Firemouth cichlids (Thorichthys meeki) make great warm-water aquarium fish. Despite their name, these fish don't breathe fire -- they're named for the bright red-orange patches on the underside of their jaws. Firemouth cichlids are native to Central America.
In the wild, firemouth cichlids are found living in rivers of northern Guatemala, Belize and the Mexican Yucatán Peninsula. These fish prefer to live in slow-moving, shallow freshwater that has a pH between 6.5 and 8.0 and a temperature between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes, wild firemouth cichlids live in the waters of underground caves. In the aquarium, you can create a favorable environment for your firemouth cichlids by approximating the temperature and pH of their natural habitat.
Your firemouth cichlids are plucky, active fish that use their brightly-colored throats to scare off rivals. To keep other fish away from their territory, males will flare out their gills to expose the fiery-colored throats. During their breeding season, the firemouths may become aggressive toward other species. However, these cichlids are generally suitable for keeping in an aquarium with other breeds of fish.
The firemouth cichlid is a striking fish to look at. Typically, this fish has a dark blue, iridescent body with a few dark gray or black stripes. The underbelly and throat of the fish is orange to red, and the fins are gray to black. Male firemouth cichlids are usually larger than their female counterparts -- a typical adult male firemouth cichlid will be around 6 inches long. Female firemouth cichlids usually have less bright coloration around their throats, and have more rounded fins than the male fish.
Firemouth cichlids make cooperative parents when it comes to raising their young. Female firemouth cichlids lay eggs on the flat areas of submerged wood, leaves or rocks, then the males defend the breeding territory. Male and female fish couple up in monogamous pairs to protect and raise the young fish, known as fry. The mother and father firemouth cichlids will lead the young fry around in search of food.
- dock in belize image by jedphoto from Fotolia.com