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Red Terror

(Amphilophus Festae)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 13" females, 18" males"
• Minimum Tank Size: 180 gallons   • Water Conditions: 77-84° F, pH 6.0-8.0, KH 2-10
• Diet: Carnivore, Piscivore   • Origin: Central America   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Red Terrors   • Aquarium Type: Cichlid-New-World

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Species Information

Red Terror native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Red Terrors are a popular species of Cichlid that are found living in rivers and tributaries of Central America down to Peru and Ecuador. They are an apply named species, as their temperament ranges from aggressive to very aggressive. While this does pose some problems with keeping them in the home aquarium, their beautiful coloration and boisterous personality more than makes up for any inconvenience their aggressive nature causes.

While their adults sizes of 13" for females and 18" for males is large by aquarium standards, in the wild they are better suited for live along the rivers edge where they can prey on insects, crustaceans and small fish species without coming into harms way of the much larger predators that lurk in the deeper areas of many Central American rivers.

Red Terrors make excellent aquarium specimens for intermediate to advanced freshwater aquarium hobbyists that have a large aquarium and experience with keeping aggressive Cichlid species.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Red Terrors in the home aquarium.

As with most all fish species, the key to successfully keeping Red Terrors within the aquarium environment is to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible, while providing them with clean water, consistent water parameters and a biologically mature nitrogen cycle within the aquarium.

When it comes to aggressive fish species like the Red Terror, it is also very important to provide them with adequate space within the aquarium and suitable tank mates that they can co-exist with peacefully. Red Terrors require large aquariums (180 gallons or larger) as adults, in order to give them plenty of swimming room and to reduce their aggression towards tank mates.

The aquarium should have a substrate that is either sand, mixed gravel / sand or a smaller gravel, along with some well anchored plants, driftwood and rocky caves. It is important to have strong biological and mechanical filtration that can keep up with high bio-load that large Cichlid species produce within the aquarium.

Even with a well filtered system, monthly water changes should be utilized to prevent the buildup of nitrates and other filtration bi-products within the aquarium water. When keeping Red Terrors along with other large Cichlid species, it is important to do everything that can be done to help curb their aggression towards other species.

Proven ways to help reduce aggression towards tank mates when housing multiple varieties of aggressive Cichlids:
Provide multiple rocky caves that will provide the Red Terror and other tank mates with a piece of territory they can lay claim to; as well as, a place to retreat to when threatened or to escape aggression from other tank mates.
Only house Red Terrors with other large aggressive Cichlid species than can handle the large size and aggressive nature of the Red Terror. Ideally tank mates should be shaped differently and swim and feed in a different manner than the Red Terror. This will help reduce aggression if the Red Terror does not see the tank mate as direct competition for the same food source.
Provide plenty of open swimming space within the aquarium. Aquariums that are to small and do not provide open swimming areas will drastically increase aggression in most all Cichlid species.
Slightly overcrowd the aquarium, so that no single fish can bully all the rest of the fish. Having too many fish to pick on will spread the aggression and usually create a "stale mate" type of situation. It is important to note that overcrowding the aquarium should only be done if there is the proper amount of filtration in place to handle the higher bio-load of a crowded aquarium.
Design the aquarium aqua-scaping to create multiple territories so that similar fish species can establish a small territory of their own without trying to lay claim to the entire aquarium.
Lastly, do not keep a breeding pair of Red Terrors with other fish. Even in large aquariums, breeding pairs will be hyper aggressive towards other tank mates and will either kill them or keep them confined to one small corner of the aquarium.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Red Terrors and provide a healthy diet.

In their natural habitat the Red Terror will feed primarily on insects and small crustaceans living near the banks of the rivers and tributaries that they inhabit. They will also prey on smaller fish species or fry of larger fish species that they come across with plants and reeds along the rivers bank.

In the aquarium environment it is best to feed them a high quality Cichlid pellet food as their staple diet, while mixing in other foodstuffs like meal worms, earthworms, crickets and other high protein foods like beef hearts and chicken livers. It is best to feed them approximately twice daily an amount of food they will consume within five minutes or so.

The occasional live ghost shrimp or quarantined feeder fish can be offered as well, as a way to stimulate the fish's natural hunting instinct and stimulate their brains to keep them healthy and happy.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Red Terrors in the aquarium environment.

Red Terrors become sexually mature at about 3 to 4 inches in length and will begin to show different coloration's, with the females retaining the look of the juvenile Red Terror while the male will lose the the black bars and develop a light iridescent green body, with a reddish blush to the throat and belly areas.

As with most Cichlid species a breeding pair of Red Terrors will need to be kept apart from other fish species as they will become extremely aggressive towards other tank mates during breeding. In order for a mated pair to breed they will need to be provided with a suitable location for the female to lay her eggs, with a cave or large pot turned on its side providing the perfect location.

In the wild, this species will breed in shallow caves in the river embankments, so anything that closely replicates this will suit them well in the aquarium environment. After breeding the Red Terror fry should emerge from their egg sacks after about 4 days time, where they will reside in small depressions in the substrate created by their parents. The adult Red Terrors will actively guard their young until they have reached a fairly large size before setting them out on their own.

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