Jack Dempsey Cichlid

Published on July 8, 2018
Jack Dempsey Cichlid

This care guide has everything every aquarist need to know about the Jack Dempsey fish.

If you are about to buy the fish and wondering if it’s the right fish for you, then this is your perfect guide.

Keep reading.


The fish that’s also known as Rocio octofasciata or previously known as Cichlasoma octofasciatum scientifically was first coined by Regan in the year of 1903.

By now, you might be wondering why the fish is called Jack Dempsey?

Is the fish somehow related to the famous Jack Dempsey professional boxer?

The fish itself has no “connection” with the boxer, but because of its aggressiveness towards its fellow tank mates, people started calling it Jack Dempsey.

Scientific nameRocio octofasciata (previously known as Cichlasoma octofasciatum)

Scientific Name Origin

The origins of scientific names of the fishes we like is always an interesting topic to discuss.

The very first namer didn’t coin the name Rocio, but it was his wife’s idea.

The word Rocio is a Spanish word, which if translated into English means “dew.”

And it’s easy to guess we it’s named after “dew,” simply because of the fish’ great sparkle-spots.

Not only the first scientific name has its origin, its last name also came from an interesting idea.


The name “octofasciata” is composed of 2 parts: “octo” and “fascie“. Octo means eight and fascie means stripe. If we combine both, it means “Eight-striped.”

Maybe the Jack Dempsey fish they had had eight-striped,  so they named it with the name. Today’s Jack Dempsey fish have more than eight stripes in common.


You can easily find the fish in North and Central America; Southern Mexico, Guatemala, Yucatan, and Honduras.

To be more specific, you can find them in the Papaloapán River (Mexico) and Ulua River (Honduras). See the map to find the live locations.

jack dempsey map


Bugs and swamps (warm waters) are their favorite habitats.

If you want to find them in the wild, make sure you search them among the weeds in bottom.


Rocio octofasciata is a large fish. The fish can reach up to 10 inches in length (25.40 cm). That’s why you have to keep them in a large tank.

In the wild, the male Jack Dempsey Cichlids are found to be smaller. The most common size is 12 – 15cm or 4.72 – 5.91 inches long.


Because of its aggressiveness, I recommend you to keep the fish with its kind in a large tank (preferably 50 gallon or 189 liters).

Some sources even said that one Jack Dempsey fish requires the whole 50-gallon tank, so if you want to keep more than one, then a larger tank is recommended.

Minimum Tank Size50 gal/189 L
Substrate TypeSand
Lighting NeedsModerate
Temperature22.2 to 30.0° C (72 to 86° F)
Range ph 6.5 – 7.0
Hardness Range 8 – 12 dGH


Maintenance is rather simple for this fish.

All you need to do is to regularly change the water and feeding them with the correct food, the fish should do fine.

Water Conditions

You should always remember that the fish is perfect for beginners, not because it requires its “personal” tank and can’t have tank mates from different species, but because of its sturdiness.

The fish is very hardy concerning water conditions demand. But of course, the water change should be done regularly; I recommend you to change it every two weeks (bi-weekly).


Even though they are omnivore, these cichlids are well-known predators.

They are relatively greedy that will accept most of the foods given. But of course, trying a variety will help them to prevent stress.

The everyday food you can feed them is blood worm, brine shrimp, milled seafood, and tubifex.

According to Meethepet, you can also feed them with plants like cabbage, blowball leaves, and lettuce. Make sure to boil them first.

When giving them a new kind of food, please be patient when they don’t seem to accept it, it will take time for them to realize that what you give is food for them.

I recommend you to feed them only once a day.

Overfeeding is a must to avoid.

First, they can result in lethal changes in the water chemistry. The breakdown products are toxic and can stress fish, making them prone to other diseases. Overeating, itself, can cause health problems. Finally, the pond or tank can become very unsightly, not pleasing to the eye, or the fish.

– Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith


Before we talk about the breeding tips and tricks, you should understand that differences between the male and female.

The male is known to be larger and has a brighter color than the female. When the fish reached adulthood, you can find sparkles covering their whole body.

The male’s genital papilla is called antrorse, and it looks like a firing hammer. While the female’s looks like an upside-down cone.

Appearance-wise, the male should have a more pointed dorsal fin. Black spots are often found in the center of the male’s body and somewhere around the base of the tail.

The female, on the other hand, has fewer spots, and often found in the dorsal fin and lower edge of the gill cover.

Breeding tips

The recommended temperature when breeding is 86.0° F or 30° C.

You should remember that Rocio octofasciata is an egg layer type of fish. For every eggs-laying, the female can produce 500 to 800 eggs. The most common place to lay these eggs on is a cleaned rock. So make sure that your breeding tank has cleaned rocks in it.

Once the eggs hatched, both the male and female will guard their fries.

Jack Dempsey Cichlid Gallery

Cichlasoma Octofasciatum

Photo by OutlierForLife https://flic.kr/p/osNpAb

rocio octofasciata

Photo by Brent M. https://flic.kr/p/ncora9

jack dempsey cichlid

Photo by John Cudworth https://flic.kr/p/5NJ5Vi

Jack dempsey cichlid fish care guide

Common Questions

Q: How long do jack dempseys live?
A: In common, they can live for up to 10 – 15 years.

Q: How fast is the jack dempsey cichlid’s growth rate?
A: We have done a couple of researches in different online forums, most respondents say that Jack dempseys grow relatively slow.
A three-year-old spans 9 inches, and 21 month old spans about 7 inches.

Q: Where can I buy jack dempsey fish?
A: The fish is widely sold in the local market and online stores.

Q: How many Jack dempsey variants are there?
A: Like any other aquarium fish, this fish has multiple color options. They include Gold, Electric Blue, and pink.

Q: How much does jack dempsey fish cost?
Obviously, the answer depends on where you live. But the price shouldn’t differ much than what online stores offer.
Petsmart.com sells a small jack dempsey cichlid for $4, and a medium-sized one for $12.99
Aquariumfish.net sells a couple of color variants.
Premium Jack Dempsey Cichlid, 1.5″ to 2″ long for $4.49
Electric Blue Jack Dempsey, .75″ to 1″ long for $24.99
Electric Blue Jack Dempsey, 3.5″ to 4″ long for $39.99

Last price update: July 9th, 2018.



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