Detailed Care Guide of Red Devil Cichlids

Red Devil Cichlid In A Fish Aquarium
By Garrison Hickles Updated

Red Devil Cichlid is one of the most fascinating freshwater species that you can host in your aquarium, but for it to grow healthily in a captive environment, you need to be aware of its living conditions and tank requirements, among other things. So, get ready to welcome this magnificent creature at home with the help of our guide.

Key Specifications of Red Devil Cichlid

Take a look at the following details so that you get some clarity about the living conditions of a Red Devil Cichlid before we discuss each of them in detail later in the article.

Scientific Name                         Amphilophus labiatus
Origin        Central America
Lifespan12 Years
Size15” (38 cm)
Tank Size55 Gallons
Care LevelDifficult


In recent years, they have become an endangered species owing to the detrimental effects of various man-made dams on their natural habitat. When it comes to spectacular species of Catfish, one can’t help but mention Red Devil Cichlids for their remarkable appearance.

It shouldn’t surprise you that since they are so rare, they come at a heavy price. To help bring their population back to normal, the Brazilian government has decided to ban the export of these species. This is why almost all Red Devil Cichlids that you see in an aquarium are bred in captivity.

Another interesting aspect of Red Devil Cichlids is that they are pretty new to the aquarium world since they were first discovered in the early 1990s.

Origin & Habitat of Red Devil Cichlid

Their scientific name is Amphilophus labiatus. Native to Central America, Red Devil Cichlids are seen in the Managua and Nicaragua River, which is essentially a tributary of the Amazon River. They thrive in water that has a strong current, which explains why the creation of dams affects their lives in a negative way. This was seen more apparently with the construction of Belo Monte Dam in Xingu.

It also requires a handful of hiding spots in its vicinity as it replicates its natural habitat. In the wild, they prefer low-lights and gravel, pebbles, and smooth sand for their substrate.

Appearance of Red Devil Cichlid

The pectoral fins that are located closest to the head of Red Devil Cichlid are pretty hairy. Evident by their name, the most distinct aspect of Red Devil Cichlids is the fact that their appearance resembles Zebras.  We will discuss this in our sub-section ‘Colour of Red Devil Cichlid’. They are also identified by their flat bottom and sucker mouth. It should be noted that their mouth is much smaller than other species of Catfish.

They also have two sets of pectoral fins on the sides of their bodies and a set of large rayed fins. If you are looking towards distinguishing the males from the females, then you would have to look minutely. The females have a smaller and narrower head compared to their male counterparts. Males also have more hair on their pectoral fins. Much like most Catfish, they also have notable four whiskers, which they use to explore their ambiance.

Furthermore, you would also notice their big, bulgy eyes which help separate them from your average freshwater aquarium species. Their dorsal fin is in the shape of a triangle and stands up tall, however they can lay it down as per their wish.

Size of Red Devil Cichlid

Being one of the smaller Catfish, they grow up to 3-4” (7.6-10.2 cm) in length.

Colour of Red Devil Cichlid

Under proper lighting, these stripes really pop out and shine. Naturally, this is great for the aesthetic element of your aquarium. Please remember that these stripe patterns are more prominent in younger Red Devil Cichlids. As we stated above, the colours of Red Devil Cichlid are what makes them so much in demand. They have black and white lateral pattern stripes on their bodies.

Behaviour of Red Devil Cichlid

Since they are extremely shy, they are also very territorial. The male Red Devil Cichlids tend to be more territorial than their female counterparts and can often get into fighting over territorial claims. So, if you are hosting more than one male Red Devil Cichlid in your home, make sure that you have a large aquarium. Red Devil Cichlids are pretty docile and are generally regarded as one of the more introverted species. This explains why they need so many hiding spots in their vicinity. There would be time when you wouldn’t see them for many hours because of how much they like retreating and hiding.

However, this fighting nature of the male comes in handy as it helps in protecting the eggs and fries. They are nocturnal species and stay most active at night. If you stay up at night, you may get the pleasure of watching them scavenging for food at night.

Lifespan of Red Devil Cichlid

They have a long lifespan and can live up to 12 years. If you are planning to host them, you will be there for the long haul. This means a lot of commitment from your end. So, make sure you are prepared for it because you just can’t dump them in a nearby pond after a couple of years since they would die as they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves in the wild.

Providing them with a stress-free environment would add to their lifespan.

Diet of Red Devil Cichlid

They have a huge requirement of protein and eat more meat than most other species of Catfish. They will also feast on small invertebrates. However, don’t forget to provide them with vegetation in the form of algae and vegetables.

Red Devil Cichlids have a large appetite despite their small stature. They are predatory by nature, although don’t confuse it with them being aggressive.

This means that you need to ensure that all of your fish are getting food as they are not well-acquainted with the idea of competing for food. Therefore, pick a quiet spot in your aquarium to feed them. This would lessen their stress level. Please remember that they have a small mouth. So, make sure whatever food you are providing them with are broken down into extremely small chunks. They also consume dried food as long as they are rich in protein. However, moisten the dried food before putting it in the tank.

We recommend feeding them pellets than flakes as they hang out the bottom of the tank. If you are providing them with frozen food, make sure to defrost it first.

Remember, the majority of their food should be meat-based.

Some of the ideal food options for Red Devil Cichlid are as follows:

  • Blanched Zucchini
  • Blanched Cucumber
  • Crushed peas
  • Algae Wafers
  • Bloodworm
  • Brine Shrimp

Tank Requirements of Red Devil Cichlid

To keep them healthy, you need to replicate their natural habitat. And to do that, you would have to fulfil the following tank conditions.

Tank Size

For a single Red Devil Cichlid, we recommend using a 30-gallon tank. If you are hosting more than one, just use the same ratio to increase the tank size.

Tank Lid

For safety, to use a tank lid for your aquarium since you don’t want any children or pets to mess with your Red Devil Cichlids. In addition, this also means that they wouldn’t accidentally jump out of the tank and that there would be no accumulation of dirt and dust.


As we said before, in the wild, the substrate they are used to is smooth sand, gravel and pebbles. So, try and provide the same here in your aquarium.


Not only will it keep the water clean and aerated, but it will also help in fulfilling one of the most important criteria they need to survive – strong currents. Having a strong filter is extremely important for the tank that hosts a Red Devil Cichlid. When there are strong currents and movements in the water, they thrive.


Apart from using large pebbles and rocks, you may use artificial castles and caves. Since Red Devil Cichlids love to hide, you need to provide them with a lot of hiding spots. However, make sure they don’t have any sharp edges or toxic artificial colours since that is harmful to your Red Devil Cichlid.

Presence of Flora

Red Devil Cichlids appreciate plants in their environment. So, feel free to add some aquatic pets in your tank.


They prefer low lighting in their vicinity. So, please ensure that the lights of the aquarium aren’t too bright and that they are switched off for at least 12 hours in a day.

Cleaning Method

For cleaning, never use any chemical or soap-based products as that would leave harmful residue in the tank. Use a soft cloth that is dipped in lukewarm water to wipe off the interior glass walls.

Cleaning your tank regularly is extremely important for their health. Clean the tank at least once a month. You may use a soft brush to clean the ornaments and you can run the substrate under tap water to get rid of any debris.

Water Type for Red Devil Cichlid

Choosing the right type of water is crucial for their health. Here are some of the things you need to keep in mind.


The temperature of the tank water should be 79°F to 88°F (26.1°C to 31.1°C).

pH Level

The pH level of the tank water must be 6.5-7.0.


The carbonate hardness of the tank water that hosts a Red Devil Cichlid should be 2-6 dKH.

Mineral Level

The level of ammonia and nitrite should be zero and the level of nitrate should be as minimal as possible. We suggest doing a fishless nitrogen cycle before you add your Red Devil Cichlids to the tank.

Replacement Procedure

As for water replacement, you can opt for one of the following options. You may:

  • Replace 10% of the tank water every seven days, or
  • Replace 25% of the tank water every 15 days, or
  • Replace 50% of the tank water every 30 days.

Make sure the new batch of water has the same water parameters (temperature, pH level and hardness) as that of the existing batch of water. Choose only one of the aforementioned methods. Also never replace the entire water content altogether.

Compatibility of Red Devil Cichlid

They are bottom-feeders. As such, keeping them with fish species that mostly reside in the top and middle portion is ideal. As we stated above, if you want to keep more than one Red Devil Cichlids together, you need to provide them with ample space, especially the male ones as they are extremely territorial.

Suitable Tankmates for Red Devil Cichlids

Some of the suitable tankmates for Red Devil Cichlids are as follows:

Unsuitable Tankmates for Red Devil Cichlids

Don’t keep them with aggressive species. Also, avoid keeping them with bottom-dwellers that are more active and large in size than them. You must keep in mind that they prefer strong currents, something which not a lot of other fish may be comfortable with. Some of the unsuitable tankmates for Red Devil Cichlids are as follows:

  • Endlers
  • Hatcherfish
  • Threadfins
  • Rainbowfish

Breeding of Red Devil Cichlid

When this happens, the male traps the female in a cave until she lays her eggs. Males usually get very aggressive here with the females if they try to leave. This process may last 1-5 days and 15 eggs are usually laid by the female.

After this, the male fertilizes the eggs and the female leaves the cave. Usually, the males keep a watch over the eggs until they hatch. The eggs hatch 3-7 days after being fertilized. The male parent continues to look after the fries. Breeding Red Devil Cichlid is super easy. In order to encourage breeding, you need to increase the oxygen level in your tank and raise the temperature to around 82°F (27.8°C).

When you notice the spikes protruding from the first ray of their pectoral fins of the males, it is a sign that they are ready to spawn. Within 2-3 months, they look like small versions of their parents.

The fries usually have a yolk sac under their bellies that disappears after a few days. Once that happens, you may feed them powdered fry food in small sizes.


They are easy to rear and don’t have high tank or dietary needs. In spite being a human-made secondary genus, these freshwater creatures are a great option for beginner aquarists.  If ornamental fish is what you want in your fish tank, then Red Devil Cichlid can make for great pets. However, the large tank that they need to survive can pose a challenge to maintain for novice aquarists.

One thing we should tell you that they are a living beings and not just your fantasy for experiments. Furthermore, they are visually appealing and make for an exotic pet. As long as you follow the correct care guide, you can raise them easily.

Care Guides of Other Members of the Cichlidae Family

If you are thinking of rearing some other members of the Cichlidae family, take a look at the following care guides: