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Popular Cichlid for Freshwater Aquariums

Beautiful iridescent colors and the ability to live under various water conditions makes the Jack Dempsey popular in the aquarium trade.

The scientific name for this fish is Archocentrus Octofasciatum and it belongs to the Cichlidae family. This fish was named after the famous 1920s boxer, Jack Dempsey, due to its predominant facial features and its habit of never backing down from a fight.

The natural habitat of the Jack Dempsey is in slow-moving murky waters and swamps from Mexico in North America to Honduras in Central America. Australia, Thailand and parts of the U.S. have successfully introduced this fish to their local waters.
Traits of the Jack Dempsey

When young, the color of the Jack Dempsey is tan or light gray with faint flecks of turquoise. As the fish matures, its body color darkens to a shade of purple-gray with iridescent highlights of blue and green. The flecks change to a gold color. The stunning colors of the Jack Dempsey is what makes it popular.

The Jack Dempsey is a hardy fish and can live up to ten years. The adult size of this fish can be as large as 14 inches long.

It is a carnivorous fish and will eat crustaceans and other small fish. This has to be kept in mind when placing the Jack Dempsey into a community tank. Any fish that is smaller than a Jack Dempsey should not be put in the same aquarium because it will be bullied or eaten. Cichlids of the same size or larger can be housed in the same tank.

Unless the Jack Dempsey is being bred, it is advisable to have only one of this fish in the aquarium. In addition, avoid keeping any fish that looks like a Jack Dempsey because it will be mistakenly perceived to be an enemy.

This fish is known to be aggressive so care must be taken when choosing tank mates for the Jack Dempsey.
Freshwater Aquarium Conditions for the Jack Dempsey

The Jack Dempsey can grow longer than one foot in length so a large aquarium of at least 150 gallons is required for an adult. A large tank is also needed if keeping other fish because it allows the establishment of territories.

Because of the aggressive nature of the Jack Dempsey, an aquarium with strong walls is required. This fish is a great jumper so a tight-fitting lid is needed for the tank.

The aquarium should be decorated with lots of rockery and drift wood in order to provide caves and hiding places. Aggressive fish need a place to hide or to breed or to set up their territory. Live plants should not be used because they will be destroyed by the Jack Dempsey. Plastic plants with heavy weights are advisable.

Any type of substrate, such as gravel or sand, can be used but only if it’s at a minimum depth of four inches. By doing this, if any decorations or rocks get knocked down, the deeper substrate will cushion the fall and hopefully prevent the aquarium from smashing.

Although the natural habitat of the Jack Dempsey is murky waters, the aquarium should be well-filtered and have a 25% water change every two weeks. This is to remove waste material which accumulates quickly when keeping larger fish.

* PH reading in the range of 7 to 8
* DH value of 9 to 20
* Water temperature between 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit

The Jack Dempsey will eat anything from flake food to pellets to freeze dried and live foods. It will also eat table scraps of ground chicken liver or fish. It can be given feeder fish but be sure to keep them in a separate tank and quarantined for at least two weeks.
Breeding the Jack Dempsey

These fish are somewhat easy to breed but the biggest problem is finding a mate for the male. Because the Jack Dempsey is aggressive, the male may beat the female. It is advisable to buy a breeding pair of fish directly from a breeder.

The Jack Dempsey is an egg layer and the female can lay up to 300 to 500 eggs, depending on her size. The fry hatch in 72 to 92 hours and are free-swimming within a week. The fry can be fed newly-hatched baby brine shrimp or finely-ground flake food.

The parents take good care of their fry so the babies do not have to be placed in another aquarium. If the parents are distressed due to changes in their environment, they may eat their fry. It is important to not disturb the Jack Dempsey when it is breeding.

The gorgeous colors make the Jack Dempsey very attractive to aquarium owners but its aggressive nature can destroy an aquarium if placed with smaller fish or with fish that bear a strong resemblance. Unless it’s going to be bred, only one Jack Dempsey should be purchased.


The copyright of the article Jack Dempsey Fish Care and Breeding in Freshwater Fish is owned by Douglas DuHamel. Permission to republish Jack Dempsey Fish Care and Breeding in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.


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