The Texas Cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus, formerly Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum) is a freshwater fish of the cichlid family.
Generally growing up to 13 inches (33 cm) in length, this fish can be differentiated by its cream and turquoise spots or bars in the center. The body is pearl-gray with blue- to green-hued scales, which give a pearly iridescent speckle. This extends down into the fins where a dark spot is visible near the base of the tail. During spawning, the scales change coloration to where the front becomes white and the rear/underbelly turns black. The males, as they mature, will begin to develop a nuchal hump (forehead swelling) above the eyes.
Sexual differences are not always evident. Males are typically brighter in color and iridescence, as well as being likely to grow a few inches larger in size. They will also typically grow a protruding nuchal hump on their head. It has been observed that the fins of the males are longer and more pointed. One way to pick out female specimens is by the black spots located on their dorsal fin which are generally absent in males.
Originally a part of the genus Cichlasoma until it was restricted to South American cichlid species; this fish became a part of Herichthys. A genus defined as cichlids that “share a color pattern of short vertical bars and black spots posteriorly from the middle of the side, and a unique breeding color pattern in which the dorsal half of the entire head and anterior flank region turns a pale grayish color in contrast to black or dark gray adjacent areas, or the entire body turns pale.”
While this species is known for its sparkling beauty, it is also known for its extreme aggression. As fish of this species can grow very large, they will require a large tank and some very tolerant tankmates. Preferably ones who can handle their extreme tendencies. When they outgrow their tanks, some people release them out into the wild. This should be avoided, yet some populations of the fish have now spread out artificially into the wild and are fished for sport. Making this fish an invasive species in some areas.
Texas cichlid (also known as the Rio Grande cichlid) is the only cichlid species native to the US. It originates from the lower Rio Grande drainage in Texas near Brownsville and Northeastern Mexico.
Texas Cichlid Care
Understanding how to properly take care of your Texas Cichlid is very important for their well-being and longevity. Here’s how to make sure your Texas Cichlid remains as healthy as it can.
Texas Cichlid Temperature
The preferred temperature of the Texas cichlid is within the range of 71.5 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so the tank will likely require a heater.
Texas Cichlid Water pH
Water pH balance should be kept to within the range of 6.5 to 8 and the water hardness should be between 8-15 dGH. Driftwood can be added to the tank to help keep the pH of the water softer and more acidic.
Texas Cichlid Food & Diet
Texas cichlids are an extremely omnivorous species. They will feed on just about anything they can get into their mouths, ranging from frozen to live meat to plant-based material. However to make sure your fish are healthy it is best to give them a diverse diet. Possible foods are bloodworms, frozen shrimp, crustaceans, artificial and live foods. Plant flakes can be added occasionally as well, just to keep things interesting for your fish. Though be advised not to feed them mammalian meat, as you can do with other species of cichlids.Too much can cause intestinal problems, though the occasional treat is all right.
These fish are a very sturdy breed and fortunately do not require any form of nutritional supplements.
Since these fish are very messy eaters it is best to feed them in small portions, twice a day.
Texas Cichlid Lifespan
In good conditions, this fish can live for up to 13 years.
Texas Cichlid Tank Size
At the very least a Texas cichlid will require a 55-gallon tank. However, the larger your tank the better for your fish’s needs. If you want to keep them in pairs you will need a tank at least twice that size (110 gallons). If being kept with other large fish, you will want a tank of at least 125 gallons.
Texas Cichlid Setup
Being a large fish, you will need to allow a lot of room for your Texas cichlid to move throughout the tank. You can still use plants sparingly, but this fish is a digger. It will uproot plants and move around small rocks and other items in the tank as they feel like it. That does not mean you can’t use plants in your aquascape. Simply keep in mind that anything you place in there will be constantly rearranged by your fish.
The substrate of a tank is very important when keeping Texas cichlids. Their natural habitat is sand however they can also live with fine gravel. The best aquariums will combine both. Include plenty of smooth rocks and driftwood. Then some sturdy plants to round out the habitat. Make sure the roots of the plant are as inaccessible as possible. Floating plants can also be a good option.
Lastly, be certain that you have a very strong filtration system in place as sanitation is a problem with these fish and they need clean water to be healthy. They are very sensitive to organic waste. Perform weekly partial water changes to ensure the water quality is optimal for them.
Texas Cichlid Breeding
Texas cichlids are egg-laying spawners who breed prolifically. Water in the spawning tank should be soft to medium-hard 5 to 12 dGH, have a neutral pH balance of 7, and be between 77 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Decorate with large rocks or clay pots to provide spawning locations for the fry.
Breeding pairs should be obtained by purchasing a half dozen or so young fish. As they reach maturity pairs will begin to form and should then be separated to prevent the pairs from attacking or killing other fish. As they become ready to spawn their coloration will change. The head and front of their bodies will become white, while the underbelly will turn a black or grayish-black.
The pair will dig in the substrate to clean the spawning location and the female will lay 500 to 1,000 eggs in several batches. As the female moves through the tank, the male will follow along behind her and fertilize the eggs as she goes. For the next two to three days the parents will guard over the eggs until they hatch. Within another four or five days the fry will become free swimmers.
Some first-time breeding pairs will consume their young, though this will not happen on subsequent spawnings.
Fry can be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp or commercially prepared fry foods. As they grow, finely crushed flake foods can be used, and then small pellets can eventually be offered.
Texas Cichlid Disease
A common problem with Texas cichlid is obesity caused by overeating. This can cause a deterioration in their organ function so it is very important to monitor what the fish eats. Avoid this by keeping the portion sizes small and consistent. Generally, the portion sizes should be roughly 10% the weight of the fish.
The Texas cichlid is a tough species and is not susceptible to any specific disease unique to them. However, they are still susceptible to the normal diseases you can find in any fish species. Of special note are Ich and fin rot.
Ich is a stress-related disease caused by parasites. You can recognize it by tiny white dots scattering over the fish’s body. It is contagious but very easy to treat with over-the-counter medications. Just remember to quarantine infected fish first. Ich can also be a result of poor water conditions, so check ammonia, temperature, and pH balance conditions for your tank to make sure they are in an acceptable range.
Fin rot is a bacterial infection in part of the fin. Usually, this results from an injury that has been infected. Considering the cichlid’s tendency for aggression, this naturally comes up very often. This can also be treated easily with over-the-counter medications.
Texas Cichlid Tank Mates
When not seeking out partners for breeding, Texas cichlids tend to be very solitary fish. In order for them to live effectively with other species, they will need a large tank to allow them for plenty of their own space and you will need to start with juveniles and acclimate them to other species slowly. Keep the youngsters with other non-aggressive species, however as the young ones grow up you may still notice they become too violent and aggressive to be around others.
If you have to keep them with other fish and cannot separate them you should try placing them in the same tank with oscars, Giant gouramis, Plecos, Tambaqui, eels, other catfish, or even knifefish. Smaller or more docile species of fish will not last long so only keep Texas cichlids in a tank with other large species that are capable of defending themselves. Even keeping two Texas cichlids in a single tank can be an insurmountable task unless you have a very large tank (at least 110 gallons) for them to each establish their territory.
Where can I Find Texas Cichlid for Sale?
Texas cichlids can be found in most pet stores, usually for between $25 to $35 US.
Texas Cichlid Types and Hybrids
There are various types of Texas Cichlid in the aquarium hobby. This includes variants and hybrids of this species. Here are some of the common types in the aquarium hobby.
Red Texas Cichlid
A freshwater fish created by crossbreeding a male Texas cichlid and a female Red Parrot cichlid (the latter of which is itself a hybrid between the Redhead cichlid and the Red Devil cichlid ). Many of their care needs and behavior are similar to those of the standard Texas cichlid. Though as a hybrid it can never be entirely certain how they will behave or react with 100% certainty.
As the name implies this fish is typically a bright and vibrant red color, with the females also having darker spots on their backs. Due to being a hybrid, however, this is not a certainty. The color can be highly variable depending on the breeding of the fish. While the red coloration is the most desired, orange and yellow variations are quite common.
Green Texas Cichlid
The green Texas cichlid is a variant of the original found mostly in North Mexico inhabiting fast-moving water bodies. It is distinguished by having green scales instead of the more common pearl-gray.
Electric Blue Texas Cichlid
The Electric Blue Escondido Texas Cichlid (Herichthys carpintis) is a cichlid variant. It is native to Mexico and has a blue pearlescent color.
This variant is slightly less aggressive than the typical Texas cichlid so it can be more compatible with other peaceful or semi-aggressive fish that are large enough to defend themselves.
Convict Texas Cichlid Hybrid
The convict cichlid is a fish species native to Central America. Also known as the “zebra cichlid”, this species has 8 or 9 black vertical bars on a blue-gray body with a dark blotch on the operculum.
Texas Jaguar Cichlid Hybrid
Jaguar cichlids are a popular species of the cichlid family. Often also referred to as Managuense cichlids, Aztec cichlids, or Guapote Tigre in their natural Central American habitat. Though they also range throughout Honduras and Costa Rica.
They have an elongated body with an ovoid shape and spiny rays that extend from their bodies. Juveniles have a pale goldish-silver hue, large black bands that wrap around the back of the fish towards the lateral spine. As they get older the bands will turn into dots, giving the fish the jaguar pattern that gives them their name.
One interesting feature of this species is the ability of their lower jaw to protrude as much as 90 percent of its length outward to aid in hunting and chomping on prey. This makes them especially fierce predators in the wild and your tanks.
They also grow larger than most other cichlid varieties. In a tank, they can grow to between 14-16 inches with some wild specimens growing as large as two feet. If you plan to keep an adult Jaguar cichlid you will need a tank of 70 gallons minimum. The ideal tank, however, should be in the 100 to 125-gallon range to house single fish. If you wish to keep a breeding pair you will need at least a 180-gallon tank to accommodate them. Even bonded pairs can be aggressive towards each other so they will still need a lot of space.
Texas cichlids can seem like a very intimidating fish to keep around at first. But if you take good care of them and respect their nature it will get much easier.