Texas cichlid care guide

The Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) is a large, good looking and at that rather aggressive fish. In the wild it inhabits in rivers of Texas (for example, Rio Grande, due to which the fish got its name Rio Grande cichlid) and in North Mexico.

Habitat in the wild

Texas cichlid natural areal is in North America and North-East of Mexico. This is the only cichlid in the wild that dwells in the USA and at that it wasn’t exported there or naturalized. Nowadays its areal has become wider and except Texas it also dwells in Florida and Louisiana.

This Texas cichlid is encountered both in fast flowing rivers and in lentic waters – in lakes and ponds. It can dwell both in neutral waters and in those with high hardness, at pH values from 7.5 to 9.0 as well as at large temperature alterations. This cichlid can dwell both in warm and cold waters. Thus we can say that the fish is highly adaptive.

High degree of adapting has become the reason that the areal has widened and it is considered to be an invading species, which is gradually pushing out endemic fish species.

Scientific NameHerichthys cyanoguttatus; Cichlasoma cyanoguttatum
Common NamesTexas cichlid, Rio Grande cichlid
Ease of keepingEasy
Lifespan15 years and more
Tank size400 liters (102 gallons) and more
Tank typeCommunity of large fishes
Temperature24-26 °C (75-79 °F)
Water hardness9–20 dGH
SizeUp to 30 cm long (20 inches)


Texas cichlid has oval shaped, flattened from sides body with a concave forehead and curved back. The fish has big head and large mouth. It can be up to 30 cm long (20 inches), but the female is a bit smaller than the male. However, in tanks this fish grows smaller in general (about 20 cm long). The average Texas cichlid lifespan is 10 years, but it can live up to 15 years.

The main color of the body is dark-brown. The stout body of the fish including its head and fins is covered with light-blue and green or olive green large variegated spots. There are several dark transverse stripes on the body sides, though sometimes they aren’t very pronounced or can’t be even seen on some species.

There are several (round as a rule) dark spots that begin from the middle of the body and look like a lateral dash line. However, again these spots sometimes can’t be seen on some species.

Texas cichlid are also famous due to their ability to hybridize with many similar kinds. But this is a problem as well, since under these names both hybrids and completely different fishes are sold.

For example, red Texas cichlid this is a hybrid of the fish with flowerhorn. Green cichlid (in most cases this is Herpthys carpintis species which is very much alike) and blue Texas cichlid (there can be many various fish kinds).

All above mentioned leads to confusion in classification and definition of these fishes, especially taking into account that they can hybridize with other fish kinds. What makes the situation a bit easier, is that all these fishes have quite similar requirements for keeping them in a tank, feeding and breeding.

Difficulties in keeping

Despite its violent temper, territory dependence and size, Texas cichlid has lots of fans among aquarists. They get seduced by the fact that this is one of the brightest and rich colored cichlids, so they proudly demonstrate the fish in their large species tanks.

It is not difficult to keep Texas cichlid, it is quite undemanding and eats almost everything. However, yet the fish is not for beginners! It may demonstrate aggression towards its tank mates and can turn any nice and decorated tank into ruins.

Besides, it also produces a lot of organic waste and as a result requires a strong filter as well as frequent water renews.

Keeping in a aquarium

These cichlids require large tanks with quality filtration, but they are comparatively easy to keep. This is a right fish for those aquarists who want to keep large American cichlids in their tank.

Tank size

One fish requires at least 200-liters (44 gallons) capacity tank, for a couple it makes 400 liters (88 gallons) correspondingly. Of course, lots of aquarists keep the fish in far smaller tanks and then they wonder why their fish don’t grow as large as ones that their friends have. The thing is that large fish requires a large tank, otherwise it won’t reach its maximum size.

Water parameters

The Texas cichlid is rather undemanding in terms of tank water parameters: water temperature should be 24-26 °C (75,2-78,8 °F), pH: 6.5-8.0, 8 — 15 dGH. Powerful canister filter and regular water renew is a must in this case.

Tank decor

Besides that the fish leaves lots of organic waste after feeding, it also likes digging tank bottom substrate. Therefore put a thick layer of the substrate. The type of bottom substrate isn’t that crucial issue, but it’s better be sand or small gravels. Still most of tank plants won’t be able to grow in this tank – they will be either eaten or dug out by the fish.

Texas cichlids don’t fight much as long as they have enough of shelters and place to swim in the tank. Land form of the tank should consist of small gravels or sand as well as of snags and stones.

We can’t recommend putting some tank plants into the bottom substrate, since they are most likely to be torn off, because the fish digs the substrate all the time. But still you can take a chance and put more enduring kinds of tank plants such as anubias nana.


The Texas cichlid is an omnivorous one. It’ll eagerly eat artificial food. Special high quality pellets for cichlids can be the basic component of the diet, but you have to diversify it with frozen and live food components. You can feed it with live fish, but there is a risk to bring infection into the tank.

Don’t forget to give the fish food with high vegetable content or with spirulina. Fish flesh, prawns and mussels are good supplements to the diet. Try not to feed the fish with mammal flesh, for example, with ox heart since it is too fat.

Don’t feed the Texas cichlid too much to avoid tank water contamination. You can feed the adult species once a day.

Tank mates

Texas cichlid isn’t the best choice for a community tank and it’s desirable to keep it in a roomy tank alone or a couple of them. Of course, everything depends on the tank conditions, tank capacity and even on the temper. Just like many large cichlids of Central and North America, cichlid can be very territory dependent especially during its spawning period and sometimes it gets very aggressive. It will treat any small fishes as food.

Their behavior is quite changeable and as a rule they are moderately aggressive. The fish is perfect to keep with other cichlids of the same size (or larger), that still may show some aggression or put a couple of fish in a species tank.

Though the fish behavior to a great extent depends on its temper, thus some aquarists say that their pets get along well with other species, though in some cases the situation is completely different.

So, yet any large cichlids can be possible tank mates for Texas cichlid (though, this is in the lap of the gods), large sized catfishes (like sailfin pleco or common pleco).

There are some reports as for successful keeping with black ghost knifefish, maybe this fish isn’t taken as a fish by cichlid and that’s why it doesn’t pay attention to it.

Gender differences: male vs female

Texas cichlid males are as a rule much larger and stronger, than females. They have taller body as well as males have a pronounced nuchal hump.

Except these, as a rule males have elongated dorsal and anal fins. Females can be distinguished by a black spot on their dorsal, which the males do not have.

When the Texas cichlid form a couple, you’ll notice increased aggression, since then the couple starts to choose and protect its territory.

Texas cichlid breeding

Quite often it is hard to create a ‘harmonious’ couple. The best way to get it is to buy a group of 6 and more young fish and let them grow together. This way they will form the couple themselves. When it finally happens, the courtship period starts, the fish start ‘flirting’ with each other – they swing around each other snapping the partner’s body side with a tail.

If they like each other and form a couple, both fish will change their body coloring to almost black (hind body of the fish) and its forepart becomes light (almost white). The area for spawning will be cleaned by the fish. Usually this is a small smooth area of stone. A fixed inclined plane will do perfectly for this purpose. Sometimes the female digs a pit and uses it as a nest.

The Texas cichlid female starts laying eggs and then the male fertilizes it. Both parents will fan the eggs with their abdominal fins to saturate the water near them with oxygen. The only problem during the fish spawning is that the male may become aggressive towards the female, therefore you should have kind of division fence just in case.

The egg stage lasts up to for 2 days, than the larvae hatches (at this stage they can be moved into some other places that their parents prepared in advance) and a week later the juveniles start to swim.

It’s not difficult to grow the juveniles, if you provide them with sufficient amount of food. Brine shrimp nauplii can be start food for the juveniles. As they grow make the food size larger and proceed to more diversified diet.