Synonyms: Cichlasoma meeki
Physical description: A tall, laterally compressed cichlid. The head is large and pointed. The anal and dorsal fins come to a point. The body color is light gray to dark slate gray and six to seven, often faint, transverse stripes mark the upper parts. A black spot can be found on the gill cover. The throat and breast are bight red as is the anal fins which also has some iridescent blue spots. The other fins have a red tint with the green to blue iridescent spots.
Size/Length: To 6" (15 cm)
Similar species: C. longimanus, T. aureum, T. callolepis, T. ellioti, T. helleri
Habitat: Shallow areas of lakes, springs, streams, and flooded areas, usually in slow-moving water. Central America; Southern Mexico, Honduras. The Firemouth has been found in underground water systems.
Aquarium: 20" (50 cm) or 10 gallons (38 L) is adequate for young individuals (under 3"), but adults should be kept in larger tanks, 36" (91 cm) or 40 gallons (151 L). Provide shelter with rocks, roots, and wood. Leave open swimming areas. The substrate should be fine gravel or preferably sand. Use hardy, well-rooted plants as this species will burrow.
Water chemistry: pH 6.5-8.5 (7.0), dH 4-20 (10), 68-81°F (20-27°C).
Social behavior: A relatively peaceful cichlid that can be kept in a community tank with other cichlids and even smaller fish. The Firemouth is territorial and will display its bright red gill covers to frighten other fish off. The Firemouth will eat small fish. The Firemouth is best kept in pairs. To acquire a compatible pair, place a group of young fish in a tank and allow them to pair up. Take the best looking, and most evenly matched pair and keep them. Two pairs can be kept in 55-gallon tank. During the spawning season, this fish becomes a menace to other tank mates. The Firemouth aggressively attacks any other fish that swim near the spawning site or brood. The pairs form a nuclear family and are excellent parents.
Suggested companions: Cichlasomines, other South American cichlids, Loricarids, Pimelodids, large Characins, Hemichromis, Tilapia.
FOOD: Live; insects, insect larvae, worms, crustaceans; flakes; plant matter; vegetables.
Sexual differences: Males have more intense colors and have pointed anal and dorsal fins, while the female has a dark spot on its dorsal fin. Males have a pointed genital papilla.
Breeding techniques: An easily bred cichlid in neutral water, with a harness around 10, and a temperature of 77-82°F (25-28°C). The eggs, numbering as many as 500, are laid on previously cleaned rocks. There, the female fans the eggs while the male guards the territory. It is advisable to remove other fish, to keep the from being harmed by the male. The eggs hatch in 3-4 days and are taken to pits where both parents guard them. Start feeding with fine-grade dry food and Artemia. The pair may raise several broods yearly.
Breeding potential: 5. The Firemouth is an easy cichlid to breed.
Remarks: Firemouths are nervous fish, so try to avoid sudden movement or noise. When frightened they may swim frantically around the tank, often injuring themselves in the process. They may even play dead. The Firemouth is one of the most popularly kept cichlids. Wild-caught specimen are much more beautiful than the plentiful tank bred fish from Southeast Asia. The Firemouth is sexually mature at 3" (8 cm).
Difficulty of care: 4. The Firemouth is a hardy cichlid that is very aggressive during the spawning season.