Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) Species Profile & Care Guide
The Firemouth Cichlid is easy to care for, hardy and peaceful but can be very territorial. These Cichlids are attractive and vibrant freshwater fish that brings a unique splash of colour to any tank. Watching them swim around can provide continuous entertainment, making them extremely popular in the aquarium hobby.
Firemouth Cichlids are suitable for the community aquarium; however, they can become highly aggressive to their species as well as other community fish during spawning. These Cichlids are not very good at handling stress, and they prefer larger tanks with more space; this helps them create separate territories.
Suitable tankmates could include similar sized South American Cichlids, although you will need a large enough tank to allow the fish to establish their own territory safely. Ideal tank mates are active schooling fish such as Catfish, Plecos, Rainbowfish and Tetras. However, it would be better to avoid slow-moving fish species that are easily bullied, such as Angelfish and Dwarf Cichlids.
Shrimp and Snails are also not advised; otherwise, they may get eaten.
Males will often exercise their dominance by puffing and flaring out their gills, revealing their bright red throats. They’ll do this as a threatening display designed to intimidate and chase off any other rival males searching for mates swimming in their territory.
If you observe them closely, you will notice they spend most of their time around plants. They like to move and rearrange things, including the substrate, and move or dig out the plants.
Firemouth Cichlids have a pearlescent grey to blueish-olive colouration on their heads and body. The males display a distinctive, vibrant orangy-red colouration on the underside of the head where the gills are.
One of the defining features of the Firemouth Cichlid is a black mark situated on the lower part of the operculum. All their fins except their pectoral fin have red edging and infrequently blue spots. Some of these fish display darker lateral bars along their sides.
|Scientific Name||Thorichthys meeki|
|Aquarium Level||Bottom - Middle|
|Difficulty||Beginner - Intermediate|
|Best kept as||Pairs|
|Lifespan||8 - 10 years|
|Temperature||75 - 86 ℉ (23.9 - 30 ℃)|
|PH||6.5 - 8.0|
|GH||8 - 15|
Natural Habitat of the Firemouth Cichlid
Firemouth Cichlids are endemic to northern Guatemala, the rivers of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, and south through Belize in Central America. They can also be found in Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Israel, Puerto Rico, Arizona, Hawaii and Florida.
These Cichlids inhabit shallow, slow-moving or still lowland waters of the lower and middle sections of canals, ditches, rivers, lagoons, and rocky ponds. The substrates are sandy or muddy and covered with smooth rocks, leaf litter, submerged branches, and dense aquatic vegetation along the shorelines.
Firemouth Cichlids are considered an invasive species in North America and are being recorded in other areas worldwide; this is due to human release in the wild and its fast growth rate and exceptional adaptive skills.
Other Cichlids of interest
Firemouth Cichlids are omnivorous and opportunistic in their feeding strategies. Their ability to protrude their jaw 6 per cent standard length limits their diet to about 6 per cent evasive prey.
Firemouth Cichlids are not picky eaters and will eat anything you give them. They will feed on small crustaceans such as copepods and cladocerans, organic detritus, small invertebrates, and molluscs in the wild.
In the aquarium, a varied diet is an essential part of their health. You should provide your Cichlids with high quality dried foods like pellets, flakes, granules and algae wafers as the staple of their diet, occasionally giving these fish live and frozen food. This can be vitamin-enriched brine shrimp, bloodworms, artemia, mosquito larvae, Tubifex, Mysis and daphnia. However, it is crucial that you do not feed them too much protein as they can be prone to digestive issues.
Firemouth Cichlids will also appreciate an occasional treat of vegetables, including spinach, spirulina, and suchlike. It would be more beneficial if you fed your Cichlids small portions two to three times a day.
Breeding the Firemouth Cichlid
Firemouth Cichlids are bi-parental substrate spawners. They become sexually mature when they grow to around 6 or 7cm in length, and breeding is relatively straightforward, providing you accommodate them with some flat surfaces in the tank where they can lay their eggs.
The male will choose a fitting territory containing a flat rock or piece of slate. However, they will sometimes select a piece of driftwood, flower pots, broad plant leaves, the aquarium glass, or even a shallow hole dug in the substrate.
The female will then deposit anything up to 500 eggs in small batches, and once each cluster has been laid, the male will immediately swim over them while he releases his milt. This process is then repeated until the female has run out of eggs.
Once the eggs have hatched, the parents will then move the larvae to a pre-dug pit in the substrate while absorbing their yolk sacs. At this point, the female will stay close to her young, whilst the male protects the surrounding territory.
The fry will become free swimming within 3 to 5 days after hatching, and both parents will care for them, vigorously seeing off any intruders.
You can offer the fry crushed flake and powdered baby fish food and baby brine shrimp leading on to bigger foodstuffs as they develop.