Jack Dempsey

Species NameRocio octofasciata
Common NameJack Dempsey Cichlid
Care LevelIntermediate to Expert
Lifespan8-10 years
Adult Size10-15 inches
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons (208 liters)
Temperature72°F – 86°F (22°C – 30°C)
Water ConditionspH 6.5-8.0, Moderate hardness

About the Jack Dempsey – Species Summary

Jack Dempsey Cichlids are renowned freshwater fish, captivating aquarists worldwide due to their vibrant colors and aggressive temperament. Native to Central America’s slow-moving waters, they’re named after the 1920s boxer, Jack Dempsey, due to their combative nature. Despite their pugnacious demeanor, they’re admired for their iridescent blue, green, and gold hues, especially when mature. They are, however, not suited for novice aquarists due to their specific care requirements and territorial behavior.

Jack Dempsey Lifespan

Typically, Jack Dempsey Cichlids live between 8 to 10 years in captivity. With optimal care, a balanced diet, and a stress-free environment, some have been known to live slightly longer. It’s paramount to understand their needs and cater to them adequately to ensure they live a full, healthy life.


Jack Dempsey Cichlids exhibit a splendid array of colors. Their base color is usually dark, ranging from dark green to black, and is brilliantly complemented by vibrant shades of blue, gold, and green. As they mature, the sparkly specks become more prominent, giving them an iridescent glow. Males generally showcase brighter colors and possess longer fin extensions than females.

Average Size

In a well-maintained aquarium, the Jack Dempsey Cichlid can grow to an impressive size of 10 to 15 inches. Their growth rate and final size can be influenced by factors such as diet, tank size, and overall care.

Jack Dempsey Care

Tank Size

For a single Jack Dempsey, a 55-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size. However, if you plan on housing more or introducing other species, consider opting for a larger tank to provide sufficient territory and reduce aggression.

How To Set Up Their Tank

To simulate their natural habitat, consider using a sandy or fine gravel substrate. Decorate the aquarium with rock structures or driftwood, creating caves and hiding spots. Plants can be added, but it’s essential to ensure they’re sturdy, like Java Fern or Anubias, as Jack Dempseys are known to dig and might uproot delicate plants.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is sufficient for Jack Dempseys. However, if you incorporate live plants, you might need to adjust the lighting based on the plant’s needs. It’s also beneficial to have a day-night cycle to mimic natural conditions.


A pH level ranging from 6.5 to 8.0 is optimal for Jack Dempsey Cichlids. Stability is crucial; sudden changes in pH can stress and harm the fish.


Maintain a water temperature between 72°F and 86°F (22°C – 30°C). It’s essential to keep the temperature stable, avoiding sudden fluctuations.

Water Parameters

Jack Dempseys thrive in moderately hard water. Regular water changes and a good filtration system are essential to maintain pristine water conditions.

Disease Potential

Jack Dempseys are susceptible to standard fish ailments like ich and fin rot. Adopting preventive measures, such as quarantining new fish and plants, can help in averting potential outbreaks. At the first sign of disease, early detection and treatment are crucial.

Food & Diet

Being omnivores, Jack Dempseys enjoy a varied diet. High-quality cichlid pellets can be the primary food source, complemented with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and krill. Occasionally offering vegetables like peas or spinach can also be beneficial.

Behavior and Temperament

Renowned for their aggressive and territorial demeanor, Jack Dempseys are assertive, especially during breeding. It’s not uncommon for them to display chasing or nipping behavior. Despite this, they’re often seen as being less aggressive than other cichlids.

Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for Jack Dempseys is crucial. Due to their aggressive nature, it’s best to house them with fish of similar size and temperament. Possible companions include Firemouth Cichlids, Convict Cichlids, or even larger catfish. However, always observe and ensure that there’s no excessive aggression.


Breeding Jack Dempsey Cichlids is an exciting venture. They form monogamous pairs, and after spawning, both parents actively engage in guarding the eggs. Providing flat rocks or slate can serve as potential spawning sites. Once the fry hatch, they can be fed finely crushed flake food or baby brine shrimp. The parent fish usually take good care of their offspring, making it a fascinating process to observe.

Jack Dempsey FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)