Jack Dempsey Fish Care Guide – Diet, Breeding & More

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The Jack Dempsey is a type of cichlid, and one of the most popular tropical fishes kept as pets. 

These fish can be tricky to keep, so you need all of the information you can get. It is crucial that you educate yourself before getting one of these cichlids so you will be prepared.

Jack Dempsey Fish Appearance

This particular variety of cichlid gets its name from its distinguished face, which some have compared to famed boxer Jack Dempsey. They have a number of other defining physical characteristics, including an oval-shaped body and long fins. These fish are very striking with a multitude of colors that include blue, black, yellow, and orange.

Not all of these cichlids have the same combination of colors, so they are all at least a little unique. The older they get, the more prominent their blues and purples become. These fish can partially change color when they are stressed or during the mating process.

The males have especially long dorsal and anal fins with a distinctive point, while the females have shorter fins that aren’t quite as remarkable. These fish can grow up to 15 inches, but females tend to be a little shorter than males.


The aggressive tendencies of tetra fish are one of the reasons that they can be so tricky to keep. The more fish mates they have, the more docile they are. This is because they have trouble targeting one fish in particular.

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You can expect your Jack Dempsey to spend a good amount of time hiding away in plants, caves, or whatever other shelter is available to them. If you are looking for an active fish that you can have fun watching, this one is not a particularly good choice. They tend to spend most of their time at the bottom or middle of the tank.

Natural Habitat

These fish are naturally found in slow-moving freshwater bodies, such as lakes, canals, swamps, and murky rivers. They are common in tropical regions and prefer water that is semi-acidic with low lighting.

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Jack Dempsey Fish Care Guide

1. Tank Setup

If you are going to keep one of these tetras, you will need at least an 80 gallon tank. While these fish are not big swimmers, they are fairly large and need plenty of space.

It is a good idea to put some plants in your fish’s tank, as it gives them a convenient place to hide. This will prevent them from getting too stressed, which is not good for their overall health. You might also want to put in a cave or two for an additional place for them to take shelter.

Use a soft material like sand for the substrate. You don’t want to choose a material that is even slightly abrasive, as these fish spend a lot of time at or near the bottom of tank.

2. Water Conditions

You should keep the temperature of the water inside of the tank between 72 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. A water hardness of 9 to 20 dGH and pH of 6 to 7 is ideal.

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It is not necessary to use a water or air pump with this type of tank setup, as these fish are accustomed to slow moving water. The filter that you use shouldn’t be particularly powerful, but just enough to keep the tank clean.

3. Jack Dempsey Fish Tank Mates

You should choose fish that are around the same size of your Jack Dempsey as tank mates. They will pick on fish that are significantly smaller than them. You also need to focus on choosing fish that are known for being aggressive so they don’t get bullied. oscar fish, Silver Dollars, Clown loaches, and Convinct Cichlids are all great tank mate options to consider.

4. Jack Dempsey Fish Food

One of the great things about these cichlids is that they won’t refuse to eat much of anything. You can give them flakes or pellets on a daily basis. It’s also important that you add the occasional frozen or live food for a well-rounded overall diet.

Bloodworms, brine shrimp, and small insects are all good for these fish. They love insects like crickets and grasshoppers, and they provide them with lots of protein. You will have a hard time getting your fish to eat any fruits or vegetables, but they aren’t needed to keep them healthy.

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Common Health Problems

Jack Dempsey fish can easily develop skin flukes, worms, and other parasitic type infections. They are also vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections, especially if they tank is not kept clean. It is therefore important that you invest in a solid filter and change out their water when necessary.

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Jack Dempsey Fish Breeding

You can always tell when these cichlids are primed for mating, as they will start changing colors. These fish appear darker when they are ready to mate. If you want to breed these fish, you’ll need to keep the water at a temperate of 84 degrees Fahrenheit. This will help with encouraging breeding. Make sure that you keep the tank very clean with minimal stress.


  • Jack Dempsey cichlids get their name from their distinguished facial features.
  • These fish can grow up to 15 inches long, though males tend to be slightly longer than females.
  • You might notice your fish change color if they suddenly become stressed or agitated for some reason.
  • The aggressive overall nature of these fish is one of the main things that make them difficult for many people to keep successfully.
  • It will be necessary for you to get a tank that is at least 80 gallons.
  • Make sure that you put lots of plants and caves in your fish tank, as they will become very stressed if they have nowhere to hide.
  • These fish tend to spend most of their time hiding away or at the bottom part of the tank.
  • If you are going to keep this fish with others, choose ones that are of equal size and not too timid.
  • You can feed your Jack Dempsey a combination of fish flakes or pellets and live food like shrimp or Bloodworms.
  • If you don’t make a point of keeping the fish’s tank clean, it can contract all sorts of potentially deadly infections.