Breeding firemouth cichlids

Breeding firemouth cichlids

male & female firemouth cichlid guarding fry and flaring
male & female firemouth cichlid guarding fry and flaring

Equipment needed

  • 24 inch tank hood and light (This is the minimum)
  • internal filter
  • fine gravel or sand
  • several flat stones or slates and a clay plant pot
  • driftwood
  • potted plants
  • 100w heater
  • Group of 6 juvenile firemouths
  • baby brine shrimp and microworm culture

Firemouth Cichlid: Care and description

The firemouth cichlid is a hardy fish that can live in most water conditions and they eat a mixed diet of plant matter and insects. In the aquarium they are fine with dried fish foods but they do relish live foods. The firemouth cichlid can be a good beginner’s cichlid if they bear in mind the potential size.

Being a cichlid they produce a lot of waste. So, good filtration and weekly water changes are needed. The firemouth cichlid is sexually mature at 3 inches and can grow up to 6 inches but usually 5 inches in the aquarium. It can be a community fish when kept with reasonably sized tank mates and the aquarium is quite large.
The male firemouth cichlid has longer, pointier dorsal and anal fins. The male is slightly larger than the female.

male firemouth cichlid flaring gills and swelling throat
male firemouth cichlid flaring gills and swelling throat

The firemouth cichlid likes to flare its red gills and throat at other fish to protect itself. The flaring is a kind of bluff because it very rarely attacks other fish except perhaps when mating.
It is very easy to breed and it prefers normal dechlorinated tap water of ph 7.2 or slightly higher with a medium hardness. Normal temperature 77F. Raise to 82F for breeding.
Like most central American cichlids the firemouth cichlid will mate for life and fish like to choose who they pair off with. So it is better to start off with 6 or more youngsters and raise them up together to see which fish pair off.
It is during this breeding period that the parents become very aggressive. They both fan out their gill plates and throat cavities. This creates a bright orangey red display. The dark spots on the gill plate sides are turned to face the front giving the appearance of two large eyes. This fools other fish into believing that the firemouth cichlid is a much bigger fish than it really is and usually back off.


Preparation for breeding

Firemouth parents coordinating protection of brood
Firemouth cichlid parents coordinating protection of brood

Raise the group of six in the community tank. Remove the most obvious “couple” to the breeding tank. Raise the temperature of the breeding tank to 82F. A pair can be bred in a 24 inch tank but preferably use a bigger tank. Prime by feeding the pair live foods several times a day.
Also they can be bred in a large community tank of 48 inches and bigger with other fish. But during breeding time the parents may become aggressive.
Provide fine gravel or sand in the aquarium because firemouth cichlids do like to dig up the substrate. Also make sure you pot up the roots of any plants before placing them in the gravel. Use some driftwood in the aquarium. This helps replicate their natural environment.


Breeding firemouth cichlid behaviour

female firemouth lays eggs on stone while male guards
female firemouth lays eggs on stone while male guards

They need a flattish stone or clay plant pot to breed on. They clean the spawning site really well. The female lays eggs on the spawning site by gliding over it and laying each egg individually one after the other. The male then glides over the eggs and fertilises the newly laid eggs. Several eggs are laid in a line so that the female will not lay eggs on top of each other. The eggs are a tan colour. When all the batches of eggs have been laid and fertilised, the result is a rock neatly covered in eggs. The eggs number in the hundreds. The male and female guard and tend the eggs until they hatch. They clean the eggs and remove any dead eggs to avoid contaminating the other eggs.

Raising the fry

Firemouth Cichlid fry
Firemouth Cichlid fry

Do 10% water changes every day with aged water. After 4 days the eggs hatch and the parents will then move them to a secondary nest and take care of them until they become free swimming. The secondary nest is usually a pit they have dug in the gravel. They become free swimming on the 7th or 8th day depending on the temperature. Start feeding at this point.
They can be kept with the parents who will guard them and also they will retrieve and fry that stray too far by sucking them up and spitting them out near the nest site.
The fry are quite large and can feed on brineshrimp and microworms from the start. Feed this until they are 3 weeks old then introduce dried fish food. Overlap the feeding. They grow fast. If they are in a tank by themselves you can remove the parents any time after the fry have become free swimming.

2 thoughts on “Breeding firemouth cichlids”

    • When the fry start to escape the control of their parents, ie when the parents can’t herd them up any more, is a good time to separate the parents. It is a good idea to have a dim night light outside the aquarium. Some parents get anxious and attack each other and may eat the fry. Use dither fish to get the parents attention and protective instincts may prevent the parents eating the fry or attacking each other.


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