Red terror cichlid stats infographicThe Red Terror Cichlid is a true gem of the freshwater aquarium world, and is beloved by experienced aquarists due to its high intelligence, active personality, and striking red and black striped body.

This article will provide you with further insight, as you will learn how to care for it properly, how to breed it successfully, and how to raise it so that it can thrive in a home aquarium.

What Is a Red Terror Cichlid?

The Red Terror Cichlid is a large and territorial freshwater fish that is easy to identify due to its bold black stripes running vertically across its colored body. It is a member of the Cichlidae family and is native to the rivers scattered across West and South America.

Red Terror Cichlid Stats

Now that you have read up on the Red Terror’s background, you should learn about the facts and statistics detailed in the tables below. This information will help you reach a more educated judgment as to whether or not the Red Terror Cichlid is a good fit for the kind of aquarium you want to build.

Common Name Red Terror Cichlid
Scientific Name Amphilophus Festae
Care Level Moderate
Average Lifespan 13 to 15 years
Maximum Size 13 to 15 inches for females, 18 inches for males
Diet Predatory and omnivorous
Breeding Type Egg-layer
Minimum Tank Size 180 gallons for one or two adult Red Terrors

In addition to the information above, here is a taxonomy table for you to learn about the Red Terror Cichlid from a scientific point of view.

Order: Perciformes
Suborder Labroidae
Family Cichlidae
Genera Amphilophus
Species Amphilophus Festae

In addition, you might also want to note that these fish can grow up to a whopping 18 inches in captivity and can be purchased for anywhere from $30 to $120 depending on their current age and size.

Red Terror Cichlid Care

Red terror cichlid the true tiger fish of freshwater aquariumsCaring for a Red Terror Cichlid can be quite stressful if you haven’t raised cichlids or other large freshwater fish before. In this section, you will learn the basics of Red Terror Cichlid care such as what and how often to feed them, how to keep them healthy and stress-free, and how to ensure they enjoy full lives as members of your aquascape.

To become better acquainted with the care requirements of the Red Terror Cichlid, you should know that this species has also been found in the rivers of Ecuador and Peru.

To aquarium enthusiasts, the Red Terror Cichlid is known by several names including the Red Terror fish, Harlequin Cichlid, festae Red Terror Cichlid, and the True Red Terror. The Red Terror has a reputation for being a predatory and highly aggressive fish, so aquarists often keep them in species-specific tanks or in large community aquariums that house fish of roughly the same size.

– Diet

To provide your Red Terror Cichlid with the best possible diet, you should know how they feed and what they feed on in their natural habitat. In the wild, Red Terror Cichlids chase down smaller fish, insects, and soft-shelled crustaceans. They may also munch on a few leafy plants if their prey drive is low or there aren’t any immediately available food sources in the area.

You can begin by offering your Red Terror Cichlids food once in the morning and once in the evening. This routine works well with juvenile and mating Red Terrors. Once these fish have become more comfortable in your aquarium and have reached their maximum size, you can slowly train them to feed only once a day. A full grown Red Terror Cichlid will measure about 12 to 18 inches in size and will learn to feed at the bottom of the tank.

In addition to providing them with meaty foods that are either fresh or frozen, you can also give your Red Terror Cichlids commercial pellets or fish flakes, that is why you should find suitable commercial fish food in your local fish store. Be sure to choose those that are made with only the choicest ingredients and with as few preservatives as possible. You can offer this kind of food once daily or alternate it with your fresh or frozen meaty foods.

– Water Parameters

To create the perfect environment for your Red Terror Cichlid, you need to achieve the tank and water parameters listed below.

Temperature 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit
pH Level 6.5 to 7.5
Water Hardness 4 to 18 dGH
Light Level Low to Moderate
Substrate Sand or mixed gravel

– Tank Setup

These intimidating fish do not fare well at all in cramped spaces, though it is certainly possible to house a single Red Terror Cichlid in a 180-gallon tank, it is likely that your fish will suffer from increased stress. The latter will only lead to unstable relationships with the other tank occupants, and it will make your Red Terror more susceptible to diseases.

It is recommeneded to use the biggest tank you can possibly manage when you decide to bring a Red Terror or two home with you. It may seem like such a small tip, but this single care aspect alone can spell the difference between having a sickly fish and a healthy Red Terror Cichlid.

The voracious appetite and boisterous behavior of the Red Terror Cichlid means that they create a lot of mess. Whether it’s increasing the bioload of your aquarium or uprooting decorations and plants, these fish are known to make the tank water considerably dirty in a short period of time. As such, it is imperative that you install the necessary equipment to keep your tank clean even if you have active Red Terror Cichlids swimming around.

These large fish will benefit from having a strong water filter. Aside from being more capable of keeping the aquarium stocked with clean water, this kind of water filter will aid in providing your Red Terrors with a moderate to intense water flow. The best type of filter to install in a Red Terror Cichlid tank is the canister filter.

– Lifespan

The Red Terror Cichlid can live an average of 12 years in captivity, however it may survive until 20 years if it is cared for exceptionally well.

– Common Diseases

Red Terror Cichlids are quite the hardy species of fish; as such, they do not have any diseases that are unique to them only. If your Red Terror Cichlid does fall ill, it is highly probable that the cause is either sustained poor water conditions or parasitic infection.

Nonetheless, both of these problems can be resolved by performing cycling your tank water regularly and avoiding the introduction of unclean food or fish in the aquarium.

Tank Mates

The aggressive Red Terror Cichlid usually does best on its own. However, if you really want to include this fish in a community tank, you will need to pay attention to which kinds of fish you introduce as the Red Terror’s tank mates. Doing your research now will pay off later and prevent any untoward incidents of hunting or aggression between your Red Terror and its neighbors.

– Ideal Tank Mates

In general, the best tank mates for the Red Terror Cichlid are fish that are of a similar size or at least too big to fit in this freshwater predator’s mouth. Below are a few species of fish that you can include in your Red Terror tank.

– Green Terror Cichlid

Like its red cousin, the Green Terror is a beauty to watch in a spacious aquarium. This fish is quite aggressive so you will need to provide as much swimming space as possible if you want to keep this together with your Red Terrors. The advantage to keeping this kind of fish with your Red Terror Cichlids is that you can rest assured knowing that your Green Terrors won’t take any beating from their Red Terror counterparts.

– Oscar Fish

Most species of Oscars make for great Red Terror Cichlid tank mates, this is primarily because Oscars are medium to large-sized fish that can fend for themselves. Oscars are also intelligent fish, and their interactions with your Red Terrors should be more than enough to keep your aquarium full of life and activity.

– Plecostomus

If you are looking for a large but gentle giant to pair with your Red Terror Cichlid, the Plecos is the fish for you. These quiet fish are often found at the bottom layer of the aquarium. They are big enough that your Red Terrors won’t bully them and peaceful enough that they won’t initiate fights with the other fish in your tank.

– Tank Mates To Avoid

Do not pair your Red Terror Cichlid with shy and small fish such as Goldfish, Mollies, and Minnows. In addition, avoid housing a single Red Terror with a breeding pair of Red or Green Terrors as this will only lead to fights and episodes of aggression.


Breeding a pair of mated Red Terror Cichlids can be tricky because of their aggressive attitude and their protective behavior. However, with the right knowledge and tools, you should find that these fish can be bred safely and successfully in the comfort of your home.

– Pre Breeding Care

Red Terror Cichlids actively search for their mates, as these fish become sexually mature by the time they reach at least four inches in length. At this stage, it should become easy for you to identify which of your Red Terrors are male and which are female. The male Red Terror will exchange its bright red scales for dark blue-green coloration whereas the female Red Terror will retain its original red-orange scales.

Mature female Red Terror Cichlids are extremely picky when it comes to choosing their partners, however they will not hesitate to kill male Red Terrors that they deem to be too weak or incapable of protecting them and their spawn. Having this into consideration, you will need to wait for your Red Terrors to form a mating bond naturally with each other or else purchase an already bonded pair from your local supplier.

– Post Breeding Care

When you have selected a breeding pair of Red Terrors, it is highly advisable that you move them to a separate breeding tank. This will curb their aggression and also ensure that the batch of fry is born in a safe and controlled environment.

Keep your breeding tank in a dimly lit area and maintain a water temperature of 78 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You can encourage your breeding pair to begin the spawning stage by feeding them with meaty, protein-rich food two to three times a day.

Red terror cichlidYou will also need to provide the female with an area where she can deposit her eggs. Large rock caves or makeshift wooden containers are perfect as a nesting area. After your Red Terrors have mated successfully, the female should seek out the nesting area and lay up to 100 eggs shortly afterward, expect these eggs to hatch after 96 to 120 hours.

Both the male and female Red Terrors will guard these eggs as well as the fry well until they are able to survive on their own. You can support the growth of a juvenile Red Terror Cichlid by offering infusoria, crushed pellets, and baby brine shrimp as their food sources.


We certainly covered a lot of topics on the Red Terror Cichlid. Here is a rundown of the key points from this article:

  • The Red Terror Cichlid is a predatory and aggressive freshwater fish.
  • It originated from the rivers of South and West America.
  • This fish can grow up to 18 inches in length and should be kept in an aquarium with a capacity of at least 180 gallons.
  • The Red Terror Cichlid is omnivorous and can be fed a mix of pellets, fresh or frozen food, and occasional leafy vegetables.
  • You can breed this fish at home if you have a separate breeding tank and the supplies necessary for rearing a number of Red Terror fry.

This fish may be intimidating to care for, but our care guide should help you raise happy and healthy Red Terror Cichlids with ease.

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