Rainbow Cichlid (Herotilapia multispinosa): Care Guide


Common Name(s)Rainbow Cichlid
Scientific NameHerotilapia multispinosa
OriginCentral America
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Size6.5 inches
Minimum Tank Size30 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous
Lifespan7-9 years
Water pH7.0-8.0
Tank MatesPossible tank mates include peaceful fish of similar size such as larger tetras, danios, barbs, rainbowfish, catfish, and livebearers.
BreedingSubstrate spawners
DiseaseMay be susceptible to fin rot.
Rainbow Cichlid
Rainbow Cichlid (Herotilapia multispinosa). Klaus Rudloff, CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Rainbow Cichlid, scientifically known as Herotilapia multispinosa, is an omnivorous tropical water fish native to the Pacific and Atlantic regions of Central America. This species of fish inhabits Lake Nicaragua in large quantities they can also be found in countries such as Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This fish has coined the name Rainbow Fish due to their ability to change color depending on their mood along with their beautiful coloration.

The Rainbow Cichlid is a hardy fish that can live from seven to nine years. In the wild, these fish grow to about six and a half inches in length and can possibly reach this length in captivity under pristine conditions. Typically, while living in captivity Rainbow Cichlids will grow up to about three inches in length. These fish have a shining yellow color to their scales with a horizontal black stripe going down each side of their body. They can also contain hues of reds and browns within their scales. The tips of their dorsal fins have an iridescent strip that appears white when not under direct light and will be shimmering blue when under good lighting. Rainbow Cichlids are luminous medium-sized fish that will be a beautiful addition to your tank for close to a decade.

Rainbow Cichlid Care

The Rainbow Cichlid is a beginner lever fish that anyone can care for as they are hardy and can easily adapt to their environment. While these fish will adapt and overcome, they do have water parameters required to thrive and live a long healthy life. The Rainbow Cichlid thrives in water temperatures of 72-82°F (22-28°C) with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH level of 7.0 to 8.0. To maintain pristine water conditions water changes of 20 percent should be done weekly along with regularly checking water temperatures and pH levels. Rainbow Cichlids will easily adapt to their environment but should be kept in pristine conditions with tropical water parameters to live a long healthy life.

Rainbow Cichlid Food & Diet

The Rainbow Cichlid is an omnivorous fish meaning that they eat both animals and plants. These fish should be fed two to three times daily in small doses to prevent excess food. Their diet should consist of variety since they are omnivores. Rainbow Cichlids can be fed detritus which is debris rich in organic matter typically eaten in the wild, various types of algae, smaller fish, worms, small crickets, betta flake food, and tropical flake food. Since these fish are top feeders, they should be fed in small doses. Leftover food will sink to the bottom of the tank and diminish the water quality which can cause environmentally caused diseases such as fin rot or a bacterial infection. Rainbow Cichlids are omnivorous fish that should be fed a diet of variety multiple times daily in small doses to prevent their habitat’s water quality from diminishing.

Rainbow Cichlid Tank Setup

The Rainbow Cichlid is a highly active species of fish meaning they need adequate room for their activity level and to prevent them from feeling cramped. These fish should be kept in a tank of at least 30 gallons or more depending on how many fish are inhabiting the tank. Rainbow Cichlids exhibit schooling behavior, so they should be kept in groups of six or more, meaning they should have a larger tank for adequate amounts of swimming room. The Rainbow Cichlid is very active and can be put under large amounts of stress that may lead to disease when not given enough room in their tank to swim around so creating a home with enough space is crucial.

When setting up a Rainbow Cichlids tank it should somewhat resemble their natural habitat. This species of fish is found in tropical warm water streams, rivers, lakes, and even swamps around Central America. Adding multiple rooted plants such as Java Ferns is a great way to start. Incorporating plants into their new habitat provides them with a feeling of home, and also provides them with a great number of hiding spots. These plants will also provide them with snacks as they tend to nibble on vegetation. A soft pebble or sandy substrate should be used to line the bottom of the tank. Rigid rocky substrates will provide too many opportunities to damage their skin which could lead to illness. Plenty of tank decorations can be added to the Rainbow Cichlids tank to provide more depth along with a sense of security knowing that they have plenty of places to burrow away in.  This can be done with rock formations or even pieces of driftwood. When incorporating decorations into their habitat there should be quite a few additions but be sure to not overfill the tank as this species requires plenty of swimming room. Without adequate amounts of swimming room, this will put stress on the fish which can cause them to become moody or even possibly develop an illness. While Rainbow Cichlids are a highly active species this species also requires various locations of security when they feel overwhelmed.

Rainbow Cichlid ( Herotilapia multispinosus)

Rainbow Cichlid Tank Mates

Choosing tank mates for a Rainbow Cichlid is typically quite simple as this species of fish is usually not aggressive towards other inhabitants, so this means they will be suitable additions to a community tank. Selecting tank mates will always come down to the temperament of your fish specifically as not every Rainbow Cichlid will be peaceful. Since these fish do exhibit schooling behavior, they are great paired together in groups of six or more. When choosing tank mates of other species, selecting nonaggressive fish will be most important. Adding aggressive tank mates can be detrimental to the health of your Rainbow Cichlid as they can cause lots of stress as well as health issues caused by fin nipping or stress. Since the Rainbow Cichlid is more on the peaceful side of the spectrum within Cichlids, finding tank mates for this species comes quite easy as long as they can live peacefully together.

Bolivian Rams and Rainbow Cichlids

These fish are compatible tank mates as these two species share similar water parameters as well as exhibit similar temperaments. The Bolivian Ram should be kept in water temperatures of 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit with a slightly acidic to slightly neutral pH level of 6.0 to 7.5. Pairing these two together may be hit or miss as their pairing will all depend on their behavior with other fish.

Firemouth Cichlids and Rainbow Cichlids

These two fish make a great tank pair as the Rainbows spend a good amount of time in hiding spots and these two fish tend to stay out of each other’s way. The Firemouth Cichlid should be kept in water temperatures of 75 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH level of 6.5 to 8.0

Tetras and Rainbow Cichlids

These two fish make a great tank pair as they are both peaceful fish and share similar tropical water parameters. Tetras should be kept in water temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH level of 6.8 to 7.8.

Angelfish and Rainbow Cichlids

These two fish can possibly be a good tank pair. Typically, Rainbow Cichlids do not find Angelfish as a threat, but Angelfish are known to be aggressive towards their tank mates so this may be a hit or miss. Angelfish should be kept in water temperatures of 78 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit with a slightly acidic to slightly neutral pH level of 6.8 to 7.8.

Barbs and Rainbow Cichlids

These two fish make a great tank pair as they are both peaceful species and share similar water parameters. Barbs should be kept in water temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit with a slightly acidic to slightly neutral pH level of 6.8 to 7.8.

Breeding Rainbow Cichlids

Breeding Rainbow Cichlids comes much easier than most other common aquarium fish. When breeding this species months of preparation is not needed as found with many other species of fish. During the spawning process, the temperature of the water should be raised to induce breeding behavior. The Rainbow Cichlid does not exhibit parental behavior to their fry, so once the eggs have been laid, they must be removed from the tank to prevent them from being eaten. This can be done by setting up a separate tank specifically for breeding or placing a spawning mop into the tank. Once breeding has taken place the female will lay anywhere from 300 to 1,500 eggs that will hatch within two to three days usually. Once the fry have hatched they will be free swimming and independent within a week. While Rainbow Cichlids are simpler to breed than other species of aquarium fish, added steps must be taken to ensure the eggs are not eaten.

Rainbow Cichlids Diseases

The Rainbow Cichlid is a hardy fish that is not commonly susceptible to disease as this species is quite hardy. Common diseases found in this species of fish are most commonly caused by environmental conditions such as poor water conditions. A common disease found in Rainbow Cichlids caused by environmental conditions is fin rot.  Fin rot is a common disease found in aquarium fish caused by poor water conditions of fin nipping. When not properly treated fin rot can develop a fungal or bacterial infection. This disease can be identified by the fraying of the affected specimens’ fins. Fin rot can be treated by carrying out a water change, deep cleaning the substrate and tank decorations, and ensuring that the pH level and water temperature are at the correct levels. If improvement is not seen after all precautions have been taken antibiotics can also be prescribed by a veterinarian.

Another common disease found in Rainbow Cichlids caused by environmental conditions is ich, Ichthyophthirius. This disease is also caused by poor water conditions.Ich is a parasitic disease that causes damage to the tissue of the fish. Tissue damage can lead to bacterial infection when not caught and treated early on. Identifying this disease can be done by white cyst spots along the body or fins of the fish. The affected fish will also begin to demonstrate unusual behavior by rubbing themselves on plants or tank decorations. Ich can be treated by raising the tank’s water temperature, carrying out a one-third water change, and adding one tablespoon of salt for every five gallons. Medications can also be prescribed to treat ich by a veterinarian. The Rainbow Cichlid is a hardy fish that is typically not susceptible to disease other than environmentally caused illness so keeping pristine water conditions is crucial.

Where to Find Rainbow Cichlids for Sale

Many varieties of Cichlids are carried at lots of fishery stores around the world. Rainbow Cichlids can be purchased from good aquarium shops that carry a wide variety of fish. This species of fish can also easily be purchased from online aquarium suppliers, but this does not provide a way to know exactly how beautiful the fish you receive will be. The Rainbow Cichlid can become pretty pricey as they should be kept in groups. This species can cost anywhere from $10 up to $30 depending on size and coloration. Rainbow Cichlids are an affordable yet pricey species of fish that can be purchased from well-rounded aquarium shops as well as online aquarist suppliers.

The Rainbow Cichlid is a beginner-level aquarist fish that will make a great addition to a community tank. This beautiful fish will provide entertainment with their energetic behavior as well as their unique ability to change color with their mood. The Rainbow Cichlid is a hardy fish making it easy to care for. Selecting tank mates for this species comes fairly easy as they are peaceful and suitable to share a habitat with other species of fish. If finding this amazing species in an aquarium shop is not an option, purchasing online makes it easier than ever!

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With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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