Fish of the Week: Jack Dempsey

This post is in honor of an e-mail I received shortly after my radio show yesterday. Apparently, just one of these little guys took down an entire tank of cichlids! Further warning to check species compatibility before adding new fish to your tank.

Jack Dempsey (courtesy of
Jack Dempsey (courtesy of

The Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciatum) is a type of cichlid and one of the most popular freshwater pets. They can grow up to 7-10″ long and are dark colored with a few bright blue/green iridescent spots. They are voracious eaters (as previously described and how they got their name) and will try to eat anything that fits in their mouths, be it other fish or plants in the tank. Although relatively easy to care for, just one of these fish, or two with enough room to establish separate territories, is really all that can fit in one tank. If you must have additional fish, make sure they are bigger cichlids who can hold their own. Jack Dempseys are very active spawners, so if you do manage to keep a male and female, you will have lots of little ones in a short amount of time!

Cichlids, overall, are a great way to get into larger freshwater aquariums. Most species of cichlid are relatively hardy and can put up with some novice mistakes. Advanced cichlid keepers can have amazing tanks that rival even the fancy saltwater setups.

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