Red Empress Cichlid 101: Best Care Guide (April 2023)

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: January 24, 2022

The red empress cichlid (Petrochromis formula) was discovered in the southern end of Lake Tanganyika by German biologists during the first half of the 20th century.

It was categorized as the Petrochromis formula in 1955, though other names are known to be used (see "Synonyms" section).

The red empress cichlids are relatively unknown outside their natural habitat around South Tanzania and Burundi. It is a little-known and rarely kept aquarium fish, sold in very few (if any) stores throughout the world - if you ever see one for sale, it will probably be rather expensive.

The red empress cichlid has been known to scientists only since 1955 - but fossil records indicate that this species has been around for more than 10 million years.

This fish is also called Blue Angelfish and Striped angelfish. The Red Empress cichlid is a member of the cichlid fish family, and it is a very unique-looking fish.

This fish belongs to the genus Holacanthus, which contains 10 different species. It is currently unknown where this species originated or what its native waters are.

Facts And Characteristics Of Red Empress Cichlid

This species can be found in Bermuda, the Caribbean, and parts of Florida. The red empress cichlid is a predator that feeds mainly on small fish but will also take insects and other invertebrates.

How Do Red Empress Cichlid Look Like?

The Red Empress cichlid has a bright red coloration with blue stripes across its body. There are also yellow vertical stripes on the fish's face, and some specimens can have orange or yellow highlights around their dorsal fins.

Red Empress Cichlid

They have a black bar that runs across their eyes, and their caudal fins are edged in white. Also, the caudal fins have a gold hue on their tips.

The male Red Empress Cichlid is larger than the female and can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) in length. The female typically reaches a size of 10 inches (25 cm). They have a deep body shape, with a long snout and pointed fins.

They differ from other Cichlid in looks as they have a dark spot on their operculum. Their fins are also long and can be used for breeding.

This fish has an elongated body with a long dorsal fin that runs from the caudal fin to the head. There are several different color morphs of this popular aquarium fish, ranging from bright red with blue stripes to a duller pink with black vertical bars.

Growth Of Red Empress Cichlid

The adult Red Empress Cichlid is about 14 inches in length. However, it can be larger than this in the wild. Males are generally smaller than females when they are born, but they will grow to be larger than females as they age.

Red Empress Cichlid

They can live up to 10 years, but the average lifespan is around 5-7 years. The American Cichlid Association (ACA) states that they are easy to maintain and breed in an aquarium environment.

The Red Empress cichlid is a fairly large fish that belongs to the Cichlidae family, also known as 'Cichlasoma.' It can grow up to almost 30 cm (12 inches) long and weigh 4 lbs.

With proper care and a large enough fish tank, this Cichlid can grow larger than 30 cm (11.8 in.). However, the average size for this fish is 9-18 cm.

Habitat Of Red Empress Cichlid

The Red Empress cichlid is found in the tropical waters of Africa. It inhabits coral reefs and lagoons from the Gulf of Guinea to Madagascar, south of the Sahara Desert.

Red Empress Cichlid

This fish can also be found near the Indian Ocean and in the Caribbean. Typically, they live in lagoons and seaward reefs.

They like to inhabit areas with plenty of rocks and hiding places to provide security. They will also school together, but males are territorial and will defend their territory against other males. They are usually found in groups of 3-5 fish.

Their natural habitat involves living around rocks and coral reefs. They like to be in areas with plenty of places to hide and protection from predators, such as moray eels.

Red empress cichlids aren't picky about water conditions either; they're not too fussy about the pH levels, temperature, or hardness of their water source.

Temperament Of Red Empress Cichlid

The Red Empress Cichlid is an alert and active fish. It is considered a community fish but may become territorial with its kind or other cichlids.

Red Empress Cichlid

They are also known for their aggression toward other tank mates but can usually be kept in groups if they are introduced to the aquarium at around the same time.

Its nature is usually peaceful, but it can be very active and playful. They will often swim to the surface to take gulps of air. This is normal behavior and is not a sign of illness.

Red Empress Cichlid Breeding

The Red Empress cichlid is a polygamous species that breed year-round. In the wild, the male builds a large bubble nest out of saliva and air bubbles.

Red Empress Cichlid

He then defends this nest against other males. When a female enters the nest, the male performs a mating dance and covers her with his sperm.

After this, he drives her away and repeats the process with other females. The female is left to guard the eggs and fans water over them with their fins.

The female can lay between 100-300 eggs on the underside of a stone, inside the bubble nest, or under an overhanging rock. When they are newly laid, they are transparent or slightly orange.

After 6-10 days, the eggs hatch into free-swimming fry. However, neither parents protect them at this stage. The young feed off their yolk sacs for 5-7 days until they can start feeding themselves.

Red Empress Cichlid Care Guide

Below is the complete detailed care guide of Red Empress Cichild.

Feeding Of Red Empress Cichlid

The Red Empress Cichlid typically eats small fish, but it will also take insects and other invertebrates.

Red Empress Cichlid

Their mouths are shaped like funnels, which allows them to suck up their prey easily. The Red empress cichlid is an ambush predator that hides in coral reefs or among rocks before lunging out to catch its prey.

They have sharp teeth that allow them to tear through the flesh of their prey. They also have a pharyngeal jaw which allows them to crush their food before swallowing it. This fish is known to be a voracious eater and will eat anything that it can fit in its mouth.

The Red Empress cichlid is an omnivorous fish. In the wild, they mainly feed on algae and invertebrates. They also eat small fish, shrimps, crabs, and worms when they are young. On average, adults eat around 2-3% of their body weight each day. Also, they should be fed a variety of food in the aquarium to keep them healthy.

Habitat destruction is the biggest threat facing this fish. This is due to human interference in their natural habitat and overfishing for food markets.

In the home aquarium, you should feed them a variety of flakes, pellets, and freeze-dried foods. Also include some live or frozen brine shrimp, earthworms, bloodworms, or similar in their diet.

They can be fussy eaters, so it may take some time to get them accustomed to new foods.

Tank Requirements

The Red Empress cichlid can be kept in a tank that is 55 gallons or larger. It is important to provide plenty of rocks and hiding places for them to feel secure.

Red Empress Cichlid

They also like to school together. You should use a sandy or fine gravel substrate, as they will dig in the sand looking for food. The tank should have a tight-fitting lid to prevent the fish from jumping out.

They are great jumpers and can leap up to about 1 ft in length, so make sure there are no gaps in your tank lid. It is also important to have a reliable water filter system to maintain clean water conditions.

These cichlids are too large for a community aquarium. The Red empress cichlid can grow to about 8 inches in length. They are hardy fish that are easy to care for, but they require a lot of space, so they are not suitable for small aquariums.

Water Parameters

The Red Empress cichlid can live in freshwater, brackish, and even marine conditions, but it prefers warmer waters.

They can survive in slightly brackish conditions with a salt content up to around 1.005 – 1.009, but they do not require this and will be just as happy in a freshwater aquarium.

The Red empress cichlid can swim in any water condition, but it prefers tropical freshwater that is slightly acidic (pH 6 - 8), soft (GH 5 - 12), and warm (77F-84F). They are rather clumsy swimmers, so the tank should have many places to hide.

They will require a temperature of 21-25°C (70-77°F). You should also perform 10 to 20% weekly water changes as this Cichlid tends to be sensitive to nitrates and can develop health problems as a result of high nitrate levels in the tank.

The water should be well-oxygenated and have a moderate to high flow rate.

Lightning And Filtration

The Red Empress cichlid is a large fish that produces a lot of waste, so the tank should have good filtration.

Red Empress Cichlid

A powerful filter system or strong water movement will not disturb this fish and may even help to reduce aggression during spawning.

No special lighting is required as they are typically nocturnal species that come out to feed at night.

Red Empress Cichlid Tank Mates

This is a peaceful fish that can be kept with other large cichlids like convict cichlid and many others as long as they are similar in size.

Red Empress Cichlid

They will tolerate the presence of a Sterbai Cory but not other bottom-dwelling algae eaters or shrimp. They should also not be kept with boisterous fish that may stress or intimidate them.

Their best tank mates include the Jack Dempsey Cichlid, the Severum, and other large cichlids. However, they should not be kept with small fish or fish that require a higher pH level.

Diseases And Their Cure

This species is not normally prone to disease, but they can get the hole-in-the-head disease from excess protein in their diet.

Hole in head disease is caused by a parasitic worm that eats into the brain of the fish. It is often difficult to diagnose, as the only symptom may be a small dark spot on top of the head or a visible hole in the skull.

Treatment involves medicating with fenbendazole and removing any uneaten food from the tank. They are also prone to the disease ich (short for Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), which is a common parasite that will appear as white spots on fins, body, and gills.

This infection can be treated with copper-based fish medications, but it can be fatal if not treated promptly. Tropical Fish Hobbyist recommends using a product like Prazi-Pro to treat ich.

They should be fed a nutritious and varied diet consisting of live foods, frozen foods, and flake or pelleted foods. They also enjoy snails, earthworms, and shellfish.

Are They Dangerous?

The Red Empress cichlid is not a species that will generally be aggressive for no particular reason. Aggressive behavior may develop when they are protecting their young, but it usually does not continue once the fry has grown up and moved away from the parents' territory.

They can become dangerous if they are kept in too small an aquarium or if they are not given enough space to swim. They may also become aggressive if they are not fed a nutritious diet.


The Red Empress Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus) is a popular species that makes an excellent addition to any home aquarium. It should be housed in at least a 75-gallon tank, with lots of rocks and driftwood for hiding places.

They are fairly easy to care for as long as they are properly fed and housed in an appropriate tank with adequate filtration. They are typically peaceful but may become aggressive if they are not given enough space to swim.

We have discussed some of the most important information regarding this species and hope that you have found it helpful. Thanks for reading!

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