Red Terror

Red Terror

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Mesoheros festae

Note: Due
to variations within species, your item may not look identical to the image


Amphilophus festae, Cichlasoma festae, Herichthys
festae, Heros festae, Mesoheros festae, Nandopsis festae


Ecuador and Peru.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male fish grow larger. Female fish retain the
bright red colour and dark banded pattern into adulthood.

Maximum Size

25cm (9.8")


25-28 deg C (77-82 deg F)

Water Parameters

Will acclimatise to a wide range of conditions.
pH: 6.0-8.0, dH: up to 20 degrees.


Species-only aquarium; community of large, robust
fish only.


No special requirements




The Red Terror is known from the Rio Esmeraldas drainage in
Ecuador to the Rio Tumbes basin in Peru, on the Pacific side of South America.
Here it is found in various biotopes, including small-medium sized rivers,
where it tends to favour the slower, heavily vegetated reaches close to the
margins. This species is highly territorial and grows very large (length and
girth), so a voluminous aquarium is required with powerful filtration to match.
Provide a substrate of soft sand or small rounded gravel. Sizeable pieces of
driftwood and rocks/slate can be used to create sheltered areas, but these
should be made secure as these hefty cichlids are notorious diggers and they
more than capable of moving d?cor around. Bonding pieces of rock together with
aquarium grade silicon sealant prior to filling the tank is sensible. As large
quantities of substrate are likely to be bulldozed on a daily basis, plants
cannot be cultivated. A guard should be fitted to the heater in order to
protect it against breakages, or better still, opt for a canister filter that
has a heater built in, so the element is not situated in the tank itself.
Partial water changes should be carried out on a frequent basis to help keep
nitrate to a minimum. This is an exceptionally aggressive species which is best
maintained singly or as an established male-female pair. They are intolerant of
their own kind, but can sometimes be combined with other robust cichlids, if
the aquarium is particularly spacious (over 1000 litres) and has a plethora of
visual barriers. Tankmates could include other Central/South American cichlids
of a similar size and temperament, or large armoured catfish. However, if
breeding does occur, expect a huge amount of aggression directed towards the
other fish and be prepared to move the tankmates to another aquarium for their
own safety. Sometimes the male can be very persistent when wanting to breed,
and if the female is not receptive, he may harm her. So always observe
carefully and have a tank divider on hand, should the need arise to separate an
overly amorous male from his female. Ensure the aquarium has a tight fitting
hood that is weighted down, as these heavyset fish are expert jumpers. Despite
its large size and belligerent nature, this remains a popular fish with cichlid
enthusiasts. Sexual dichromatism becomes apparent when the fish reach 10-12.5cm




Omnivorous. This species requires a balanced diet in order
to retain good colours. Slow sinking pellets/sticks, frozen foods such as Mysis
shrimp, krill, chopped cockle, chopped mussel meat and prawns will all be taken
with much enthusiasm. Be sure to provide a vegetable component to the diet,
such as spinach, kale, lettuce and cucumber.




This species has been
bred in the home aquarium, but it can be difficult establishing a compatible
pair. Simply placing a male and female together is unlikely to work and may
have disastrous consequences. It is far better to obtain a group of juveniles
and grow them on, letting a pair form naturally from the group. However, you
would need to have a plan in place for rehoming the remaining fish. Even then,
if the female is not receptive, the male may end up killing her, so always have
a tank divider on hand should things get violent. When ready to spawn, the
colour of the fish will intensify. The courtship dance is a vigorous affair,
with much mouthing and tail slapping. Again, have the tank divider handy in
case things get a bit out of control. Eggs are usually deposited on a vertical
piece of slate, a flat piece of driftwood, or in a rocky cave. Up to 3000 eggs
will be laid/fertilised, and these can be expected to hatch within 72 hours.
The parents will then move the wrigglers to a pre-dug pit. They will become
free-swimming after a further few days when their yolk sacs are used up, and
can be offered baby brineshrimp or crushed flake. At this point, it would be
wise to separate the male from the female using the tank divider, as the male
will be hyper-aggressive in defence of the fry. If carrying out maintenance on
the tank, he is quite likely to attack your hands, so be very careful. Parental
care usually continues for around 6 weeks. Please be aware that a bonded pair
may reproduce on a regular basis, and always in exceptionally large numbers.
Therefore, it is important to consider whether you should really allow this species
to reproduce in the home aquarium, and should have a homing plan in place for
the potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of juvenile fish (that are going to
attain a substantial size), which are going to quickly overwhelm an aquarium.
Once the fry have been removed from the aquarium, observe the adults carefully
as the male may attempt to spawn again immediately, and the female may not be