Red Texas Cichlid Care Guide

Red Texas Cichlid Care Guide

Red Texas Cichlid Care Guide7 mins read

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Red Texas Cichlid Care Guide
Image from Flickr

If you are looking for a challenge in your aquarium, then the red t exas cichlid is an absolute aquarium favorite. This fish is bold, beautiful, and bursting with gutsy personality. It is known to be one of the only aquarium species that is native to the United States.

However, as a fair warning, this species is mostly recommended for experienced aquarists. Indeed, you must up for the challenges brought on by this aggressive and belligerent fish. Finding suitable red texas cichlid tankmates is also tricky.

There is much to be said about the behavior and characteristics of this individual fish. Both behavior and red texas cichlid size can take beginners by surprise. This article will show you how to look after both the red texas cichlid and also the super red texas cichlid, a rare morph. At first, this fish may appear challenging. However, with proper care and the right setup, comes a gratifying experience, and very often your red texas cichlid will turn out to be a beloved pet.

Breed Overview

OriginUnited States
Lifespan10 – 13 Years
Size30.5 cm (12 Inches)
ColorsGreen, Blue, red, Super red
Water TypeFreshwater
Tank Size55 Gallons for 1 fish
TemperamentPeaceful, Active, Social
Water Temperature68 and 82 °F (20–28 °C)
Water pH6.5 – 7.5
Difficulty LevelDifficult

Species Summary

The red texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus), a freshwater fish species, is also referred to as the Rio Grande cichlid. This colorful fish is native to the United States, occurring in the lower Rio Grande in Texas. It is the only species native to the United States, and showed up in the aquarium trade becoming popular around the 1980’s alongside its variants.

The red texas cichlid is more of a cross-genus hybrid originating from the Herichthys and Amphilophus families. It takes its common name from its similar physical characteristics to that of the Herichthys cyanoguttatus.

Red Texas Cichlid Description And Colors

The red texas cichlid has very distinctive physical and behavioral characteristics as well as habitat needs. It has an orange to reddish base color with prominent cream and turquoise spots and patterns. On top of this, there is darker edging to the fins and tail.

  • Males and Females – Red Texas cichlids are difficult to sex when they are juveniles, though in adult fish the females have more muted colors. Furthermore, the male develops what is called a nuchal hump (a prominent hump on the forehead). Generally, red texas cichlid size differs somewhat, though not hugely between the sexes.
  • Color Variations – There are common names used for the different color variations of the Texas cichlid in the aquarium trade. These include the Blue, Green, and Red Texas cichlid. This practice can be confusing as they are color variants of the Herichthys cyanoguttatus, yet also names for hybrid species. Similarly, there are species science has not yet described. These include the Herichthys sp, or “Rio Cazones,” Herichthys sp, “Turquoise,” and Herichthys sp, “Poza Rica.” Then again you may have also heard of the Super Red Texas cichlid.
  • Super Red Texas Cichlid – A bold color variation, the super red texas cichlid is a much more intense, scarlet, almost cherry red color. This is in comparison to the Red Texas cichlid that leans more towards orange than an actual bright red.

Red Texas Cichlid Size And Lifespan

Red texas cichlid size and lifespan
The large fish species enjoy a long lifespan of between 10 to 13 years. Image from Flickr

The male red texas cichlid can reach a maximum size of up to 30.5 cm (12 Inches), whereas the female is generally smaller. The large fish species enjoy a long lifespan of between 10 to 13 years.

Behavior And Tank Mates

Not suitable for beginners, this fish species is challenging and bursting with feisty personality and antics. For it to enjoy a long healthy lifespan, as well as for the well-being of tank mates there are a few rules and special requirements for the red texas cichlid that are vital to adhere to. Generally, red texas cichlid tankmates are large and bold enough that your fish does not see them as prey.

Temperament And Behaviour

The red texas cichlid is extremely aggressive and territorial. Along with its robust nature and large size, the Red Texas cichlid may be impossible to keep with other fish. Some aquarists only succeed as a single or male and female pair, so in general, red texas cichlid tank mates are out. However, some studies show that these fish have a very individual personality. Even though some specimens may be exceedingly aggressive, some are not. There have been cases where others show much less aggression and non-confrontational behavior.

Aggression normally arises are your fish ages. Many fishkeepers therefore recommend to keep this species on their own. This means as a single or male and female pair, rather than in a communal tank.

Suitable Red Texas Cichlid Tank Mates

Generally, red texas cichlids in general are perfectly fine on their own or as a couple. However, it is not recommended but possible, under strict supervision, that they could get along with the right species tankmates. Ideally, these are similar-sized species that can defend themselves if they require. Furthermore, red texas cichlid tank mates that are also aggressive could make potential tank mates. A few options to consider are:

  • Convict cichlids
  • Silver Dollars
  • Jack Dempsey cichlids
  • Giant Gourami
  • Pleco fish
  • Green terror cichlids
  • German Blue Ram cichlids
  • Firemouth cichlids
  • Tinfoil Barbs
  • Oscars
  • Tambaqui

When considering other species as tank mates, it is vital to stick to strict care requirements. Likewise, ensure you have the right aquarium setup to prevent any issues or aggressive behavior.

Aquarium And Care Requirements

Aquarium and care requirements for texas cichlids
Texas cichlids do well in a setting that mimics their natural habitat of sandy substrate, plenty of rocks, and some hardy vegetation.

Before going further into the aquarium, let’s look at the setup and care requirements for the red texas cichlid. There are a few known facts you should bear in mind, to understand their specific needs:

  1. Texas cichlids should not be kept according to standard stocking limit recommendations. They generally require much more open spaces in their tank.
  2. Ideally, it is best to keep a single specimen or a male and female pair on their own.
  3. The red texas cichlid does well in a setting that mimics their natural habitat of sandy substrate, plenty of rocks, and some hardy vegetation.
  4. Live plants are ideal, along with rooted and floating plants to create some shade.
  5. They are notorious for burrowing and can quickly uproot and destroy plants that have not properly taken root.
  6. Luckily, these fish easily adapt to water temperatures. However, they are highly sensitive to changes in water conditions and temperatures, thus, ensure you do any changes gradually.
  7. Proper hiding spaces are ideal to prevent aggression and for the fish to have a territory to claim as their own.

Tank Set Up

You will need a tank size of at least 55 gallons for a single red or super red texas cichlid, and more volume if you are planning on adding tank mates, or two cichlids. Try to ensure adequate space in the tank and never overcrowd it with plants, décor, or other fish. Yes, red texas size is important to account for. But likewise, you should account for their energy levels and swimming ability. Therefore, make sure you leave clear space in the middle of the tank.

Red Texas cichlids prefer slightly acidic to neutral water parameters with a pH of between 6.5 to 7.5, though they can survive in both cooler and warmer water conditions, the ideal temperatures for them are between 68 and 82 °F (20–28 °C).

A water hardness of between 5 to 12 KH is suitable that is softer. In terms of décor and substrate, a thicker sandy substrate in which you can plant hardy, rooted plants is ideal. This should have plenty of rocks and caves, as well as some driftwood for hiding spaces.

It is essential to ensure that there are ample open spaces for swimming. Similarly, you can use floating plants to create some much-loved shade. Ideal plant options for Texas cichlids include:

  • Java ferns.
  • Anubias.
  • Crinums.
  • Vallisneria.
  • Cryptocoryne.
  • Echinodorus.


In their natural habitat, Texas cichlids are omnivores. They enjoy eating decaying plant matter, vegetable matter, insects, smaller fish, and fish eggs. They are deliberate hunters that use skin camouflage as a method to sneak up on their prey. In the aquarium, a balanced diet will consist of quality flakes and pellets, along with fresh vegetables, and protein-based foods. These include invertebrates such as insects, blood worms, and brine shrimp. You can feed your red texas cichlid twice a day.

Introducing A New Cichlid And Acclimating

Because the red texas cichlid is so sensitive to water changes, it is crucial to properly acclimate them and not rush the process. Firstly, your tank must cycle properly and reach the correct water parameters. After this, you can purchase a healthy fish from a reliable pet store or breeder. A few characteristics to check for are:

  • Clear skin with no discoloration or tears on the fins.
  • No white spots or residue on the skin.
  • Bright and vivid coloration, and clear bright eyes.
  • The abdomen must not be swollen or sunken.
  • The fish must be active and lively, readily accepting food.

You can follow these steps to acclimate your new fish:

  1. Firstly, ensure that all the tank lights are off and the area is quiet and peaceful.
  2. Allow the bag with fish to float on the surface of the water for around 15 to 20 minutes to acclimate to the water temperatures.
  3. In intervals of every 15 minutes replace at least a quarter cup of the water in the bag with that of the tank.
  4. When most of the water in the bag has been replaced, you can allow the fish to swim into its new home, avoiding too much of the dirty water in the bag to enter the aquarium.

Tank Maintenance

Regular tank maintenance is vital for such a large and sensitive cichlid species. Remember, the red texas cichlid can produce a fair amount of waste. Water changes of between 30% to 50% need to be done weekly depending on the size of your tank and the number of fish therein.

You can follow the procedure on wikihow step by step to ensure you do this adequately. Keep in mind that you must change a larger percentage of water for cichlids. Furthermore, try to remove all uneaten foods and dead plant material that could result in an ammonia spike.


In general, the red texas cichlid has reasonably complex breeding behavior. Therefore, you should only attempt to breed them if you are an expert. They are monogamous, with a single pair of larger males and smaller females. Furthermore, these fish are excellent parents and provide a long period of parental care. Texas cichlids usually select a flat surface such as a rock, which they will clean meticulously before the female attaches her eggs to the surface. The female usually lays around 1 to 5 eggs at a time, but can produce up to 2000 eggs on such a spawning. The male secretes a seminal fluid over the eggs to fertilize them.

Both parents attentively patrol the eggs, fanning them to improve aeration and increase oxygen. When the eggs hatch, the female nips at them to free what are called wrigglers. These newborn fish have a yolk sac attached to them, which usually diminishes within a week. At this stage, they become free swimming fry.

Both parents will keep their fry swimming around them in a school. Here, they will fend off any threats and taking care of them until they become independent. Did you know that both the red and the super red texas cichlid are the same species, meaning they can breed together? However, you cannot guarantee what the offspring will look like.

General Health Issues

General health issues of texas cichlids
Keep temperatures and water parameters the same, as Texas cichlids are sensitive to changes and can quickly become stressed. Image from

Though red texas cichlids are robust fish less prone to health issues, they are still sensitive to water conditions. Therefore they can contract a few health conditions pertaining to freshwater fish, and cichlids in general. remember that many red texas cichlid tank mates can also get these conditions. Indeed, some can be contagious from fish to fish.

Steps to Prevent Health Issues: 

  • Ensure that water parameters are always pristine.
  • Ammonia build-up can cause severe burns and other health issues, thus regular maintenance and a strong filter are required.
  • Keep temperatures and water parameters the same, as Texas cichlids are sensitive to changes and can quickly become stressed.
  • Try to prevent adding tank mates that are aggressive and could cause physical harm to your cichlids.
  • Provide a quality and balanced diet to avoid any digestive issues.
  • When adding new plants or fish species, ensure that they do not have any form of parasites or illness that can be contagious, as a good measure it always helps to quarantine them at first.

Common Health Conditions: 

  • Swim Bladder Disease

The swim bladder is an organ in fish keeping them afloat. When the organ has a bacterial or fungal infection, your fish may struggle to swim upright and become lethargic. Quarantine with clean water and using an antifungal or antibacterial treatment will usually clear up the condition.

  • Fin Rot

Fin Rot is an infection caused by physical damage or ammonia burns, usually to the tail and fins, causing discoloration and tears or fraying. Address the condition using clean water and an antibacterial medication.

  • Ich/White Spot Disease

A protozoan parasite causing white spots on the skin and fins of your fish. Ideally, treat the entre tank with medication for the parasite, as it is infectious. You should also raise the water temperatures slightly.

  • Tuberculosis

Unfortunately this a contagious and mostly fatal condition that can also be transmitted to humans. A loss of appetite, frayed fins, blotchy skin, and a sunken stomach are the most prevalent symptoms. The best course of action is to remove all other fish to quarantine and to treat the sick fish in its initial aquarium with a medication known as melafix.

  • Cotton Wool Disease

If you notice fuzzy white growths on your fish, then it is usually cotton wool disease. This is a fungus naturally found in the aquarium that mainly only becomes a problem when water conditions are sub-par. This can often be if there is a build-up of waste or uneaten food. Antifungal medication and a slat bath usually clear up the condition quickly and easily. You will similarly have to clean the tank and improve water conditions.

  • Hole in the Head Disease

The condition is mainly referred to as hexamita, and many associate it specifically with cichlids. It results in a depression in the head of the ill fish that usually accompanies a lack of appetite and weight loss. Though there is much debate, many consider that the causes are poor water conditions and a mineral imbalance. This can make conditions favorable for the parasite Hexamita. By improving water conditions, and then using antibiotic treatment, the condition should clear up easily.

  • Gill Flukes

Gill Flukes are parasites that attack the gills of your fish, causing them to become red and infected. This results in difficulty breathing. The most common treatment is using a tablespoon per 55 gallons of aquarium salt and increasing tank temperatures.

Take Away

Are red texas cichlids aggressive?
They are feisty, territorial, and aggressive fish, though there have been cases where individual fish have shown less tendencies to aggression. Image from

The Red Texas cichlid is a superb aquarium specimen but is not to be taken lightly. Both the original morph and the super red texas cichlid are feisty and can be aggressive.

However, its bold colors and feisty nature make it a challenging but rewarding cichlid species if you are looking for something more individual. Just remember these fish have specific care requirements! However, if you adhere to these properly, the red texas cichlid makes a fascinating pet that you can enjoy for quite a few years.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Best Tank Mates for Red Texas Cichlids?
According to much research, and advice from experts, Red Texas cichlids are best kept on their own, or as a male and female pair. Though similarly robust and aggressive fish species such as discussed in the Tank Mates section, can be considered with care and supervision.
Are Red Texas Cichlids Aggressive?
They are feisty, territorial, and aggressive fish, though there have been cases where individual fish have shown less tendencies to aggression, and have successfully been kept with a few selective fish species.
What is the Difference Between Males and Females?
Males and females are much similar in color, though females are smaller when mature, and have subdued colors, in comparison to the more vivid-colored males. Males also form a hump on their heads as they age, referred to as a nuchal hump.
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Tal Halperin

Tal is an avid fish keeper and has been raising ornamental fish for decades. As a little boy, he drove his father crazy to buy him an aquarium with all the necessary equipment. Now, after a career in the field, he has set up Your Aquarium Place to offer the most comprehensive guide to ornamental fish keeping available and share his passion for the different species he has looked after.