Jack Dempsey cichlid Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Jack Dempsey cichlid (Rocio octofasciata) is a beautiful freshwater fish that’s perfect for beginner aquarists.

This species is relatively easy to care for and is very tolerant of different water conditions. They’re also one of the most popular cichlids around!

If you’re thinking about getting a Jack Dempsey cichlid, this guide will teach you everything you need to know. We’ll cover topics like diet, tank mates, size, and more.

Species overview

The Jack Dempsey cichlid (Rocio octofasciata) is a freshwater fish that is native to Central America. It is named after the famous boxer Jack Dempsey and is also known as the “Dempsey cichlid”.

This cichlid is a popular choice for aquariums because of its beautiful coloration and patterns. The body is a dark greenish-brown with light blue spots and vertical bars. The fins are often brightly colored and can be yellow, orange, or red.

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is a relatively large fish, reaching up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length. It is a aggressive and territorial fish, and is not recommended for beginners. It is best kept with other large cichlids in a suitably sized tank.


Jack Dempsey cichlid

Jack Dempsey cichlids are one of the more popular freshwater aquarium fish for a number of reasons. For one, their coloration is absolutely stunning. The base of their body is dark brown or black.

This fades into a beautiful light blue that covers the majority of their body. The fins on this species are where things really get interesting.

The dorsal fin is large and extends almost the entire length of the fish’s body. It’s rounded at the top and tapers down to a point.

The anal fin is also large and round. It’s a bit shorter than the dorsal fin but still extends a good portion of the way down the body.

The caudal fin is forked and symmetrical. It’s a bit shorter than the other fins but still extends past the halfway point on the body.

The pectoral fins are large and rounded. They’re located on the lower half of the fish’s body and start just behind the gill plate.

The ventral fins are also large and round. They’re located on the underside of the fish just behind the pectoral fins.

One of the most striking things about Jack Dempsey cichlids is their eyes. They have large eyes that are outlined in black. This really makes them stand out and gives them an almost human-like appearance.


The average lifespan of a Jack Dempsey cichlid is around 10 years. However, it’s not uncommon for them to live up to 15 years in captivity.

As with any other fish, there are a number of factors that impact their lifespan. Things like water quality, diet, and stress levels can all play a role in how long they live.

That being said, these fish are generally very hardy and can withstand a wide range of conditions.


Jack Dempsey cichlids can grow to be about 10 inches long, though they are typically closer to 8 inches. Males are usually larger than females, and they can also be distinguished by their more pointed fins.


Tank Size

The recommended tank size for Jack Dempsey cichlids is 30 gallons for a single fish and an additional 20 gallons for each additional fish. If you want to keep a pair of Jack Dempseys, you should have at least a 50 gallon tank.

These fish are relatively aggressive, even for cichlids, and need plenty of space to establish their own territory. If you don’t provide them with enough space they will become territorial and start to fight with each other, which can lead to serious injuries.

Water Parameters

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is a freshwater fish that’s native to Central America. In the wild, they inhabit slow-moving rivers and streams with a sandy bottom.

To recreate this environment in your aquarium, you need to maintain certain water parameters. This will ensure your Jack Dempsey is healthy and happy.

  • Water Temperature: 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 6.5-8.0
  • Water Hardness: 5-19 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 3-10 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

Jack Dempsey cichlids are one of the most popular freshwater fish out there. They’re beautiful, hardy, and relatively easy to care for.

One of the keys to keeping these fish healthy and happy is providing them with the right environment. This includes everything from the right size tank to the right plants.

When it comes to setting up their tank, the first thing you need to consider is the size. Jack Dempseys can get pretty big (up to 10 inches in some cases) so you need to make sure you have a tank that can accommodate them.

A 55-gallon tank is the bare minimum we’d recommend, but something even bigger would be better.

The next thing you need to think about is the substrate. Jack Dempseys are bottom-dwellers so they spend a lot of time in contact with it. You’ll want to use something that’s soft and won’t damage their delicate skin.

We recommend using a sand substrate since it’s the perfect combination of soft and durable.

As for plants, you have a few options. Jack Dempseys are known to be pretty hard on plants so you’ll need to choose something that can withstand a little abuse. Hornwort, Java Moss, and Water Wisteria are all good choices.

Common Diseases

There are a few potential diseases that your Jack Dempsey cichlid could experience. The most common one is ich, which is a parasitic infection that leads to the formation of white spots on the body of the fish.

This disease is relatively easy to treat if caught early, but it can quickly become fatal if left untreated.

Other potential diseases include hole-in-the-head disease, fungal infections, and bacterial infections.

As with any other fish, the best way to keep your Jack Dempsey healthy is to maintain a clean and stable tank. This will help to prevent the spread of disease and will also make your fish less stressed (which can also lead to illness).

If you do notice any signs of disease in your fish, it’s important to consult a vet or experienced fish keeper as soon as possible. The sooner you start treatment, the higher the chance is that your fish will make a full recovery.

Behavior & Temperament

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is a beautiful fish that is known for its aggressive behavior. In the wild, these fish are known to be territorial and will attack anything that comes too close to their area.

While they can be aggressive, they are also known to be very loving and caring fish. If you have a Jack Dempsey cichlid, you will need to provide it with a lot of attention. These fish are known to bond with their owners and will often follow them around the tank.

When it comes to other fish, the Jack Dempsey cichlid can be very aggressive. It is important to make sure that you do not put any fish in the tank that are the same size or smaller than the Jack Dempsey. These fish will often attack and kill smaller fish.

It is also important to note that the Jack Dempsey cichlid is a very active fish. It will often swim around the tank and is known to be a good jumper. If you have a Jack Dempsey cichlid, you will need to make sure that your tank is covered so that the fish does not jump out.

Tank Mates

The Jack Dempsey cichlid is a large and aggressive freshwater fish. It’s not the best choice for a community tank since it will harass other fish and even attempt to eat them.

This species does best when it’s the only cichlid in the tank. If you want to keep multiple Jack Dempseys, it’s best to have one male and two females. This will help cut down on aggression.

If you must keep Jack Dempseys with other fish, choose tank mates that are too large to be eaten and can hold their own in a fight. Good options include:


Jack Dempseys are very easy to breed in captivity. The biggest challenge is probably finding a male and female since they look so similar!

The easiest way to tell the difference is by looking at their fins. Males have much longer fins than females. Once you’ve found a pair, you can move them into a breeding tank.

The breeding tank should be at least 30 gallons and have plenty of hiding places. Driftwood, rocks, and caves should be added for the parents and fry to hide in.

The water temperature should be around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be between 6.5 and 7.5.

Once the breeding tank is set up, the pair will do the rest! The female will lay the eggs in a hidden area and the male will fertilize them.

Both parents will then guard the eggs until they hatch. After that, they’ll continue to protect the fry for a few weeks.

You can begin feeding the fry brine shrimp or other small live foods once they’re free-swimming. As they grow, you can start giving them pellets or flakes.


The Jack Dempsey cichlid is a beautiful fish that is a great addition to any tank. They are easy to care for and get along well with other fish.

The only downside to this fish is that they can be aggressive, so be sure to research this before you add one to your tank.

Other than that, we think they’re a great fish and we highly recommend them!