Texas Cichlid: Care, Diet, Water Parameters, Tank Mates & More

Texas Cichlid

Texas Cichlid is another very interesting member of the Cichlid family. The highlights of these fish are colorfulness and impressive size. 

Beyond that, they have other desirable qualities such as intelligence, impressive lifespan and considerable sturdiness.

Out of all these, colorfulness is what entice most hobbyists to keep them. There aren’t many cichlids that can rival them when it comes to beauty.

Having said all these, there are a couple of things that make keeping the Texas cichlid considerably challenging.

The most obvious one is size but there are other ones that may not come to your mind which we will discuss.

In this guide, we are going to clear out everything about keeping the Texas Cichlid.

By the time you are done reading, you will know the answers to questions such as;

how long do they, what is their maximum size, what sort of diet do they require, what is their ideal water parameters, are they suitable for community tanks and much more.

Let’s dive in!

The Texas cichlid (Herichthys cyanoguttatus) is a very beautiful freshwater fish from the Cichlidae family.

Regardless its low popularity compared to cichlid like Oscar, Jack Dempsey and Firemouth, they are still among the most gorgeous members of the family.

They are sometimes referred to as Pearl Cichlid because of how their iridescent scales shines in the light creating a captivating show in a tank. 

Another name these cichlids are known by is “Rio Grande Perch”. They got that name because they are commonly found in the Lower Rio Grande River in Texas.   

It might interest you to know that Texas Cichlids are the only cichlid native to North America. 

They are mostly found all through lakes and rivers in southern Texas and northern Mexico. I said mostly because they have also been introduced in various areas outside their native region. 

The non-indigenous population exist mainly from northern Texas to Florida. In most cases, they are introduced by owners who can no longer continue caring for the fish. 

Releasing them in local waters might seem like a good idea but it’s very dangerous to the ecosystem balance and the fish in the area. 

As such, I recommend you fully understand what it takes to keep the Texas cichlid before getting one, especially when you consider how long they live. 

Not just them, releasing any fish to its non-native habitat is bad for the ecosystem. 

The Texas Cichlids native habitat is characterized by the presence of past flowing warm water and a mixture of sand pebbles at the substrate level.

There are often few plants and rocks also beneath the water. When designing their tank these are few of the most important things to consider so that you can fashion their ideal habitat. 

Texas Cichlid Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 12.0 inch
  • Minimum tank size: 55 gallons
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate – Expert
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Temperature: 72°F to 77°F
  • PH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 8 to 15dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care Level: Moderate
  • Ideal tank mates: Jack Dempsey, Silver Dollar, Green TerrorFiremouth CichlidConvict Cichlid, Tinfoil Barb, Oscar Cichlid, Giant Gourami, et Cetra.


Majority of the Texas Cichlid owners keep them solely because of their enticing appearance. These cichlids are stunningly colorful thanks to their iridescent dotted patterns. 

Like most cichlids, they also have several color variations created through selective breeding. 

The standard Texas Cichlid, however, have a base color of dark grey, pale grey or dark green. On top of the base color they have iridescent dots of varying sizes which are often green or light blue. 

The iridescent dots cover virtually the whole body and even extend to their fins. 

Because of their neon like feature, these dots glow very brightly under the influence of light and appear as if they have been lit up. 

In some specimens, you will find a very interesting series of black dots that look like false eyes starting around the middle of the body and extending to the tail. 

Regarding their body, it’s similar to that of other predatory cichlids like the Jack Dempsey in the sense that its oval, muscular and appear compressed when viewed head-on. 

They also have that expensive rayed dorsal fin that always stands erect. 

Sexing Texas Cichlids can be a bit difficult as there are only subtle differences between the males and females.

The only give aways are that males tend to be more brightly colored than the females. And they develop a slight hump on their forehead which can sometimes inflate during the breeding period. This info will come in handy when breeding. 

Before finishing off with the appearance section, I felt it was important I talk about some of the most popular variations of the Texas Cichlid. 

Green Texas Cichlid

This variation is slightly brighter than the standard Texas Cichlid. Its base color is a brighter shade of green.

Interestingly, they aren’t the classic Texas Cichlid just like the Red Texas Cichlid. 

In reality, they are a totally separate species called Lowland Cichlid and do not even originate from Texas but rather from eastern Mexico. 

Green Texas Cichlid

Red Texas Cichlid

Red Texas Cichlids are also not the true Texas Cichlid. They were created through intergenetic breeding of the standard male Texas Cichlid and a female Red Parrot Cichlid.  

This variation has the most dramatic color combo. 

They have bright red as the base color and their shimmering dots are white. Some specimens have black accent starting just after the head and extending up to the fins. 

Red Texas Cichlid

Electric Blue Texas Cichlid

And then there is the Electric Blue Texas Cichlid. If you know the electric blue Jack Dempsey, you will be able to picture this one. 

This variation looks very similar to the standard one. The only difference is that their shimmering dots are turquoise, not bright blue, making them way more vibrant. 

Electric Blue Texas Cichlid


Size is one of the major reason why these cichlids can be rather challenging to keep. On average, a typical Texas Cichlid will grow to a maximum size of 12 inches long. 

This, plus their muscular body make them quite large and very imposing. In fact, I find them more imposing than the green Terror cichlid even though they grow to roughly the same size. 

At stores, Texas Cichlids are mostly sold when they are about a few inches long. However, I do not recommend you start with a small tank since they grow fairly fast.  


Even the lifespan of these fish is impressive. In ideal condition and with proper care, the average lifespan of a Texas Cichlid is between 10 to 13 years. In some cases, these cichlids live for up to 15 years.

Having said that, understand that they will very hardly reach that 13 years if their tank condition isn’t ideal.

That all comes down to ideal water parameters and clean tank. Cleanliness of the tank is not something you want to joke with especially if you consider how messy they are.

A healthy diet also plays a significant role in preventing them from getting diseases and extending their lifespan. 

Temperament and General Behavior

Aggression is probably the most well-known fact about the Texas Cichlid. These fish are highly aggressive and do not get along even with their kind let alone other species. 

Therefore, they are not schooling fish and if given the chance will attack weaker fish and may eat any fish they can. 

As such, I highly discourage keeping them in a community tank with vulnerable species. 

Not unless the tank is humongous enough that the other fish will hardly come their way or the other way around. 

And even then no one can absolutely guarantee that fights won’t occur or that they won’t end up eating the other fish.

Concerning their behavior know that these are very active fish.

 They don’t just stick to one level of the tank, instead they like exploring every nook and cranny of the tank. 

Like most cichlids, they are avid tank diggers. They dig in the substrate and move things around frequently and occasionally mess up plants. 

Texas Cichlid like few other cichlids are very intelligent so much that they can recognize their owners. They usually move to the front of the tank and interact with them at feeding time.

Texas Cichlid

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank for keeping a single Texas Cichlid is 55 gallons. To keep them in pairs or with other fish you will need a tank that is at least 125 gallons.

A tank this large will allow them to successfully carve out their territory and they won’t be crossing the other fish way constantly

Giving how fast they grow, starting with a smaller tank say like 20 or 30 gallons isn’t the smartest move in my opinion. 

Water Parameters

Earlier we mentioned that the Texas Cichlid inhabit fast-flowing warm waters. So to make them feel at home in captivity you have to provide them with similar sets of condition. 

This is why their favored temperature range is between 71.5°F to 77°F. As for the pH and water hardness, they do best when kept between 6.5 to 7.5 and 8 to 15 dGH respectively. Also, don’t forget to provide moderate water flow as well. 

These conditions will keep your Texas Cichlid alright, but to keep it that way, you need to maintain tank cleanliness. 

Achieving that will require more effort than in case of your average freshwater fish giving how messy cichlids are. 

But don’t worry, all you have to do is invest in robust filtration system and always conduct a scheduled water replacement. 

Tank Requirements

This is where you fashion the tank so that it suit your fish needs. Sadly, with the Texas Cichlid, it can be a little challenging since they have an appetite for rearranging tanks. 

They hardly get tired digging the substrate and ripping off plants. 

The best you can do is use elements that are sturdy and secure them well. When it comes to plants you can use a mix of rooted and floating ones. 

For the rooted, use durable ones and be sure to anchor them. 

Remember, while these cichlids appreciate plants in their tanks they like free-roaming space more than anything. 

Consequently, use the plants moderately so that they can have areas they can retreat to when needed and at the same time have the desired roaming space. 

The same goes for other décors (e.g driftwood, bogwood) you will put in the tank. 

The next important element of the tank is the substrate. In their natural habitat, the substrate contains a mixture of sand and pebbles.

However, giving their digging habit I recommend using just the sand as it will be safer for them. It might surprise you but sometimes they accidentally ingest gravel in the course of the digging. 

Lastly, be sure to provide the tank with a tight-fitting lid to prevent them from jumping out. Yes, it’s surprising I know, but as hefty as they look they are agile jumpers and can end up on your floor if the lid isn’t secured.

Food and Diet

Considering their appetite, it’s a good thing that Texas Cichlid are omnivorous. In the wild, these fish will eat almost anything they can find and in captivity, they behave pretty much the same. 

Thanks to this you will have no trouble finding them what to eat. They will accept all sorts of food ranging from dry, live to frozen. 

With that said, you do have to make sure you find them qualitative diet. And don’t just stick to one or two food.

Diversify it so that their body will get all the necessary nutrients it needs. 

Get qualitative commercial flakes and pellets to make the core of the diet. Then give them protein-enriched foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, crustaceans, frozen shrimp and the like occasionally. 

It worth mentioning to not let their size trick you into overfeeding them. 

A good rule of thumb is to feed them as much as they can take in 2 to 3 minutes twice a day.

Remove any leftover immediately so that the water quality doesn’t get affected. 

Tank Mates

As I said before, Texas Cichlid should not be kept with any additional fish unless your tank is pretty sizable. 

Even then, I advise starting with juveniles but don’t keep species that will pick on them as well. 

Naturally, their aggression increases and their behavior changes as they grow. 

Adult Texas Cichlid will constantly bully any fish they can and if the fish is very vulnerable they may end up harming it. 

In a case where your tank is considerably large and you really want to keep them in a community tank you can go for species that can stand their ground. 

That will be large semi-aggressive or aggressive species. 

Bearing this in mind these are some of the most ideal Texas Cichlid tank mates. 


If you have the intention of breeding the Texas Cichlid, then you are in luck. Despite what you might think they are substantially easy to breed. They are egg-laying open spawners.

Nevertheless, you do have to plan properly giving their high degree of aggression. Ideally, you should start preparing for it early, as in when they are juveniles. You should buy 5 to 6 young ones and put them in the tank.

Let them reach maturity together so that breeding pairs will form. Remove the rest of the fish as soon as the pairs are formed to avoid bullying or even killing.

Alternatively, you can relocate the breeding pairs to a dedicated breeding tank. In either of the cases, the breeding tank should be around 75 gallons.

It should also have similar sets of condition as the main tank with neutral pH balance, medium to hard softness and everything.

Place some smooth rock at the bottom, just in case they decide to look up for something of that sort to lay the eggs.

At this stage, you should start conditioning them with live foods or other protein-enriched frozen foods if the live food isn’t available.

If everything goes right it will not take long before they start showing signs of imminent spawn.

You will notice a dramatic color shift and they will initiate their spawning ritual which involves chasing, slapping and wait for it, kissing each other.

After that, they will choose and clean the area where the female will lay the eggs. They may choose smooth rocks or dig a hole in the substrate. 

The female will lay between 500 to 1000 eggs but not all at once. It will happen in batches.

Unlike many other fish species, Texas Cichlids are very defensive of their eggs and young ones. The eggs will hatch in two to three days after the male fertilizes them.

The fry will start to swim in four to five days after hatching. You can feed them freshly hatched brine shrimp or powdered spirulina at this stage.

Common Diseases

Although Texas Cichlid do not have any species-specific diseases they are still susceptible to common freshwater diseases such as ich and fin rot that so far no freshwater fish is immune to.

Ich my sound not so dangerous but it something you should pay close attention to. 

It’s a disease caused by a parasite and infects the fish body and gills making them develop white spots that look like sprinkled salt.

This disease is highly contagious and if not treated in time can be fatal. It spreads from fish to fish and can in no time devour whole the tank.

But don’t worry, its not all bad news as its also rather easy to treat.

There are many over the counter drugs that can safely cure ich but it all starts with quarantining the infected fish as soon as the signs are noted.

Ich is mainly caused by poor water quality. 

Given how messy Texas Cichlids are, it’s required you conduct regular water changes to avoid stale water from building up.

Fin rot on the other hand, is an infection that happens when the fish body is cut or injured deep in the scales.

The best thing you can do to avoid it is remove any sharp object (e.g substrate, decors) in the tank that can injure them.

Sometimes the injury can occur as a result of fighting which can subsequently lead to fin rot.

So! there is one more reason to stick to keeping just one Texas Cichlid in your tank, except for breeding purpose.

When it happens, fin rot can also be treated using some over the counter drugs.

One last common problem with the Texas Cichlid that hobbyist don’t talk about much is obesity.

This problem can mess up the fish health by leading to the degradation of the functions of their organs.


There is no beating around the bush, Texas Cichlid is a considerably demanding fish that is not suitable for beginners.

These fish is more suited for someone who has some experience in keeping aggressive species and at the same time can maintain a large tank.

If that someone happens to be you then you are in luck because you get to keep what is undeniably one of the most colorful cichlids in the hobby.

Now that I think of it, it sounds like an understatement to say its one of the most colorful cichlid. Some regard it as one of the most colorful species in the entire hobby.

However, don’t let their desirable qualities sway you into keeping them even if they are clearly not suitable for you. 

I’m pretty sure you will find a substitute with far less challenge you would like from this list of 28 most colorful freshwater fish.

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with all you needed to know about keeping the Texas Cichlid. Take time to carefully analyse whether these fish is right for you.

If you have any question, reach out. We will be more than happy if you do. 

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