Red Terror Cichlid (Amphilophus Festae): Ultimate Care Guide


Common NameRed Terror Cichlid, Harlequin Cichlids
Scientific NameAmphilophus Festae
OriginSouth America, Ecuador, Peru
Temperature77F – 84F
Adult Sizeup to 20 inches
DietCarnivore
Water pH6.0 to 8.0

Red Terror Cichlid Facts

  • Red Terror Cichlids are carnivorous fish that hunt along the river’s edge for their food.
  • There are other fish that look so similar to the Red Terror Cichlid, that they have been given the common name False Red Terror Cichlid.

Red Terror Cichlid Care

Red Terror Cichlids are a brightly colored fish that are not only a beautiful fish to keep, but an interesting one as well. Red Terror Cichlids come from South American waters where they hunt for prey along the river’s edge. These fish can grow rather large, but seldom do they reach their maximum potential in captivity.

Red Terror Cichlid juvenilles have greyish bodies that have vertical black stripes. As they grow older and mature more, their colors become more apparent. The female Red Terror Cichlid becomes a more orange-yellow color with turquoise green spots, and the male develops a more turquoise coloration. The males lose their orange-yellow coloration as they age.

Red Terror Cichlid (Mesoheros festae)
Red Terror Cichlid (Mesoheros festae). Vonedaddy, CC BY-SA 3.0

Food & Diet

In the wild, Red Terror Cichlids are carnivorous fish that spend most of their time hunting for prey along the river’s edge. They will eat small crustaceans, small fish, fish fry, and insects. They are most at home in the dense river plants that line the river, and they do most of their hunting in the middle and bottom of the water column there as well.

In captivity, Red Terror Cichlids will accept a high quality sinking pellet food, but they should also be offered other things to fill out their diet. You can feed them mealworms, earthworms, crickets, chicken livers, and beef hearts. It is important for their health that they are fed properly. You will want to offer Red Terror Cichlids food 2 times per day, and only enough that they can completely consume in roughly 5 minutes.

Size & Lifespan

In the wild, Red Terror Cichlids can grow up to 20 inches long, however, they seldom grow so large in captivity. The maximum length they reach in the home aquarium will largely depend on the way that they are kept, and if all of their needs are met. The female Red Terror Cichlid will not grow as long. If they are cared for properly, the Red Terror Cichlid can live for up to 15 years.

Red Terror Cichlid Tank Requirements

Red Terror Cichlids require a rather large tank that provides them with  plenty of swimming space. A tank of around 180 gallons is required to house these fish. To give them the most swimming space possible, you will want to provide them with a tank that is wide opposed to tall. By providing Red Terror Cichlids with plenty of room to roam, it will help reduce aggression between tank mates.

Red Terror Cichlids need a water temperature of 77F – 84F. You will need to make sure to purchase a quality heater for a Red Terror Cichlid tank. It is important that the water remains around 6.0 to 8.0 pH as well. Due to the water requirements of the Red Terror Cichlid, it is important that their tank is frequently monitored to keep the water parameters safe.

Red Terror Cichlids, much like other large Cichlids, produce a lot of waste. You will need to make sure that you invest in a heavy filtration system. Even with an adequate system in place, you will still need to perform monthly water changes. It is important for the growth, health, and happiness of these fish that they are kept in a clean environment.

Red Terror Cichlid Tank Setup

Red Terror Cichlids require a large aquarium, and there are lots of options to choose from when deciding on what to put in a Red Terror Cichlid tank.

For substrate you will want to go with what closest resembles their natural habitat, and use a sandy substrate with some rocky gravel mixed in. Choose lots of plants that root well into the substrate. Red Terror Cichlids are digger fish. Plants that are not securely placed could be uprooted. Fill out the rest of their tank by placing driftwood to hide under, and give them lots of cave-like places to explore.

Red Terror Cichlid Tank Mates

Red Terror Cichlids are a territorial, hunter fish that should not be kept in a community tank, or even with others of their same species. They have been known to go after other aggressive fish species, even if they are larger than the Red Terror Cichlid.

With how aggressive Red Terror Cichlids are, it has been suggested that they could be kept with some other more aggressive fish if the right conditions are met. If you try to place a breeding pair into a community tank, the pair will aggressively go after all other fish in the aquarium no matter the conditions.

When placing new fish together, it is important to monitor them to make sure that there are no problems with space or food consumption.  Content fish will be less aggressive, and more tolerant of others, but there could still be a problem. You should have a backup plan, or tank, ready to separate them.

Are Red Terror Cichlids Aggressive?

Red Terror Cichlids live up to their name by being one of the most aggressive fish of their kind. They are so aggressive, it is recommended that they are kept alone in a single species tank. This can be the downside to keeping Red Terror Cichlids in a home aquarium because of their specific needs, and large tank requirement.

It is possible to keep a bonded breeding pair together, but they will become aggressive toward one another especially during spawning time.

Red Terror Cichlids and Oscars

Red Terror Cichlids could be potentially good tank mates to other Large Cichlids that are also aggressive in nature, if they are provided with the appropriate conditions. You will not have any success in keeping Red Terror Cichlids with other fish if they do not have enough space, or food. As always, when adding in new fish to your aquarium, you will want to monitor their activity so that you can intervene if any problems arise.

Red Terror Cichlids and Green Terror Cichlids

It has been suggested by owners of Red Terror Cichlids that they could possibly be housed in the same tank as a Green Terror Cichlid if certain conditions are met. Red Terror Cichlids and Green Terror Cichlids are different when it comes to behavior, and if you can successfully introduce them into the same aquarium young, then they could possibly cohabitate. Pairing these two fish would be a difficult endeavor, and if you plan on trying this, you will want to make sure that you have a backup plan.

Red Terror Cichlid Disease

There aren’t any diseases that affect the Red Terror Cichlid specifically, but they are susceptible to the same ailments as most freshwater fish. They can sustain injury when they are being aggressive towards other fish.

Red Terror Cichlid Breeding

Red Terror Cichlids become mature enough to spawn at around 4 inches in length. This is also when they begin to display their colors. To find a breeding pair, you will want to raise a group of them together. Female Red Terror Cichlids can and will kill males that they do not think are viable partners.

It is important to provide the female with a suitable place to lay her eggs. When the female is ready, she will lay up to 100 eggs, and both parent fish care for their offspring. Red Terror Cichlid eggs take around 4 days to hatch.

How to Raise Juvenile Red Terror Cichlids

It can be tricky to raise these fish in a grouping until they reach maturity due to their aggressive nature. It has been said that you can keep the juvenile fish together until they reach roughly 6 inches in length, but you must provide them with places to get away from one another. Setting up barriers in the tank will help keep them from going after each other, but are not to be used as a permanent solution.

Red Terror Cichlid Male and Female

It is almost impossible to tell the males Red Terror Cichlids from the females before they have fully matured. As they age, female Red Terror Cichlids become more orange-yellow, and the males become more turquoise. The female becomes especially more vibrant when they are ready to spawn. Unfortunately, the males will remain a more drab color, losing more of their orange-yellow coloration as they age. At full maturity the males are also larger than the females.

Where Can I Find Red Terror Cichlids for Sale?

Red Terror Cichlids are a difficult fish to keep. If you are planning on purchasing one for your home aquarium, you will want to make sure that you do as much research on the species as you can. This will insure your success in keeping the Red Cichlid Terror. You can purchase Red Cichlid Terrors in some pet stores, and find them online. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30 – $100 depending on their size.

How to Identify True Red Terror Cichlids

There is a fish that is so similar to the Red Terror Cichlid, it is also known as the False Red Terror Cichlid. The easiest way to distinguish the difference between the two is to simply observe where their black stripes are located on their face. In true Red Terror Cichlids, the vertical black stripes on their face will merge together to form a Y shape. The stripes on the head of the False Red Terror Cichlid do not intersect.

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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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