Red Devil Fish, whose scientific name is Amphilophus labiatus is an eye-catching beautiful freshwater fish that has a very unique look. This makes them so popular Among aquarists. This fish is also preferred due to its charismatic personality. They are known to develop strong bonds with their owners. Thye can show off for the aquarist and even beg for food like other common pets such as dogs. If you are planning to keep this fish in our aquarium, there are a few things you need to know first. It is true that they have an appealing look which makes them appealing to most people. However, they are large, feisty fish that require some knowledge and experience to take care of.

In the wild, the Red Devi fish are mainly found in Nicaraguan lakes. Originally, they were classified under the genus Cichlasoma.  No matter what you call them, this species is a great choice for every aquarist. This guide seeks to cover everything you need to know about the Red Devils fish care s that by the time you are getting one, you are ready. There are many things about growth, diet, water and tank conditions, and many more.


Scientific NameAmphilophus labiatus  
TemperamentModerate to high aggressiveness
ColorBrown or grey
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan10 to 12 years
Minimum tank size55 gallons
Size15 inches
Temperature75 to 79 degrees F
Freshwater or SaltwaterFreshwater
CompatibilityAggressive and attacks other fish
Water conditionsPH level 6.5 to 7.5 and hardness between 6 and 25 GH


You should be prepared to have one fish tank if you want to properly take care of the Red Devilfish. They are very aggressive towards other fish, and it is for this reason that they are kept alone. This does not mean they cannot be completely be kept with other fish, but you need to start early. If they are raised in the same tank with other Red Devils, they do not show any signs of aggression, but this can change as they get older. After they have reached maturity, they do not want to share any tank space.

If you really want to keep multiple fish in the same tank, you will need a huge tank. To avoid aggression in the tank, you can provide many hiding spots and natural territory separation. One good huge is that you can keep this species in the air. They are monogamous, and therefore you can keep a male and female together, and they will thrive. Below are some of the suitable tankmates of the Red Devils;

  • Kuhli Loach
  • Ember Tetra
  • Platy
  • Denison barb
  • Zebra Otocinclus
  • Harlequin Rasbora
  • Phantom Tetra
  • Cory Catfish
  • Snail
  • Cherry barb
  • Apistogramma
  • Cherry shrimp
  • Bumblebee Goby

Also, you should avoid keeping this species with other aggressive species. Also, avoid bottom-dwellers that are larger in size and more active than them. It is crucial to remember that they prefer strong currents, which most of the species do not thrive in. Therefore, some of the unsuitable tankmates include;

  • Hatcher fish
  • Endlers
  • Rainbowfish
  • Threadfins


Red Devil cichlid has an intimidating look, and it is pretty beefy. This fish also has a tough personality, which features a prominent and pointed dorsal and anal fin. This is important as it helps them by providing agility and speed in the water. The males and females look alike, but there are some slight differences. The most noticeable one is the nuchal hump on the males. In captivity, the males tend to develop a prominent forehead hum, while in the wild, the hump becomes visible only during the breeding season. The males are usually a bit bier than the females, and they also have a pointed genital papilla.

On matters to do with colors, there is a lot of variety with this fish species. In the wild, you will usually see red, grey, or brown Red Devils. Putting into consideration the Nicaragua lakes’ dark and murky waters, the coloration helps the fish to blend in the environment during moments o trouble. In the wild, there is the presence of some more vibrant colors. Some are yellow, white, and bright Red. Fish with these patterns are so common in captivity. You can also spot a spotted Red Devil Cichlid with multiple colors. Black-tipped fins and tails are prevalent too. 

Red Devils have a thick lip with a rubber-like consistency. Thye tends to be a bit smaller in captivity than they are in the wild. It is believed that the lips size is determined b the diet, but there is no conclusive research has been done to support this argument. Their lips are usually orange in color, but also the black coloration has been observed. The Red Devils have some big teeth inside their mouth. Thu\y are strong enough to cause a lot of damage. These fish also have very powerful jaws, and this makes them a natural predator in or out of captivity.


The average size of a Red Devil cichlid is approximately 15 inches in length when fully grown. This makes them a bigger species compared to most of the freshwater fish that are mainly found in captivity. The males are a bit larger than the females. It takes most of the fish three years to reach their full size.


Mainly the Red Devil fish originated from Central America near the Atlantic Slopes and water bodies in Nicaragua. Predominately., they are found in Lake Nicaragua, lake Xiloa and lake Managua. With time this species has been distributed to the rest of the world, such as in Singapore, Puerto Rica, Australia, Hawaii, and even Indonesia. From their first description in 1864 until early 1980, this fish was categorized under the genus cichlasoma labatium. However, after an extensive analysis, this unique fish was moved to its genus of Amphilopus since it did not fit the description of cichlasoma labatium. They are widely available in online shops and pet shops in various parts of the world.


The lifespan of a fish is mainly determined by the level of care the fish is accorded as it grows and the general health. Factors such as the diet and the living environment also play a great role in determining how long this species will live. The average lifespan of a Red Devil is 10 to 12 years under proper care in captivity. For your fish to reach the higher range of 12 years, you need to give the optimum condition all the time. The lifespan might be shortened by factors such as severe stress and bacterial diseases, which might affect your fish while it is in the aquarium. Also, the quality of water may shorten the life of the Red Devil.


The Red Devil is extremely shy and very territorial. The males are more territorial compared to their female counterparts, and it is for this reason that they ill often get into fights. This, therefore, means that if you have more than one male in the same tank, out should ensure that you provide a large tank. This species is very docile, and they are generally regarded as one of the more introverted species. This explains why its habitats have more hiding spots. There is a period when you will not see most of them because of how much they like retreating and hiding.

However, this fighting nature of the males is also important itchy uses it to protect their eggs and fries. They are nocturnal species that are mainly active overnight. If you can stay overnight, you will have the pleasure of watching them as they scavenge for food at night.


As an experienced aquarist taking care of the Red Devils is easy. They can easily reach their full potential if well taken care of. Below are some of the things you must follow when taking care of your fish, especially the beginner.


This fish is large, as stated earlier, and this means they will obviously need a large tank. One Red Devel will need at least 55 gallons tank as it grows gradually with time up to 11 to 15 inches. If you prefer keeping a pair of this species, the recommended size of the tank should be 125 gallons. You should ensure that your aquarium is spacious enough since the fish loves swimming. To maintain its vibrant color and health with some air stones, provide enough oxygen.


For safety, ensure that you use a lid for your aquarium since you do not want any pets or children to mess with your fish. Providing the lid to the aquarium also means that they will not accidentally jump out of the tank and that there would be no accumulation of dirt and dust.


In the wild, the Red Devils love digging on the surface, and therefore it is important to provide an environment where they are able to do so even in captivity. This means that you need to provide a substrate in the tank. They are used to smooth sand, gravel, and pebbles, and therefore you should strive to provide the same substrate in the tank.


The role of the filter in the tank is not only to clean the water in the tank but also to help fulfilling one of the most important criteria they need t survive, which is strong currents. It is extremely crucial to have a strong filter in the tank of Red Devils Cichlids. These fish thrive in water when there is a strong current and movement in the water.


Apart from large pebbles and rocks, you may use artificial castles and caves. Since this species loves to hide, you need to provide them with a lot of hiding places. However, you should make sure that you do not contain any toxic artificial colors or any sharp edges since they can be dangerous to the health of your Red Devils.


The Red Devils prefer low lighting in their environment. It is therefore important to ensure that the light of the aquarium is not too bright and they are switched off at least 12 hours a day.


It IS advisable to avoid adding any plants in the Red Devils aquarium since they have a habit of uprooting them as they dig. They are also notorious for biting at the herbage.


You can add some oxygenated air stones in the tank since they keep the oxygen levels high in the tank, and this helps the red devils to maintain their original vibrant color.


Whenever you are cleaning the tank, you should never use any chemical or soap-based products as they would leave harmful residue at the tank. Use a soft cloth that is dipped in lukewarm water to wipe off the interior glass walls. It is extremely crucial to clean your tank on a regular basis so as to keep them healthy. The tank should be cleaned at least once a month. You may use a soft brush to clean the ornaments, and you can run the substrate under tap water to get rid of any debris.


Previously, we had stated that this fish could survive in various water conditions, but that does not mean they can live in it without any maintenance. You can take care of it with no difficulty; all you need to do is take care of water on a regular basis.


The average water temperatures in the tank should always range from 75 to 79 degrees F, which is the same as the temperature in the wild. This makes it feel like they are in their natural habitat.


The Red Devil Fish is very sensitive to PH changes. The average pH level of the water should always be between 6.5 to 7.0.


The carbonate hardness of the tank water that hosts a red devil fish should be between 2 to 6dKH.


The level of nitrite and ammonia in the tank should be zero, while the level of nitrate should be as low as possible. It is recommended you do a fishless nitrogen cycle before adding your fish to the tank.


 To ensure the tank water is always clean and safe for the fish, it needs to be changed regularly, and you can opt for the following options. You may;

  • Replace 10 percent of the water on a weekly basis
  • Replace 25 percent of water after every 15 days
  • Replace 50 percent of water in the tank after every month.

Always make sure that the new water that you have added into the tank has the same water parameters as the existing one. You should choose a routine from the above and follow it throughout. Note that you should never replace the entire water in the tank.


There is one good thing that is interesting about the red Devis, and that is the fact that they will feed on almost anything you drop in the tank. Most of the aquarists assume that they are carnivores due to the level of aggressiveness they display, but in a real sense, they are omnivores. It is advisable t feed this species a balanced diet that consists of both live foods and dried food. The best food to begin with in order to have a great foundation is the high-quality cichlids’ pellets. You can also feed your fish with food such as crickets, bloodworm, earthworm, krill, and spirulina-based foods. It is critical to provide a variety in their diet so that the fish can have all the nutrients and vitamins they require.

You should be very careful with the meat that you are feeding your fish. For instance, mammals’ meat such as chicken and beef are not part of the wild diet they usually have. Feeding your fish too much of them can cause some intestinal issues, and this means that you should use these foods as treats and not the primary meals. You can also consider some plant-based food such as;

  • Cucumbers
  • Chopped spinach
  • Algae wafers
  • Blanched Zucchini
  • Crushed peas

The Rec Devils love eating, and therefore you might need to feed them a couple of times a day so as to meet all their dietary needs.

On the side of the baby Red Devils, you can feed them on artificial foods that are specifically designed for frying or grinding cichlids pellets of flakes.


During the breeding season, the Rec Devils are extremely aggressive, and you need to put them in a separate breeding tank; else, the rest of the fish will be harassed to extreme levels. Breeding is not advisable to a beginner aquarist since this species is temperamental when the breeding season is around, and therefore you need to be careful. These fish are monogamous, meaning they will stick around with their partners throughout their lives. This breeding season can become hair-raising to all the fish in the aquarium.

In this species, it is the male that chases after the female in an effort to court her. They even end up harassing the female, and that is why some of the aquarists prefer putting the females in separate tanks sometimes to give them a break. Once the female has accepted the female as its partner, they will mate when the spawning period begins. During the breeding season, you need to provide the exact environment that is found in their natural habitat. You, therefore, need to raise the water temperature to about 77 degrees F. In this season, you ought to also feed them with nutritious foods such as bloodworms.

 Just like the rest of the cichlids, they like laying their eggs on a flat rock. The female will lay the eggs on a flat rock, and the male will then fertilize them from there. The average number of eggs laid by one female is between 600 to 700.

It is advisable to provide plenty of hiding spots around the breeding area so as to give either the male or female an opportunity to have a break from each other if need be. It is the responsibility of both the male and female to take care of the babies. However, the female takes care of them when they are in the eggs and when they are hatched for around three to four days.

Once the young ones have been hatched, both the male and female will team up and transfer them into a pit dug in the sand. They come out of their eggshells in the first week, but after that, they are free to swim. From there, you are free to feed them the ideal food of the young ones are the artificial foods or finely crushed foods.


The Red Devilfish are not immune to any disease, and therefore they must be taken care of well and kept healthy all the time. They are, however, prone to some common freshwater fish diseases., They include;

  • ICH

This is one of the common diseases that almost every aquarist has to deal with. This condition is very dangerous, and when left untreated, they can be fats. You can treat this disease by raising the water temperatures to about 86 degrees F for about three days. However, this might not always work, and you can resort to the use of medication such as copper-based ones.


In addition to ich, this species is also prone to this disease known as a hole in the head. It is also known as Head and Lateral line disease, and it causes some visible pits on the face and head. This disease is caused by nutrient deficiency and exposure to the fish to poor quality water. To prevent your fish from contracting this disease, you should ensure that you replace the water on a weekly basis and use a powerful filter to remove all the organic matter in the tank regularly.

If you feed your fish with a lot of warm-blooded mammals red meat, then they will b more prone to parasitic diseases. It is advisable to use the fish dewormer or consult a good vet. Also, the decorating accessories can be the shelter of the many harmful bacteria and parasites. You should ensure that you clean them properly before using them.


Are the Red Devil Fish freshwater fish?

Yes, the red devils are freshwater fish that are found in Nicaraguan Lakes. You will rarely find them inflowing rivers since they like residing in lakes. In the wild, they live in open waters that are surrounded by rocks which act as hiding places from any threat.

How can you tell the difference between a male and female Red Devil Cichlid?

There are some noticeable differences between the male and female Red Devils. The male is bigger and larger compared to the female. Also, the males usually have a hump around the neck area that is usually permanent and a pointed genital papilla.

Can red Devils and Oscars live together?

Generally, the Oscars cannot live together with the red devils. However, the young ones can live together, but once they have matured, they cannot. The Rec Devil is very aggressive, and therefore if they are not separated, they may end up killing Oscars.

How many can Red Devils be kept together?

Just like the name suggests, they are very dangerous and aggressive, and that is why they prefer living alone. However, for the breeding purpose, you can keep them in pairs, male and female, but the tank should be spacious enough.

Do Red devils have teeth?

Yes, this species has strong teeth and powerful jaws that can be used to tear anything within the aquarium. This explains why there are no plants that can thrive in their tank since they will tear and uproot them.


The Rec Devils are great freshwater species, and they make a great choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists. If you are looking for an ornamental fish in your aquarium, then this is the ideal fish for you. However, the tank requirements might be a challenge, especially to beginners. Visually, this species is appealing, and it is very exotic. This guide has given you the necessary information you need in the process of taking care of this species, and therefore, if you follow everything as recommended, you are assured of bringing up a healthy and happy pet.

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