When you first begin on deciding what sort of creatures to place in your aquarium, it can be an incredibly hard decision to make, especially with the sheer amount of variation that is available to you.
However, one of the more underrated choices of fish to add to your tank is the Jewel Cichlid, these colorful freshwater fish are a fun and very unique choice for your aquarium and are visually stunning!
If you’re perhaps considering Jewel Cichlids for your aquarium, this guide will aim to help inform you of their dietary requirements, feeding habits, how they breed, and more.
By the end of it, perhaps you’ll decide that they’d make a wonderful addition to your aquarium!
The Jewel Cichlid (Or its scientific name: Hemichromis Bimaculatus) is one of the more popular fishes from the cichlid family. They originate from West Africa mainly, but can also be found slightly further to the east too.
These fish are freshwater fish, and predominantly spend most of their time in much smaller bodies of water, such as streams, rivers, and lakes.
Perhaps the most well-known trait of the Jewel Cichlid is its aggression, managing this aggression is the key to ownership of these fish and can be quite a task, which will be covered further on in this guide.
On average, the lifespan for a Jewel Cichlid is around 5 years, there have been some instances in captivity where they have lived up to 7 years, but this is rare.
Ultimately, like any fish, their lifespan is affected by the quality of care they receiver as well as the habit they are provided with.
But perhaps the biggest factor in the lifespan is their aggression, they are much more likely to get into fights and altercations, and frequent fighting can cause health issues.
However, this fighting can also put the Jewel Cichlid into a state of stress near constantly, so managing it is vital to keeping your fish healthy.
Despite their bad temperament, there is one thing that cannot be denied about the Jewel Cichlid and that is its overwhelming beauty. Red is by far and the way the most common color, but they can come in a wide variety of colors.
The red Jewel Cichlids feature a bright reddish/orange color on their body, with colored sports, normally green or blue, all over their body. Their fins will feature a similar color scheme but are more striped than spotted.
Perhaps the other most common color variation is an all dark blue or turquoise colored body, with similar bluish-green spots as seen on red Jewel Cichlids.
In terms of shape, the body of the Jewel Cichlid is incredibly pointed, and narrow. Around a third of the way down their body is where their dorsal fin is located, which continues all the way to just before their caudal fin.
Finally, their anal fins end as far back as their dorsal fin and are both trim and shallow.
In regards to their head shape, it slants upwards from the mouth, before curving to the start of their back with a slight bump. However, this bump tends to be more prominent when the Jewel Cichlid’s are younger.
The sizing of a Jewel Cichlid can vary massively between captivity and the wild. When kept in captivity, their average size is roughly around 6 inches, however, when they live in the wild, they can reach lengths of up to a foot!
This isn’t a wildly uncommon occurrence, but the difference between the two is quite significant.
Finding the right tank size is one of the most important things to factor in when caring for your Jewel Cichlid, as their aggression and stress can stem from being in too small of a tank.
Whilst some guides may recommend a 30-gallon tank at a minimum, the general guidance for a tank size for a Jewel Cichlid is 40 gallons, this will allow your fish to acclimatize a lot easier and the extra space will also help to give him the space they need.
The more Jewel Cichlids you want to keep, then the more you’ll have to increase the size of their tank. It’s recommended that for each Jewell Cichlid you want to keep, that you increase the tank by an additional 10 gallons.
This will ensure that your fish has plenty of space and should hopefully prevent any risk of aggression.
Ensuring the water parameters are correct is vital when taking care of any species of fish, as failing to meet the correct parameters for your fish can result in serious health issues for your fish, or at worst, death.
Jewel Cichlids are tropical fish, so in order to help replicate their natural habitat their natural environment, you’ll mainly be focusing on ensuring that the water is kept at a warm temperature.
- Temperature: Keep between 75°F and 80°F
- pH Levels: Remain between 6.5 and 7.5
- Water Hardness: The ideal water hardness should ideally be in the neutral-soft range, and shouldn’t exceed 12 dGH
Decoration And Substrate
Another factor that is vital to ensuring that your Jewel Cichild remains calm and well tempered is their habitat. Here’s what to include in your tank to help your fish feel comfortable and at home!
- Substrate: Since the Jewel Cichild is primarily from Africa, the best substrate to choose is sand, they quite often like to root around at the bottom of their tank amongst the substrate, then it’s important not to use rocks or stones at the bottom, as this might end up cutting them.
- Background: If you decide to use an aquarium background, then it’s best to choose one that is as natural as possible, this will help your fish to feel as comfortable as possible whilst also giving your an aquarium an aesthetically pleasing look. Typically recommended for a aquarium background is a mix of rocks and plants.
- Rocks: Large rocks are also a great recommendation as additions for for your tank, not only does it help to mimic their natural environments of rivers and lakes, but it also gives them places to hide, which can also allow your fish to hide, further prevent any sort of territorial spats inside the tank.
Food And Diet
As ominvores, Jewel Cichlids are relatively easy fish to feed, and they will happily eat flake food, pellets, as well as live food.
It is imperative that you ensure that your fish receive a good balanced diet, as this will ensure that they remain as healthy as possible. So try feed them a mix of either flakes or pellets, and then occaisonally providing them with live food.
The two most popular choices for live food for your Jewel Cichlids are bloodworms, or frozen brine shrimp.
However, try to ensure that you are only feeding the fish live food for a couple of days a week, this will ensure that they are getting all the correct nutrients they need in a decent balance.
As previously mentioned, Jewel Cichlids can be rather aggressive fish, and their reputation precedes them as a result of this, as they’re well known for being somewhat difficult to care for.
Looking after them isn’t impossible though, so don’t be overly put off by their slightly aggressive reputation, you just need to make sure that you look after them properly and give them a decent quality of life.
Learning to understand their aggressive habits and their tendency to be territorial is the key to ensuring that your fish are healthy and comfortable within their environment.
Here’s some things to keep in mind about Jewel Cichlid’s behaviour and aggression that will help you to understand them a bit better:
- They are known to be much more aggressive when mating
- Allowing each fish their own space in the tank should hopefully avoid any confrontations or territorial issues.
- They’re known to nip and bite the fins of other fish if they’re hungry or aggravated, so you shouldn’t delay their feeding when it can be helped.
- Jewel Cichlids are rather active fish, and will often dig around the substrate in the hunt for food.
Whilst there have been some success stories about Jewel Cichlids being excellent tank mates with other fish, it is such a rare occurrence that the best advice is to keep your Jewel Cichlids in a single species tank, this will help to prevent any incidents that may occur as a result of their aggression or territorial nature.
However, you’re more than able to keep Jewel Cichlids together, so you can still have an incredibly vibrant looking tank that is full of fish, just ensure that your tank is big enough.
Breeding Jewel Cichlids is one of the more straightforward aspects of owning them!
Jewel Cichlids are actually relatively monogamous, the breeding pair will form a close bond, and will remain close long after their eggs have hatched.
One of the most important factors to consider when aiming to breed your Jewel Cichlids is that they can become extremely aggressive when breeding, so you need to ensure that the breeding partners are relatively equal in physical size to prevent any serious incidents.
To help encourage the breeding process to begin, you should start by gently raising the water temperature slightly, just by a few degrees. But you should ensure that you keep it within the recommend range that was stated above.
Males typically display more vibrant colours when they become ready to breed, so it’s a good sign to look out for when discerning if your male fish are ready to begin the breeding process.
The females lay their eggs on rocks, typically flat ones, and they will often inspect the bottom of the tank in order to find a suitable place in order to lay their eggs.
Once fetilized, the eggs will only take between 2-4 days to hatch, upon hatching, you’ll notice that the parents of the eggs will move other fish to the other side of your tank, and will defend their newborns if necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
Prospective owners of Jewel Cichlids will probably have a rather long list of questions regarding ownership and care of these fish, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions that will hopefully allow you to make an informed decision about whether you decide to own them.
How To Identify If Your Jewel Cichlid Is Male Or Female?
There aren’t many differences between the two sexes, however if you pay close attention to the dorsal fin and a somewhat net-like pattern on the tail, this is an indicator that your Jewel Cichlid is male.
Just How Aggressive Are Jewel Cichlids?
Jewel Cichlids are not overly aggressive fish, and it is likely that their reputation is somewhat played up, however they can be somewhat aggressive during breeding and once their eggs have hatched, and most of their aggression stems from their territorial nature.
How Long Can They Live For?
Jewel Cichlids actually have a relatively long lifespan, and with proper care and attention, can live up to five years in captivity!
How Regularly Should I Feed My Jewel Cichlids?
The ideal feeding pattern for your Jewel Cichlids should be being feed six days a week, allowing a day off for digestion.
In these days, you should also ensure that you provide them with a mix of flake food and live food, but it is important not to overfeed them on live food too.
Overall, the Jewel Cichlid is a somewhat overlooked fish in the aquarist community, and although its aggression may be initially off putting, proper care and attention should prevent this for the most part.
They are great choices for either someone who is an experienced aquarist or who wants to be, with the care they require.
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