Red Terror Cichlids Care, Behavior, and Finding for Sale

Red Terror Cichlids Care, Behavior, and Finding for Sale
Table Of Content

An Introduction to Red Terror Cichlids

Red terror cichlids, scientifically known as Amphilophus citrinellus, are a popular freshwater fish for home aquariums. Native to Central America, these colorful cichlids get their common name from their bright red coloring and aggressive temperaments. When properly cared for, red terrors can make stunning additions to community cichlid aquariums or serve as the centerpiece fish of a species tank.

Red Terror Cichlid Appearance

Red terror cichlids have oval-shaped, laterally compressed bodies with long dorsal fins. Their base body color is a grayish silver, overlaid with fiery red markings. These red markings intensify during times of aggression or courtship. Their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins are adorned with rows of neon blue spots. These spots may appear more vivid on dominant, mature males.

In addition to their vibrant colors, red terrors are distinguished by their protruding foreheads. This cranial bump signals their territorial and aggressive personalities, for which they earn their common name. On average, red terrors grow to 6-7 inches long when fully mature, though 8+ inches is possible under ideal conditions.

Red Terror Cichlid Care

Providing proper care for your red terror cichlid is important for its health and colors. Here are some tips:

  • Tank Size - Aim for at least a 55 gallon tank, as these active cichlids need ample swimming room.
  • Water Conditions - They prefer soft, acidic water with pH between 6.5-7.0 and temperatures of 70-82°F.
  • Diet - Offer a varied diet of commercial cichlid pellets, flakes, frozen and live foods.
  • Tankmates - Best housed with other large Central American cichlids. Avoid small, timid species.
  • Decor - Provide plenty of rocks, driftwood, and plants for territories and hiding spots.
  • Filtration - A robust canister filter will help manage waste in large cichlid tanks.

With the right tank setup and care regimen, red terrors can thrive in home aquariums for 5-10 years.

Red Terror Cichlid Behavior

Red terror cichlids are known for their fierce aggression and territorial behaviors, especially during spawning periods. They will chase, intimidate, and attack other fish that invade their space. Oftentimes, a mated pair will claim an entire tank as their domain.

However, juvenile and subdominant red terrors tend to be more timid and reclusive. With ample tank space, multiple territorial areas, and tankmates of comparable size and temperament, their aggressive behaviors can be minimized.

Red terrors are primarily open-water and mid-level swimmers. They are very interactive and will quickly recognize their owners. With patience, they can become one of the most personable cichlids to keep in home aquariums.

Finding Red Terror Cichlids for Sale

Thanks to captive breeding programs, red terror cichlids are commonly available from online retailers and specialty aquarium stores. Prices typically range from $8-$25 per fish, depending on size and color morphs. Here are some tips for finding healthy red terrors for sale:

  • Search for reputable dealers with good customer reviews and guaranteed live delivery.
  • Pick active fish with full, bright red colors and no signs of disease/injury.
  • Purchase juvenile fish around 2-3 inches long, as they adapt better to aquarium life.
  • Buy from local stores whenever possible to avoid stress of shipping.
  • Ask about tank-raised specimens, as they tolerate water conditions better.
  • Quarantine new arrivals for 2-4 weeks before adding to main tank.

When shopping for red terror cichlids, be prepared to provide a roomy aquarium with proper water parameters, decor, tankmates, and nutrition to bring out their stunning looks and lively personalities.


Red terror cichlids require some experience and dedication to keep, but can make a gorgeous showpiece fish for large community tanks or species setups. With ample space, robust filtration, frequent water changes, and a varied diet, these Central American cichlids will display their fiery colors and interact with their owners. Shop carefully, choose tankmates wisely, and you'll find red terrors to be a wet pet full of personality.


How big do red terror cichlids get?

On average, red terrors grow to about 6-7 inches long when fully mature. Under optimal tank conditions, they may reach lengths of 8+ inches.

Are red terror cichlids aggressive?

Yes, red terrors are known for their aggressive temperaments, especially when spawning or defending territories. They will attack, chase, and intimidate other fish. Keep them with tankmates of similar size and temperament.

What do red terror cichlids eat?

Red terrors are omnivores and will accept a varied diet including commercial cichlid pellets and flakes, frozen foods like brine shrimp, and live foods like worms and crickets.

What is the lifespan of a red terror cichlid?

With proper care and tank conditions, red terror cichlids typically live for 5-10 years in home aquariums.

Are red terror cichlids compatible with plants?

Red terrors may uproot and eat more delicate plants. Use hardy, fast-growing plants like java fern, anubias, and vallisneria that can withstand cichlid digging.

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