Skip to Content

Red Devil Cichlid: Everything You Need To Know

Red Devil Cichlid: Everything You Need To Know

The charismatic red devil cichlid is an iconic fish species that has captivated aquarists for generations. This hardy fish is known for its vibrant colors, bold personality, and enduringly wise expression. It’s no wonder why so many aquarists are drawn to this fish species. 

Red devil cichlids are hardy and can survive in a wide range of water conditions. They prefer slightly alkaline to moderately hard water, with a pH level of 6.5-7.0 and a temperature of 21-26 degrees Celsius (70-79 degrees Fahrenheit). They grow to an average size of about 12 inches. 

These fish are aggressive and not for the faint of heart. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about the red devil cichlid, from its care requirements and diet to its temperament. 

Red Devil Cichlid Species Overview

For an aquarium hobbyist, the red devil cichlid is one of the most popular and iconic choices. This freshwater fish is the perfect addition to your home aquarium with its bright red body and black spots.

Origin of the Red Devil Cichlid

The red devil cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) is a freshwater fish from Central America, specifically in lake Nicaragua and lake Managua. It was given its name due to its aggressive nature and the vibrant red color of its fins. 

The red devil is a member of the Cichlidae family, which includes other species such as the Oscar and Jack Dempsey cichlids. It was originally known as the Cichlasoma labiatum but was later renamed Amphilophus labiatus in 1991. This fish will not be found in flowing rivers. Instead, it prefers slow-moving rivers, pools, and ponds.


The red devil cichlid is a large, stocky fish with a sinister appearance. It has a red-brown body covered in black dots, along with two fins typically highlighted in a bright red color. 

The anal and dorsal fin are pronounced and spiky, and their eyes are an eerie red. The fins can be used for more than just swimming, as the red devil cichlid is an expert jump starter and can use them to jump out of the water or climb onto rocks. 

Depending on the sex and age of the fish, you may also find a reddish-orange hue on its fins. The males tend to have more vibrant colors, are bigger, and have a pointy genital papilla and a prominent bump on their forehead

At the same time, females are usually less colorful and have rounded heads and more compressed bodies. The lips of the fish are usually thick and fleshy, helping it to grab better and tear food. 

Its other distinguishing feature is its large, protruding lower jaw, which gives it its signature snarl. As with most species within the cichlid family, red devils also have pharyngeal jaws on the back of the throat. These specialized teeth help them better process food, allowing them to consume various food sources. 

This fish comes in various colors, and you can find it with black, white, and yellow stripes. They are unique-looking fish and can be quite striking when they are healthy and in their prime.

Size and Lifespan of Red Devil Cichlid

Red devil cichlids can grow up to 15 inches (38 cm) long and weigh up to 2.5 pounds (1 kg). Younger red devil cichlids are usually large, ranging from around 12-15 inches (30-38 cm) in length. 

Males tend to be larger than females, so you should provide enough space in the aquarium to allow them to reach their full size. They can live up to 15 years in captivity with proper care and maintenance. 

Natural Habitat

The red devil cichlid, or Amphilophus labiatus, is native to Central America and can be found in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras. It prefers slow-moving to still waters, such as rivers, streams, reservoirs, and lakes. 

Red devils often inhabit flooded areas and marshlands, where they can find plenty of hiding places. They tend to stay close to vegetation for shelter but also take refuge in caves and crevices. Red devil cichlids are highly adaptive and can survive in various environments. 

Behavior and Temperament

The red devil cichlid is a bold and powerful fish with plenty of personality. It is an aggressive fish and will usually attack and bully other species in the tank. Therefore, it should not be housed with other fish. It is also territorial, so it is recommended to keep one in its own tank.

They are conscious of their owners too. A well-fed and cared-for red devil cichlid will recognize its owner, and it can be trained to swim up to the surface in anticipation of food. They also enjoy being petted. It can be a fun fish for those who take the time to get to know it.

They also destroy plants in the tank, so it is best to keep them in a tank with hardy plants only. 

They may also dig into their substrate and rearrange decorations, so you should place them securely. These fish are energetic and love swimming around. To keep them healthy and entertained, they should have plenty of space to swim and explore the tank.

Care and Maintenance of the Red Devil Cichlid

To keep your red devil cichlid healthy and happy, providing it with the right environment and diet is essential.

Tank Requirement

Red devil cichlids need a large aquarium with plenty of space to swim and explore. A tank size of at least 55 gallons (208 liters) is recommended for a single fish, and an additional 10 gallons (40 liters) should be added for each extra fish.

The tank should be decorated with rocks and driftwood to provide hiding places and plenty of plants.

Water Conditions

Red devil cichlids are hardy fish and require a wide range of water conditions. The ideal temperature ranges from 70-79°F (21-26°C), and they should be kept in a neutral pH (7.0) or slightly alkaline environment with a hardness of 10-25 dKH. 

They are adaptable and can live in conditions outside this range, but optimal water quality should be maintained to ensure their health and well-being. Additionally, these fish are sensitive to poor water quality and need a weekly partial water change of at least 20 percent to prevent disease and stress in their environment.


When it comes to the substrate, the red devil cichlid is not fussy. Any substrate will do, be it gravel, sand, or otherwise. However, the only thing to keep in mind is that you should use a substrate with some coarse material mixed in, as this will help the fish to dig, creating tunnels and hiding spots in which they feel safe. 

While a larger grain size is necessary for this purpose, avoid anything too big, as it could get stuck in their gills. Keeping the substrate clean and free of excess food and waste is vital, as with all other fish. 

Other Decorations

Red devils tend to tear up their environment, so you must consider your chosen decorations wisely. Live plants won’t last long as they are likely to be uprooted and destroyed. If you are using live plants, you must ensure they are rooted in heavily weighed-down pots or terracotta urns. 

However, artificial plants can work well as long as they aren’t too plastic-like. Other decorations such as driftwood, rocks, and cooking pots can also be used with minimal disruption from your fish. Try to avoid anything small or sharp-edged, as these could be ingested by the cichlid.


Getting tank mates for a red devil cichlid can be tricky. Avoid any fish that are small or delicate in nature. Red devils are known for their aggression and will often hunt down and attack fish that are smaller than them. 

Their strong jaws and sharp teeth will make quick work of any small fish they come across. 

Also, you can only keep one red devil per tank or introduce a mated pair that is both male and female. In this case, the two should be of similar size to prevent any aggression between them. 

The tank should also be spacious enough for the red devils to swim and explore freely. Tank mates suitable for the red devil cichlid are larger, peaceful fish such as silver dollars, plecos, and oscar fish. 

You should introduce tank mates early on in the red devil’s life, as this will help them learn to be comfortable with other fish being present. When introducing tank mates, you should also ensure plenty of hiding places and decorations in the tank. This will allow your red devil and their tank mates to find safe havens when needed.

Diet and Feeding

Red devil cichlids are omnivores and will eat anything they can fit into their mouths. They feed on small invertebrates, insects, and plant matter in the wild. In captivity, they can be fed a variety of food sources such as pellets, frozen or live food, and a variety of vegetables. 

Feeding them small meals throughout the day rather than one large meal is best. Feeding should be done at least a couple of times a day, and the food should not be left in the tank for more than an hour. This will prevent overfeeding and ensure the tank remains clean. 

Variety is key in their diet, as they will become bored with the same food every time. 


Breeding red devil cichlids is not a very difficult task. If you provide them with the proper conditions, they will lay eggs and become successful parents. The best way to encourage breeding is to provide a large tank with a temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius). 

You should also provide a lot of hiding spots for them to spawn in, such as caves and rocks. When the eggs are laid, the males guard them carefully and fan them with their fins. After 3-4 days for the eggs to hatch and another 5-7 days for the fry to become free swimming. 

You can start feeding them small foods such as baby brine shrimp, daphnia, or other small live foods. You can introduce larger food sources such as chopped worms and flake foods as they grow.

Good water quality is very important when breeding red devil cichlids. Regular partial water changes are recommended to keep the tank clean and disease-free. You should also feed the parents a high-quality, protein-rich diet such as bloodworms. This will ensure they get all the essential nutrients needed to produce healthy fry.

Diseases That Affect the Red Devil Cichlid

Red devil cichlids are generally hardy fish and can handle most diseases. However, they are still prone to Ich, hole-in-the-head disease, and bacterial infections.

1. Ich

Thyophthirius multifiliis, commonly known as “white spot” or “ich,” is a common problem for red devil cichlids, especially in overcrowded tanks or poor water quality. It is caused by a protozoan parasite and can result in death if left untreated. Some symptoms of Ich include white spots on the skin and clamped fins.

Fortunately, it is treatable with special medication, such as malachite green or formalin. Still, it is important to follow the directions carefully and monitor the fish closely to ensure it does not relapse. You can raise the temperature of the water to around 86 degrees Fahrenheit to expedite the treatment process.

2. Hole in the Head Disease

One of the most serious health issues that a red devil cichlid can suffer from is Hole in the Head Disease (HTHD). It is caused by a protozoan infection characterized by lesions or pits in the fish’s head. 

In severe cases, this infection can spread to other body parts and even cause death. To prevent HTHD, you should avoid overcrowding your tank and ensure that the water is clean and free of toxins. 

Additionally, you should provide your fish with a steady diet of protein-rich foods and vitamin supplements. If you notice any lesions on your red devil cichlid, it is important to take immediate action.

3. Bacterial Infection

Although red devil cichlids are generally hardy fish, they can still fall prey to bacterial infections. The most common symptom is cloudy eyes, which can be caused by environmental or water quality issues. 

If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, organ failure, and even death. To avoid serious outbreaks, keep the water parameters in check and have good water circulation and oxygenation levels. 

If your fish shows signs of bacterial infection, you have to immediately take them out and treat the water with an antibiotic.

Clean and disinfect your aquarium filter, rocks, and decorations regularly. And ensure that you are using dechlorinated water when performing water changes. These steps can help prevent bacterial outbreaks and keep your red devil cichlid healthy.

Final Thoughts

The red devil cichlid is a beautiful and fascinating fish. It’s full of character but can also be high-maintenance and aggressive. Nevertheless, this fish can be a great addition to any aquarium with the right care and setup. 

The red devil cichlid is a perfect fish for experienced aquarists looking to add excitement and interest to their tanks. With its impressive size, bold personality, and striking colors, this fish is sure to be a show-stopper in any aquarium.

I’m Elle, the founder of FishHQ. I created this website to share knowledge, tips, and inspiration for beginner hobbyists to help them create a healthy, happy, and vibrant environment for their fish to thrive. Read more...