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Introduction to Red Empress Cichlid
Due to their striking colors and unique body shape, Red Empress Cichlid is a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts. Also known as Spindle Hap/Cichlids (Protomelas taeniolatus), these fish originated from the waters of Lake Malawi in Africa. When you take one look at them, it’s easy to see why they have such a catchy name.
The fish’s name derives from a body coloration reminiscent of empresses in China during the Qing dynasty. In captivity, it can come in a wide range of colors, including yellow, red, and blue. The Red Empress Cichlid is named for its bright red coloring and its resemblance to Chinese empresses.
Note that, the bright hues of this freshwater fish can vary depending on the type of habitat it inhabits and the other members of its shoal.
Red Empress temperement towards tank mates
The Red Empress Cichlid is unique in its own right because it is not only hardy but also docile. It does not defend its territory aggressively when it comes to other species but instead spends its days swimming peacefully all over the tank.
The Red Empress Cichlids are not grouping fish while they are peaceful, but they will get along well with similar species from Malawi Lake. Most aquarists will keep three females with one male fish in the tank and expect them to get along. However, don’t keep multiple males in one tank unless it’s a large tank as that may result in aggression. The Red Empress Cichlids will also get along with other Malawi cichlids.
Some of the well-known tank mates of Red Empress Cichlid are shown below.
- Blood Parrot Cichlids
- Livingstoni Cichlids
- Venustus Cichlids
- Pictus Catfish
Lifespan of Red Empress Cichlid
Even under less than ideal conditions, it can live comfortably for five years. With good care, a Red Empress Cichlid may even live up to ten years. This means the hobbyist has to provide a well-balanced diet, water parameters to enjoy the full lifespan of this amazing aquarium fish.
Appearance of Red Empress Cichlid
Let’s now take a look at the color profile and body characteristics of the Red Empress.
The most common varieties of Red Empress Cichlid have vibrant reds and blues, but other hues can be found in more rare breeds with different levels of red and blue. The distinctions between red and blue are hard to see in the younger fish, but growth spurts and more developed muscles make it easier to tell the two apart as they age.
As cichlids get older, they may lose some of their original colors. Over time, they will become darker, shifting from more vibrant reds and blues to a dark reddish-orange hue. In general, however, these fish can retain their striking colors throughout their lives.
Red Empress Cichlid has faint horizontal lines and oval shapes underneath their color.
Overall If a fish has higher color intensity and clear horizontal stripes, we can say it has better quality and is in a good health.
Note that all the color descriptions are valid only to the male fish, which will get into in the next subtopic.
Red Empress Male Colors & Captive bred varieties
The males are brighter and more colorful than their diminutive counterparts who are basically gray and dull in appearance. The males display extra colors during the mating season!.
You know how you keep saying “Red Emperor” when you mean “Red Empress”? We do too! And for some good reason as you can see…
Red Empress Female Colors
As mentioned before, the female fish are less colorful than males. They don’t have the same bright colors; instead, they are silver and grey. Like the males, female fish have two horizontal stripes and some irregular ovals on their bodies.
Colors of Red Empress Morphs
There are even some specialty Red Empress fish that were purposely bred to achieve the most vibrant colors possible. So it’s possible that sometimes you aren’t looking at the wild and pure colors of male red empress but color-enhanced varieties of the fish.
The process of creating captive-bred variants sometimes creates fish that may be less healthy than the original. If a fish is bred into a new color, it may reduce its genetic robustness.
There are main two types of captive-bred variants of red emperor fish: Blue fire and super red empress. Bred in Europe, the super red empress is not as hardy as the wild type.
But We must admit that regardless of the captive-bred varieties the males look fabulous with their bright and vibrant colors,
Different color variations from different parts of the lake Malawi
What makes the Red Empress Cichlid special is not just its beauty but also the complex coloration based on where it lives. Because as Red Empress Cichlid is already striking in appearance, but the variations in color between individuals and populations taken from different parts of Lake Malawi are even more fascinating. Some of the fish vary by as much as a third of their normal coloring, changing from shades of orange or blue to gold or bronze from their sort of general color patterns. The locals have their own names for these types of fish, giving them an identity beyond their range.
Fin Profile of Red Empress Cichlid
Red Empress Cichlid has several fin features that stand out, primarily to help them in their natural habitat to ward of predators and swim pretty fast. The anal, dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins are quite long to help the fish maneuver. The fins also have spiny rays. These, in particular, help give this fish an edge in the wild by warding off predators. However, the front of each fin is softer to allow for easy navigation in the water. So it’s quite a remarkable build in terms of fin shapes and profiles.
These fish have several features that stand out, primarily to help them in their natural habitat.
Does the Red Empress Cichlid have teeth?
Of course, they do!, Just like other Cichlids fish, these have two sets of teeth. The first raw is placed normally inside the mouth of the fish but the second set is placed back in the throat!
Fish are given a size range measurement, but these can be subjective. Normally the Red Empress Cichlid is on average between 4.5 and 6 inches in length. Red Empress in their natural habitat tends to reach the upper limit of their size range. However, fish that grow up in captivity generally fall on the smaller end of the spectrum. This is due to the limited space that the fish get to swim. if you can find large aquariums with plenty of space you might help the fish grow to their full size.
The fish reach sexual maturity at 8–9 months, and they continue growing until they reach full size. Their growth rate is fairly average for freshwater fish.
Red Empress Cichlid Care
The Red Empress is one of the most sought-after freshwater tropical fish, and there are many reasons why. They are relatively easy to care for, especially compared to other fish of its kind. It can be kept as a single specimen or in an aquarium with other fish, and it looks beautiful both during its infancy and as it ages.
Let’s look at the tank design, tank size, water parameters, and other red empress care tips, one by one.
Malawi, where the red empress is from, has more minerals than most other areas in the world. As a result, the fish have grown accustomed to more alkaline water than other tropical fish. It is also more accustomed to salt than other species of fish are. As a result, they can thrive in saltier water or at a higher pH level without any health issues.
Below are the exact water parameters you have to keep if you want a healthy and happy red empress.
The Red Empress naturally thrives in water with a pH around 7.7 to 8.6, the hardness between 5 to 15 dGH, and temperature between 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tank Size for Red Empress Cichlid
Cichlids are species that have evolved to live in large bodies of water — such as lakes and rivers. As an aquarist, you can provide them with these conditions when you keep a Malawi cichlid in your very own tank. Start by stocking a minimum of 75 gallons of water in your fish tank for one red empress cichlid; according to the experts, this is the smallest tank size capable of positively supporting red empress cichlids.
The Malawi cichlid species, such as the red empress cichlid, generally swim around in the water to avoid predators and find food. Because of this, they need enough space to do what they like. A smaller aquarium won’t be enough for them, and it could actually cause stress to your fish.
So as a starter you must start with a large aquarium, which will eliminate many Cichlid issues including health and ph-related problems.
If you’re worried about keeping the Red Empress alive, don’t be. It’s very hardy. But there are a few things you should know before getting one:
While Malawi cichlids are large fish that can handle some variation in water conditions, they prefer stable water parameters. So again, large tank sizes also help keep water conditions stable — because they hold more water, they have a lower concentration of chemicals and waste.
The red empress cichlid needs high flow to thrive. In the wild, they live in fast-moving water and would not be happy without lots of current in their aquarium. Strong filtration is also important as this species can produce a lot of waste.
Because this cichlid is from Lake Malawi, a very large lake in Africa. In their natural habitat, they are used to encountering a lot of movement in the water. This is because streams continuously flow into the lake, stirring up the water and providing plenty of flow.
With these fish living under such conditions, strong filtration is necessary.
Tip: If you have other tank mates who don’t like such strong currents, you can block some areas with rocks and driftwood to block the water flow through them.
Landsacping of the Tank for the Red Empress Cichlid
You must provide the natural habitat for the Red Empress. Study the lake Malawi, their natural habitat and have a good understanding of the natural habitat and the lake bottom landscape they thrive. Proving the correct habitat is very important for the life span of this fish.
The Malawi lake bottom is mostly covered with sand. So put a lot of fine sand on the bottom of their tank. Don’t put gravel as they might hurt the fish while they looking for food. This constant search for the food will keep the sand clear and will help the filtering system to clear out any residue food or waste.
The lake Malawai also has plenty of rocks under the water, which the Cichlids swim in and out and used to hide out from predetors. So it’s best if you can provide rock coverage into your Red Empress Cichlid tank as well. Also, you could entertain your aquarium with a more natural look by adding rocks. Place the rocks on one side of the tank and cover the rest with sand. Now, look at the area which meets rocks and sand. The Cichlids love it!
Moreover, did you know that the red empress cichlid In the wild mostly feeds on rock-stuck algae?
The same behavior will be carried out by the captive fish as well, so it’s another good reason to have rocks in the Cichlid tank.
Plants Vs Red Empress Cichlid
You don’t necessarily need plants in a Red Empress Cichlid tank. The rocks and sand do the trick. But if want to add some plants, you definitely can! Add some plants among the rocks, near the backdrop of the tank.
Adding plants can benefit the tank, with an additional filter of harmful nitrates and giving a more natural look.
Red Empress doesn’t eat plants but they might mess up the setup as they dig around to look for food. This is why you should place the plants among the rocks, securely.
Foods for Red Empress Cichlid
Have you ever noticed that your red empress cichlid seems to be searching for something? They might be digging in the sand because they’re looking for scraps from other aquarium inhabitants. Or maybe they’re trying to eat algae on the rocks. Either way, make sure you know what’s in the tank with them and especially, what’s on their menu.
Cichlids are omnivorous fish that consume both plants and animals. To keep your red empress healthy, you’ll need to provide both algae and meat-based food.
Algae is a staple food for this species, so be sure to include spirulina-based flakes in its diet. Also, supplement its meals with freeze-dried krill, high-protein food that you can buy at any pet store.
Even though these fish can live in quite alkaline waters, they aren’t immune to common freshwater diseases. Below are a few diseases they are prone to have.
Freshwater Ich in Red Empress Cichlid
Ich, also known as White Spot Disease, is a very common problem that can affect any aquarium. Ich is a ciliated protozoan parasite that feeds on small amounts of your fish’s skin and other tissues. It can show itself in varying levels of severity: some fish develop mild symptoms, while others become severely weakened or die in just a few days if the infection is left untreated.
Treating Ich is no joke. It’s highly contagious. It’s one of the most common fish diseases and, if left untreated, will only get worse. Ich attacks your fish’s skin and is easily spread from one fish to another. However, it can be treated with a few simple steps that hold the disease at bay for many months.
As with any treatment, it’s best to quarantine all your fish to keep the Ich from spreading.
There are two ways that you can treat freshwater ich. You can either use a copper-based medicine or aquarium salt. Or you can raise the temperature of the tank to accelerate the life cycle of the ich parasite to eventually kill them faster without damaging your fish.
You must do partial water changes during the treatments to remove the swimming stage of the parasite out of the aquarium.
Bacterial, Fungi and other Parasitic deseases
When you have a fish tank, there are many diseases that can afflict your fish. Red Empress Cichlids might have Parasites, bacterial infections, or fungi. It’s important to know how to deal with these diseases so you can keep them away from your other fish. To best avoid these diseases you have to maintain good water quality in your aquarium.
Malawi Bloat in Red Empress Cichlid
Malawi Bloat is a condition that causes a visibly swollen abdomen, loss of appetite, and other distressing signs. This condition typically occurs when cichlids in Malawi are fed an unhealthy diet.
How to avoid sick Red Empress Cichlids
The key for healthy red empress cichlids is to have optimal water parameters, enough spaces, and correct habitat.
- Cycle your tank before adding your Red Empress Cichlids
Tank cycling is a necessary step for you to start raising fish. Without a healthy tank, you’re going to have a much harder time raising fish, not to mention it will be more stressful for the fish themselves. Cycling creates a supportive environment for your fish by introducing beneficial bacteria that break down harmful ammonia and nitrites.
2. Avoid overfeeding
You especially need a cycled tank for red empress Cichlid. Because they are voracious eaters and can do well-eating algae, protein-rich krill, and spirulina-based flakes. This introduces lots of harmful ammonia into the aquarium. So, Avoid overfeeding your fish, or you could end up with an overweight cichlid who is prone to illness and disease. You should also make sure that you’re feeding other inhabitants of the aquarium as well the cichlid will find whatever food is left behind by other fish.
On the other hand overfeeding can lead to Malawai bloat of your red empress cichlid which is really bad. The fish will stop eating and will have a bloated stomach and difficulties if swimming and maintaining balance.
3. Perform frequent water changes
Water changes are necessary to remove harmful ammonia and nitrite from your aquarium. 20% of water change weekly is advised.
4. Avoid fish stress
Provide a natural habitat and enough space for your red empress cichlid to avoid unnecessary stress.
If you can look after these simple steps, then there won’t be any happy fish like your Cichlid.
Quarantine your new fish before introducing them into the main cichlid tank.
Breeding Red Empress Cichlids
Breeding these Cichlids isn’t difficult. Just like other Cichlids, they are bred in captivity with minimum effort.
Many cichlid species are mouthbrooders. The males will choose a small rock or section of the sand and then chase females until one of them decides to follow him, at which point he will switch into a vertical position and shake with the female, releasing sperm and eggs mixing together. The red empress cichlid female will lay around 45 eggs. And she will take them into her mouth for protection, carefully incubating them until they hatch. Males will compete with one another to attract females by displaying their best colors and swimming patterns.
Red empress mothers are one of the best mothers in the aquarium. She incubates her eggs for around three to four weeks. Both the male and female protect their babies from predators until they’re ready to swim on their own. After the fry is swimming freely, you can separate them from their parents with ease.
After all, it’s a remarkable feeling to breed and witness the reproductions of these amazing colorful fish.
This comprehensive pet fish guide discussed the Red Empress Cichlid in detail. We looked into their behaviors, temperament, diet, how to care, diseases, and much more. Overall, the red empress cichlid is a vibrant colored, beautiful, and hardy fish. It can be kept with other fish as well, especially with the other Malawi Cichlids species. So if you are just a beginner to the aquarium hobby, I would definitely recommend this Cichlid as they require minimum care given they are provided with enough space and other basic requirements.