Vieja bifasciata (Red Spotted Cichlid)

Vieja bifasciata

Last updated on September 15th, 2022 at 11:34 am

The Red-spotted Cichlid, also called Vieja bifasciata, originates from the Amazon River Basin in Peru and the Rio Ucayali in Brazil. These cichlids are popular among aquarists due to their relatively hardy nature and bright coloration, but there are some simple things to keep in mind before attempting to house one of these fish.

Vieja bifasciata is an omnivorous and peaceful cichlid fish species native to Africa, specifically the Congo River basin.

The red head cichlid, Vieja bifasciata, is one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. This attractive and peaceful cichlid comes from Lake Nicaragua in Central America and enjoys living in social groups of at least 3-5 fish. In addition to being easy to care for, this colorful species makes an excellent choice for beginning aquarists since it only grows to about 14 inches long.

Origin and descriptions

Vieja bifasciata is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. It inhabits rivers in Panama and Costa Rica. Its natural habitat is freshwater lakes, particularly ones with rocky shores. This relatively large Central American Cichlid reaches a length of up to 36 cm or about 14 inches.

This species is endemic to Venezuela. It can also be found in the aquarium trade where it is known as red-spotted jawbreaker (but should not be confused with a jawbreaker).

They possess a large dorsal fin with 9 spines and 8-10 soft rays on its posterior portion; their anal fin has 3 spines and 6-8 soft rays while their pelvic fins have 1 spine with 4-5 soft rays on its anterior portion.

While both sexes exhibit red spots covering parts of their body, these spots appear much darker on females and hence give them an overall brownish hue unlike that of males who appear more brightly colored with little fading present on their bodies.

Species profile

Vieja bifasciata

Red-spotted cichlids are an African genus of freshwater fish in the family Cichlidae. They are native to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa and have been introduced into many parts of its rift valley lakes. There are currently seven species in two genera (Haplochromis and Vieja) recognized in freshwater lakes of Africa; one species (Haplochromis burtoni), is a popular aquarium fish.

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Many cichlid enthusiasts use cichlid loosely to describe any African fish that are not related to tilapia or perch; however, these three families do not share ancestry with one another. In fact, they appear entirely different and there is no physical resemblance between them at all.


Cichlasoma bifasciatum, Heros bifasciatus, Paraneetroplus bifasciatus, Theraps bifasciatum, Vieja bifasciata


This species has a large natural range, occurring throughout much of lowland South America east of the Andes. Its geographic range extends from coastal Venezuela and Trinidad, through Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and northern Brazil to eastern Peru, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

Within these areas, it can inhabit both slow-moving blackwater rivers as well as fast-flowing white waters. It is also known to occur in man-made impoundments such as reservoirs.

Vieja bifasciata size

This species can grow up to 14.2 inches (36 cm) in length.

Red-spotted cichlid tank size

The minimum recommended tank size to house a single fish is 65 gallons (246 Liters) tank size.

Tank set up

When setting up a tank for red-spotted cichlids, it is good to know that these fish are aggressive toward others of their own kind, and also toward other species of fish. It’s recommended that you keep only one male per tank unless they have been together from a young age. Another option is to have at least 4 females per male if you want to breed them.

The environment should be clean with good filtration since as time goes on, detritus will collect in bottom areas. In general, water changes are not needed as long as there is adequate filtration but make sure ammonia levels never exceed 0.25 mg/L or nitrite levels 0.5 mg/L on an ongoing basis; otherwise, perform weekly water changes of 50% in order to remove toxins.

Red spotted tank mates

Red-spotted cichlids are compatible with most types of fish except for those that are small enough to fit in their mouths. The ideal tank mates for red-spotted cichlids include other large South American fish. There are very few true freshwater fishes from South America, so don’t be surprised if your local pet store does not have any suitable tank mates. The best alternative would be another African cichlid species, such as tilapia or Oscars.

Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia Frontosa)

Vieja bifasciata breeding

Vieja bifasciata

Vieja bifasciata are mouthbrooders and should be bred in an aquarium containing at least 50 gallons of water. Males will become territorial during breeding and may harm females that venture too close to their nest site. Mate guarding is common, especially with younger males, so try to maintain a ratio of one male for every two or three females if possible.

If you have more than one male in your tank, physical fights may occur as they compete for dominance. This fish has been known to spawn in captivity but it can be tricky. They often prefer spawning on flat rocks or flowerpots rather than on vegetation as many other cichlids do, and they tend not to guard their eggs once laid.

The eggs hatch after about 24 hours and will remain free-swimming for about four days before becoming available to feed upon. Care must be taken when feeding fry because older fish often eat them before you even notice them missing!

Are Vieja bifasciata aggressive or peaceful?

Vieja bifasciata are considered to be a moderately aggressive species. In fact, they are not usually recommended for a community tank. That said, they can be kept with other non-aggressive fish such as tetras, danios, and rasboras that enjoy similar water conditions.

These fish are territorial, so they must be kept in an aquarium by themselves or in a very large aquarium (350 gallons or larger) with plenty of hiding places and lots of caves and plants throughout the aquarium.

Vieja bifasciata care

Vieja bifasciata

Red spotted cichlids can be kept in either freshwater or brackish water. They prefer an aquarium with lots of plants and places to hide, plenty of rocks for them to dig into, and slow-moving water. Red spotted cichlids are omnivores, so they should be fed a variety of foods including flake food, meaty foods such as bloodworms and earthworms.

Aulonocara Hansbaenschi (Red Shoulder Peacock)

They love vegetables, like cucumber and zucchini slices; avoid iceberg lettuce as it lacks nutritional value. Live plant matter also provides both fiber and food for your red spotted cichlids; java moss is particularly favored. Temperatures should be maintained between 74-79 degrees Fahrenheit (23-26 degrees Celsius). Water hardness should not exceed 15dH (4 – 6 gh), though slightly lower is fine for short periods of time.

Vieja bifasciata diet

The diet of cichlids varies depending on species and habitat. Often, these fish eat algae, tubificidean worms, zooplankton, insects, and small mollusks. In captivity, they are fed pellets made of mostly krill or bloodworms with some vegetables as well as live earthworms. Plant matter is rarely eaten in a captive environment because it does not contain enough nutrients to sustain them on its own.

Water parameters

Vieja bifasciata

Ideal water condition should have a pH of 8.0, Temperature of 23°C – 26°C (note: fish will tolerate lower temperatures provided they are stable). Water hardness of 3-8 dGH. The tank should be filtered and aerated. Substrate should be fine to medium-grained sand or a mixture of sand and rocks. Plants help make a habitat for fry and shelter for adult fish but are not essential for basic breeding success as long as water conditions are good.

Place a spawning mop or chimney in one corner of the tank to make it easier for eggs and spermatozoan to find each other. Incubation is temperature-dependent; 28–29°C can produce about 200 free-swimming fries after 10 days, however, there may also be an extended incubation period before hatching occurs.

Vieja bifasciata lifespan

Shorter lifespans have been observed, but are rare in captivity. The average lifespan is 5 years with optimal care, with some living up to 8 or 10 years.

Parasites and diseases

Vieja bifasciata is susceptible to parasites, notably flukes and worms. However, they can be easily treated with medications that you can find at your local pet store. They are also susceptible to diseases such as Hole-in-the-Head disease and Malawi bloat, both of which have no known cure but can be limited through quarantine methods.

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Malawi bloat is a very common problem amongst African cichlids; it’s a bacterial infection that causes swelling in their abdomens. There are many possible treatments for these two diseases, although all must be taken on an individual basis, as they’re caused by different bacteria/parasites.


Several species of fish including largemouth bass and tilapia prey on vieja bifasciata. The red spotted cichlid is also a favorite prey of blue crabs and raccoons. Even man can pose a threat to these animals as they are eaten in larger numbers due to overfishing and pollution.

Fish disease and commercial harvesting have caused their populations to decline drastically in some areas, leaving them vulnerable to extinction if more precautions aren’t taken. Some efforts have been made by local groups working towards preservation, though few have seen large amounts of success so far.

Do Vieja bifasciata make good pets?

Yes. Vieja bifasciata are generally moderately aggressive than other species of cichlids, which makes them more suitable for community tanks. However, if housed with smaller fish, they may pick on and even eat their tank mates. Aggression is most likely a territorial characteristic common to many species of cichlids.