Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki): Ultimate Care Guide

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The Firemouth Cichlid is a type of Cichlid from Central America and is an extremely popular fish in the aquarium community.  This is due to the immense beauty and color that they bring to the tank.  The firemouth cichlid tends to be found in rivers that run through the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and their dwelling places in the wild also tend to run far past this area. 

The firemouth cichlid, Thorichthys meeki, is the common name for this fish species, but they also go by “firemouths” for short.  Make no mistake; the names represent a very distinctive territorial demeanor.  Male firemouth cichlids often flare and puff out their gills, exposing their bright red throats and asserting their dominance.

Firemouth cichlids are often found in warm, slow-moving, shallow waters.  This is one of the big reasons why firemouth cichlids are so popular.  They don’t need such a large area to thrive, and caring for them is relatively straightforward. 

The firemouth cichlids can be red or grey in color and are quite hypnotic to look at.  Another major characteristic of the firemouth cichlid is the black mark on the lower half of the operculum.  They can also have dark lateral bars along the sides.  If you are looking for an eye-catching, low-maintenance fish for your tank, look no further than the firemouth cichlid. 

Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki)
Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki)

Firemouth Cichlid Care

The firemouth cichlid is a beginner-level fish to care for.  They are hardy, peaceful fish that are typically bred commercially.  To ensure that your firemouth cichlid thrives, follow this guide, as they are fairly manageable fish, especially when you are educated on what works best for the firemouth cichlid. 

Temperature & Water pH

When taking care of a firemouth cichlid, you must ensure that the water is a little on the warm side.  Any water temperature between 75°F to 86°F should be well enough for the firemouth to thrive.  They also do well in water with pH levels between 6.5 and 8.0 and a water hardness between 8-15 dGH.  The firemouth cichlid’s natural habitat is the warmer waters of the Mexican and Central American regions, so try to keep the temperature in your tank at the same caliber. 

Firemouth Cichlid Size

On average, the firemouth cichlid’s size is around six inches for males, while females tend to be slightly smaller.  If you are trying to make them grow as large as possible, one recommendation is to have their new habitat ready to go on day one of having the fish.  Since they don’t take up too much space in the tank, a large tank size is not really necessary, which is another advantage of this beautiful fish.

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Size

For the firemouth cichlid, a minimum tank size of thirty gallons is needed to be sure that the fish will live well.  They aren’t the tiniest fish, but they need some space to swim in.  Therefore, it is recommended that you have a tank at least this size.  Remember, you are trying to replicate the natural conditions as much as possible to ensure that your firemouth cichlid does not get sick.

Food & Diet

Firemouth Cichlids are not very fussy eaters and will pretty much eat whatever you give them.  And boy, do they love eating!  In their natural habitat, firemouth cichlids will get most of their nutrition from various forms of crustaceans and perhaps the occasional plant.  But for the sake of your personal tank, the firemouths do fine with any high-quality flake or pellet food. 

You can give them a protein-rich snack like brine shrimp or bloodworms to give them some additional enrichment. If you find that your firemouth cichlid doesn’t eat something, be sure to remove it from the tank.  Also, be careful not to overfeed the firemouths. Otherwise, they could develop problems.  The most common practice is feeding them twice a day with an amount they can finish in a few minutes. 

Firemouth Cichlid Lifespan

The firemouth cichlid can live up to around ten years, given proper care. However, there are many cases in which the fish lived much longer than that.  If you are looking to maximize the lifespan of your firemouth, then look into who you are buying your fish from.  This is because the care and breeding practices will have a major impact on the health of the fish before you even bring it home.  While these fish are small, they can live very long lives if given their conditions are met.

Firemouth Cichlid Tank Mates

One thing to know about the firemouth cichlid is that it is a predominantly peaceful fish.  They’ll be satisfied if it has enough swimming space and a healthy environment.  However, once that firemouth feels like those conditions are not being met, they can be prone to aggression.  For example, if too many fish are crammed together in one tank, the fish will become unhappy.  Many types of fish require a safe swimming space to move around if they are to maintain a peaceful mood.

That being said, take a good look at your tank size and consider how many fish you want to keep simultaneously.  This will help you plan ahead for future fish and limit the number inside.  While the firemouth can live alone, they enjoy pairing up, so it might be better to buy an even number of them.  It will generally get along with other similarly sized fish and not aggressive.  Firemouth cichlids will not tolerate larger, aggressive fish and will likely attack them if they feel the larger fish poses a threat. 

As mentioned before, the firemouth cichlid are crustacean feeders in the wild.  Therefore, don’t pair them with shrimp or other freshwater aquarium snails. 

Some of the more popular tank mates include the rummy nose tetra, bristlenose and clown pleco, pictus and cory catfish, kuhli loach, rainbow fish, swordtails, and platies.  There are plenty of other tank mates available that will get along with the firemouth cichlid. 

Firemouth cichlids are closely related to Convicts, so they naturally make good tank mates with Oscar fish.  These two work best if there are rocks and caves to provide adequate hiding spots.  They should leave each other alone if there is enough space to swim. 

However, firemouths and angelfish are kind of a hit or miss.  There are many reports of people keeping these two fish together successfully, but there is also a lot of fin nibblers.  It seems to depend on the angelfish’s size compared to the firemouth.  Both can be a bit testy in the tank together.

Regarding firemouth cichlids and Jack Dempsey, it really comes down to the tank size.  Any tank that is 55 gallons and over will be plenty of room for these two fish to coexist.  Both of these fish can be very territorial. Therefore, it is best to give them the proper space. 

It would also be best to avoid pairing firemouth cichlid with African cichlid, as they tend not to get along well.  In fact, cichlids were scattered about the Americas, Asia, and Africa and have evolved different behaviors and preferences.  Firemouths get really cocky when they are mixed with cichlids from different parts of the world.

The Silver Dollar fish is a top-dwelling creature, and the firemouth cichlid is generally found in the middle of the tank.  This is another case in which having a bigger tank comes in handy.  Small spaces can cause territory issues with some fish.  Other cichlids might get along with silver dollar fish, but the firemouth would need space.

Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki)
Firemouth Cichlid (Thorichthys meeki)

Tank Setup

The theme here is that there needs to be some thought as to how big the tank will be and what fish will be put inside it. The larger the tank, the more possibilities for fishy friends.  It always helps to have wood, rocks, paths, and caves for them to find their own area to relax and swim around in. If you want to put any plants in the tank, then it would be good to place them around the edges of the tank to leave a lot of space in the middle for them to swim around. 

Furthermore, if the plants are out of the way, there’s less chance of the firemouth destroying the aquarium plants.  Otherwise, they will fix the landscape to their liking, and some plants might be redecorated, but once they are settled, there shouldn’t be any problems. 

Additionally, you should have a proper filtration system in the tank to keep the water fresh and clean.  Be sure to clean the tank regularly and remove anything that might be harmful to the fish.


Similar to other cichlids, the firemouth will form monogamous pairs.  They do not need any specific water conditions for breeding.  Eggs are usually laid on a cleaned solid surface like a rock, plant leaf, wood, or on the tank’s surface.  The female will generally lay around 100-500 eggs, and then the male will fertilize them.  After fertilization, the parents guard their eggs and the fry.  Adult firemouths can raise several broods per year. 

You can feed the fry good quality food such as microworms.  They should be able to reach the swimming stage after 4-5 days.  They will probably stick around the parents for several weeks.  If you are breeding firemouth cichlids, ensure you have the proper tools for care. 

To tell the difference between males and females, males are larger and show brighter coloration with longer fin rays.  Females tend to show larger bellies which give them a rounder shape. 


The health of your fish are going to rely on how well you take proper care of them.  As the firemouth cichlid is part of the Cichlidae family and a freshwater species, they are susceptible to Ich, which can grow fungal-like white spots on their bodies.  You’ll be able to notice if the fish loses its appetite and hides abnormally.  You might be able to help the fish by raising the water temperature to 86 F, and you should see a significant improvement in a day or two. 

If that isn’t enough, then try some copper-based medicines.  Remember that anything new you introduce to your tank will affect the fish.  Be careful of allowing any bacteria, fungus, or parasite into the tank.

Where to Find Firemouth Cichlid For Sale

It is extremely important to consider the source of wherever you are getting your firemouth cichlids.  It is highly recommended that you inspect the care taken for the firemouth before you buy it.  Many websites online sell firemouth cichlids, like Imperial Tropicals and LiveAquaria, but the fish can also be found at any general pet store, including Petco and Petsmart. 

Each of the firemouth cichlids costs between $6-40, but most fish stores will sell it on the cheaper side.  Since they are a fish that pairs, many stores will have an offer where if you buy more, then you can save on the price.

Yellow Firemouth Cichlid

There is a variation of the firemouth cichlid called the yellow firemouth cichlid, thorichthys pasionis, which have a bright yellow throat.  This can make them appear a bit lighter than regular reddish firemouth cichlids.  They are not as aggressive as regular firemouths.  The best way to keep yellow firemouth cichlid is by keeping them in large groups in a large tank.  They also tend to do better in community tanks.  Yellow firemouth cichlids are very hardy and adaptable. 

Although, just like the regular firemouth cichlids, the yellow ones will eat heartily.  The yellow firemouth cichlids also do well with dither fish and help ease the tensions of the tank community. 

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