Name: Thorichthys meeki
Origin: Guatemala, Yucatan
Thorichthys meeki (formerly Cichlasoma) comes from Mexico, specifically from the Yucatan peninsula. It lives in many different types of locales, from rivers and streams to lakes, ponds and estuaries. In the aquarium, T. meeki prefers a pH of 7.5-8.5 and a neutral to slightly hard GH. Having caves and other dark or enclosed security zones in your aquarium is a must. It is one among 8 or 9 species in its genus.
In my opinion, T. meeki is probably one of the most beautiful cichlids from the new world. When breeding and in a good mood, it shows a wonderful red-orange color on a good portion of its ventral area, which in some specimens extends to the pectoral and caudal fins. The body is generally white or gray, and sometimes silvery. The dorsal, anal and caudal fins of some specimens are trimmed with the same irridescent blue that is found in discus, though pictures of this feature hardly ever do it justice.
As far as sexing goes, the males are usually more colorful and possess a filament-like extension of the posterior part of the dorsal fin. Both sexes are identical when juvenile, though at about 7 cm the dimorphism becomes apparent. T. meeki spawns like many other cichlids, forming mated pairs at about a year old and laying eggs in a cave. Both parents will tend to the eggs, though one often serves as the perimeter guard. Periodically, they will move the eggs from one cave to another. The fry are free-swimming at about 4 days, and T. meeki is a model parent, caring for and defending its
offspring. It is safe to remove them when they attain about half a centimeter in length.
There are varied opinions as to whether T. meeki is suitable for the community aquarium, and there is no doubt that when at full size (15+ cm), it is not a good tankmate for most tetras or other small fish. Though it is not an agressive cichlid, T. meeki is a cichlid nonetheless, and can be quite unpredictable. I personally have kept specimens up to 8 cm in a tank with Paracheirodon axelrodi, and I did not lose a single one. They do, however, have large mouths capable of swallowing all manner of things.
T. meeki is by nature a territorial fish, and though the displays it puts on to ward off attackers and other cichlids are impressive, and chase is often given, little actual damage is ever done to the fish themselves. It is really all for show, with the flaring of the gill covers and the erect posture of the fins more a technique for intimidation or a statement of hierarchy than anything else.
If you like T. meeki, I suggest looking into purchasing some Thorichthys aureus, or the Aureum or Blue Flash cichlid. They are beautiful beyond description, and if you enjoy the antics and colors of T. meeki, you will surely fall in love with T. aureus.
The Firemouth is a beautiful fish, with lots of personality, although I have kept them with different results. I have had specimens that are very hardy and will take rapid fluctuations in pH, temp, and lighting. On the other hand, I had a juvenile die for no reason after adding 4 Cory cats. I have also had a male Firemouth that would harass anything that it could not fit in it's mouth, until they died due to stress, but had a similar sized male that lived with Zebra Danios for years. Temperament varies with the individual just like humans, I guess. YOU MUST provide plenty of hiding places and a varied diet. Some say Firemouths are carnivores and others say omnivores, I provide mine with plenty of meaty foods such as beefheart, worms, and brine shrimp, with a good staple such as high quality cichlid specific flake and (when they become big enough) pellets. Good luck, and never put a fish in a tank that it cannot swim full speed in.
I have a male firemouth which is about 10 cm long. He is so tough, he holds his own with a 20 cm albino oscar. They become very colorful when they reach about 10 cm. I recommend this fish for people who are looking for an easy to care for cichlid. He eats pellets, earthworms, and feeder guppies. I think firemouths are great.
I have had Firemouths for 3 years. They are not the easiest cichlid to breed. They require high maintenance and lots of covering in the tank for the females to hide, as males are quite aggressive towards them. You quite often see large males in the shop for sale, but no females!
I have been a cichlid keeper for over 5 years, including Malawi, Tanganyikan and central american varieties, and yet, these fish continue to suprise me. The coloration is superb, nothing compared to what you look at in the pictures, and they seem very intelligent and friendly. Keep pairs in large aquariums and you won't be disappointed! What I also like is that you can keep them with other fish (tetras, rainbowfish, etc) and they won't bother them that much, but will complement each other. They say they are pretty good with swordtail livebearers as company.
Great fish for the community tank, has a "live and let live" attitude. Only time mine have ever became aggressive was when they were breeding.