Due to it's ferociousness when first introduced to the aquarium hobby, this fish was named after "Jack Dempsey", the 1919 Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World. It is not nearly as combative or aggressive, however, as some of the cichlids later introduced, such as the Red Devil!
Jack Dempsey Fish Pictures

Although rather aggressive, the Jack Dempsey is one of the most interesting and beautiful of the American cichlids. A mature Jack Dempsey displays magnificent color, covered with light blue spangley spots all over its' body (the female has fewer spots). The male also has bright red edges on its' dorsal and anal fins. It takes over a year for this fish to develop full coloration.

They like a tank bottom of fine sand, plenty of hiding places among rocks and wood, and a cover of floating plants. They do burrow and will eat the plants.

They are one of the easiest cichlids to get to spawn, though when kept in pairs they can become territorial, intolerant, and biters. The Jack Dempsey is easiest to keep either singly or in large groups.
For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium


* Kingdom: Animalia
* Phylum: Actiniform
* Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
* Order: Perciformes
* Family: Cichlidae

Care and feeding:

Since they are omnivorous, the Jack Dempsey will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake or pelleted foods. They get quite large so they should be fed a high quality pelleted food and large chunk foods such as meat or fish.


Jack Dempsey's are found in bogs and slow moving water in Guatemala, Yucatan, and Honduras.

Size - Weight:

These fish get up to 8 inches (20 cm).

Social Behaviors:

They are not a good community fish. They get territorial as they get older and so should be kept individually in a species tank. If keeping more than one, it is easier and safer for them to keep them in large groups rather than in pairs.

Sexual Differences:

The male has a longer and more pointed dorsal fin than the female. The male may also have a round black spot in the center of the body and at the base of the tail. The female has fewer spots than the male.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom:

These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Acceptable Water Conditions:

Hardness: 8-12° dGH
Ph: 6.5-7.0
Temperature: 72-77° F (22-25° C)


Jack Dempsey's are egg layers. The female will lay 500-800 eggs on carefully cleaned rocks. They form a nuclear family. The fry are kept in pits and are guarded by both the male and female in the manner of "monogamous cichlid" breeders. See the description of how to breed these fish in Breeding Freshwater Fish.


The Jack Dempsey is readily available.

1 Comment

4 years 9 weeks ago, 7:07 PM


Gillespie16's picture

Sergeant First Class
Join Date:
Aug 2010

I recently purchased one of these fish and they are great for an aquarium owner who wishes to start a south American cichlid tank. They are very active and their colors will go nicely with any tank.


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