Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus)

Texas Cichlid Care: Types, Tank Setup, Diet And More

If you’re looking for a fun and feisty fish to add to your aquarium, then the Texas cichlid is a great choice! In this complete guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Texas cichlid care, from choosing the right type of fish for your tank, setting up their home, and what to feed them. We’ll cover everything you need to know. Read on to learn all about these amazing creatures!

Texas Cichlid Care Items:

Texas Cichlid Overview

The Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) is a type of cichlid that is native to the United States, specifically the Rio Grande River which flows across Texas and North Mexico. This species is also known as the Pearl Cichlid or Rio Grande Perch. They’re the only species of Cichlid native to the United States!

They’re gorgeous and energetic fish that are available in a few different color variations. Their iridescent scales catch the light in beautiful ways, making them a potential centerpiece fish in your tank.

In recent years, this species has become very popular with fishkeepers all over the world. However, they’re known to be a dominant, aggressive species so you should carefully consider if they’re the right fish for you and your aquarium before making any new additions.

Texas Cichlid Appearance

Texas cichlids are large fish, growing up to 12 inches in length. Texas Cichlids have an unusual dotted pattern which includes differently sized dots that vary in color from green to light blue. The body itself will often be dark or light green or grey. They have iridescent scales that give them their characteristic shimmering appearance.

Another unique feature is this species’ black dots on the base of their tail. These black dots look like a set of false eyes – potentially to keep other aggressive fish at bay.

They have the well-recognized Cichlid silhouette body shape with a slight hump on the top of their heads and thick, fleshy lips. Their humps will grow larger as the fish ages.

Do Texas Cichlids have teeth?

Yes, Texas cichlids have teeth – both sharper cone-shaped teeth and flat teeth. Their teeth, combined with their aggressive and territorial behavior mean they can do some real damage to other tankmates who can’t hold their own.

How much do Texas cichlids cost?

You can find Texas cichlids in most pet stores and they should not cost you more than $35. This would typically be a large, older adult. Typically smaller specimens will be much less – in the $8-$12 range per fish.

How long do Texas Cichlids live?

Texas cichlids can live up to 13 years. However, they can only reach this advanced age with the correct care. Poor living conditions will stress them out and greatly shorten their lives.

To achieve a long lifespan, they will need the right tank, diet, tank mates, and more. Keep reading for more tips.

How big do Texas Cichlids get?

Texas Cichlids can grow up to 12 inches in length. They’re also muscular, hefty fish, meaning they’re pretty formidable when fully grown. They’re quick growers too. These are pretty big fish, y’all!

You won’t typically be able to purchase full-grown specimens. Expect to find fish that are only a few inches long when getting them from your local fish store.

Texas Cichlid Temperament

As we mentioned before, Texas cichlids are a dominant and aggressive species. If you’re looking for a fish that is low-maintenance and can chill in your community tank, then the Texas cichlid is not the best choice. They can be territorial and will often stake claim to the biggest rocks and best hiding spots in your tank.

They are predators who, given the chance, will attack and even consume smaller fish. They also won’t school with other Texas Cichlids and will have inter-species aggression, especially in a tank that is too small.

Texas Cichlids are active and inquisitive fish. They’re known for digging in the substrate, uprooting plants, and exploring. They’re also intelligent, similar to Oscars When it’s feeding time, these cichlids can tell who’s the owner and will often come up to the glass to greet you!

How aggressive are Texas Cichlids?

Texas Cichlids are known to be pretty aggressive fish. They will happily beat up and kill smaller tank mates. They can also be nippy with their owners when they’re feeling frisky.

This aggression is one of the main reasons why it’s important to do your research before adding a Texas cichlid to your tank. You need to make sure you have a big enough tank and that your other fish can hold their own against this aggressive species. There is some individual personality to their level of aggression so maybe you will get a slightly less aggressive fish but good to assume they’re highly aggressive and play it safe.

Texas Cichlid Habitat

When planning the ideal tank, it is recommended to try to recreate this fish’s natural environment. This principle works well when designing tanks and making sure your fish are eating correctly. Recreate their natural environment for best results. 

What is the best tank for a Texas Cichlid?

They say everything is bigger in Texas. This applies to the tank size of this species as well. Bigger is better. A 55-gallon tank is the minimum size you should consider for one Texas cichlid. But if you want to keep more than one, or have other fish in the tank as well, you’ll need an even bigger tank. 125 gallons is recommended for two cichlids. Tanks of this size will need a proper aquarium stand.

How many Texas Cichlids can go in my tank?

Depends on the tank size. If you want to keep two cichlids, you’re going to need at least 125 gallons to avoid territory disputes and major fights. Regardless of your tank size and number of fish, you will want to invest in strong filtration as this species is sensitive to the waste concentration in water.

Texas Cichlids Water Conditions

Maintaining water conditions is important for the health of your fish. This species is known to be sensitive to water parameter changes. Use an aquarium testing kit to test your water and stay on top of any changes.

Texas Cichlids do best in warm waters as their natural environment is Texas and Northern Mexico. The Rio Grande River has soft, slightly acidic water.

To keep your fish healthy, try to replicate these conditions. Below are the recommended water parameters for this species:

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

What is the Best Substrate for Texas Cichlids?

While you can use a variety of substrates in your tank, we love sand with pebbles and rocks distributed throughout, as this replicates their natural environment. Gravel is also a good choice. They love to dig and will often uproot plants in their search for food.

To avoid having your plants constantly uprooted, it’s best to put them in pots or use floating plants. This way, your fish can enjoy live plants in your tank without totally destroying your tank. can’t get to the root system and uproot them.

How Much and What Kind of Lighting do Texas Cichlids need?

Basic aquarium lighting will work great for this species. Try to simulate a natural day/night cycle so you don’t have 24/7 light on. But besides this, standard LED aquarium lighting should work great.

What Kind of Filtration do Texas Cichlids Need?

Texas Cichlids are big fish that are pretty sensitive to water conditions. They have high bioloads. This means sponge filters definitely won’t do the trick and HOB filters are likely a little light for the task. We recommend using an external canister filter that can produce moderate water flow to replicate their natural conditions.

Your canister filter will house significant amounts of beneficial bacteria to help process the waste of your cichlids. Make sure your chosen filter can hold a lot of biomedia in order to support the bacteria colonies.

Our Pick
Bio Balls Filter Media - 1.5" Bio Ball for Pond/Aquarium Filters

What we Like

  • Large surface area
  • Safe for freshwater and saltwater
  • Won’t clog
  • Come in large quantities
Check Price on Amazon

Texas Cichlids Decorations

Texas Cichlids love to dig. In their natural environment, they often dig for food. To replicate this in your tank, you can consider adding some decorations that allow them to do some serious digging. They’re curious and will happily investigate empty pots, pieces of driftwood, and rocks.


Plants are great for making your aquarium more natural-looking. However, cichlids are destroyers of rooted plants like Java Fern and Amazon Swords. To avoid having your plants constantly uprooted, it’s best to put them in pots or use floating plants. This way, your fish can enjoy live plants in your tank without totally destroying your tank.

Texas Cichlid Potential Diseases

Important notice: we are not veterinarians at Aquarium Friend so the information below should be used for general awareness only. If you are concerned about the health of your fish, consult a fish health professional immediately.

Texas Cichlids are generally healthy fish; they are not prone to any particular diseases. However, they can suffer from the common diseases of freshwater fish like fin rot and ich.

You can avoid your fish getting sick by keeping their environments clean, water parameters stable, and low-stress conditions. This won’t prevent all diseases but it will go a long way to avoid illness and recover faster if disease strikes.

Texas Cichlid Feeding 

Texas Cichlids are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods. In their natural environment, they feed on small insects, crustaceans, and plant matter. They’re pretty voracious eaters so expect any food that you provide to promptly disappear.

In your tank, we recommend a high-quality flake or pellet as their base food. You can then provide them with a diet of live or frozen food like bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and blanched vegetables. Avoid feeding them mammal flesh or fresh feeder fish, which can both be sources of potential contamination.

How Often Should I Feed my Texas Cichlid?

Feeding your Texas Cichlid twice a day is generally plenty. Only provide as much food as they can fully consume in a few minutes. Leftover food waste is the enemy of clean water conditions.

Texas Cichlid Tank Mates

Texas Cichlids can be aggressive and territorial so it’s important to choose their tank mates carefully. Other large, aggressive species like Oscars or Jack Dempseys are generally good choices, assuming the tank is large enough to house both. You want fish that are large enough and aggressive enough to hold their own. Potential tankmates include:

Smaller fish or fish with long fins are not recommended as they will likely become a Texas Cichlid snack. Avoid fish like:

Texas Cichlid Breeding

Texas Cichlids are one of the easier cichlids to breed. In their natural environment, they often spawn in open areas with submerged roots or branches.

That being said, this aggressive species will become even more aggressive when the breeding season rolls around. To minimize stress and fighting, you should put the bonded pair in a breeding tank of at least 75 gallons. The breeding 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.

Once you have the breeding pair in the tank, feed lots of high-protein foods. You can also increase the temperature slightly to about a max of 82 degrees Farenheight. When they’re ready to mate and spawn, get ready for their courtship. You will likely see them chasing each other around and even slapping each other with their tails.

The female will typically use a flat rock or dig a pit in the substrate to lay her eggs. Expect around 500 to 1,000 sticky eggs.

Texas Cichlids are good parents and will become very protective of their eggs and fry. If you have any other fish in the tank, you can expect fights to break out around this time.

The eggs will hatch in about 3-5 days. The fry will eat the egg sac for the first few days then become free-swimming about 5 days after hatching. Once they’re free-swimming, you can feed them fry food, baby brine shrimp, or powdered spirulina.

How to Sex Texas Cichlids

Sexing Texas cichlids isn’t easy. Males and females generally look pretty similar. Females tend to be slightly smaller and less colorful. They also tend to have a black mark on the dorsal fin. Older males tend to develop a cranial bump.

Do Texas Cichlids eat their babies?

No, Texas Cichlids don’t typically eat their babies. They’re known to be good parents and will aggressively guard and protect their eggs and fry. This is one reason why a separate breeding tank is recommended for this species.

Texas Cichlids FAQs

Can Texas Cichlids live with African cichlids?

The general recommendation for tank mates for Texas Cichlids is similar size and aggression level fish. While some African cichlids might satisfy this requirement, you will struggle with maintaining water conditions that will satisfy both fish species. If you go this route, you will need an extremely large tank.


If you’re a Texas Cichlid enthusiast or are thinking of adding these fish to your tank, this guide is for you. We’ve covered everything from care and feeding to breeding and tank parameters. Do you have any advice to share with other readers? Leave us a comment below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.