Theyre not that complicated for living conditions and diet, youll find nothing about them a great deal more challenging than the convicts you already have, and an environment that suits convicts will suit firemouths, but whereas your used to convicts being flat out mean, youll find firemouths arguementative, and occassionally persecutory with pauses.
Feeding is simple, they eat almost any commercial food, and as a bottom feeder they will love anything remotely wormy, but they want to sift sand and gravel so dont expect them to get enough to eat if you have a lot of shoalers overhead who are voracious feeders, they often have behavioural barriers to taking food above the midwater levels, so dont expect them to compete at the surface.
Problem with firemouths is they can be put into community, not universally, but under a few strict provisos.
1) No other small ground level scavengers - because a) , you wont need them, firemouths do a great job, and b) firemouths pick on smaller defenceless fish. You couldnt for example trust them around cories, small loaches and banjos etc. Make other scavengers armoured properly, chunky plecs, midsize doradids etc.
2) They are community only in aquaria where the average fish size is 6 inches or more and the tank large, put one in most people idea of community with small tetras, and you will start losing fish.
3) Their partner selection is picky, in the absence of other firemouths (multiple males are a nono excpet in the very largest of aquaria) even males and females who are not perfectly compatible will swim together, look like an inseperable pair, and still fight, eventually leading to the waning of one of the pair, so take it for granted that finding a perfect mating pair isnt easy, and you might have to try a few times. On temperament young are calm for 6 months plus, but when they become adult even when not nesting youll find them persecutory to small fish, and of course tiny fish will be eaten.
4) Fish they will tolerate have to be quite large, but not only that, they have certain triggers for aggression, and for firemouths (something they share in common with sticklebacks lol) that is they will compulsively attack red on other fish, particularly if it happens to be on the chin or lower underbelly, so that excludes them from being in with natural colour severums or jewel cichlids despite water qualities being comperable, the other trigger is lips. Firemouths will fight with some other species of firemouths and geophagus with chunky lips, and since the firemouth is not the best cichlid fighter in the world their quarreling habits tend to get them butt-whipped by more capable cichlids, so scope for them to live with other cichlids is limited. Personally I find them better with large barbs,(ie properly large 6 inch plus not your average shoal of tiger barbs) big fully adult rainbowfish where the rainbows occupy the top levels in a larger tank, and oddly wenough ive found they get on with thorichthys pasionis and cichlosoma robertsi rather well. Firemouths and silver dollars seem to ignore each other too. Rainbow cichlids seem to stay out of their way, and blue acaras dont set them off, thoughtthe blue acara is the more powerful fish and will devastate a firemouth foolish enough to take it on, much as a convict might, so it would be gambling. Adult SAE's are doable too as long as theres room.
So it could be said that the real trick with firemouths is to avoid fish with red chins and stomachs, and big lips, usually avoid closely related fish with a few exceptions, and generally go for fish that are armoured, dont compete in the same feeding level, and dont overstock the water above them with hyperefficient feeders, and use mostly sinking and wormy foods.
When it comes to choosing your firemouths get them already near 3 inches long if you can, and look for a pair already together showing no lip or midbody scrapes from overt sparring, and youll have found yourself a good breeding pair. Shouldnt be too hard, a good pair will stay very close even in a an overstocked store tank. Its probably better to do that than as most people do which is to buy a batch and watch them pair up and get rid of all but a pair, im kind of a believer in ownership being a one way trip, seems a shame to have to keep moving them on, especially when , once your eye is in you can pick a pair out of a group without too much trouble. Remember to let them choose the partner, Ive gone for what looks like the dominant male and the dominant female in a group before and expected them to pair off ,certainly as a technique it worked with many other cichlids, but it doesnt work with firemouths, you have let them make the choice. Personally I dont think its possible to choose for them, they dont seem to work on logic lol.
And lastly , dont expect a firemouth to be especially intelligent, as a cichlid they are smart, but in cichlid company these guys are the special needs class. They are martyrs to their instincts, they have a knack of getting themselves beaten up and being victims to themselves in terms of not being able to control persecutory behaviour to other fish, and not being especially adaptive about feeding situations, they like food from the bottom and many wont change that expectation.
Hope that gives you the inside track on firemouths, they can be a very good aquarium fish, and will probably breed for you, and they are a fantastic looking fish, they might even help you out with the gravel cleaning a little by turning it over and keeping it fresh, though their commitment to that varies soecimen by specimen, but you have to bear in mind the prerequisites of care I mentioned.
Many books and websites just label then as "community" and as you have probably guessed, that doesnt really cover it. I find them most appropriately placed in a largish community with chunky non-cichlid cruisers capable of looking after themselves and very little competition at substrate and lower midwater level.
In the right place they are pretty easy for a cichlid, interactive, usually healthy, not especially demading of water quality etc, easy to feed. In the wrong aquarium in the wrong company , they are a huge pain in the butt. With firemouths, the right placement in the right community is everything. Get that right, theyre a doddle.
I suppose I should mention, though im sure you know, that your convicts would annihilate them, firemouths are stupid enough to keep trying to take on a convict, and they will get lacerated. Thought id mention it for the newbies more than for you lol.
as i thout ye no chance in me ever puting enything in with the convicts thats just asking for trouble
mm i was thinking of a community with the thought of getting a male for my femail krib but with the pink belly she has i guess the fire mouths are a no no would still like them in the future but i hate to c my krib with no male showing of all her colours but i have to start her in a new set up as the community she is in if i get a male the aggression levels will be way to hi
by the way do your fire mouths breed 9 (wink wink lol)
My firemouths do breed, but actually not at the moment , they are in a bit of a divorce atm, it happens, so theyve been temporarily seperated and will be put back together in a couple of months. From usual form that means I wouldnt have fry till late july, but the blue acaras are always breeding if you ever want one of those.
would they be compatible with the kribs matey and maybe fire mouths later on and is it fine to have just a single blue as i don't think it would be good with their temperament at breading time if they are compatible then ime defanitly up for one as a guaranteed disease free good bloodline fish is a rare thing indeed
Thats a close call you'd find one of my homebred blues more than a physical match for a firemouth or a krib, in a straight fight it would pulp either one of them, but blue acaras do not traditionally set firemouths off, and most kribs would be hesitant to take a shot because of the size factor, and a male krib I owned who had a particularly foul mood used to run 2 inch acaras off. Granted that male krib never met humbug my big male blue, and I assume if he had he would have stayed clear of him because it would have been like a scooter trying to attack a bus and humbug clearly would take a dim view of it.
So I think a single blue might work, but an acara pair might spell death for female kribs at least though the males are often very capable of looking after themselves. Its the SA and CA vs African cichlid thing, they never really get on, but you might find a size difference can cause a ceasefire. An adult male blue acara can defend itself against a firemouth pair with ease. On paper they may be similar sized, by my blue acaras typically double the weight of a firemouth.
I think most of the time youd find it was the firemouths and the kribs squabbling over ground level resources, perhaps with the firemouths eventually depressing the kribs, I think a single blue acara would claim a territory, defend it, and aside from that live a bit midwatery and leave the others to argue amongst themselves, and only pound those stupid enough to take a shot at it. An adult krib would be too big for direct predation from the acara.
Imagine a blue acara to basically be a convict cichlid with a 40% reduction in temper, unless breeding in which case they can be pretty close.
If you wanted some ive got 3 left over from the last batches that went out to shops, 1 male who is in perfect condition and 2 females who have been sparring a bit over the last couple of days and have an eroded upper lip, which would heal in a couple of days, but aside from that , theyre perfect. One of the females has already hatched her first batch fathered by humbug, though I let the fry be eaten because I needed the fry tank to QT a geophagus, so she's tested fertile. If you weanted a singular fish have a male, odd as it may seem they are slightly more lenient than the females, theyre bigger more capable of killing yet are less likely to do so. The females in my stock are fiercely competitive. If you wanted a pair I can test the male in with the females in one of the larger tanks to see if they get on, but acaras arent that fussy about mates, usually any opposite sex pair get together if theres no bigger shinier male around.
So I think firemouths and acaras will work as long as the tank is long enough for a territorial split, ie 4 feet at least, and the kribs could get a beating from either depending how pushy they get.
Quite often you'll find one fish is constantly harrassed or stressed. It can work picking the less aggressive breeds and a large tank as LHG mentions. As long as your prepared to remove fish to stop probs it could be worth a go. But keep a close eye on things to start with.