one such example. The swim bladder is the organ that fish use to stay upright in the water. Therefore, if you see your fish struggling to stay upright, this can be a cause.

It’s best to thoroughly clean the water, removing a third and replacing it with fresh, and if the problem persists quarantine your fish in a separate tank and treat it with antibacterial medicine.


Breeding in red devil cichlid
Breeding them is actually relatively simple, even compared to some other species that are otherwise easier to take care of. Image from Flickr

Breeding Red Devil Cichlids is a rewarding and interactive experience. Not only do these fish pair for life, they also guard their eggs and fry.

Breeding them is relatively simple. This is because they are generally not aggressive to their mates, and their lifelong pairs prevent competition between males.

Red Devil Cichlids And Lifelong Pairings

As stated earlier in the article, the Red Devil Cichlid mates for life. Many fish keepers love this, as it can help minimize tank aggression. It can be hard to sex these fish when they are juveniles. However, as they grow older the male develops a hump on his forehead.

At this stage, you may see the pairs swimming around together. Curious as to whether this means they are ready to breed?

You can spot readiness with typical breeding behaviors such as fun waggling and chasing. Once you have identified a breeding pair, you can separate them into a separate breeding tank which they will then make.

Male Red Devil Cichlid, Female Red Devil Cichlid – Differences And Similarities

Generally, the most significant difference between the sexes is size, with males being larger and often having a more prominent head bump.

The mating process:

These Cichlids are generally peaceful with each other and with their fry during the mating and incubation process. Generally, the process is as follows:

  • The female chooses a spot to lay her eggs. This is generally a flat surface such as a smooth rock.
  • The male swims over them and sprays his milt as he does so. This can happen three or four times, as the female lays her eggs in batches.
  • The pair guard the eggs until the fry have hatched. They then continue to guard the free until they have absorbed their yolk sacs.

Fun fact – these fish make relatively attentive and doting parents, by the standards of the aquarium world. They generally guard and do not eat their fry. There are some reported instances of these fish eating their fry. However, this generally does not happen unless the pair is stressed, or inexperienced.

Caring For The Fry

Even after the eggs have hatched, the process of caring for the fry is complex and involves both parents.

It’s great to see and often not spotted in that many other aquarium fish species. With the red devil cichlid, the parents guard the fry for up to six weeks after hatching. During the first few days, the fry eat mucus off their parents’ bodies, so you won’t even need to feed them. After this, you can feed them infusoria, followed by baby brine shrimps.

Note that the parents will be much more aggressive during this time period. It’s best to use a tank divider and keep other tankmates away from them.

Final Thoughts

Generally, these are attractive fish to keep and they have the added benefit of forming strong bonds with each other and their keepers. They will learn to recognize when you feed them and actively interact with you through the glass.

However, they are not for everyone and it does take some experience to keep them. However, if you have already kept some tropical fish and you would like a more challenging species, they are perfect. Overall, the Red Devil Cichlid is one that despite its forbidding name can make a memorable and interactive companion.

Author’s Note: These fish do not intend to be aggressive, in reality, it is just their hunting instinct which in the wild would have helped them find food, including other small fish and crustaceans. You can easily avoid this sort of behavior by only housing them with fish large enough that they won’t be seen as prey, such as Plecos, or other Cichlids.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Red Devil Cichlids kill other fish?
Like any larger predatory fish, these fish can kill other fish if they see them as live prey. This generally relates to small dither fish such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Guppies, Danios, and so on.
Are Red Devil Cichlids livebearers?
Red devil Cichlids are attentive parents, but they’re not livebearers. They spray milt and lay eggs just like other species such as tetras. Generally, livebearers tend to be in the family Poecilidae, consisting of guppies, mollies, platies, and swordtails.
Can Red Devil Cichlids be kept with smaller Cichlids?
Depending on the size of your tank, Red Devil Cichlids can indeed be kept with other, smaller Cichlids, especially if these are small to medium fish. However, it’s best to avoid small Cichlids that are also peaceful like the electric blue ram. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but the risk to your smaller fish is much larger if your Red Devil chooses to take out its aggression due to feeling threatened.
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Sydney Perry

Sydney Perry has loved fish since she was a child and has enjoyed keeping many varieties over the years, ranging from black moors and shubunkins to betta fish. As a lover of nature and of Japanese culture, her dream tank is an Iwagumi aquascape, combining fish with carefully crafted aquatic landscapes in miniature.