Why Comment on
Dempseys? There may be as many Jack Dempseys out there as there are
oscars. Healthy Dempseys make attractive and interesting specimen
fishes. In larger aquaria, you can mix bunches of them. In small
tanks, you quickly learn how they earned their pugilistic name.
These Dempseys are in no particular good, bad, or ugly order. They
appear as they line up in our Dempsey row 6.6.04. If you want specific
Dempsey info, go to Jack Dempsey.
Nine-inch close to overgrown Dempsey. Large overweight guys or gals
like these are not good prospects as potential breeders -- not really
interested. He's going on a low carb diet today. Fins not
totally erect. Tail clamped. Plonking on bottom. Hungry
dempseys are up and active -- not loafing on the substrate. Probably
a male (high spangle count). You can't always rely on males sporting
longer dorsal and anal fins. That's a general rule with lots of
exceptions. A few scale wounds but not many. Dempseys are good
are not really green. They look blue under regular aquarium
lights. Penn Plax Aquarilux™ fluorescent tubes are heavy in the
blue spectrum. The camera flash overrides the blue so these rascals
that appear blue in real life look green on camera. Try to remember
that these are all blue fishes.
Even sadder looking nine-inch fatty here. Probably a female (low
spangle count). If you viewed this gal from the top, you could see
how wide in the body she really is. The dark substrate usually causes
Dempseys to darken up a lot.
Only four-inches long but looking much better than the preceding
monsters. Tail a little clamped and his body's at an angle making
him look foreshortened, but this guy/gal looks to be a potential
breeder. Erect fins and clear eyes are also good signs. By the
way, Dempseys in breeding condition or fighting stance also darken in
color. Little dempseys kept with African cichlids stay black
regardless of condition or substrate color.
At three inches, she has little spangle development yet. Nice shape
and fins. Red trim on dorsal adds a nice touch. Cichlasoma
octofasciatum means eight-barred cichlid. We probably need a new
name for a fourteen-barred cichlid. These bars come and go depending
on the Dempsey's mood. Spangles on the adults pretty much obscure
Here's what were looking for in a five-inch specimen -- good fins, good
body, good color. If you want to get real anal, you could count off
for the uneven spangle/scale pattern. But this would not matter
unless this guy was being judged against a perfect specimen. And
they are out there. Has anyone practiced selective breeding on this
species? Or does everyone let the fish pick their own
partners. Most breeders select for spawn size rather than beauty.
Another guy at five inches. Compare the two specimens to find
plusses and minuses. Torn dorsal fins can result from fights but
more likely come from poor moving technique. When you catch a
cichlid in a net, most erect their dorsal and anal fins to make them
harder to swallow. Those erect spines can catch in your net and
result in tears. They can also stab your hand pretty good and punch
holes in plastic bags. If moving your Dempsey to a show, capture him
in a one-gallon ice cream container. Push the bucket against the
glass, then slip the lid over the top, and move him to your transport
container -- preferably a five-gallon plastic bucket with just enough
water to cover them.
So fat he just plonks on the bottom waiting for someone to deliver an
anchovy pizza. Plenty of healed wounds on his sides. This guy
may be too old to recover. What a lump. And he's just under 10
Same length but in so much better condition. Note how his
spangles/scales run in nearly even stripes. Probable male.
Still needs to eat less. Good fins. Tear in dorsal and tail
fins. Nothing non-healable here.
Now we want to sort thru some of our other tanks and add them to our Jack Dempsey
line up. Most of these others are smaller than the first batch.
Three-inch specimen over light gravel. He's also by himself, so he
has no incentive to darken. A half-dozen or so in a 55 are all very
dark. They're in with similar size cichlids plus much larger
catfishes and a six-inch convict. His pinkish base is black on the
others. Can you see his octofasciatums? Or do you see
more? Tail display's just okay.
You usually don't see the bars on large specimens. At nine-inches,
this guy looks whupped -- lots of what looks like healed scrapes along his
side or maybe they're just irregular scales. Dempseys that plonk on
the bottom make a less than perfect impression. In his defense, he's
only been in this 10-gallon tank for one day. He came from a 150 and
probably hates his new neighborhood.
By color we'd assume this is a female. Red trim on dorsal adds to
her allure. You can see her bars -- all eight or so. We have a
winner... I guess you really need to pickle these guys to bring out their
bars. Hopefully, pickled Dempseys taste as good as pickled herring.
Another specimen showing its bars. Probably a mood thing. This
gal was just moved.
Four-inch specimen in a bare tank. Unpainted glass on bottom with
light coming from below causes this guy to bleach out. You can see
lots of bars, limited spangles, and unappealing finnage. No
injuries. He just needs a better tank.
Three-inch specimen in a bare tank with a black bottom. Note how the
black bottom darkens his body colors.
Another three incher over a black bottom. Black substrates really
darken them up -- even if it is only painted glass.
Four incher over unpainted glass. Even the bars are faded.
However, a bleached out four incher like this guy has a lot of potential
-- no obvious flaws other than the easily corrected light color.
Three incher in a cichlid community tank. The smaller guys and gals
look better than the larger specimens. This guy seems to have eight
bars. Tail's a bit frayed due to the other bity cichlids in this
Five incher in same community tank. Interesting color pattern.
His eight bars are light colored. Tail and fins are all chewed.
This six-inc matriarch (older males develop a slight bump as opposed to
this cranial dip) of the tank sets a bad example. Not overweight
like the specimens at the top, she still looks stressed. Her light
color makes her "eight" bars quite visible. For some
reason, the smaller Dempseys color up better in this tank.
One of the three inchers in the tank shows his bars.
And here's a 4.5-inch specimen showing his bars. Can you see how
crossing this guy with a red devil would result in a flower horn cichlid?
Here we see three new Dempseys just arrived. We probably should have
waited a week or two to give them time to adjust. Maybe we can shoot
them again later.
Nice color. Probable male. Tank needs cleaning.
Torn and bitten fins. Light colored body.
Not a poser. Had to push him out with a net handle. Not
Perhaps you can look at some of these comments as ways to judge
fishes. Static pictures fail to take deportment into account.
Some of the smaller guys had to be pried out of their lurking sites.
Others were in your facers. And, you can see that size is not really
a decisive factor on its own. Photos make size neutral because all
these specimens from two to nine inches look the same size because of the
way the photos were cropped. One photo does not make a good
standard. All species are on a continuum -- actually, several
Perhaps we can add more to this Rogue’s Gallery later. We’ll see
what develops. Maybe we can revisit some of the lumps we’re putting
on a diet.
Alright, here’s a couple new dempseys.
Male with teeth.
Lotsa spangles. Lotsa fins. Hefty bod.
Female less colorful. Fins just as long. Thinner bod.
Same female (right) certainly stands up for her rights.
02.27.05. Just when you thought you'd seen the last of the white
12.27.05. Gold ones look better. Male on left.
Female here. Male not cooperative at all. Good six inches
long. Regulars look better.
2004 LA Productions
of Sixth & Euclid Avenues
Moines, IA 50313