Red wolf fish Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The red wolf fish is a freshwater fish that is native to Africa. It is a member of the cichlid family and is known for its aggression.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about red wolf fish care. You’ll learn about their diet, size, lifespan, and more!

Species overview

The red wolf fish (scientific name: Hoplias aimara) is a freshwater fish that’s native to South America. It’s found in countries like Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil.

This fish prefers slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation. They’re often found in rivers, lakes, and swamps.

The red wolf fish is a predator and its diet consists mainly of smaller fish. In the wild, they’ve been known to grow up to 3 feet long!

In the aquarium scene, they’re a popular choice because of their unique appearance. They have a reddish coloration with black spots all over their body.


Red wolf fish

The first thing you’ll notice about the red wolf fish is their color. As you can probably guess from their name, these fish are a deep red color that can almost look black in certain lighting.

This red coloration is solid all over their body with a few exceptions. The first is their belly which is a much lighter shade (sometimes white). The second is their fins which are all tipped with white.

This coloration is one of the things that make the red wolf fish stand out so much.

In terms of body shape, these fish are long and slender. They have a very hydrodynamic body that helps them swim quickly and easily.

The fins on the red wolf fish are all rather large. The dorsal fin extends almost the entire length of their body and is very tall.

The anal fin is also quite long but not quite as tall. The caudal fin is forked and also quite tall.

All of these fins help the red wolf fish swim quickly and easily through the water.


The average lifespan for a red wolf fish is around 10 years. This is rather impressive and means that if you take good care of them, they’ll be around for quite a while!

Just like any fish, the lifespan of your red wolf fish can change significantly based on how they are treated. Things like poor water quality, stress from bad tank mates, or a suboptimal diet can drastically shorten their lifespan.


The average size of a Red Wolf fish is about 4 inches, with the largest recorded specimens reaching up to 6 inches.


Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a red wolf fish is 55 gallons.

This fish is a semi-aggressive species that can reach up to 18 inches in length, so they need a little more room to move around than your average freshwater fish.

They are also a predatory fish, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not keeping them with any fish that are small enough to fit in their mouth.

Water Parameters

The Red Wolf Fish is a tropical freshwater fish that requires warm water to survive. They prefer water temperatures between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pH level of the water should be between 6.5 and 7.5. The water hardness should be between 5 and 19 dGH.

It is important to keep the nitrate levels low in the aquarium. Partial water changes should help keep nitrate levels low. Ammonia and nitrite are extremely dangerous to fish and even in small amounts can prove fatal to Red Wolf Fish. Always keep these levels at 0 ppm.

  • Water Temperature: 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 6.5-7.5
  • Water Hardness: 5-19 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the interior of their tank there are a few things you should keep in mind.

First and foremost, these fish like to dig. They’re not going to be as destructive as something like a flowerhorn cichlid, but they will still do some damage to live plants.

We recommend using either artificial plants or plants that are known to be tough (like Java moss or hornwort).

The substrate should also be on the softer side since they will be spending a lot of time at the bottom of the tank. A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too.

Another important thing to include in their tank is some hiding spots. Red Wolf Fish are known to be shy so providing them with some places to hide will help reduce their stress levels.

Caves, driftwood, and rocks are all great options. Just make sure whatever you use is secure and won’t collapse on them!

Common Diseases

As with any fish, there are a few diseases that the red wolf fish is susceptible to. However, these fish are quite hardy and don’t often get sick.

The most common disease that these fish get is ich. This is a parasite that can be quite serious if it’s not dealt with quickly. The most obvious sign of this disease is the series of white spots that will begin to cover the body of your fish.

There are plenty of other potential diseases that can affect this species as well, but they’re not as common.

Another thing to look out for is infection from cuts. The most common cause of this is keeping your red wolf fish in a tank with a rough substrate (or aggressive species that want to fight).

In general, the best way to prevent these fish from getting sick is to maintain the quality of the water in their tank. A tank with clean and stable water conditions always leads to healthier fish who are more resistant to disease.

Behavior & Temperament

The red wolf fish is a peaceful creature that mostly keeps to itself. It’s not an aggressive fish, but it can be territorial. So, if you have other fish that like to swim in the same area of the tank, the red wolf fish may chase them away.

This fish is a bottom-dweller and prefers to stay near the substrate. It’s not a very active swimmer, so don’t expect to see it darting around the tank. Instead, it will slowly move from one place to another, often using its fins to help it “walk” along the bottom.

The red wolf fish is a nocturnal creature, so it’s most active at night. This is when it will come out to scavenge for food. During the day, it will often hide among the plants or rocks in the tank.

Tank Mates

When it comes to red wolf fish tank mates, the options are a bit limited. These fish are relatively uncommon in the aquarium trade. As a result, there’s not a lot of information out there about them.

From what we can tell, red wolf fish are best kept alone or in pairs. They’re not the most social creatures and don’t do well with other fish.

The exception to this rule is if you have a very large tank. In an aquarium that’s big enough, you might be able to add a few compatible tank mates. But even then, we recommend keeping a close eye on them.

Some potential red wolf fish tank mates include:

  • Arowana
  • Pacu
  • Pleco
  • Oscars
  • Other Large Cichlids


The Red Wolf Fish is a mouth-brooding species, which means the female carries the eggs in her mouth until they hatch.

This process begins when the female lays her eggs in a secluded spot in the tank, usually among some plants. The male will then fertilize them.

Once that’s done, the female will scoop them up in her mouth and carry them around until they hatch. This usually takes about two weeks.

During this time, it’s best to leave the parents alone. They’re very protective of their eggs and won’t take kindly to any disturbance.

Once the fry have hatched, the female will release them. They’re pretty much on their own from that point on.

You can start feeding them baby brine shrimp or crushed-up flakes. Make sure to do small water changes frequently to keep the water quality high.


Overall, the Red Wolf Fish is an excellent choice for a beginner fish owner or someone who wants a low-maintenance pet. They’re relatively hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, which makes them ideal for someone who isn’t sure they’re ready to commit to a more delicate fish.

They’re also a beautiful fish that will add a splash of color to your tank. If you’re looking for a fish that’s easy to care for and beautiful to look at, the Red Wolf Fish is a great choice!