Jack Dempsey Cichlid Care And Some Amazing Facts

Jack Dempsey Cichlid

Jack Dempsey cichlids are popular due to their bright colors.

These freshwater fish are highly aggressive, and despite their feisty personality, they remain favorites with many in the aquarium hobby.

These fish are so full of colors that they can dazzle your aquarium.

Jack Dempsey fish are also hardy, but you need to give them proper care and attention so that they reach their full potential.

Let’s learn about the Jack Dempsey fish in more detail now.

Jack Dempsey Cichlids Overview

Jack Dempsey cichlid is a cichlid specie that inhabits the freshwater from Southern Mexico to Honduras.

However, it’s also found in Australia, Thailand, the United States, and other parts.

This fish prefers slow-moving waters and can be found in swampy areas containing warm and murky waters.

You can also find it in canals having soft muddy and sandy bottoms, streams, and rivers.

This fish got its name because of its aggressive nature and fierce appearance.

These characteristics are similar to the American boxer William Jack Dempsey Harrison.


Beautiful Jack Dempsey cichlid

Jack Dempsey fish have large oval body shapes with long fins and a long rounder tail.

Like most cichlid species, the male fish is bigger than the female with longer fins.

These fish come in various colors, including blue, pink, purple, green, and silver.

As the Jack Dempsey fish grow older, their colors change, and the iridescent spangles become more pronounced.

Their young ones are pale gray with green flecks. In contrast, the adult has a purple color with blue, green, and gold flecks.

These fish are big, colorful, and aggressive, making them popular among hobbyists.

Names Of Species

The Jack Dempsey fish is a single cichlid species.

Some breeders have developed different varieties of Jack Dempsey fish that don’t have the usual coloration of the regular fish.

Below is the list of the Jack Dempsey fish bred in captivity:

  • Electric Blue, and
  • Gold.


Jack Dempsey fish have an average lifespan between 8 to 10 years.

However, these fish can live even longer, between 12 to 15 years, if they’re provided with the right environment.

Water quality can significantly influence the lifespan of Jack Dempsey fish.

So maintaining ideal water parameters and proper tank maintenance can prevent disease-causing organisms from breeding inside the aquarium.

It’s important not to overfeed them because it will cause obesity, and leftover food can also contaminate your tank and cause fish illness.

Average Size

Jack Dempsey fish can grow up to 15 inches in length. Males grow bigger compared to females.

In captivity, the average size of the male fish is around 10 inches, and females are 8 inches in length when fully grown.

The Blue Jack Dempsey fish can grow up to 8 inches in length.

This fish doesn’t reach its full-size potential when kept in smaller aquariums.

The size of the tank is a crucial factor when it comes to fish growth.

It’s recommended to have large aquariums to help these fish grow to their full potential.

Jack Dempsey Cichlids’ Tank Setup

Jack Dempsey cichlid in a tank

Jack Dempsey fish live in slow-moving waters, including freshwater lakes, streams, canals, and wetlands.

So you should create an environment in captivity that replicates their natural habitat to make them comfortable.

Let’s understand how to set up the Jack Dempsey fish tank in detail.

Tank Size

Jack Dempsey fish need a lot of space inside the aquarium.

The minimum tank size for a single fish is 80 gallons. Every additional fish will need at least 50 gallons of extra water.

Like some cichlids, Jack Dempsey cichlids also need a lot of space to grow. Keeping them in a smaller tank can stunt their growth.

These fish also need aquatic plants and hiding places such as caves and hollow decorations.

You need to consider all these things while deciding on the aquarium size for these fish.

Tank Equipment And Decorations

The natural habitat of Jack Dempsey fish contains slow-moving water with a soft, sandy bottom.

So create an environment that mimics their natural environment.

Select a sandy, muddy substrate which closely resembles the substrate in their natural habitat.

Vegetation is also vital in a Jack Dempsey fish tank.

You can use both floating and deep-rooted plants like Anubias and Java Fern as their rhizoids can firmly attach to the surface and will not come off easily.

You can place caves and castles as excellent hiding spots for the fish.

Hollow decorations will also make the fish feel comfortable and secure inside the aquarium.

Jack Dempsey cichlids like to stay alone and hidden. High-intensity lights can stress these fish and make them restless.

The most appropriate lighting would be dim yellow lights that match the murky waters of their natural habitat.

Given below are the items required in the Jack Dempsey fish tank:

  • Substrate,
  • Filter,
  • Heater,
  • Dim Lights,
  • Aquatic Plants like Java Fern, Anubias, etc.
  • Water Conditioner,
  • Thermometer,
  • PH Testing Kit, and
  • Decorations like artificial rocks, caves, driftwood, etc.

Finally, regular tank maintenance is essential to ensure conditions remain stable in the aquarium for the fish to thrive.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid Care

Healthy Jack Dempsey cichlid

Jack Dempsey cichlids aren’t easy-to-manage fish because of their highly aggressive behavior.

However, it’s easier for experienced fishkeepers to manage these fish than beginner aquarists.


Jack Dempsey fish are carnivores with a strong appetite for live food like insects, crustaceans, worms, and small fish in the wild.

Therefore, it’s essential to feed these fish a protein-rich diet.

Feed them a small amount or a pinch of food twice per day. Ensure there is enough food for the fish to eat within two minutes.

You should feed up younger fish three times per day to support their growth.

Remove leftover food from the tank to prevent overfeeding and decomposition of the food.

Some of the live food that you must feed Jack Dempsey cichlids are:

  • Brineshrimp,
  • Bloodworms,
  • Cricket,
  • Fruit flies,
  • Fly Larvae,
  • Grasshoppers, and
  • Small fish.

Jack Dempsey cichlids will devour any fish or invertebrates that can fit in their mouth.

However, a well-balanced diet will ensure faster growth and overall well-being.

Water Parameters

Jack Dempsey fish are freshwater fish. They’re hardy and can survive some amount of variation in water conditions.

These fish like warmer temperatures as they belong to warm tropical waters.

They stay close to the heater if the water temperature drops. So it’s best to replicate the conditions of their natural habitat.

The ideal water parameters for Jack Dempsey fish are:

Water Temperature72°F to 86°F (22°C to 30°C)
Water pH7.0 to 8.5
Water Hardness (dGH)9 to 20

Tank Maintenance

Jack Dempsey cichlids can be easy to keep, provided they’re kept in clean tank water.

Regardless of the size, Jack Dempsey aquariums will need regular maintenance.

It’s essential to remove the excess nitrates and phosphates from the water to maintain pristine water quality because these fish are sensitive to pollutants and pH instability.

At least 20 percent of the tank water must be replaced every two weeks, especially if the tank has lots of fish.

Always use a gravel cleaner when doing the water change.

Most of the problems with tropical aquariums usually come down to decaying organic matter.

Therefore, it’s essential to eliminate unwanted leftover and decaying matter to avoid toxic buildup.

Common Diseases

Jack Dempsey fish are known to be hardy fish. However, these fish are susceptible to diseases if kept in poor tank conditions.

Given below are some of the common diseases that can affect Jack Dempsey cichlids:

  • Ich,
  • Hole in the head,
  • White Spot,
  • Skin Flukes,
  • Protozoa,
  • Worms,
  • Fungal infections, and
  • Bacterial infections.

Like other fish species, these fish thrive when you provide them with appropriate water parameters and good care.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid Behavior And Temperament

Jack Dempsey cichlids are also known as the “beautiful beast” for their iridescent colors and violent nature.

They’re named after the famous boxer “Jack Dempsey” and his temperament.

Jack Dempsey fish are aggressive and can’t be kept in a community tank.

These fish are territorial and display aggression if any fish intrude in their territory.

Adult Jack Dempsey cichlids don’t like to share space with other fish.

They’re at the middle or back of the tank defending their territory. However, younger ones are known to share space with their species.

If you keep Jack Dempsey fish in a large aquarium with many other fish species, they can survive quite well.

They won’t get territorial because they will lack a sense of personal space.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid Tankmates

Jack Dempsey cichlids with tankmates

Jack Dempsey fish are territorial and aggressive. They’re unwilling to share space with other fish.

So you need to keep tankmates that can withstand their aggression.

These fish occupy the middle of the tank.

So it’s safe to add tankmates that swim at other levels of the tank or have similar personalities and can hold their ground.

Some of the tankmates that you can keep with Jack Dempsey cichlids are:

  • Cichlids (Aggressive and Semi-aggressive ones),
  • Blind Cave Tetras,
  • Common Plecostomus Catfish,
  • Striped Raphael Catfish,
  • Silver Dollars,
  • Giant Danios,
  • Tinfoil Barbs,
  • Iridescent Sharks, and
  • Rainbowfish.

Avoid placing docile, peaceful, or slow-moving fish as the aggressive Jack Dempsey fish can easily bully them.

You should also avoid keeping fish that are smaller in size as they can quickly become a snack for the aggressive fish.

Below are some fish that you shouldn’t keep with Jack Dempsey cichlids:

  • Tetras (small-sized),
  • Cichlids (docile),
  • Dwarf Gouramis,
  • Shrimp, and
  • Snails.

Jack Dempsey fish aren’t ideal for a community tank.

Aggressive tankmates can cohabitate with Jack Dempsey cichlids but ensure that there is enough space for all the tankmates to avoid aggression and conflicts.

Breeding Jack Dempsey Cichlids

The freshwater Jack Dempsey fish are easy to breed.

However, a special breeding tank is ideal as the male fish can get highly aggressive during the breeding season.

In the wild, these fish mature at 12 months. Captive Jack Dempsey fish are known to reproduce at the age of 6 months.

For breeding these fish, keep both the male and female Jack Dempsey fish together once they mature.

Select the biggest male for successful breeding and keep the pair in a breeding tank or put a divider to separate them from other tankmates.

Increase the water temperature to 84°F and feed them protein-rich food like bloodworms to induce breeding.

The colors of both the fish will darken once they’re ready to breed.

The male will perform the mating dance to woo the female.

The male will lead the female into the chosen territory for the female to lay her eggs.

The pair will then spawn. The female fish will lay up to 500 eggs.

The male fish will guard the eggs for the next few days until they hatch.

Remove the parents once the fry are three days old. Otherwise, the parents will eat their fry.

Feed shrimp and micro worms to the fry until they grow 4 inches in length.

After that, you can start feeding them regular cichlid fish food.

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