Festae Cichlids

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Red terror - Cichlasoma festae

Scientific name: Cichlasoma festae

Common name: Red terror

Family: Cichlidae

Usual size in fish tanks: 30 - 50 cm (11.81 - 19.69 inch)


Recommended pH range for the species: 7 - 7.8

Recommended water hardness (dGH): 5 - 15°N (89.29 - 267.86ppm)

0°C 32°F30°C 86°F

Recommended temperature: 24 - 28 °C (75.2 - 82.4°F)

The way how these fish reproduce: Spawning

Where the species comes from: Central America

Temperament to its own species: aggressive/territorial

Temperament toward other fish species: aggressive/territorial

Usual place in the tank: Middle levels


The Red Terror originates from South America, namely Ecuador and Peru. Colonies are now also being introduced in warmer climates such as Asia.


The Red Terror if kept under the correct conditions should live for up to 12 years.


Short description

As the name suggests these fish are very aggressive in the aquarium, they need a lot of space so tank mates should be chosen carefully. Despite their common name they do display a wonderful colouration and for experienced keepers of large cichlids they are very rewarding.

The minimum aquarium size for these fish should be at least 100 - 150 gallons (454 - 682 litres, 120 - 180 US gallons), adults average out at approximately 16 inches (40.64 cm) in length, some males may grow to be slightly larger.

They are high waste producers so an excellent filtration system will need to be used and backed up with regular water changes. Décor should be simplistic, a few rocks or even wood and use sand or smooth gravel for the substrate. They are diggers so plants will be dislodged, weighted artificial aquarium plants could be used but they will be moved around.

Select tank mates that are of a similar size and require the same water parameters, smaller fish will be seen as food and will be eaten eventually.


The Red Terror is classed as omnivorous so a quality pellet food will provide the staple diet but this must be varied with regular meaty foods that are full of protein. Chopped earthworms, chopped prawns and mealworms are ideal. Vegetable matter can be supplied by offering chopped cucumber or zucchini, peas and romaine lettuce will also be accepted.


Mature males will grow larger than the mature females, the males will also display a blue spangle around the head region while the females keep their distinct red colouration which remains the same for most of their life.


Being such an aggressive species does make breeding a little tricky and should only be attempted by experienced keepers. To obtain a breeding pair it is wise to purchase a small group of juveniles and as they mature you should get a pair that develops naturally rather than trying to force a pair to form with individual males and females.

The breeding pair should be moved to their own breeding tank, any other fish present will certainly be attacked and the breeding pair will be distracted.

The Red Terror will take at least 12 months to mature enough to breed so patience is required. The male will clean potential spawning sites such as flat rocks and then the female will deposit her eggs once she is satisfied with the chosen site. After the male has fertilised the eggs the female will take on the parental duties of guarding the nest while the male will patrol the area to keep the brood safe.

After 3-4 days the eggs should hatch and at this stage the parents will move the fry to pits that have been dug into the substrate, both parents will then watch the brood.