Rusty cichlid Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The rusty cichlid is a beautiful fish that is popular among aquarists. They are relatively easy to care for and make a great addition to any freshwater tank.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when caring for this fish. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about Rusty cichlid care.

Species overview

Rusty cichlids (scientific name: Triglachromis otostigma) are a small species of cichlid that’s native to the Congo River basin in Africa.

They are found in a wide variety of habitats but prefer areas with plenty of vegetation and hiding spots. This is something to keep in mind when setting up their tank as they will need a lot of places to hide.

Rusty cichlids are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of food. In the wild, their diet consists of small invertebrates, plants, and algae.

These fish are generally peaceful but can be quite aggressive toward their own species. It’s important to have a good ratio of males to females (approximately 1:3) to avoid any aggression issues.

Rusty cichlids are a popular choice for many aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique coloration and relatively peaceful nature.


Rusty cichlid

The Rusty cichlid is a large and stocky fish that can grow to be about a foot long. As their name suggests, these fish are a rusty brown color with a bit of orange mixed in.

You’ll notice that their fins are a bit on the shorter side when compared to their body. The dorsal fin is slightly taller than their anal fin and both of these fins have a ragged appearance.

The caudal fin is forked and relatively tall. When viewed from the top, it looks like a teardrop shape.

These fish have large eyes and a protruding mouth. Their lips are thick and their teeth are visible even when their mouth is closed.

Rusty cichlids are a bit on the aggressive side, so they’re not the best fish for a community tank.


The average lifespan of a rusty cichlid is around 10 years. However, there have been reports of these fish living up to 20 years in captivity!

As with any other fish, the lifespan of a rusty cichlid can be impacted by a number of different factors. Poor water quality, stress, and a suboptimal diet can all lead to a shorter lifespan.


The Rusty cichlid grows to an average length of 4.7” (12 cm), but some specimens have been recorded at up to 6” (15 cm). Because of their laterally compressed bodies, they appear much larger than they actually are.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for rusty cichlids is at least 75 gallons. If you’re looking for a smaller freshwater fish, this is not the fish for you.

If you want to keep two rusty cichlids in the same tank you’ll want to add at least another 75 gallons to that minimum number if you want them to thrive.

Another reason why you need to provide enough space is for the sake of enrichment and comfort. These fish like to roam and will often run gentle but steady laps around your tank. Giving them a little bit of extra space can go a long way in making sure they can comfortably turn around in the tank.

Water Parameters

The rusty cichlid (Hypselecara temporalis) is a freshwater fish that’s native to the Amazon Basin in South America. In the wild, they live in slow-moving streams and rivers with a sandy bottom.

This is a fish that’s still relatively new to the aquarium trade. As a result, not a lot is known about their specific care requirements.

However, we do know that they come from an area with warm water and a neutral pH. The water is also soft to medium-hard.

With that in mind, these are the water parameters you should aim for with your rusty cichlid tank.

  • Water temperature: 75 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 5 to 15 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

As with all cichlids, these fish are going to be highly active and love to explore their surroundings. Because of that, you want to make sure there’s plenty for them to do inside their tank.

That means including a good mix of plants, rocks, and driftwood. These fish love to sift through substrate so make sure it’s something soft (sand is always a good choice).

Plants can be a little tricky with these fish since they’re known to uproot them when they’re exploring. If you want to include plants in their tank we recommend going with something that’s easily anchored into the substrate (like Java Fern).

Rocks and driftwood provide them with plenty of hiding spots and places to explore. They’ll love swimming in and out of caves and crevices.

Just make sure any rocks you use are smooth. These fish are known to scrape themselves on rough surfaces which can lead to infections.

Common Diseases

The rusty cichlid is a fairly hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean they don’t get sick from time to time. The most common disease that these fish experience is ich.

Ich is a very common parasite that can become quite serious if it’s not dealt with. 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 rusty cichlid 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 rusty cichlid is a semi-aggressive fish that is best kept with other fish of a similar size and temperament. These fish are not particularly territorial, but they can become aggressive if they feel threatened.

Rusty cichlids are also known to be nippy. They may nip at the fins of other fish or even eat smaller fish. So, it’s best to keep them with fish that can defend themselves.

Rusty cichlids are active fish that enjoy swimming and exploring their environment. They are also known to be good jumpers, so it’s important to have a lid on your tank.

When it comes to feeding, rusty cichlids are not picky eaters. They will eat just about anything you give them, including flakes, pellets, frozen food, and live food.

Tank Mates

The rusty cichlid is a large and somewhat aggressive fish. As a result, they’re not the best community tank fish.

They can, however, get along with other aggressive fish. The key is to provide enough space and hiding places so that everyone has their own territory.

Some compatible tank mates for rusty cichlids include:

  • Other large cichlids (e.g., convict cichlid, jack dempsey cichlid, etc.)
  • Catfish (e.g., pleco, Corydoras, etc.)
  • Large tetras (e.g., silver dollar, black skirt, etc.)
  • Rainbows (e.g., turquoise, boesemani, etc.)
  • Loaches (e.g., clown, Kuhli, etc.)
  • Gouramis (e.g., pearl, dwarf, etc.)


The rusty cichlid is a beautiful and popular fish that is relatively easy to breed in captivity. This species is mouthbrooding, which means that the female will carry the eggs and fry in her mouth until they are ready to be released.

To start the breeding process, you will need to set up a separate breeding tank. The tank should be at least 30 gallons and contain plenty of hiding places. Cichlids are territorial, so you may need to provide more hiding places than you think.

When the tank is set up, add two females for every male. Then, begin feeding them a high-quality diet. This will help to trigger spawning.

Once the fish are ready to spawn, you will see the female chasing the male around the tank. The female will then lay her eggs on a flat surface, and the male will fertilize them.

Once the eggs are fertilized, the female will pick them up in her mouth and carry them around. She will do this for about three weeks, until the fry are ready to be released.

You can then move the fry to a separate tank. Be sure to provide plenty of hiding places and a high-quality diet. The fry will be ready to be released into your main tank when they are around four weeks old.


The Rusty Cichlid is a great fish for beginner and experienced aquarists alike. They’re easy to take care of and are very peaceful, which makes them a great addition to community tanks.

They’re also a very attractive fish, so they’ll add some visual interest to your tank.

If you’re looking for a low-maintenance fish that’s also a joy to look at, the Rusty Cichlid is a great choice.