Texas Cichlid 101: Care, Size, Tank Mates, Breeding…

Texas Cichlids are a fascinating freshwater species with a lot to offer. Their size, behavior, and stunning looks make them a great choice for any aquarist looking to step things up a bit!

But if you’re going to consider keeping these fish in your home aquarium, you need to know what you’re doing. Their potential for aggression is something you’ll need to navigate if you want them to thrive in your tank.

Fortunately, this guide makes everything easy. In it, we go over all the essential information you need to know about Texas Cichlid care. Topics like size, tank mates, diet, and even breeding are all covered!

Species Summary

Sometimes referred to as the Pearl Cichlid or Rio Grande Perch, the Texas Cichlid (scientific name: Herichthys cyanoguttatus) is a gorgeous freshwater fish species with a feisty personality.

Available in a few different color variations, these fish add tons of color to large aquariums. Their iridescent scales shimmer in the light, creating a captivating show around the clock.

Texas Cichlid swimming looking for food

Interestingly enough, Texas Cichlids are the only cichlid species that are native to the United States. They’re most commonly found throughout lakes and rivers in southern Texas and northern Mexico.

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Author Note: Non-native species have spread throughout Florida and Louisiana too. In these states, this species is treated like game fish!

Texas Cichlids are quite popular among aquarists throughout the world. With its appealing looks, it’s not hard to see why!


In captivity, this species has the potential to live for more than a decade. The average lifespan of a Texas Cichlid is between 10 and 13 years.

That said, they can only reach the upper limits of that lifespan with proper care. In poor living conditions that don’t meet their needs, these fish are likely to experience stress and disease.

To help them live long lives, you must be vigilant about tank maintenance and provide a healthy diet (more on that later).

If you have some experience raising fish in the Cichlidae family, these fish may have some familiar features.

They have the same iconic wide shape and physical features as other cichlids. This includes their expansive rayed dorsal fin and thick fleshy lips.

But these are extremely colorful fish, which is really what makes them stand out. Standard Texas Cichlids usually have a base color of dark gray. Some specimens will be slightly paler while others have a dark green base.

One Texas Cichlid swimming in a freshwater aquarium

On top of the base color are blue iridescent dots of varying sizes. The shimmering speckles cover the entire body. Even the fins are speckled!

Another unique feature is the fish’s black dots. Located on the base of the tail, these dots mimic the look of false eyes. Most fish have a series of dots that extend to the middle of the body.

Author Note: Males often develop large nuchal humps as well. The hump can get significantly larger as the fish ages. It may also inflate during times of breeding.

There are several popular color variations out there. Created from selective breeding, these variations are rarer than the standard color markings.

Red Texas Cichlid

Red Texas Cichlids have a dramatically different look than standard specimens. The base color is bright red (shocker). Meanwhile, those shimmering dots are usually white. You may also see some black accents throughout.

Interestingly enough, Red Texas Cichlids aren’t pure Texas Cichlids. They’re technically intergeneric hybrids created from the standard Texas Cichlid and another species hailing from Central America.

Green Texas Cichlid

If you want a fish that’s a bit brighter than the standard color variation, Green Texas Cichlids are the way to go.

The base color is a lighter shade of green. The spots take on a yellow or neon green hue.

Contrary to popular belief, Green Texas Cichlids aren’t pure Texas Cichlids either. In fact, they’re a completely different species. They are known as Lowland Cichlids and do not come from Texas at all!

Electric Blue Texas Cichlid

Finally, there’s the Electric Blue Texas Cichlid. This color variation shares a lot of similarities with the standard one.

However, the main difference is the intensity of the blue. The speckles are closer to turquoise in color, giving them a much more vibrant appearance.

Average Texas Cichlid Size

The average Texas Cichlid size is around 12 inches in length when fully grown. When you combine this with their strong build, these fish are quite imposing.

When sold in stores, this species is usually only a few inches long. However, they have a fairly fast growth rate which means they won’t stay this size for long!


Like many other Cichlid species, Texas Cichlid care is not the easiest thing in the world. This freshwater species requires a well-maintained environment and ample space to thrive.

Pair that with their potential aggression and you have a fish that is a bit more challenging to care for than others.

But don’t let that scare you off! With a bit of know-how, you can create a healthy environment for your fish to flourish.

Here are the fundamental care tips you need to follow:

Tank Size

One of the best things you can do for your Texas Cichlid is to provide a large habitat. Thanks to their large adult size and fast growth rate, these fish outgrow small aquariums pretty quickly.

For a single Texas Cichlid, we recommend tank size no smaller than 55 gallons. If you plan on keeping the fish with others, you should get a tank that will hold at least 125 gallons.

Author Note: Texas Cichlids need ample space, so a larger tank is always better. In close quarters, their already aggressive behavior will only get worse.

Water Parameters

As a subtropical fish, Texas Cichlids do best in warm waters. The rivers and lakes they call home rarely dip to freezing temperatures. Their natural habitat also has soft, slightly acidic water.

To keep your fish healthy, you must replicate those conditions closely. Texas Cichlids can tolerate some fluctuations here and there. However, you must stay within the following acceptable ranges.

  • Water temperature: 68°F to 74°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 12 KH

Setting Up The Rest Of Their Tank

Decorating an aquarium for Texas Cichlids can be tricky. These fish prefer natural environments filled with plants and shelter.

However, they have a reputation for rearranging tanks. They can rip up plants and burrow in the substrate, effectively ruining your hard work!

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around that. The best thing you can do is secure your decorative items as best as possible.

Herichthys cyanoguttatus swimming between driftwood

Cover the bottom of your tank with a layer of fine gravel or sand. Sand is preferred, as it closely resembles sand at the bottom of riverbeds. It’s also safer for the fish when they dig.

Next, add some plants throughout. Use sturdy rooted plants and floating plants to add some variety.

Finally, put some driftwood or bogwood to create hiding spaces for the fish. This will give them the opportunity for privacy when needed (which is great for managing aggression).

Author Note: Don’t overcrowd the tank. Open swimming space is a must, too.

Potential Diseases

Texas Cichlids are relatively hardy fish. There aren’t any unique diseases that target this species specifically. However, they can experience health issues that no fish is immune to, such as Ich and fin rot.

Ich is a stress-related disease that’s caused by parasites. You can easily diagnose the disease because it manifests itself as tiny white dots all over the fish’s body. Ich is highly contagious, but it’s pretty easy to treat.

You can quarantine infected fish and utilize over-the-counter medications to stop the disease from progressing. Fish will often experience Ich when water conditions are poor.

Check ammonia levels, temperature, and pH balance to ensure that they’re in an acceptable range for your fish. Take the step to maintain those parameters and Ich shouldn’t be a problem in the future.

Fin Rot is a bacterial infection that can cause parts of the fin to waste away. This usually affects the large dorsal fin of the Texas Cichlid.

This disease is usually a byproduct of physical injury. With the Texas Cichlid’s proclivity for fighting, it’s a pretty common issue. Your fish may also experience injuries from the decor in the tank.

Like Ich, Fin Rot can be treated with some over the counter medications. Take a look throughout the habitat and remove any sharp edges to prevent future problems.

Food & Diet

Texas Cichlids should be fed small portions about twice a day. They’re natural omnivores, so these freshwater fish will eat pretty much anything you provide.

For optimal health, diversify their diet with a variety of foods. Dry commercial pellets or flakes are a great staple that we highly recommend.

However, you should also supplement dry food with live and frozen foods.

High-protein snacks like bloodworms, frozen shrimp, crustaceans, brine shrimp, and insects are all good choices. The same goes for algae-based foods and blanched vegetables.

Author Note: Make sure that you’re only providing as much food as they can eat in two or three minutes. Any leftovers should be removed to ensure that the cleanliness of the tank isn’t affected.

Behavior & Temperament

There’s no getting around the fact that Texas Cichlids are aggressive creatures! When given the opportunity, they will fight vulnerable fish and even eat those that are smaller.

This isn’t a schooling species at all. They can exhibit aggressive behaviors against their own kind.

Because Texas Cichlids are highly territorial, you’ll need a massive tank if you want to keep them as part of a community (there’s always an element of risk when trying this though).

Texas Cichlids are pretty active throughout the day. You might see these fish digging in the substrate, uprooting plants, or darting back and forth.

They’re also quite intelligent. These cichlids can recognize owners and will often come up to the glass to greet you when feeding time comes around!

Texas Cichlid Tank Mates

Texas Cichlids do fine on their own. That means if your tank is on the smaller side, you’ll definitely want to keep them alone.

However, it is possible for them to coexist with others if you stick within the recommended guidelines.

The best Texas Cichlid tank mates are going to be similar-sized fish that can hold their own when needed. That means other fairly large aggressive or semi-aggressive species.

If you want to create a multi-species tank, give these tank mates a try:


As open spawners, Texas Cichlids are pretty easy to breed in captivity.

That said, you need to take some extra precautions to ensure that things go smoothly. These fish can get even more aggressive when they’re breeding.

Using a 75-gallon fish tank, create a separate breeding environment. This tank should have similar temperatures as the original tank, a neutral pH balance, and medium-hard softness. Place a flat stone rock at the bottom on a soft sand substrate.

Adults Texas Cichlids will naturally pair off when kept together. Choose a bonded pair and move them to the breeding tank. Then, condition them with lots of high-protein foods.

When they’re ready to spawn, the fish will go through a unique ritual. You might see them chasing each other around, slapping each other with their tails, or even kissing!

The pair will then clean out an area to lay eggs. They may use the flat rock or dig a pit in the substrate. The female will lay between 500 and 1,000 sticky eggs.

Author Note: Texas Cichlids are very protective of their eggs and young. The parents will guard the eggs for three days until they’re ready to hatch. At first, the fry will live off their egg sac.

They become free-swimming about four to five days after hatching. At that point, you can feed them powdered spirulina or baby brine shrimp.


Texas Cichlid care might seem intimidating at first, but it gets easier as you learn more about the species. As long as you understand, respect, and cater to their nature everything should be just fine!

We know that getting a more aggressive fish can come with a lot of uncertainty, and we hope this guide has helped alleviate some of that for you! However, if you still have any lingering questions we’d be more than happy to help you out.

Just connect with us on Facebook or simply reach out via our contact page!

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