Red Empress Cichlid: Caring, Tank Set-up, Diet And Breeding Guide

Red Empress Cichlid is popularly known for being one of the most appealing freshwater fish species. It is a non-aggressive Cichlid for all Aquarists, who wanted a Cichlid in their fish tank, but without aggressive behavior. Beauty is just one segment of their charming personality, while temperament also plays a major role. And both beauty and temperament make them a lovely choice!

This species of Cichlid comes with scales of colors that alter and shift alongside the length of their bodies. Hence, they become truly eye-catching and are mesmerizing to be watched swimming around the tank. 

This is a complete guide on how you can care for Red Empress Cichlid without much hassle. This guide has information on the care aspects, tank set-up, breeding, and diet. Apart from that, there is much other valuable information for the species. So, follow this article till the end. 

Red Empress Cichlid Species Summary

The Red Empress Cichlids have the potential to brighten up the fish tanks. The scientific name of this fish is Protomelas taeniolatus. But they are mostly referred to by the name that pretty much suits their personality and appearance. Some Aquarium hobbyists also call this fish a Spindle Hap. 

They have the best of colors, which varies amongst fish of the same species. Hence, this makes every Cichlid of this species special and unique. Furthermore, as per the researchers, this species of Cichlids are native from Eastern Africa in Lake Malawi. Hence, this fish has been entitled as one of the most favorable ones for aquarium lovers. 

Other Cichlids out there are mostly known for being aggressive in the tank. But the Red Empress Cichlids are one of a kind. They are pretty docile and spend most of their time just swimming around the tank. These fish are easy to care for and are also resilient and adaptable. They have no such hassle in surviving around different habitats or circumstances. They can do it at ease. 

Red Empress Cichlid Appearance

Red Empress Cichlid

The adult Red Empress Cichlids will often be reddish-orange. However, there will possibly be some blue, brown, and yellow spots over their body on frequent observations. Moreover, certain red empress fish variants are bred specifically for producing the most vibrant colors. 

When you are paying close attention, you will start to notice a few horizontal lines and oval shape markings right beneath the scales of these fish. One more evident consideration that makes this species unique is that the coloration of this fish varies, depending upon their location. 

The exact coloration of this fish around its origin area of Lake Malawi might be different from what people are used to observing in Cichlids of their aquarium. Many Red Empress Cichlids varieties, including orange, blue, gold, and others. Some of these variants have their regional names to make it easy to distinguish the origin. 

Female Cichlids of this species don’t share the same coloration as adult males. The females are quite muted and have a more silvery appearance. Both male and female cichlids have horizontal line division, with few irregular ovals, similar to that of cichlids of other species. 

Some of the other appearance features that make the fish of this species stand out include long anal, dorsal, caudal, and pectoral fins. The angle-shaped body is what helps them swim fast around the wild. They have sharp fins to get rid of the predators in the wild. The frontal fins are soft to help them navigate through water flow. 

How big do Red Empress cichlids get?

The Red Empress Cichlids are accountable as medium-size fish species that range between 4.5 to 6 inches, on an average length. This is because this specific species tends to achieve the biggest size range amongst other species of the same kind. But on the other hand, this fish in captivity is accountable to be kept at the smaller end of the size spectrum. 

It takes them around 8 to 9 months to reach their full size. Some say that most African Cichlids take around two years to grow completely, but that assumes just physical growth and not sexual maturity. The Red Empress Cichlids can grow within a year of sexual maturity and breeding and start hitting their average size range. 

Red Empress Cichlid Lifespan

The life span for a typical Red Empress Cichlid while in captivity is around five years. But with the adaptation of proper care and maintenance, these fish can live up to 7-10 years with good health. 

The overall life span of this fish is determined by several factors, including food, water quality, environment, and others. Hence, this applies to all species, irrespective of their toughness. So, the main consideration is to care well for the Red Empress Cichlids to help them live longer. 

Red Empress Cichlid Behavior

The Red Empress Cichlids are considered one of the most peaceful fish species of all time. They are prone to keep things to themselves at all costs. If someone lacks experience in handling fish or aquariums, then these cichlids can be a good pick for a start. 

It is true that some of the Cichlids are quite notorious and are very difficult to maintain. But this is not the case with that of Red Empress Cichlids. They are adaptable eaters, non-aggressive and resilient. Furthermore, these Red Empress Cichlids survive in their native waters. And these waters are alkaline, meaning these fish prefer to live mostly in natural environments. 

The water they come from is highly mineralized, which means they can tolerate salt in water. But that doesn’t mean you will put them in complete brackish water. The Cichlid species is accountable as less aggressive towards all of its other species. You will rarely find them attacking any of the other species. 

You just need to maintain the tank as per the instructions and offer them ideal hiding places within the space. And you will find them keeping themselves away from all forms of aggression. 

Tank Requirement and Set-Up 

Red Empress Cichlid Aquarium

Just as discussed in the previous section, you need to maintain the proper tank setup and maintenance in order to prevent aggression of your Red Empress Cichlids. But, it is not just about the aggression, but proper tank set-up is important for the overall health of your cichlids. Therefore, here are a few considerations for you to set up the Red Empress Cichlid tank proficiently:

Tank Size

Red Empress Cichlid Tank Size Capacity

You will need a tank size of at least 75 gallons or even more. It is the size recommendation for a single Red Empress Cichlid. If the fish is smaller, then a tank of mere 55 gallons would be sufficient for accommodating it at ease. However, if you intend to maximize the size for your Cichlid to enjoy a happy and healthy life, then you should spend a little more to get a 100-gallon tank. 

If you intend to keep more than one Red Empress Cichlid in your tank, then you will need one of more than 200 gallons size. Now, you might wonder why these fish demand more space than other fish species? This is a freshwater fish, which demands a lot of space to develop and grow. 

Red Empress Cichlids are strong swimmers, for which they also need enough swimming space around their tank, along with the hideouts. They might experience health issues and stress if they do not have sufficient room within the tank to move around, hide or swim. 

Tank Set-up

You need to prepare the tank well before introducing your Red Empress Cichlids to it. Firstly, you need to check the water flow and filtration. The Red Empress Cichlids live in a very moving water environment within the natural process. Therefore, the most important task to set up the tank is pumping water. 

You need to invest in a high-quality pump to keep the water moving within the tank. But with the pumps, it is also important for the fish to produce quite a lot of trash. In addition, if you are not using ideal filters, there might be some critical chemical changes within the tank that might stress your cichlids and make them sick. 

Water Conditions and Parameters

The Red Empress Cichlids require alkaline water to get their native terrain conditions. This species can survive in salty water but should not keep them in such water intentionally. Instead, make them reside in the optimal intensity of salty water. 

Irrespective of the toughness of this fish species, the water quality stands critical while caring for the Red Empress Cichlids. For maintaining the water quality, you can count on maintaining the temperature at 73-83 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH levels of the water should range between 7.7 to 8.6. And the water hardness should range between 5 to 15 dGH. 

Aquarium Plants

Red Empress Cichlid Aquarium Plants

You can also count on introducing plants to the tank unless your Cichlid is willing to eat them all. Some plants that you can add to your cichlid fish tank are Java Moss, Anubias, Amazon Sword, Cryptocoryne, and Vallisneria. 

Red Empress Cichlid Tank Mate

Pictus Catfish

The Red Empress Cichlids are peaceful species, but they are not other community fishes. They are liable for getting along with the other fish species without much hassle. The only thing is that you need planning to get the cichlids. TAHRA (The Tank and Aquarium Hobbyist’s Association) ranks this species as the 4th most popular Cichlid. 

If you put them in small tanks, then they become aggressive towards their mates in the tank. Therefore, a bigger tank is suggested. You can keep Malawi Cichlids as mates with the Red Empress Cichlids in the same tank. The tank should just have sufficient space to give enough space to each Cichlid for swimming around. 

Some of the other mates whom you can add onto the fish tank with Red Empress Cichlids are: 

Red Empress Cichlid Diet

You should feed your Red Empress Cichlids around 3 to 4 times a day. They should be offered a quantity that they can consume within 30 seconds. It is the ideal feeding method for your Cichlid. In addition, it will help suppress and give each Cichlid enough space to carry out the competitive attitude of cichlids hunting for food. 

Cichlids are accountable to be borderline obtrusive feeders, which means they can finish off any substantial food quantity in less than 30 seconds. The Red Empress Cichlids mostly feed on the aufwuchs, stringy algae (attached upon rocks), tiny invertebrates, and zooplankton. Sand Sifting is one of the ideal ways the Red Empress Cichlids gather their need for protein. 

When you have the cichlids in your aquarium, you can feed them with spirulina flakes, meaty foods such as krill, freeze-dried Mysis, and others. You can also feed them with vegetable foods to make up most of the diet. In addition, you can add up high nutrient food items such as high-nutrient herbivorous content. 

The herbivorous food items with high pigmentation properties are also ideal for the Red Empress Cichlid’s diet. You should not overfeed them by any means and be strict with the feeding pattern. The fish will lose its natural appearance as a result of overfeeding. Stay strict upon giving them small consumable meals for the specified times in a day. With that, it will help them prevent bloating problems. 


This fish species is easy to breed or manage. These fish have been living in the aquariums for years now and are observed to be mouthbrooders, just like most of the other cichlids. It is accountable as one of the fascinating breeding procedures. The male cichlids select a clear region in flat rock and sand to rest. 

The male will then be chasing the females until one of the females follows the male to the chosen location. The male Cichlid will then shake out in vertical motion at this particular point in time. As a result, the female Cichlid can lay around 40 to 50 eggs in her mouth and then place them around. 

The female Cichlid gathers the male spectrum for the sake of fertilization. Therefore, the eggs of Red Empress Cichlids need around 3 to 4 weeks for hatching. Moreover, these eggs stay in the mouth for the entire gestation period. It means that the eggs stay within the female’s mouth from start to end. 

The parenting process of the Red Empress Cichlids is also typical and predictable. First, the males and females will be engrossed in defending their newborns after hatching. Then, the parents will look after them until they are ready to swim around independently. 

Red Empress Cichlid Care

Caring for Red Empress Cichlid is quite easy as you just need to monitor a few essential aspects and take measures to rectify them on priority. Some of the things you need to keep in mind and observe are:

  • Healthy appetite
  • Active swimming
  • Flared out fins
  • Shaking/Shimmying the fins occasionally
  • No white spots or blemishes over the body
  • No abnormal growth
  • Clear and normal eyes without any bulging or cloudiness

You need to observe these aspects in your Cichlid to realize the care they need and offer them the same. Everything that has been discussed so far in this guide intends to offer optimal care for this beautiful fish species. 

Common Possible Diseases

Red Empress Cichlids are susceptible to most health ailments, just like any other freshwater fish. They are vulnerable to bacterial infections, itch, fungal infections, and parasites. To help them prevent/overcome their health conditions; you must monitor most of their water parameters to ensure they remain ideal for your cichlids. 

If there is any visible change within the tank, respond quickly before it worsens for the fish within that tank. To prevent your fish from catching any of the mentioned health problems, you can quarantine any few plants or fish you are willing to add to the aquarium. It is said that the prevention of a disease is always better than looking for its cure.  


Hence, these are the things that you need to understand and implement for your Red Empress Cichlid. They are beautiful beings and can enhance the overall appeal of your house or the room you have the tank in. But, you need to put up a considerable amount of effort to help yourself maintain this appealing presence of this fish species. If you can do that, you are the rightful owner of Red Empress Cichlid. 

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