Vieja melanura, the quetzal cichlid, redhead cichlid, or firehead cichlid, is a cichlid species native to Central America where it occurs in the Usumacinta River drainage in the countries of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. This species can reach a length of 35 centimeters (14 in). It is also popular in the aquarium trade.
It is one of the most colorful cichlid species, with males displaying metallic green, blue, pink, and orange along their flanks. It has been used in creating new hybridized aquarium cichlids that became popular in Asia in recent years and is probably one of the parents of modern blood parrot cichlids and flowerhorn cichlids.
Common Names: quetzal cichlid, redhead cichlid, or firehead cichlid
Scientific Name: Vieja melanura
Origin / Habitat: Central America
Care Level: Intermediate
Adult Size: 35 cm (14 in)
Lifespan: expect 10 to 15 years
Tank Size: 100 gallon
Water Parameters: the pH of 6.0-8.0
Water Hardness: 10 – 15°H
Temperature: Between 76-86 °F or 24-30 °C
Feeding: Omnivore, eats most foods
Compatibility: moderately aggressive
Tank: Mid- and Bottom Level
A beautiful color characterizes the Redhead cichlid, Adult fish heads and gill covers are raspberry, pink, or red. The middle part is greenish-blue, while the back part is yellow. The caudal fin is large reddish and sometimes covered with black dots. Adult males develop a large fatty tumor. Moreover, females are less intensely colored. This species is territorial and aggressive.
The Synspilum Cichlid is best kept as a pair of established males and females. They are normally amicable with other cichlids but are typically unfriendly with some species, especially in other smaller aquarium fish. At all times, excellent strong filtration should be provided, and partial water changes should be performed 1 or 2 times a week. However, this species can adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions. They will be at their best in hard water with low nitrates – which means plenty of large water changes. Other Central American cichlids of a similar temperament make good tankmates in aquaria large enough to provide adequate territory, but fast-moving shoaling species will often be a better option. Once paired and spawning, expect aggression towards the other fish.
In the wild, this species is primarily herbivorous, but it is not picky about what it eats in captivity. As the main meal, use a high-quality cichlid pellet. Supplement this with meaty foods such as prawn, mussel, and whitefish. Vegetable matter in the form of spirulina or algae wafers should form an important part of the diet. They prefer a diet high in vegetable matter but will happily accept protein in moderation.
Redhead cichlid Behavior
A species that is moderately aggressive. Suppose enough rock and bogwood are provided to construct appropriate territories for all of the fish. In that case, it may effectively retain this species in a community of robust Central American cichlids. If you try this, there is no assurance of success. A bonded couple can typically live happily together, but it’s important to keep an eye on the female to make sure she’s not bullied.