Red-spotted Severum 101: The Ultimate Care Guide

As its name suggests, Red-spotted Severum has a distinct red spot on each side of its body, which contrasts beautifully with its greenish-brown body coloration. 

With its striking appearance, peaceful temperament, and ease of care, this fish is a great choice for beginner and experienced fish keepers alike. 

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know to provide the best care for your Red-spotted Severum, including their habitat, diet, breeding, and common health issues.

Red-spotted Severum Summary

Common NamesRed-spotted Cichlid, Biotodoma cupido
Scientific NameCichlasoma biotodoma
SpeciesC. biotodoma
ColorGreen, blue, and golden hues, with bright red spots
SizeMales up to 8 inches (20 cm), females around 6-7 inches (15-18 cm)
Lifespan8 to 10 years, potentially up to 12 years under optimal conditions
pH Level6.0 to 7.0
Water Temperature75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C)
Water HardnessSoft, 2 to 12 dGH
Water TypeFreshwater
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons for a single pair, larger for a group or community tank
Community TankYes, with caution; compatible with other peaceful, similarly-sized fish
Care LevelModerate
CompatibilityGenerally compatible with other peaceful fish species that share similar water parameters, such as tetras, catfish, and other South American cichlids. Avoid housing them with aggressive or territorial species.

Red-spotted Severum History

The Red-spotted Severum, scientifically known as Cichlasoma biotodoma, has its origins in South America, particularly in the Amazon Basin. 

The first recorded description of the Red-spotted Cichlid dates back to 1862 when French zoologist Albert Günther provided a scientific account of the species. 

As the aquarium hobby grew in popularity during the 20th century, this fish was among the species that caught the attention of aquarists due to its attractive appearance and easy care requirements.

Over time, as more hobbyists began to breed them in captivity, various color morphs and strains emerged. 

Selective breeding has also played a significant role in their development, with breeders focusing on enhancing specific traits, such as the intensity of the red spots, as well as the overall coloration and pattern of the fish.

As a result, today’s Red-spotted Cichlids available in the aquarium trade may display a more vibrant and diverse range of colors compared to their wild counterparts. 

Despite these aesthetic differences, the basic care requirements and behaviors of captive-bred species remain largely consistent with those of their wild ancestors.

Red-spotted Severum Origin & Habitat

As I said above, the Red-spotted Severum has its origins in the diverse and rich waters of South America. 

You can find this fascinating species primarily in the Amazon Basin, a vast region that covers parts of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. 

In their natural habitat, they inhabit slow-moving rivers, tributaries, and floodplain lakes. 

They prefer environments with an abundance of submerged vegetation, rocks, and driftwood, which provide them with ample hiding spots, as well as ideal breeding grounds. 

These aquatic settings offer a diverse range of food sources for the Red-spotted Cichlid, including small fish, insects, and various types of crustaceans.

The water conditions in their native habitat are typically soft and acidic, with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0 and a temperature between 75°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C)

What Are the Features of Red-spotted Severum?

1. Appearance

Red-spotted Severums have a somewhat elongated, oval-shaped body with a rounded head. 

Their body is laterally compressed, which is a common trait among cichlid species. 

This feature allows them to navigate easily through dense vegetation and rocks in their natural habitat.

These fish also have a pronounced dorsal fin that runs along the length of their back, ending in a rounded shape near the caudal fin. 

The anal and pelvic fins are well-developed, aiding in stability and maneuverability. The caudal fin is usually fan-shaped, providing the fish with efficient propulsion.

Their body displays a mix of green, blue, and golden hues that blend beautifully to create a shimmering effect. 

But the most eye-catching feature of this fish is, of course, the series of bright red spots that adorn its flanks. 

These spots are generally more pronounced and vivid in males, while females typically exhibit more subdued coloration.

Actually, you can distinguish males and females by their coloration and size. 

As previously mentioned, males tend to have more vibrant red spots and are generally larger than females. 

In addition, male Red-spotted Cichlids may also develop a slight nuchal hump on their forehead as they mature.

2. Body Size

Red-spotted Severums are medium-sized fish, with adult males reaching up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length. 

However, females tend to be slightly smaller than males, growing to around 6-7 inches (15-18 cm) in length.

Red-spotted Severum Lifespan

On average, Red-spotted Severums can live for 8 to 10 years, with some individuals potentially reaching up to 12 years of age under optimal conditions.

Red-spotted Severum Life Cycle

1. Egg Stage

The Red-spotted Severum life cycle begins when a female lays her eggs. 

It will usually deposit them on a flat surface, such as a rock or a piece of driftwood, within the aquarium. 

The female can lay anywhere from 100 to 500 eggs at a time, depending on her size and age. 

Both parents guard the eggs, with the male being particularly aggressive in defending the nest.

After the female has laid her eggs, the male will fertilize them externally by releasing his sperm over the eggs. 

2. Larvae Stage

The eggs typically hatch within 3 to 5 days, depending on the temperature and water conditions. 

Once the eggs have hatched, the resulting larvae, called wrigglers, are still relatively immobile and remain attached to the hatching site.

3. Free-swimming Fry Stage

After about 5 to 7 days, the wrigglers will become free-swimming fry. 

At this stage, they begin to feed on their own, consuming microscopic organisms and prepared fry foods. 

The parents will continue to protect and care for their offspring during this period.

4. Juvenile Stage

As the fry grow and develop, they will eventually enter the juvenile stage. 

At this point, they begin to resemble miniature versions of adult Red-spotted Cichlids, complete with their characteristic coloration and patterns. 

You can feed juveniles finely crushed flake food, along with small live or frozen foods.

5. Sexual Maturity

Red-spotted Severums reach sexual maturity at around 1 to 1.5 years of age. 

As they mature, the differences between males and females become more apparent, with males developing more vivid coloration and a slight nuchal hump on their forehead.

6. Adulthood and Reproduction

Once they have reached sexual maturity, Red-spotted Severums will begin to pair off and breed, thus completing their life cycle. 

Adult Red-spotted Cichlids can continue to breed multiple times throughout their lives, which can span anywhere from 8 to 12 years under optimal conditions.

Is Red-spotted Severum Hardy?

The Red-spotted Cichlid is a relatively hardy fish, as it can adapt well to a variety of aquarium conditions when you provide them with the proper care. 

However, like any fish species, it does have specific requirements that need to be met to ensure its health and well-being.

How to Care for Red-spotted Severum?

a.Water Requirements

1. Water Quality

Maintaining good water quality is essential for the health and well-being of Red Spotted Severums, as well as all other aquarium inhabitants. 

To do that, you should establish a stable nitrogen cycle in your aquarium to keep ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in check. 

You should also make sure that ammonia and nitrite are undetectable, while nitrate levels should be kept as low as possible, preferably below 20 ppm.

A good filtration system is crucial for maintaining water quality, but ensure that your filter is adequate for your tank size and is well-maintained. 

Ensure to clean or replace filter media as necessary, but avoid cleaning all the media at once to prevent disruption of beneficial bacteria.

When it comes to water changes, you should perform a 25-30% water change every 1-2 weeks to remove waste, replenish trace elements, and maintain stable water chemistry. 

When doing water changes, ensure that the new water is dechlorinated and matches the temperature and pH of the existing water in the tank.

2. Water Temperature

The ideal water temperature for Red Spotted Severums is between 75°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C)

Maintaining a stable water temperature within this range is crucial for their overall health, as it affects their metabolism, immune system, and ability to breed.

To maintain the appropriate water temperature, you can invest in a reliable aquarium heater and a thermometer. 

The heater should be able to maintain the temperature consistently, while the thermometer allows you to monitor the temperature and make adjustments as needed. 

Place the heater and thermometer at opposite ends of the tank to ensure even heat distribution and accurate temperature readings.

3. pH Level

The pH level is a measure of how acidic or alkaline the water in your aquarium is. 

For Red Spotted Severums, the ideal pH range is between 6.0 and 7.0, which is slightly acidic to neutral.

It’s crucial to keep the pH stable within this range to ensure a healthy environment for your fish.

To monitor the pH level in your aquarium, invest in a reliable test kit or pH meter. Test the water regularly, at least once a week, to ensure the pH level remains within the appropriate range. 

And if you notice any fluctuations or deviations from the ideal pH range, take corrective action immediately.

There are several ways to adjust the pH level in your aquarium:

  • Water Changes: Performing regular water changes can help maintain a stable pH level. Ensure that the new water you add to the tank matches the desired pH level
  • Natural Methods: Adding driftwood or peat moss can help lower the pH, while crushed coral or limestone can help raise it. Keep in mind that these methods may take time to show significant changes in the pH level
  • Commercial pH Adjusters: In case of significant pH imbalances, you can use commercial pH adjusters specifically designed for aquarium use. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid sudden fluctuations in pH

4. Water Hardness

Water hardness refers to the amount of dissolved minerals, primarily calcium and magnesium, in the water. 

For Red Spotted Severums, the ideal water hardness range is between 4-8 dGH (degrees of general hardness). 

This range is slightly hard to moderately hard water. Hardness levels that are too high or too low can cause stress, and poor health, and affect their ability to breed.

To monitor the water hardness level in your aquarium, you can use a reliable test kit. 

If the hardness level is too low, you can increase it by adding calcium or magnesium supplements or by adding crushed coral or limestone to the substrate. 

Conversely, if the hardness level is too high, you can decrease it by diluting the water with distilled or RO (reverse osmosis) water.

b.Tank Requirements

1. Tank Size

These fish can grow up to 8-10 inches (20-25 cm) in length, so it’s essential to provide them with adequate swimming space and room to grow.

The minimum tank size for Red Spotted Severums is 55 gallons (208 liters) for a pair, with an additional 20-30 gallons (75-114 liters) for each additional fish. 

But keep in mind that larger tanks are always better, as they provide more swimming space and a more stable environment. 

A larger tank also helps dilute waste, reducing the need for frequent water changes.

2. Decorations 

Decorations play an important role in creating a comfortable and healthy environment for Red Spotted Severums. They provide hiding spaces, and territory markers, and can also serve as natural filtration systems.

These fish prefer an aquarium that resembles their natural habitat, which includes plenty of rocks, driftwood, and live plants. 

You can also provide them with a mix of open swimming spaces and hiding spots to reduce stress and establish territories.

Live plants are an excellent addition to any aquarium. 

They provide oxygen, absorb nitrates, and offer a natural food source for your fish. 

In fact, red Spotted Severums enjoy nibbling on softer-leaved plants like Anubias, Java Fern, or Amazon Sword.

Driftwood and rocks can also provide natural hiding spots and territory markers. 

But ensure that any rocks or driftwood you add to the aquarium are aquarium-safe and do not release any harmful chemicals into the water.

You should also avoid adding sharp or pointed decorations that can injure your fish, and ensure that any decorations are securely anchored to prevent them from shifting and harming your fish.

3. Lighting

Proper lighting is essential for the health and well-being of Red Spotted Severums, as it impacts their behavior, growth, and overall health. 

A well-lit aquarium can also enhance the natural colors and beauty of your fish and plants.

When it comes to lighting, you should strike a balance between providing enough light and avoiding excessive light that can lead to algae growth and stress your fish. 

Red Spotted Severums prefer moderate to low lighting levels, as they come from dimly lit waters in the wild.

So, you can provide them with 8-10 hours of light per day, with a mix of natural and artificial light sources. 

You can provide natural light by placing the tank near a window, while you can provide artificial light by using a good quality aquarium light. 

I actually prefer LED lights, as they provide bright, energy-efficient lighting with a wide range of color temperatures.

But ensure to avoid leaving the lights on for too long or providing too much light, as this can lead to stress and algae growth. 

A timer can help regulate the lighting and provide a consistent light-dark cycle for your fish.

Red-spotted Severum Compatibility

These fish are generally peaceful towards other species, but it’s essential to consider their size, temperament, and water parameter requirements when selecting tank mates.

Here’re the good and bad tank mates for your cichlids:

Good Tank MatesCompatibility ReasonBad Tank MatesIncompatibility Reason
Neon TetraPeaceful, similar water requirementsOscarAggressive, large, and territorial
Rummy Nose TetraPeaceful, similar water requirementsJack DempseyAggressive and territorial
Corydoras CatfishPeaceful bottom-dwellers, with similar water needsConvict CichlidAggressive, territorial, and different water needs
Bristlenose PlecoPeaceful, compatible water requirementsAfrican CichlidsDifferent water parameters and aggressive
AngelfishPeaceful, South American cichlid, same water needsRed Tail SharkAggressive and territorial
Bolivian RamPeaceful dwarf cichlid, compatible water requirementsTiger BarbFin-nipping, schooling fish with different water requirements

Red-spotted Severum Feeding & Diet

In the wild, Red-spotted Cichlids are primarily omnivorous, feeding on a diverse diet that includes small invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and plant matter. 

In captivity, you need to replicate their natural diet as closely as possible to ensure their health and well-being.

Some foods that you can give them include:

  • Nutrient-rich pellets or flakes 
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Blanched spinach, peas, or zucchini 

Here’s an example of the feeding schedule that I already use for my Red-spotted Cichlids throughout the week:

DayMorning MealEvening Meal
MondayCichlid pellets or flakesLive or frozen brine shrimp
TuesdayCichlid pellets or flakesBlanched spinach or peas
WednesdayLive or frozen daphniaCichlid pellets or flakes
ThursdayCichlid pellets or flakesLive or frozen bloodworms
FridayBlanched zucchiniCichlid pellets or flakes
SaturdayCichlid pellets or flakesLive or frozen mysis shrimp
SundayLive or frozen tubifex wormsCichlid pellets or flakes

Red-spotted Severum Breeding

Breeding Red-spotted Severums can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for aquarists, especially since these fish exhibit fascinating parental behaviors. 

However, to encourage successful breeding, it’s crucial to provide the right environment and conditions.

Sexual dimorphism in these Cichlids is not very pronounced. 

Males tend to be slightly larger and may have more elongated finnage. 

Observing their behavior during courtship may also help differentiate between males and females, as males are often more assertive and chase females during mating.

To encourage breeding, you should provide a suitable environment that replicates their natural habitat. 

First, set up a separate breeding tank of at least 30 gallons with soft, slightly acidic water (pH 6.0-7.0)

Then, maintain a stable water temperature between 75°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C)

You should also decorate the breeding tank with plenty of hiding spots using rocks, caves, and dense vegetation to make the fish feel secure. 

Once the pair has formed, the courtship will begin with the male displaying to the female and chasing her around the tank. 

The female will eventually choose a suitable flat surface to lay its eggs, usually numbering between 100 and 300

After they lay the eggs, the male will fertilize them. 

Both parents will guard the eggs and tend to the fry after they hatch, which typically occurs within 3 to 5 days.

You should feed the fry with a diet of finely crushed flake food or specially formulated fry food, as well as live foods like baby brine shrimp. 

As the fry grow, gradually increase the size of their food.

Red-spotted Severum Common Diseases

Red-spotted Severums, like all fish, can be susceptible to various diseases.

So, it’s crucial to maintain proper water quality and a stress-free environment to minimize the risk of disease. 

Here are some common diseases that can affect Red-spotted Severums:

Ich (White Spot Disease)Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (parasite)White spots on body, gills, finsRaise the temperature, add aquarium salt, or use commercial ich treatmentQuarantine new fish, maintain water quality
Fin RotBacterial or fungal infectionFins appear frayed or rottingAntibacterial or antifungal medicationsMaintain water quality, reduce stress
VelvetPiscinoodinium or Oodinium (parasite)Gold or rust-colored dust on the body, rubbing against objects, rapid breathingCopper-based medication, dim lightingQuarantine new fish, maintain water quality
DropsyBacterial infectionSwollen body raised scalesAntibiotics, Epsom salt bathsMaintain water quality, quarantine new fish
Swim Bladder DiseaseVarious causes (infection, injury, poor diet)Difficulty swimming, floating, or sinking abnormallyFasting, feeding peas, adjusting dietProvide a varied diet, maintain water quality


How Big Do Red Spotted Severums Get?

Red Spotted Severums can reach a size of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in length when fully grown.

Are Red Spotted Severums Aggressive?

Red Spotted Severums are semi-aggressive. 

While they are not as aggressive as some other cichlid species, they may display territorial behavior and may be aggressive towards smaller or more timid tank mates.

How Long Do Red Spotted Severums Live?

Red Spotted Severums can live for up to 10 years as long as you provide them with proper care and a well-maintained environment,

What Do Red Spotted Severums Eat?

Red Spotted Severums are omnivorous and require a varied diet. 

In captivity, they should be fed a mix of high-quality cichlid pellets or flakes, live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia, as well as vegetables like blanched spinach, peas, or zucchini.


As promised, we’ve covered all the essential aspects of caring for Red-spotted Severums in this ultimate care guide. 

From their ideal habitat and water quality requirements to their feeding habits, breeding behavior, and common health issues, we’ve provided comprehensive information to help you provide the best care for your fish.

Just remember to provide adequate swimming space, hiding spots, and a balanced diet, as well as regular monitoring and maintenance to prevent potential health issues.

Do you still have questions? If so, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them.

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