How to Breed Firemouth Cichlids

Updated February 21, 2017

Firemouths are one of the more common types of cichlids found in the home aquarium. Like most cichlids, firemouth cichlids are brightly coloured, making them a lovely addition to the aquarium. They are mostly blue or grey, with dark patches along their bodies. These fish get their name from the bright red colouring found under the mouth and along the throat and underside of the fish. Firemouth cichlids are relatively easy to care for, and they spawn readily when the correct water and food conditions are provided.

Raise a group of six or more young cichlids in an aquarium. Unlike most cichlids, which breed in a harem environment, firemouth cichlids pair off as they mature forming a single, monogamous mating pair. The best way to ensure that you have a breeding pair of firemouth cichlids is to allow them to mature and select their own mates.

Set up a separate breeding aquarium for each pair of firemouth cichlids. Firemouth cichlids can become very aggressive toward other fish when they are ready to breed, so it's best to keep them isolated.

Raise the temperature in the breeding aquarium. Firemouth cichlids can be kept in a range of water temperatures, and usually do well in cooler temperatures between 21.1 and 23.8 degrees C. However, for breeding, it's best to raise the temperature slightly to between 25.5 and 30.0 degrees C. You can use a submersible heater or other aquarium heating device to do this.

Test the pH level of the breeding aquarium water by using a water testing kit. Firemouth cichlids prefer a pH level between 6.5 and 8.0. You can use water additives if the level is not correct.

Place two or more cave-like structures in the breeding aquarium. The pair of fish will choose one of these caves to lay their eggs in. Caves can be constructed from stacked rocks, aquarium decorations, hollow pipes, or overturned flowerpots.

Place some aquarium decorations, such as plants and hollow logs, in the aquarium to give the female fish hiding places. Male firemouth cichlids can become aggressive or overly energetic when breeding, and may injure the female if she has nowhere to hide. You can also construct a barrier at one end of the aquarium. This barrier should let the smaller female enter but keep out the male.

Feed the cichlids a nutritious diet of high-protein foods. These foods can include good quality commercial flake foods, or live or frozen foods, such as bloodworms. Always thaw frozen foods according to the directions on the package before giving them to your fish.

Wait for the fish to breed. After entering the breeding aquarium and being conditioned with the nutritious diet for a week or two, this should happen quickly. The cichlids will choose one of the caves. The eggs will then be laid and fertilised in the cave. The female will guard the eggs, which hatch in about three days, while the male guards the cave.


When you first select your group of young cichlids, make sure you have both male and female fish. Male firemouth cichlids have pointier fins and brighter colours than females. Female firemouths also tend to be slightly rotund.

Things You'll Need

  • Breeding aquarium
  • Aquarium heater
  • Water testing kit
  • Cave structures
  • Aquarium decorations
  • High-protein fish foods
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