Terror Of The Tank – Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) – Complete Species Guide

A beautiful but violent cichlid, this fish is a vibrant red color. It has a temperament and personality to match. There’s a reason it’s called the Red Devil Cichlid!

Red Devil Cichlid taken by @klickahsaahn on Instagram header
Red Devil Cichlid thansk to @klickahsaahn on Instagram

This cichlid gets quite large when it comes to the age of an adult. Very aggressive and territorial. It’s not a good idea to give this cichlid tank mates. If you put another male Red Devil in the tank, they will probably try and kill each other, so probably don’t try that.

They will also hunt down smaller fish if in the tank and kill them. It can act to ‘play’ like a dog might, follow the owner around, or beg for food. A word of warning though, it sometimes will bite the owner’s finger, so be careful!

If you’re thinking of having a Red Devil Cichlid, (or a few) as a pet. Or you have one and are looking for more information, or you’re just curious, you have come to the right place! We have everything on the Red Devil Cichlids right here, so read on.

Table Of Contents:

Red Devil Cichlid Care – Predator Fish? Tank Mates?

Basic Facts

Name: Red Devil Cichlid

Scientific Name: Amphilophus labiatus (Previously Known As Cichlasoma labiatum)

Group: Freshwater

Size Of The Fish: 15.0 inches (38.10 cm)

Temperament: Extremely Aggressive and territorial

Aquarium Size Required: Extra-Large

Where It Swims: Around the bottom

Care Difficulty Rating: Medium

Good Paired With: Very aggressive so not such a good idea to give it tank mates. It’s best to keep a single pair together in a tank to themselves. The pair will sometimes tolerate other fish, but not recommended.


This fish comes from Central America. It has been introduced to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Singapore. Red Devil Cichlids come from several lakes in Nicaragua. These fish were previously known as Cichlasoma labiatum. These fish likes to inhabit open water and are rarely found in rivers.

They can be found swimming along rocks with crevices. The fish do this so if they need to retreat; so they can hide among the rocks. Their habitat is very dangerous. It’s the only freshwater lake in Central America that has a significant population of bull sharks.

Female Red Devil Cichlid taken by @christhefisherman
Female Red Devil Cichlid taken by @christhefisherman

This makes the crevices extremely useful and essential.

They can have a lifespan of ten to twelve years or more if looked after correctly and with care. This fish is called the Red Devil for a good reason. It’s because it has aggressive behavior, large teeth and it’s strong jaws, thus the name.


These fish get the first part of their name from their bright skin color. They are usually red, and a vibrant, rich red at that. Having these fish can brighten up your tank.

Their fins are pointed especially the anal and dorsal fins. Their usual fully grown size is 15″ (38cm). Yet, they become quite large. Sometimes even quite a few inches more than the typical length.

In the wild, they have been known to be dark brown to gray which helps them to match their surroundings. It’s the perfect camouflage!

However, in the aquarium, they look different. Red Devil Cichlids are usually bright red, yellow and sometimes white. They have thick rubbery lips that are red, and occasionally black. In the wild, their mouths are larger.

As with many species, all across the animal kingdom. It can be difficult to determine the sex of the individual. But here are a few pointers to help you out.

Markings and Colors: They are usually red, yellow, white pink and orange. As said below, males have a lump on their heads. It is more common in males other than in females.

Size and Shape: Males tend to develop a ‘lump’ on their head. Also, males will usually be larger than females and will have more pointed anal and pelvic fins.

Behavior: During breeding season, you can quickly tell which is which. Males will become aggressive and territorial. Make sure to have no other fish in the tank at the time; they will suffer and get chased and harassed.

Even if after you’ve followed all the pointers listed above, and you still can’t tell, don’t worry. You can ask your local vet or expert. That should clear up the problem.


Now, a word of warning. Breeding these fish isn’t the best idea for beginners or novice breeders. They get temperamental when the breeding season rolls around, so you need to be careful.

Also, before you start the process, make sure the fish you are planning to breed, are moved out of the tank. Alternatively, move the tank mates, (if any) out. Make sure there are no other fish in the tank besides the two, else they will be harassed endlessly.

Here, we list everything you need to know on breeding Red Devil Cichlids.

Thanks to @f22bcichlids For this Photo of two Red Devil Cichlids - Everything you needed to know about Red Devil Cichlids. Find out how to keep your Red Devil Cichlids happy and healthy. | Contented Fish
Thanks to @f22bcichlids For this Photo of two Red Devil Cichlids

Red Devil Cichlids are monogamous. This means that they will pick only one partner to mate with. Once they have chosen, they will stay with this fish for the rest of their life. Breeding season can become a hair-raising time for all fish in the tank.

So make sure to observe them during this time.

The male will ‘court’ the female, which isn’t how we would think of courting. They chase and harass the female. Yeah, friendly. Some aquarists recommend using tank separators to give the female a break once in a while. You wouldn’t want her to be hurt.

Once this is over, they will mate, and the spawning will begin. Like other cichlids, make sure you put a flat rock for them to put their eggs. The female will lay the eggs on the rock, and the male will fertilize them. On average, she will have a clutch size of 600-700.

Make sure to provide plenty of hiding spots in the breeding area. This will give the opportunity for the fish to have a break from each other if needed.

Both parents will protect and raise the eggs. The female will look after them will they are in the eggs, and they hatch after three to four days. Once they have hatched, the parents will transfer the young fry into a pit dug in the sand. They will live off their egg sacs for the first week.

After that, you will need to feed them. The recommended food is artificial feed designed for Cichlid fry. Or, finely crushed flake foods. Once they are grown, you can feed them the food you feed the other Red Devil Cichlids.


Looking After Red Devil Cichlids

Red Devil Cichlids are easy to look after regarding tank maintenance and care. However, their aggressive nature puts them at a definite ‘medium’ care difficulty rating.

On tank conditions, they’re quite easy, provided you keep the water clean. They’re not a stickler for specific water. But, keeping it within the requirements we’ve listed here, it should keep them happy.

What they are a stickler for, however, is the numbers they are kept in. A definite no-no is keeping a group, as if there’s more than one male in the group, well… Long story short, they’re going to fight. That’s always got to end badly.

So, try to buy a female and male, and keep them in the tank together. Make sure to introduce them to each other as early as possible in life. When they become sexually mature, they will be ready for breeding. This will make the breeding process much more manageable. (If you’re planning on doing that.)

The smallest tank size for an individual fish is 55 gallons (208 L). However, if you’re keeping a pair, you need something much bigger. 150 gallons (568 L) is the optimal size for a couple.

These fish need not only space, but they also need hiding places. Sometimes, the couple might need a break from each other. They’re also territorial, so make sure the tank is big enough each fish to have their territory.

Then there is the question of decor. For these fish, keeping it simple is a good idea. Flat rocks are essential, as that is where (like most Cichlids) females do their spawning on. Red Devils love to dig, make sure the plants you put in there are artificial.


Mango The Red Devil Cichlid taken by @paco_147g on Instagram
Mango The Red Devil Cichlid taken by @paco_147g on Instagram


The clumsy actions of the fish will destroy the root systems of natural plants.

This fish can tolerate most water conditions, keep in mind that it will attack heater and filters. They also may damage aquarium equipment as well. Of course, there’s a simple solution to this problem.

Secure them with suction cups to the walls. To prevent the problem, you can hide them behind a series of rocks. It’s also a good idea to put some stones on the sides of the tank. Rockwork makes these fish feel safe and mostly reduce aggression.

Something to remember is to put barriers on the heaters, so the fish don’t injure themselves.

IMPORTANT. Make sure to have, and put a cover on the tank when you aren’t performing maintenance. Red Devil Cichlids have a nasty habit of jumping out of the aquarium. Well, you wouldn’t want to wake up one morning and find a fish on the carpet!

Conditions Of The Tank

We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping the tank water clean. You need to change the water weekly. These fish are susceptible to pollutants and pH instability. Change 15-20% of the water. There’s also another reason you need to keep up the changes.

Like Convict Cichlids, these fish are very messy! On top of that, they produce a lot of waste. So you can keep on top of the Red Devils, you should consider having a dual filter. They will also move decorations around, so try to make sure everything is fastened down.

When you replace the water, make sure to clean the sides of the tank with a gravel cleaner. This is, so you remove all the build-up of decomposing organic matter.

These fish don’t have any specific lighting requirements, keeping it normal is fine.

Lighting: The lighting in the tank doesn’t need to be high or low, use normal lighting.

Bottom Lining: The bottom of the tank needs to be lined with sand.

Water Current: The current in the water must be moderate.

These fish are very sensitive to pollutants and ph instability. It is imperative that you clean the water weekly. Dual filters are recommended in this instance.

However, it is very messy, so make sure to keep the water clean. Several changes a week would be enough.

Red Devil Cichlids come from a tropical climate, so they need a warm tank. The best temperature for these fish is 73-79 °F (23-26 °C). However, when it is breeding time, the temperature for the Red Devils will need to be 77 °F (25 °C).

pH and Hardness
Their pH needs to be in the range of 6.0-8.0. Its tank water needs to be very hardy to keep the fish healthy. 6 – 25 dGH is the recommended range.

Suitable Tank Mates

Since this fish is aggressive, it isn’t such a good idea giving it tank mates. If you do though, please keep in mind this important fact. If other large males Red Devils are put in the tank with another male, they will try to kill each other. Also, they will hunt down and kill any smaller fish.

A male and a female pair will sometimes tolerate in the same tank. Other large Central American fish would sometimes make suitable tank mates. Be sure to check they can protect themselves. (Examples, Firemouth Cichlids, Convict Cichlids, and Jaguar Cichlids.)

Give the fish plenty of hiding spaces such as rocks, wood, and artificial plants. Don’t bother with real plants, as they will be eaten, shredded or get uprooted.

You can keep Red Devils with other fish when it is growing up. However, keep in mind. These fish will not tolerate other fish in their tank when they have fully matured.

The only other fish they will sometimes tolerate in the same tank is other Red Devils. However, it isn’t reliable, and the level of tolerance depends on the individual fish.

It isn’t guaranteed that putting more hiding spaces will stop the fish from being aggressive. This is the same for the fish trying to get more territory and acting rudely to other fish.

In short, it’s best to keep the fish by itself, or in a couple, if you don’t want any nasty incidents going on in your aquarium.


In the wild, they have a varied diet. Red Devil Cichlids eat worms, small fish, snails and other bottom-living creatures. It likes open water and will rarely be found in rivers, or water bodies with limited space.

Since it is an omnivore, it will need some vegetable food, but mostly meaty food. Have these fish on a varied diet, don’t overfeed them, and don’t give them the same food all the time. Keep these pointers in mind, and you’ll have a happy, healthy fish.

On feeding frequency, they should have two to three feedings a day, of moderate amounts.

When planning to keep them as pets, there are a few foods to consider.

Crustaceans: Prawns or shrimp, whether frozen or fresh, make a good diet staple.

Artificial Food: Pellets, designed for Cichlids or flake foods, could do as well.

The ideal diet you should give it would be prawns and shrimps. With frozen worms or blood worms and vegetable foods.

Other Options To Consider

Vegetable Foods: This will fill the vegetable requirement in their diet. Recommended foods include finely chopped spinach and cucumber.

Things To Avoid

Red meat. Three reasons. It’s not part of their natural diet, it has got far too much protein and fat in it for this fish. It’s also too rich for this fish to be able to digest. So, it’s not a recommended food. Full stop. So, if you want to give it to them, only do it very occasionally.


As you know, it’s not very good for beginner Aquarists to have a Red devil. You need to have experience with aggressive fish and know what you are up against.

However, in all, despite the hot temper of the fish, and their unpredictability. They are an enjoyable fish to have in your aquarium. Their bright, bold pattern brings vibrant color to the tank.

Enjoy looking after your Red Devil, and if you have a Red Devil Cichlid, let us know in the comments.

If you found this post helpful, then excellent! You can help other people find this resource by sharing it on social media, and telling your friends. If you have any tips, recommendations or suggestions that somehow weren’t mentioned in this list. Please, by all means, share them in the comments. Thank you for reading.

12 thoughts on “Terror Of The Tank – Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) – Complete Species Guide”

  1. Thanks bro. I learned quite a lot from your article. Really a awesome center piece specimen for my tank this would turn up to be. Liked the entire content.

    • Great hear Arindam! Thanks for your kind words. I agree with you, these fish are such impressive fish! They pack a punch in both color and behavior.

  2. I have a female red devil , she isn’t as aggressive as my Midas male but a beautiful fish all the same . I’ve been able to train both fish ( kept in separate tanks ) to come to the front of the tank when I shake the bag of pellets lol . A very fun and interesting fish to own , a dog in a tank haha

    • Thanks very much Rach for sharing about your Female Red Devil and Midas male. Like you say, great fun to have them come to the front of their tanks! I’ve heard that those species can be trained by humans and act similarly to dogs! I’d love to see your pics of these two if you have any. Cheers Jim

    • Hi Dennis. The name indicates their main colour is red. But you’re right, there can be many variations of the colour, including pink, orange and white like you said. Sometimes they’re all four colours at once, as it varies greatly. Have you had red devil cichlids before? Thanks again for letting me know.

  3. My Red Devil fish, honestly isn’t aggressive at all. In fact, it acts as if he is timid. His tank mates are always beating him up and he refuses to fight back. Any tips to increase the aggression?

    • Hi Gianni. That’s disappointing, especially if it’s causing him problems, what a shame! According to information from behavioural experts, they say if a tank is crowded it can increase aggression in a fish. However, that may make your other fish aggressive instead of him and make the problem worse. It’s best to keep Red Devil Cichlids in a maximum of a pair, so perhaps placing him with a mate in a seperate tank should solve the problem. Hope this helps.

  4. Thanks for the good info, my red devil is housed with a Jack Dempsey at the moment I thought they were fine at first because there both juvenile at about 4 inches but a couple days goes by And I’m not seeing much of my Jack Dempsey except when the red devil is chasing him around the tank will definitely have to put him in a separate tank

    • Hi Filmore. Yes, due to the size of the Red Devil in comparision with the Jack Dempsey and their general level of agressiveness it’s best not to have them in the same tank. You’re welcome, I’m glad this article was helpful. Good luck with your fishkeeping!

  5. I’m looking to get another. I had a male red devil for a long time… named him Oscar. He was a character for sure & guests always enjoyed visiting w/ him. He would follow u around, etc. If u blew ur cheeks up at him… he would do the same & then tap the glass at u. He would also make a big nest out of his sand & when I would clean his tank… I had to make sure I didn’t put my fingers in the water because he would get mad and attack them.

    • Hi Crissy. Thanks so much for telling us about Oscar. What a character and clearly enjoyed his own personal space 🙂 I can just imagine the puffing up of the cheeks.


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