Which fish do I have? Red Terror Cichlid (Amphilophus festae) vs Mayan Cichlid (Cichlasoma uropthlamus)

Posted in About Fish

By: ~Rush~

Argueably one of the best looking central american fish available to hobbyists today is the Red Terror, Amphilophus festae. But how do you know if you really have a Red terror when pet stores and even fish farms are selling Cichlasoma uropthalmus as “Red terrors”? It's true folks.

AquaMojo wrote: “One thing of interest is that the fish farmers refer to the Uropthalmus as a Red Terror…which confuses the issue even further. I was collecting with a guy who owned a fish farm in Florida. In conversation this piece of information popped up. Interesting. So the folks who see “Red Terror” at the LFS are in fact getting just that…but it may or may not be the A. Festae…and more than likely the Uropthalmus.”

So how are we supposed to tell the difference? I'll give you a few hints along with a brief description of each fish here.


Amphilophus festae

A. festae is a large cichlid often reaching 14 inches in length. Male species tend to range between 12-14 inches, while females average around 12 inches in length. Males color ranges from a faded, but dark yellow to green to brown with red caudal, anal, and dorsal fins. Males and females have black vertical banding, but often times large males will grow out of the dark stripes. Females tend to be the most sought out. Their primary color being red-orange, orange, or a bold yellow. They typically do not lose the black banding which makes for a beautiful contrast. One way to tell the difference between A. festae and C. uropthalmus is to spot the Y-bar formed between the second and third vertical bars. The barring almost always connects forming a Y shape in A. festae. The other way to differentiate these two fish is the caudal eye-spot. The eye-spot of A. festae is small, and is restricted to the top half of the base of the caudal fin.

Cichlasoma uropthalmus

Often referred to as the Mayan cichlid, C. uropthalmus is also a large growing cichlid. Males often reach 12 inches and larger, and females 10 inches. One of the main reasons these two fish are often confused is due to their similar coloration. C. uropthalmus often is colored red-orange to orange-yellow with the same black vertical barring. Males typically do retain the black vertical though it does fade a bit as they age. Females look very similar to the males. Unlike A. festae, the caudal eye-spot of C. uropthalmus is large, and always encompasses over half the base of the caudal fin. The vertical barring of C. uropthalmus does not connect between the second and third bars, like they do in A. festae.

The following are side by side pictures of A. festae, (left) and C. uropthalmus (right).

The blue circles in Figure A are displaying the Y-bar. Notice that the second and third vertical bars of A. festae connect to form the Y-shape, and that C. uropthalmus lacks this. The green circles in Figure B are displaying the caudal eye-spot in both fish. Notice that the Festae's eye-spot is small and located in the upper half of the base of the caudal fin. Notice that the eye-spot of C. uropthalmus is large and protrudes both sides of the lateral line. Figure C is a picture of a breeding pair of A. festae.

Figure A

A. festae, (left) and C. uropthalmus (right)

Figure B

A. festae, (left) and C. uropthalmus (right)

Figure C

A. festae, (left) and C. uropthalmus (right).

Special thanks to: dsubaru (Figure A2), fishluvr12 (Figure B1 & C), duanes (Figure A1), mariojess (Figure B2) of MFK, and AquaMojo (Mo Devlin)