Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) 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 its common name is 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 matures. Very aggressive and territorial. It’s not a good idea to give this cichlid tank companions. If you put another male Red Devil in the tank, they’ll probably try and kill each other, so don’t try that.

They hunt down smaller fish if in the tank and kill them. It can ‘play’ like a dog might, follow the owner around, or beg for food. Sometimes it’ll bite your finger, so be careful!

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. It’s best to keep a single pair together in a tank to themselves.


This freshwater fish comes from Central America in several lakes in Nicaragua, like Lake Managua or Lake Nicaragua. It has been introduced to Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Singapore.

These freshwater fish were previously known as Cichlasoma labiatum. They like 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 with a large bull shark population.

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

They have a lifespan of 10 to 12 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 strong jaws.


They are usually a vibrant, rich red. These fish brighten any tank.

Their fins are pointed. especially the anal and dorsal fins. The usual red devil cichlid size is 15″ (38cm).

In the wild, they’ve been known to have dark brown to gray coloration which helps them to match their surroundings.

However, in the aquarium, they’re usually bright red, amber yellow and sometimes white. They have red thick rubbery lips that are occasionally black. In the wild, their mouths are larger.

Red Devil Cichlid Male Or Female?

Here is how to sex a red devil cichlid.

Markings and Colors: Males have a nuchal hump on their heads

Size and Shape: Males are larger than females and have more pointed anal and pelvic fins.

Behavior: During breeding season, males become aggressive and territorial.

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.


Breeding these fish isn’t the best idea for beginner breeders. They get temperamental when the breeding season rolls around, so you need to be careful.

Before you start the process, make sure the fish you are planning to breed are moved out of the tank. Else the other fish will be harassed endlessly.

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. Once they’ve chosen, they stay with this fish for the rest of their life.

Breeding season can become a hair-raising time for all fish in the tank.

The male ‘courts’ the female, which isn’t how we think of courting. They chase and harass the female. Some aquarists recommend using tank separators to give the female a break.

You wouldn’t want her to be hurt.

They will mate, and the spawning begins. Like other cichlids, put a flat rock for them to put their eggs. The female lays the eggs on the rock, and the male fertilizes them.

On average, she will have a clutch size of 600-700.

Provide plenty of hiding spots in the breeding area. This gives the opportunity for the fish to have a break from each other if needed.

Both parents protect and raise the eggs. The female looks 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 live off their egg sacs for the first week, and after that, they become free swimming.

Now you 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 food you feed 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 tank water clean. They’re not a stickler for specific water, they have high tolerance levels. But keep within the requirements I’ve listed here.

Don’t keep them in a group, either a pair or by themselves.

Try to buy a female and male, and keep them in the tank together. Introduce them to each other as early as possible in life. When they become sexually mature, they’ll be ready for breeding.

This makes the breeding process much more manageable.

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

Though they need a large aquarium, it’s worth it for all the issues you’ll avoid.

These fish need need hiding places. Sometimes, the couple need a break from each other. They’re also territorial, so make sure the tank is big enough each fish to have their territory.

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 are artificial.

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

This fish can tolerate most water conditions, keep in mind it will attack heater and filters. They also may damage aquarium equipment as well.

Secure them with suction cups to the walls. You can also hide them behind a series of rocks.

Put some stones on the sides of the tank. Rockwork makes these fish feel safe, gives them hiding places and mostly reduces aggression.

Put barriers on the heaters, so the fish don’t injure themselves.

A quick note on these animals, they can be suseptible to lateral line disease, or hole in the head disease.

IMPORTANT. Have a cover on the tank when you aren’t performing maintenance. Red Devil Cichlids have a nasty habit of jumping out of the aquarium.

Conditions Of The Tank

You need do water changes weekly. These fish are susceptible to changes in water conditions including pollutants and pH instability. Change 15-20% of the water.

Having a canister filter helps avoid unwanted water conditions.

Like Convict Cichlids, these fish are very messy! They produce a lot of waste. Consider having a dual filter. They also move decorations around, make sure everything is fastened down.

When you replace the water, clean the sides of the tank with a gravel cleaner to remove the build-up of decomposing organic matter.

These fish species don’t have specific lighting requirements, keep it normal.

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

Water Parameters

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

Tank Temperature
Red Devil Cichlids need a warm tank. The best tank temperature for these fish is 73-79 °F (23-26 °C). However, when it’s breeding time, the water 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. The tank water needs to be very hard to keep the fish healthy. 6 – 25 dGH.

Suitable Tank Mates

Since this fish is aggressive, it isn’t such a good idea giving it tank mates. If other large males Red Devils are put in the tank with another male, they will try to kill each other.

They hunt down and kill any smaller fish species.

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 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.

You can keep Red Devils with other fish when it’s growing up. However, keep in mind. These fish won’t tolerate other fish in their tank when they’ve fully matured.

The only other fish they 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 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.

What To Feed Red Devil Cichlid?

In the wild, they have a varied diet. Red Devil Cichlids eat worms, small fish, snails and other bottom-living creatures.

Since it’s an omnivore, it needs 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.

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

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

Artificial Food: Cichlid Pellets or flake foods, could do as well.

Insect Larvae is a good idea in moderation

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

Other Options To Consider

Vegetable Foods: Like finely chopped spinach and cucumber.

Things To Avoid

Red meat: It’s not part of their natural diet, it has got far too much protein and fat in it for this fish.

What Can I Feed My Baby Red Devil Cichlid?

You can feed your baby red devil cichlid artificial feed designed specifically for fry, or crushed cichlid flakes or pellets.

Despite the hot temper of the fish, and their unpredictability they’re an enjoyable fish to have in your aquarium. Their bright, bold pattern brings vibrant color to the tank.

Is there something missing from this article, or do you have a question? Let me know in a comment below.


  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!

    • You just took me to the late 90s…in high school I had a red devil and Jack Dempsey together which probably made them miserable from constant fighting when I came in the room. My red devil would shake his head back and forth to get my attention.

  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.

  6. Have had my Red Devil Lucifer for almost a year now! Got him as a companion originally for the Jack Dempsey that I had for 5 years prior. Needless to say my Jack, she didn’t last very long . Lucifer is extremely aggressive and drives me nuts with his digging and rearranging of everything in his aquarium, lol. ‍♀️ This fish latched onto my hand this morning when I tried fixing his aquarium . And I thought my cats had a personality, lol, they ain’t got nothing on this Red Devil of mine!

  7. I ended up with a Red Devil thanks to a store mix up. Named it Dutch. It’s in a tank full of Africans and it’s 2-3 times the size of a few of them. Zero issues, none of them are aggressive towards each other but I’m keeping an eye out. Dutch is a sweetheart, I put my hand in and pet him. He loves to swim through my fingers, also follows my hand across the tank and back.

    • Wow, that’s very interesting, thanks for sharing! Just goes to show each fish has a unique temperament, regardless of species. Dutch seems like a very good boy 🙂


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