Firemouth Cichlid : Feeding, Housing and Care, Breeding

Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) is one of the most beautiful American cichlids. It is named firemouth due to its flaming tinge on the ventral side of its mouth and throat. It was first described by the American researcher Walter L. Brind in 1918.   Firemouth cichlid (Thorichthys meeki) has numerous synonyms such as Thorichthys helleri meeki Brind, 1918; Herichthys meeki (Brind, 1918); Cichlasoma meeki (Brind, 1918) and Cichlasoma hyorhyncum C. L. Hubbs, 1935. The genus name ‘Thorichthys’ came from the Greek word ‘throsko’ meaning ‘to leap, spring’, and Greek ‘ikhthús’ meaning ‘fish’ while  Rybka has given its species name ‘meeki’ in honor of the American ichthyologist Seth Eugene Meek. It is not listed as endangered species on IUCN Red Data Book.

Systematic Position

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Sub-phylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes 
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Thorichthys  
  • Species: Thorichthys meeki

Distribution and Habitat

It is native to Central America and in nature, it lives in the waters of the Yucatán peninsula, as well as in the territory of Mexico, Guatemala, as well as Belize. They prefer to live in normal to slow flowing water bodies such as rivers, canals, ponds, ditches where sandy or muddy bottom layers with vegetation are available. Generally, they stay their most times in bottom and middle layers of water close to vegetation near the shore.

Quick Firemouth Cichlid Facts

  • Scientific name:Thorichthys meeki
  • Common Name: Fire mouth
  • Family:Cichlidae
  • Origin: Central America
  • Adult size: 16 cm
  • Tank size: 30 gallons
  • Tank region: Middle to bottom
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Breeding: Egg layer
  • Water pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness: 8-15 dGH
  • Temperature: 75 – 78.8° F (24 – 26° C)
  • Lighting: Moderate –normal
  • Water movement: Moderate
  • Care level: Easy
  • Life span: 10-15 years

Body Shape and Colors

It has a slightly elongated tall body about 16 centimeters long. The back line has a greater bend than other representatives of the genus. Head somewhat elongated and mouth is relatively small.

Body is light to olive gray in colors with blueish shade but during the adult stage the body becomes violet in colors. Body also has some transverse and lateral stripes with black spots. Neck, ventral side of the gill covers and  abdomen are orange-red  or red in colors. 

Dorsal and the anal fin extend approximately from the middle of the body to the base of the caudal fin, which has a lyrical shape. The paired fins are transparent, while unpaired fins have a red edging. The iris of the eye is also turquoise shiny.

Size and Lifespan

It is a medium sized Central American cichlid which can grow up to 17 cm long with a lifespan of 15 years or more if you take appropriate care.  

Food and Feeding Behavior

It is omnivorous fish and it eats everything like bloodworm, tubifex, earthworms, insect and insect larvae etc. It also accepts vegetable foods like chopped lettuce leaves, blanched spinanch, cucumber, dandelion, dried nettle etc. Feed should be given 2-3 times a day to keep your fish happy. For more information about the food please read our review of Best Fish Food.

Housing and Care Facts

The minimum volume of the aquarium for a pair of fish should be at least 30 gallons. The aquarium must be covered with lid to prevent jumping out on every occasion and without any reason. The tank bottom should be covered with small pebbles or granite chips. Several grottoes or several unused pottery pots should be placed on the bottom.

In tank bottom, layer of soil should be 8 centimeters, because plants for the aquarium will need to be picked up with a powerful rhizome and stiff leaves. You can use following popular aquarium plants Cryptocoryne, Echinodorus, Vallisneria, Elodea etc.

The temperature for the tank should be within 75 – 78.8° F (22 – 26 ° C), water hardness up to 15 ° dGH and the water pH should be ranged from 6.5 – 7.5. For optimum growth of plant, moderate lighting should be needed. External or internal filters are required to filter out the turbidity.

This fish likes pure water with sufficient oxygen. In this case, additional artificial aeration should also be required. This fish poorly tolerates a large content of nitrates and almost does not tolerate nitrites. To remove nitrites and nitrates biological filter should be installed. To keep your tank environment healthy 25-30 % water should be changed weekly basis.


It is the most peaceful fish and should be kept with similar tank mates. You cannot keep them with small, slow fish. In extreme cases, you can keep them with barbs.

Breeding Behavior

It can easily breed in captive condition if proper care is taken. Breeding is better in the same aquarium in which they are lived. During spawning, parents should not be transferred which cause stress them.

During the breeding period, the tank should have good water parameters with a pH of 6.5-7.5, hardness of 8-15 dGH and temperature of 75 – 78.8° F (24 – 26° C). 

The mature female lays 100-300 eggs on stone, submerged wood and shallow depression. The male ensures the eggs together with the female and the female swings the eggs with her pectoral fins as a fan for the inflow of new water to get high oxygen. 

The hatching time frame keeps going 3-4 days. After three days, the fry become free swimming. The fry should be fed with newly brine shrimp, and then small crustaceans. You can also feed juveniles with artificial feeds. As the fry grows, you should sort them by size to avoid cannibalism.

Also Read: Best Fish Tanks – Buyer’s Guide & Reviews

Male and female Sex Differences

Sexually mature individuals are eight to twelve months old. The male is larger than the female. Female is more modestly colored than the male. The male dorsal and anal fins are pointed at the ends, they are rounded in females. During spawning, the color of the fish becomes brighter, the anal tubercles appear. In the male, this tubercle (seminal duct) is represented by a pointed cone, which can reach a length of 2 millimeters. In the female, the ovipositor has the appearance of a truncated cone.

Disease and Preventive Measures

Firemouth cichlid is a very hardy fish but sometimes it is susceptible to ich, skin flukes, fungal, bacterial infections and other parasitic infestations. To keep your fish healthy and disease free you should maintain tank environment properly. In this case,  25-30 % water change should be done on weekly basis. If you have more questions about your aquarium please visit here

Concluding Remarks

Firemouth cichlid is an amazing, very beautiful fish among the pet fish keepers due to its hardiness and easy to care for. It is available in local pet shop and online vendor with sensible cost. To make your aquarium more attractive, we prescribe you to keep this beautiful fish in your aquarium. If you keep this wonderful fish in your aquarium you will get a lot of pleasure. 

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