Scientific Name Amphilophus Labiatus, Amphilophus Labiatum, Cichlasoma Labiatum, Heros Labiatus, Herichthys Labiatus,
Distribution Central America – Atlantic side of Nicaragua, Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua
Size Up to 14" (females usually smaller)
Common Names Red Devil
Devil by name, devil by nature! Red Devils are a highly aggressive Central American cichid, with spectacular coloration and an equally spectacular temper. These fish have a bad reputation in the hobby due to their destructive and extremely territorial behavior. However, if kept in an appropriately sized tank without tankmates, Red Devils soon become happy, well-adjusted members of the family. As with most medium to large cichlids, Devils are highly intelligent and will become very owner-responsive as they grow. When you talk to people in the hobby about this fish, there seems to be only two answers, you either love them or hate them. Those that love them will swear by the intelligence and friendliness of their Devil and those that hate them.......... well, the less said about their answers, the better.
All Red Devils begin their life with stripes, and they begin to develop their characteristic red coloration from around 3 to 4". They can go through many phases before they reach their adult coloration, which can range from a pale yellow to a brilliant, bright orange or red. Some will develop patches of color, patches of black, black spots and sometimes even faint black stripes on their journey to adult colors. Males will develop an impressive nuchal hump as they grow. Some females will also develop the beginnings of a hump, although it will never be as spectacular as a males would be.
Not to be considered as a fish suitable for community tanks, Red Devils are closet interior decorators and will indulge this passion to the fullest extent possible. Equally destructive to tank decorations and tankmates, Red Devils are best kept alone or as breeding pairs, although the latter can be a difficult match to make.
It is almost impossible in this day and age to find a pure Red Devil at the local pet shop. Their extremely close genetic relationship to A. citrinellum (Midas cichlid) means that cross-breeding is rampant and almost every Red Devil offered for sale from anyone other than a trusted breeder or importer will contain at least some Citrinellum in its background somewhere. These species do not really differ that much in looks and personality, so the information in this profile is accurate for both pure Red Devils and for Red Devils of more dubious backgrounds. The most common means of differentiating between these two cichlids is their lips. Red Devils tend to have thicker and more pointed lips, whereas Midas Cichlids will have thinner and more rounded lips. This cannot be relied on, however, to make a definite species differentiation, due to the amount of crossbreeding. If you are after a pure Red Devil, then your best option is to be very picky about who you buy your fish from.
The minimum tank size for a single Red Devil is 55 gallons, although they will do far better in a larger tank. Personally, I feel that a Red Devil should be housed in a tank of 75 to 90 gallons to be happy, they are fish that need their space. If you are looking to keep a pair of Devils then you will need at least a 75 gallon tank, preferably 90 gallons or larger. Their natural habitat is the lakes of Nicaragua and Managua, rarely venturing into the rivers of the area. Tanks should be set up with plenty of open swimming space. Substrate should be either sand or fine gravel. If using gravel, then make sure it is well rounded and smooth, Devils are ferocious diggers and can easily damage their lips on sharp pieces of gravel. Rocks and driftwood are the most commonly used decorations, but make sure they are well secured as most Devils will crash around their tanks without much regard for the safety of their skins. Plants in a Red Devil tank are purely a matter of owner choice. Be warned, they will be dug up on a regular basis, so it is often better to use plastic plants to cut down on replacement costs. On the whole, decoration of your Red Devils tank is more a matter of what your fish decides is best, rather than what you'd like it to look like. Anything that is placed in the tank is subject to rearrangement at the whim of your Devil and it is better to let them have their way, rather than to try and re-landscape every few days.
As with all cichlids, filtration and water quality is important. If you want your Red Devil to develop to its full potential then regular water changes and good filtration as essential.
The diet of Red Devils in the wild consists of small crustaceans, insects, snails, worms and other bottom dwelling organisms. In an aquarium environment, they thrive on a high protein diet based around a staple food such as the beefheart recipe. Other foods such as good quality pellets designed from predatory cichlids, crickets and earthworms. Variety is essential in a Red Devils diet, and although vegetable matter is not a natural requirement for a Devil, it is advised to attempt to get your Devil to eat at least some vegetable matter to keep up the intake of vitamins and minerals. For this reason, I would recommend basing the diet of your Red Devil about the beefheart recipe or a variation of this recipe.
The general idea when it comes to Red Devils and tankmates is that it simply does not work. These fish are too aggressive to be housed with other cichlids of the same size or larger, unless you are attempting it in a very large tank. Even from an early age, Devils are very aggressive and will attempt to depopulate and rule your tank. I have often heard the comment that the only good tankmates for Red Devils are rocks, more rocks and water. If you do wish to attempt to keep your Devil with other fish, then you will need to start with a tank of 100 gallons or more and be ready for trouble. As with many cichlids, the personality of each Red Devil will differ and some will be more open to the possibility of something else living in their tank than others. It may take some trial and error before you find a combination that will work, and if you are not vigilant at all times, then you may be in for some heartbreak as well. I personally believe that Red Devils are best kept alone.
Due to the aggressive nature of both male and female Devils, breeding these fish can be an interesting experience. As with many aggressive cichlids, it is often the best scenario to raise several juvenile fish together to allow a bond to form. Other fish will need to be returned to the pet shop fairly shortly after the bond forms, as the pair will begin to gang up and harass the other fish. Spawning takes place in typical cichlid fashion. Red Devils are substrate spawners and not known to be picky about the type of substrate. A pit will be dug out by the male and female, then eggs will be laid, usually between 600 and 700, and fertilized by the male. The eggs with hatch in approximately 3 to 5 days and the parents will move the fry to various other pits that will have been dug around the tank. Both parents will continue to be extremely protective of the fry for several weeks, and this is not the time to be disturbing them. Given a Red Devils habit of attacking anything that enters its territory on an every day basis, you can imagine how much worse a pair would be with fry to protect. If you value your fingers, do not bother your fish at this time. Red Devils are large and heavily muscled in the jaw and mouth area and are capable of doing serious damage.
I am not a huge fan of cichlids with large nuchal humps, but Red Devils are one of my few exceptions. At first, I was a "hater" but over the years of seeing pictures of these incredibly beautiful and highly aggressive fish, I have slowly developed into a "lover". Not for the faint of heart or the lover of a quiet tank, these fish are perfectly suited to someone with an appreciation of intelligent and aggressive pets.