Care of Red Devil Cichlid
As their common name suggests, the Red Devil Cichlid is certainly not known for its forgiving nature towards other fish inhabitants in the aquarium, they can be highly aggressive and as such are not recommended for newcomers to this hobby. They do have a certain appeal that still makes them popular with cichlid keepers despite their reputation, learning how to care for them properly can help with keeping them long term so hopefully this article will help with this.
The Red Devil Cichlid originates from Central America, namely Nicaragua and Costa Rica where they are quite common in the local waterways, their Latin name is Amphilophus citrinellus which in itself can be a bit confusing as citronellus is normally associated with lemon colouration etc. Well there are definitely colour variants to this species with some specimens displaying a yellow or orange colouration which can lead to them being given other common names such as the lemon Cichlid or the Midas Cichlid dependant on the locality that they are found in.
Like most of the Central American cichlids, they do possess a laterally compressed body shape and can reach a length of up to 12 inches (30 cm), females tend to develop smaller than the males and the males may also develop a nuchal hump as they mature. Domesticated specimens tend to develop a larger lip, in the wild these are not as pronounced, the reason for this has yet to be explained.
Populations are now being found around the world but it is believed that these populations have been brought about by keepers releasing specimens into the wild. If kept correctly the natural lifespan for these fish is between 10-15 years, in the wild due to harsher conditions and natural predators their expected lifespan will be slightly shorter.
Caring for the Red Devil Cichlid in the aquarium
Due to their large adult size and active swimming pattern, the Red Devil Cichlid needs to be kept in a larger aquarium, minimum size is at least 50 Imperial gallons (~230 liters, 60 US gallons), the larger the aquarium the better as space provided should reduce the amount of aggressive behaviour. More than one specimen will require an aquarium that is at least double this size as each fish needs to create its own territory so the more space the better. It has been mentioned above that the Red Devil Cichlid is a fairly active species so when planning the décor you must allow for swimming space at the front of the aquarium. Sand is the preferred substrate and rocks or wood can be added to provide hiding places. Live plants may not survive with these fish as they will dig into the substrate so using them could be a bad choice. Any rocks that are added to the aquarium should be secure, these can topple over injuring the fish especially if they decide to dig below them so adding them before the substrate is added will give them a better footing.
The use of an external filter is also recommended, internal filters will not be able to cope with the high waste that the Red Devil can produce, make sure that the filter is rated well above the water volume that it will turn over. Keep the water flow at a medium rate and make sure that once the fish are in the aquarium regular water changes are performed to keep the quality high. The temperature of the water should be maintained between 22-28 °C (72-83 °F), midway of this range will be ideal. Any heaters used will need to be protected by a suitable heater guard as these fish can injure themselves on the heater if they damage it and the guards will remove the risk of the fish actually burning themselves on the exposed element casing.
Always ensure that the aquarium is fully cycled before adding any fish, new set ups tend to have swings in the water parameters that can affect the general health of the inhabitants so patience is well worth the effort here. The water needs to be soft and slightly acidic, a pH of 6.5-7.0 is perfectly acceptable however a pH slightly over 7.0 should not have any long term effects to the fish as long as the parameters remain stable, if you live in hard water areas then adding bogwood to the aquarium cam help with this or you could add some peat to the filter as this will soften the water over a period of time.
I do find that it is best to keep the Red Devil Cichlid in a species only set up but if you are looking at adding different species of fish to the aquarium you must choose species that are of a similar size and species that cannot be intimidated by the aggressive behaviour that this fish will display, this aggression will increase if you have a pair of Red Devil Cichlids and they are due to spawn.
I have seen these fish kept successfully with larger catfish and even other large cichlids, it may be a case of trial and error to get the balance right, introducing the fish at a juvenile stage may help with this problem.
Feeding the Red Devil Cichlid
Feeding is definitely not a problem with these fish as they have a voracious appetite when food is added to the aquarium. Like all fish they can get bored with the same food being offered all of the time so make sure that the diet is varied and this can be done by using quality cichlid pellets that are readily available in all aquatic stores, vary these with quality flakes as well. You should also offer meals of live or frozen foods such as blood worms, brine shrimp and a delicacy for the Red Devil Cichlid are chopped earthworms, make sure that the worms have been cleansed in newspaper for 24 hours prior to chopping and feeding, this will ensure that the git has been emptied and that you lessen the chance of adding diseases to the aquarium.
The Red Devil Cichlids will also appreciate some vegetable matter in their diet, they are classed as carnivorous but they also require a balanced diet so that classification is in a bit of a grey area. Offer them blanched peas that have had their skins removed or the easy option is to offer them spirulina flakes, believe me they will consume these foods.
Breeding the Red Devil Cichlid
It is crucial that these fish are bred in a separate tank, during spawning they will reach their peak of aggressiveness, any other fish around will suffer due to this. The Red Devil is not a difficult species to breed as long as they are given the correct conditions. Sexing the fish is not too difficult especially near spawning times when the papilla are being displayed. Mature males tend to be larger than the females and on inspection of the breeding tubes, the males will possess a pointed papilla while the female's will be more rounded.
The are open spawners but do prefer to lay the eggs on an inclined surface such as a length of slate at an angle to the aquarium or even bog wood and rocks, if a cave is present they may even use the ceiling of this for the spawning site. Getting a pair for breeding can also be a bit precarious as the male does tend to be aggressive towards the female until a bond has been formed, to prevent the female getting injured just add hiding places in the tank so that she can escape for a while until the male calms down.
Once bonded they will dig pits in the substrate just prior to the spawning, just because a pit has been dug this does not always mean the eggs will be laid there, often other sites are chosen as mentioned above. Around 700 eggs on average will be laid and these will be quickly fertilised by the male, once this has occurred the parent fish will both assume parental duties. Caring for the eggs and removing any white eggs that may have contracted fungus or just missed out on the fertilisation.
Keep your hands out of the tank while they are guarding their eggs as the male will defend the nest with great vigour and keepers hand will get the same treatment as intruders.
The eggs should hatch between 3-5 days later but do not attempt to feed the fry at this stage, they will consume their yolk sacs when they first hatch and it is only when they become free swimming a few days later that food should be offered to the fry.
The parent fish will move the fry around the tank, digging pits as they do so, it is quite common for the fry to appear to have been eaten but emerge from a different pit after worrying the prospective breeder.
Once free swimming the fry can be fed on newly hatched brine shrimp or even a commercial egg layer food until they are large enough to accept larger live foods.