Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus) Species Profile

If you’re looking for a beautiful and large Severum Cichlid, the Red Tiger Severum is a great choice. These fish are absolutely unique, active, and gorgeous. In addition to their good looks, Red Tiger Severums are also known for their interesting personalities.

Unfortunately, this fish is the most aggressive species in the Genus Heros, and they have a tendency toward similar-sized fish and eat small fish.

To help them thrive in your aquarium, their large full grown size and natural aggression are something you’ll need to consider. These fish require special care to thrive.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Red Tiger Severum care, including diet, tank setup, tank mates, and more.

Species Summary

Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus)

The Red Tiger Severum, also known as Tiger Severum, Curare Severum, Cichlasoma severum, Heros Severus ‘curare’, Heros Severus “Rio Curare,” is now officially described as true Heros Severus. The scientific name ‘curare’ or “Rio Curare” was derived from the location where they are found.

The Red Tiger Severum is a tropical freshwater fish that originates from the upper Rio Negro basins in South America. This species has historically been confused with its relatives, the most notable being the Heros liberifer.

Both of these two species are uncommon in the aquarium trade. Instead, they are commonly traded as Heros efasciatus and Heros sp. Rotkeil. The former is the most sought after and readily available species in the hobby, while the latter is tank-bred color morphs and has not been scientifically described.

Scientific Name:Heros Severus
Common Name:Red Tiger Severum
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:10 years
Max Size:11 inches (28 cm)
Temperature:75°F to 82°F
PH:5.0 to 6.5
Water hardness:0 to 6 dH
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons


The average Red Tiger Cichlid lives for around 10 years.

It can be a bit tricky to determine the age of fish. In the wild, their lifespan may be shorter due to predation and environmental factors.

In captivity, Red Tiger Severums can live longer if they are provided with the proper care. There are several factors that contribute to their longevity. To help them reach their full potential, you’ll need to provide them with a large tank, high-quality water, and a nutritious diet.


Red Tiger Severum (Heros severus)
Photo: jwtanks

Red Tiger Severums are a relatively new addition to the aquarium hobby, having only become popular in recent years. Don’t confuse them with their relatives, Heros efasciatus and Heros liberifer. The Red Tiger Severum is distinct in its appearance.

Due to the increased popularity of the H. efasciatus in the trade, fish keepers often call them the banded cichlids. In my humble opinion, most Heros species should share the name besides H. spurius, which doesn’t have the prominent bands.

Compared with H. liberifer and H. efasciatus, the H. severus typically have a broken 7th band extending from the fish’s middle down into the anal fin.

A slight difference may exist between individuals. 

Male vs female Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus)
Photo: Ryan Smith

Both male and female Heros Severus have facial spots and stripes. Males often develop dark maroon spots and stripes on a blue face, while females are dull in color and sometimes are even barely visible.

As always, the best way to sex them is venting your fish. The male’s genitals show two same-sized holes while the females show two different-sized holes. The bigger one that faces backward is her egg tube, and the smaller hole is her anus.

Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus) Size & Growth Rate

The Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus) reaches a maximum size of about 11 inches (28 cm) when fully grown. 

Red Tiger Severums are not particularly fast-growing fish, and it can take up to 2-3 years for them to reach their full size. 

Like any other fish, the growth rate depends on their purchase size and age, as well as if their growth has been stunted due to poor water conditions and food. 

Red Tiger Severums are wild-caught fish and sold as juveniles without being dewormed. They may not grow faster than other Severums because the parasites and worms will interfere with their growth.

Care & Tank Set Up

In the wild, Red Tiger Severum inhabits acidic waters, which is the only blackwater species of Heros. Therefore, if you want to help boost your Tiger Severums’ growth, make colors pop; it’s best to keep them in a soft, warm, low-pH water environment.

Despite their reputation as being “difficult” to care for, like most South American Cichlids and Central American Cichlids, Red Tiger Severums are highly adaptable, and they are actually easy to look after by providing the best possible living environment.

Red Tiger Severum Tank Size

If you are looking to keep a large and vibrant Red Tiger Severum, then a large tank is absolutely essential. These majestic creatures are among the largest of their species, and they require a massive tank with ample room to swim and explore.

Our recommended minimum tank size for a single adult Red Tiger Severum is 75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″). If you’re planning on owning a pair, you should get a tank that will hold at least 125 gallons.

Water Parameters

Water parameters are critical to Red Tiger Severum’s health. In their natural habitat, Red Tiger Severums inhabit blackwater rivers with very specific water parameters.

In the aquarium, it is important to replicate these water conditions as closely as possible. That means you must stay within the following parameters.

  • Water temperature: 75°F to 82°F
  • pH levels: 5.0 to 6.5
  • Water hardness: 0 to 6 dH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <30ppm

In addition, use a surface skimmer to remove debris and other unwanted materials as well prevent algae growth. 


Wild-caught fish carry some kind of internal or external worms and parasites as they live with them in the wild. Unfortunately, most fish are sold before being de-wormed.

To keep your Red Tigers healthy and thriving, it is a good idea to get a reliable deworming medication for them as soon as you bring them home. The most common treatments used in the aquarium hobby are praziquantel and flubendazole.

The best and safe product we use is Absolute Wormer Plus. Be careful, it will harm scale-less fish in the tank.

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Décor and Plants

These fish do best with a sandy substrate. Rocks and bogwood can create hiding spaces and “barriers,” which is helpful for managing aggression.

The natural bogwood will safely lower the pH levels, shelter other aquatic creatures, and give off the authentic riverbed look.

Live plants are not necessary due to their natural habitat, but if you are looking to create a more natural and scenic look in your Red Tiger Severum’s tank, there is a variety of plants that you can use.

Red Tiger Severum Diet

The Red Tiger Severum is not a fussy eater and will accept the most common aquarium foods. They are particularly fond of live and frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, earthworms, and mosquito larvae. They will also consume pellets, flakes, and granules designed for omnivores.

It is important to offer a variety of foods to ensure they receive the nutrients they need. Feed them 2-3 times per day in small amounts that can be consumed within a few minutes. Remove any uneaten food to prevent water quality issues.

Red Tiger Severum Tank Mates

As we mentioned earlier, Heros Severus is the most aggressive species of Heros. Because of their potential aggressive and natural habitat, you don’t have many options when it comes to choosing Red Tiger Severum tank mates.

The best tank mates for Red Tiger Severums are more Red Tiger Severums. They are moderate schooling fish, and you will see they are happy to be in groups of five or more fish. 

They can also be an addition to a Severums community tank that houses other Heros species, such as Red Shoulder Severum. But, they will be aggressive towards each other and sometimes other species unless you have a very spacious aquaria.

Avoid smaller fish as they will become easy prey, such as guppies and tetras.


Like its cousin, H. liberifer, H. Severus are mouthbrooders. The female will lay up to 200 sticky eggs on a flat stone. Both parents will guard the eggs until they hatch, then mouth brood the larvae for 6 weeks until they’re fairly large.

If you’re a breeder, it’s best to keep them in large groups and let them pair off naturally. When a bonded pair is ready to breed, move them to the breeding tank.

Unfortunately, there is not much information available on Red Tiger Severum breeding in captivity.

Where to Buy Red Tiger Severums

The Red Tiger Severum is rare and not readily available in your local fish stores. The best bet to find one of these exceedingly beautiful fish is to search online through a reliable seller such as Wetspot or Imperial Tropicals.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for a beautiful, large fish that make a great addition to a South American community setup, the Red Tiger Severum (Heros Severus) is an excellent choice. 

These fish can reach a fairly large size and have a better coloration when kept in the softer black water. Be sure to provide them with the proper water conditions, diet, and tank mates to keep them happy and healthy.

Good luck!

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