- Behavioral studies have often examined parental care by measuring phenotypic plasticity of behavior within a species. Phylogenetic studies have compared parental care among species, but only at broad categories (e.g., care vs. no care). Here we provide a detailed account that integrates phylogenetic analysis with quantitative behavioral data to better understand parental care behavior in the Cuatro Ciénegas cichlid, Herichthys minckleyi. We found that H. minckleyi occurs in a clade of sexually monochromatic or weakly dichromatic monogamous species, but that male and female H. minckleyi have dramatically different reproductive coloration patterns, likely as a result of sexual selection. Furthermore, we found that males are polygynous; large males guard large territories, and smaller males may attempt alternative mating tactics (sneaking). Finally, compared to the closely related monogamous Rio Grande cichlid, H. cyanoguttatus, males of H. minckleyi were present at their nests less often and performed lower rates of aggressive offspring defense, and females compensated for the absence of their mates by performing higher levels of offspring defense. Body color, mating system, and parental care in H. minckleyi appear to have evolved after it colonized Cuatro Ciénegas, and are likely a result of evolution in an isolated, stable environment.