Freshwater Fish

Red Devil Cichlid (hus labiatus): Aquarium Care Guide

Red devil cichlids are an interesting freshwater fish that sport a unique look. This makes them a very popular fish for aquarists to consider getting at some point.

However, if you’re going to stick with one, there are a few things you need to know.

Yes, their appearance and activity level make them very attractive. But these are big, fighting fish that require some experience and knowledge to care for.

This guide will go over everything you need to know about caring for red devil cichlids so you’ll be prepared if you decide to get one yourself. She will learn about ideal tank mates, their size, diet, and more.

Species Summary

The red devil cichlid, scientifically known as Amphilophus labiatus, is a beloved fish with a charismatic personality. These fish are known to develop bonds with their owners. They can show off to aquarists and even beg for food like a dog.

With that said, red devil cichlids are not for the faint of heart. As their name suggests, these fish can be a handful. Not only are they aggressive towards other fish, but they have also been known to destroy anything they can get their teeth into.

In the wild, red devil cichlids can be found in the lakes of Nicaragua. More specifically, they largely populate Lake Nicaragua, Lake Managua, and Lake Xiloa. Originally, they were classified in the genus Cichlasoma. However, they have since been moved to their own genus as they no longer fit the description of Cichlasoma labiatum.

No matter what you call them, Red Devil Cichlids are a great fish for any hobbyist. While they have their challenges, their striking appearance and playful attitudes make them a joy to care for.

Life expectancy

In general, the average lifespan of red devil cichlids is around 10 to 12 years in captivity.

However, there have been reports of some fish living longer with proper care. Like any other fish, their life expectancy is affected by the quality of the water they are in and their general living conditions.


Red devil cichlids are quite stocky, which only adds to their intimidating appearance. Its dorsal and anal fins are pointed. Both fins are very pronounced and have a «swept» appearance. This helps provide speed and agility in the water.

Males and females look very similar, but there are some slight differences.

The most noticeable is a nuchal hump in males. Males tend to develop a prominent forehead hump in captivity. In the wild, the hump usually becomes visible only during the breeding season. Males are also usually slightly larger and have a pointed genital papilla.

When it comes to color, there is a lot of variety with this species of fish. In the wild, you will usually see red devil cichlids that are brown or gray in color. Considering the dark, murky waters of Nicaragua’s lakes, the coloration helps the fish blend in with the environment in times of trouble. Some more vibrant colors are also found in nature.

Some are white, yellow and bright red. Fish with these color patterns are more common in captivity. You can also find red devil cichlids spotted with multiple colors. Black-tipped fins and tails are also common.

Red devil cichlids have thick lips with a rubber-like consistency. They tend to be slightly smaller in captivity than in the wild. The size of your lips is thought to be determined by your diet, but no conclusive studies have been done to back this up. Their lips are usually orange in color, but black coloration has also been observed.

Inside their mouth, red devil cichlids have large teeth. They are strong enough to deal a lot of damage. Not only that, but these fish have very powerful jaws, making them a natural predator in or out of captivity.


The average size of Red Devil Cichlids is around 15 inches long when fully grown.This makes them quite large compared to many other freshwater fish seen in many tanks. Males tend to be slightly larger than females.

Most fish will reach their full length at around 3 years of age.

Red Devil Cichlid Care

In general, Red Devil Cichlids are quite hardy and easy to care for by experienced fish keepers. That said, they are not the best species of fish for novice aquarists.

Red devil cichlids can tolerate various water conditions. However, these fish will not reach their full potential unless they receive proper care. Here is crucial information to help keep these fish healthy for years to come.

tank size

How much space does a large 15 inch red devil cichlid need?We recommend at least 55 gallons for a single fish.

If you plan on having a breeding pair, you should invest in a tank that is at least 125 gallons. For multiple fish tanks, we recommend 200 gallons or more.

In general, red devil cichlids need a lot of room to move around. They are avid swimmers and will quickly outgrow tight tanks as they grow.

Water parameters:

The key to keeping a red devil cichlid healthy is to stay aware of the water conditions. While there is some wiggle room when it comes to exact parameters, it is critical to stick to the following ranges. Major water condition problems can lead to health complications and stunted growth.

  • Water temperature: 75 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH level: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 6 to 25 dGH

Author’s Note: Be sure to perform regular water changes for the sake of health and disease prevention. Poor water quality is the leading cause of illness and reduced life expectancy, so take this seriously!

What to put in your tank

When you are setting up a tank for Red Devil Cichlids, preparation is key. These fish are prone to rearranging their environment. If you don’t prepare for this behavior, the fish will wreak havoc and ruin the aesthetics of your tank.

At the bottom of the tank, fine sand is preferred. These fish are burrowers. Gravel or tough substrate will only cause damage.

We do not recommend including any plants. Red devil cichlids are known for shredding any foliage they can access. Also, they love to uproot plants while digging.

As for other accessories, be sure to provide plenty of hiding places with rocks and wood. In the wild, these fish often lurk in crevices so they can easily hide if trouble arises. In aquariums, red devil cichlids will exhibit the same type of behavior. Therefore, provide plenty of places for your fish to hide.

As a general rule, place all rocks firmly within the substrate at the bottom of the tank. If you have smaller rocks, consider anchoring them to the tank with fish-safe epoxy. Fish have been known to knock over rocks if they are simply sitting on the sand.

When it comes to equipment, we recommend using dual filters. A traditional cartridge filter combined with a sump setup will work just fine. Make sure the tank has moderate water movement.

It is also a good idea to install some air stones. These fish do very well in highly oxygenated water. Airstones can help keep your color vibrant.

Author’s Note: Like many other aggressive fish, Red Devil Cichlids can potentially decide to attack exposed equipment. Be sure to protect every piece of gear you use to prevent it from getting damaged (or your fish getting hurt).

Possible common diseases

There are no special diseases that are unique to the red devil cichlid. However, these fish are susceptible to diseases that commonly affect freshwater fish.

One of the most common problems that aquarists have to deal with is Ich. This condition is highly contagious and can lead to death if left untreated. Ich can be treated by raising the tank temperature to about 86 degrees Fahrenheit for about 3 days. Alternatively, you can use copper-based drugs.

In addition to Ich, red devil cichlids are prone to «hole in the head» disease. Also known as head and lateral line disease, this condition causes visible dimpling on the head and face. The disease is believed to be caused by nutrient deficiencies and poor water quality.

Be sure to replace 25 to 30 percent of the tank water weekly and use powerful filters to remove organic matter regularly.

Food and Diet

The best thing about Red Devil Cichlids is that they will eat almost anything you drop in the tank. While many people think of them as carnivores due to their aggressive behavior, these fish are actually omnivores.

We recommend feeding your fish a good balance of dry food and live food.High-quality fish flakes and cichlid pellets are a great base to start with. You can also provide your fish with krill, earthworms, bloodworms, crickets, and spirulina-based foods. Provide some variety to your meals so your fish get all the nutrients and vitamins they need.

Use caution with mammalian meats. Things like chicken and beef are not part of their wild diet. As a result, having too much can cause some intestinal problems. These foods should be used as treats instead of the main meal.

These fish eat a lot. You will need to feed them several times a day to meet all of their dietary requirements.

behavior and temperament

As we mentioned earlier, Red Devil Cichlids are very self-aware of their owners. They are charismatic and energetic fish. However, they do not do well with other fish. This includes fish of the same species.

Red devil cichlids are very aggressive. They are territorial and will attack other fish in the tank. Also, you will often find the fish trying to destroy whatever they can catch in their mouths.

When they are not fighting other fish or destroying unprotected items in the tank, Red Devil Cichlids will swim a lot. They need a lot of space to explore. We recommend keeping the center of the tank relatively open so they can move freely.

These fish can become even more aggressive if the tank does not suit their needs. This is quite common with fish that are kept in small tanks with very little room to swim.

Author’s Note: The quality of your habitat will have a significant impact on your mood. A small tank that doesn’t have the necessary items included will make them grumpy and more prone to aggression. On the other hand, a large habitat will keep them a bit calmer.

Red Devil Cichlid Tank Mates

If you want to care for a red devil cichlid, be prepared to have a tank of only one fish. Due to their aggressiveness, these fish are usually kept alone. They can be kept with other fish, but you have to start early.

Young red devil cichlids generally show no signs of aggression if raised in a tank with other red devil cichlids. However, this can change once they get older. Once they have reached maturity, most do not want to share tank space.

If you want to keep multiple fish in one tank, you will need a huge tank. Lots of hiding places and natural territory separations can help prevent aggression.

The good news is that red devil cichlids can be kept in pairs. These fish are monogamous, so you can keep males and females together in most cases.


Red devil cichlids have been bred in captivity for quite some time. It is relatively easy to breed these fish, even for beginners. Thanks to her monogamous nature, you don’t have to worry about some common breeding problems. Males and females will protect their young until they are free swimming and ready to fend for themselves.

To start the breeding process, raise the tank temperature to about 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This mimics the naturally warm waters during the breeding season in the wild. Feed the fish plenty of nutrient-dense foods, such as bloodworms.

When the female is ready to lay her eggs, she will choose a flat rock or sloping substrate. She can provide a breeding area by creating a subtle hill or introducing driftwood to the tank.

The females lay between 600 and 700 eggs at a time. They are translucent and take on a yellowish-orange tint. After about 3 to 4 days, the eggs will hatch.

The male and female fish can then move the small fry to another area of ​​the tank. Sometimes the male will dig a hole to offer better protection from predators. After another 5 to 7 days, the dry should be able to swim on its own.

Now up to you

Now that you understand the essentials of caring for red devil cichlids, it’s time to decide if this fish is right for you. These are incredibly rewarding fish to keep, so if you think you’re up to the challenge, we highly recommend them.

The beauty these fish add to a room is something you have to see to believe. We have heard from many experienced fish keepers that these are their favorite freshwater species for this very reason!

If you want to know more about these fish or ask us any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Red devil cichlids are one of our favorite fish, so we are always happy to talk about possible tank mates, their diet, and all things related to caring for them.

Now up to you

Now that you understand the essentials of red devil cichlid care, it’s time to decide if this fish is right for you. These are incredibly rewarding fish to keep, so if you think you’re up to the challenge, we highly recommend them.

The beauty these fish add to a room is something you have to see to believe. We have heard from many experienced fish keepers that these are their favorite freshwater species for this very reason!

If you want to know more about these fish or ask us any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Red devil cichlids are one of our favorite fish, so we are always happy to talk about possible tank mates, their diet, and all things related to caring for them.

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