Animal-World’s Featured Pet for this week is: The Jack Dempsey Fish!
Many people are drawn to keeping cichlids in their aquariums – they are fascinating fish, come in many different colors and sizes, and have a variety of personalities! The Jack Dempsey is one of the most popular of cichlids and is often the cichlid which many novice cichlid keepers begin with. Some of their most appealing attributes are their amazing color patterns. They are covered with sparkling blue, green and gold spots over a purple background color (once full-grown), and the males also have bright red areas along the edges of their anal and dorsal fins. It does take over a year for them to develop their full coloration however, so you will have to patient if you obtain them when they are young. A variation on the typical Jack Dempsey is the Electric Blue Jack Dempsey which has been bred specifically for it’s bright color.
Here are some interesting history facts regarding the Jack Dempsey. They were named after a Heavyweight Boxing Champion from 1919 named Jack Dempsey because they were considered very aggressive, just like the boxer! This is even though later cichlids that were introduced were actual much more aggressive then the Jack Dempseys! They originate from Southern Mexico, North and Central South America, Yucatan, Guatemala, and Honduras, mostly in swampy and slow moving waters.
As for keeping these cichlids as pets, they can be challenging yet rewarding. They grow fairly large – up to 8 inches in length and need lots of space. A minimum of 50 gallons is recommended for a full-grown Jack Dempsey, and obviously you will want and need a larger aquarium if you plan to keep more than one fish. They need good filtration, lots of plants and hiding places, and good water movement to thrive. In the wild they will eat insects, smaller fish, worms and crustaceans. Because of this, in captivity they will eat several types of food available at pet stores, including flakes, pellets, and live foods. You will want to make sure to do 20-25% water changes weekly to keep them healthy as well.
Socially, as I mentioned above, these cichlids can be quite aggressive and territorial. Because of this, they generally do not make good community fish. This is especially true when it comes to its own species and other breeds of cichlids. Also, the older they get, the more territorial they get. Because of this, it is best to either keep them by themselves in their own aquariums, or to have a large enough aquarium to keep several in together. This makes them less likely to single out one another and beat up and/or kill their tankmates. You will want to keep several plants and hiding places such as logs in the aquarium as well so that they have places to go by themselves. And of course, if you want to breed them, you will want to make sure you have a male/female pair.
These fish generally fare pretty well if kept well taken care of. The most common disease for these fish, as well as any large cichlids, is Head and Lateral Line Disease (HLLE), also known as “Hole-in-the-Head.” Again, the best way to prevent this is just to maintain the aquarium, with regular water changes and keeping an eye on such things as hardness, pH and temperature.
If you would like to learn more about the Jack Dempsey fish, their history and just general cichlid care, check out theJack Dempsey page!
Jasmine is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.