Jewel Cichlid Comprehensive Guide: Size, Care, Tank Mates, and Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

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Jewel Cichlid

Jewel Cichlids, a name as dazzling as their appearance, have rapidly become a treasured choice among aquarium enthusiasts. Known for their dazzling appearance, these fish add a unique charm to any aquatic setting.

But how can you create the perfect environment to let their radiant beauty shine?

Whether you’re an experienced aquarist or just starting your journey into the fascinating world of fish-keeping, understanding the Jewel Cichlids’ size, care needs, ideal tank mates, and lifespan will pave the way to a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore every facet of these aquatic gems, providing you with the knowledge and insights needed to embark on a vibrant and rewarding adventure with Jewel Cichlids in your aquarium.

Let’s dive in and uncover the shimmering world of one of the aquarium’s most splendid inhabitants!

Jewel Cichlid Stats
Lifespan5 to 8 years
TemperamentHighly Aggressive
SizeUp to 6 inches
Minimum Tank Size40 gallons
Ease of CareEasy
Water Temperature75°F to 80°F (24-27°C)
Water Hardness4-16 dGH

Jewel Cichlid Species Summary

Also known by its scientific name, Hemichromis bimaculatus, this captivating species, part of the expansive cichlid family, is primarily native to West Africa, though some populations are scattered a little further east. The species also goes by African Jewelfish or Ruby Cichlid, apt nicknames considering its brilliant hue.

Jewel Cichlids spend a significant part of their lives in more modest bodies of freshwater such as rivers, streams, and lakes. This insight into their natural environment is vital for aquarists, as it forms the basis of the habitat you’ll aim to emulate within your home aquarium.

This particular species is known for its aggressive tendencies, requiring meticulous care and attention. As a result, the prospect of housing a Jewel Cichlid in a domestic tank might seem daunting, particularly if you neglect certain guidelines.

Despite their belligerent behavior, many aquarists are drawn to these species, ensnared by their enchanting coloration. Their vibrant display of hues often fuels the desire to include them in one’s tank. However, it’s vital to remember that these are not your typical community fish.


On average, these striking aquatic beings grace our lives for approximately five years. Yet, on rare occasions, well-kept Jewel Cichlids have been known to live up to eight years in captivity, although such instances are quite infrequent.

The duration of a Jewel Cichlid’s life, much like other fish species, is heavily influenced by the quality of care and habitat they receive. However, what sets them apart is the critical role their aggression management plays in their well-being.

Jewel Cichlids are notably more likely to engage in skirmishes and disputes within their tank. Beyond the apparent health risks associated with frequent fighting, such behaviors place them under significant stress.

This constant state of stress can drastically curtail the lifespan of your vibrant red Jewel Cichlid, a situation that is, of course, far from ideal.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

Jewel cichlids are undeniably enchanting aquatic creatures celebrated for their dazzling array of colors. Their vibrant hues span a multicolor spectrum, showcasing shades from flaming red to regal purple, flecked with delicate greenish spots.

However, the most frequently encountered variety is the fiery red or orange Jewel cichlid, a sight to behold in any aquarium.

1. Red Jewel Cichlids: An Explosion of Colors

Red Jewel Cichlid

These aquatic gems boast a brilliant red or orange physique, sprinkled with a profusion of colored specks that leave spectators awestruck.

These distinctive spots, often painted in a soft bluish-green tint, cover their entire body, lending them a stunningly surreal appearance. The fins mirror the same shades, although they sport a more linear pattern, creating a mesmerizing contrast.

2. Dark Blue Jewel Cichlids

Dark Blue Jewel Cichlid

An occasional color variant, though less prevalent, features a dark blue or turquoise body. This variant, highlighted by the signature bright bluish-green dots, enhances the biodiversity within an aquarium.

Although the turquoise and dark blue variants aren’t as coveted as their red counterparts, they can still be seen adorning many aquariums.

3. Physical Characteristics: The Sleek and Pointed Form of Jewel Cichlids

Jewel cichlids possess a fairly slim and pointed body, rendering them elegant swimmers.

Their dorsal fin, a noticeable attribute, commences roughly a third of the way down their body, stretching right up to their caudal fin. And their shallow anal fins end synchronously with the dorsal fin, creating a balanced aesthetic.

4. Head Shape: The Unique Curve of Jewel Cichlids

The head shape of Jewel cichlids is distinctively unique, slanting upward from their mouth, then curving seamlessly into the commencement of their back.

This curve, manifesting as a subtle bump, adds a captivating charm to their appearance. Interestingly, this bump is often more pronounced during their juvenile phase, which is a delightful quirk of their growth trajectory.

Average Size of Jewel Cichlids: How Big Do They Get?

On average, Jewel cichlids tend to be rather modest in size when housed in a controlled environment like an aquarium, measuring up to approximately 6 inches. This size is surprisingly different from their wild counterparts, who can attain a substantial length of up to 12 inches.

This intriguing discrepancy in size can be understood when we consider their varying environments. In the wild, Jewel cichlids have access to an extensive range of nutrients necessary for their growth. Their home tank, however, may not always provide this wide spectrum of nutrition.

While it remains somewhat of an enigma as to why Jewel cichlids demonstrate such a substantial size gap when compared to other fish species, it certainly makes them all the more fascinating.

Jewel Cichlids Care

Jewel Cichlid Care

Caring for Jewel cichlids primarily involves curbing their inherent aggressive nature. This trait is often at the center of discussions about these vibrant creatures, and rightly so, given its prominence.

However, it is equally vital to comprehend the fundamental tank and water requirements of these aquatic beings. Failing to cater to these needs could render other efforts futile!

1. Ideal Tank Size

When it comes to ensuring optimal living conditions for your Jewel cichlids, choosing the right tank size should be your first consideration.

While many aquarists advocate for a minimum 30-gallon tank, a slightly larger enclosure could significantly impact your fish-keeping experience. A 40-gallon tank affords these radiant creatures more room to explore and thrive, ensuring their comfort. Plus, from a safety and well-being perspective, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and go for a bigger tank.

And if you plan on housing multiple Jewel cichlids in a single tank, increasing the tank size by roughly 10 gallons is crucial to accommodate their needs.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water conditions is paramount when it comes to maintaining your Jewel cichlids’ health and happiness. Disregarding these guidelines could potentially lead to irreversible health complications, threatening the well-being of these vibrant creatures.

Being tropical fish, Jewel cichlids flourish in conditions that mimic their natural habitat. This implies that a warm and welcoming environment is crucial to their thriving existence.

To ensure the utmost care for your Jewel cichlids, below are the ideal water parameters you should adhere to:

  • Water temperature: 75°F to 80°F
  • Water hardness: 4 to 16 dGH
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5

3. What to Put in Jewel Cichlid Tanks (Ideal Tank Setup)

Jewel Cichlid Tank Setup

An integral part of caring for Jewel cichlids and ensuring their well-being lies in creating a stress-free habitat for them.

Sandy-bottomed tanks are the preferred choice for these aquatic dwellers. Jewel cichlids are naturally inclined to dig and rummage at the tank’s bottom, and a sandy substrate prevents them from getting injured during these activities.

Given the type of substrate required for the tank, the need for a robust external filter to maintain optimal water quality becomes essential.

Moreover, enriching the background of the Jewel cichlid tank with rocks and plants can significantly improve the fish’s comfort and happiness.

The aim is to emulate their natural habitat as closely as possible, which involves incorporating large rocks to replicate the rivers and streams they’re accustomed to. This gives your Jewel cichlids a space they can truly claim as their own, helping mitigate territorial disputes.

Jewel cichlids have an inclination to interfere with tank plants, meaning introducing live plants to a Jewel cichlid tank can be a gamble, as these fish may uproot them and potentially damage the vegetation.

But if you really wish to incorporate live plants, go for hardy species like Cryptocoryne and sword plants that can withstand these fish’s propensity to mess around.

4. Common Diseases

Though Jewel Cichlids are hardy fish, they’re not immune to health conditions. If you maintain good hygiene in the tank and provide proper care, these beautiful fish generally avoid many diseases.

Nonetheless, like most freshwater species, they can fall prey to specific illnesses. Here, we’ll cover some common diseases, their symptoms, and how to manage them.

  • Color Loss: A Visible Distress Signal

    One of the most noticeable warning signs in Jewel Cichlids is the loss of color. This often happens when the fish experiences high levels of stress, poor health, or inadequate nutrition.

    Thankfully, this problem is typically solvable with some additional care and effort to mitigate stress-causing factors.
  • Malawi Bloat: A Rapid and Dangerous Condition

    Symptoms such as abdominal swelling, lack of appetite, accelerated breathing, and feces of unusual color may indicate Malawi bloat.

    Swift action is paramount if you suspect your Jewel cichlid is grappling with this condition, as it can be fatal if not addressed promptly. Start by changing the tank’s water and introducing a dose of Metronidazole.
  • Gill Flukes: A Common Freshwater Fish Ailment

    Gill flukes may be the culprit if your fish exhibits labored breathing, gasping at the tank’s surface, and color loss. This disease is quite common among freshwater fish species. To alleviate the fish’s discomfort, you can use Praziquantel or other easily available solutions.
  • Ich or White Spots: A Parasitic Infestation

    Ich, also known as ‘white spot disease,’ is a parasitic infection that can stem from other fish or live food sources.

    Characterized by small white spots appearing on the fish’s body, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your Jewel Cichlids and perform a partial water change at the first sign of these spots. If the Ich infection escalates, your fish might exhibit behaviors such as rubbing itself against rocks or hiding in secluded areas to avoid contact with other fish.

Jewel Cichlid Diet

As omnivorous, Jewel Cichlids possess a flexible palate and enjoy a variety of foods. They’ll readily consume flake, pellets, and live food, making them relatively low-maintenance when it comes to feeding.

However, it’s crucial to strike a dietary balance to ensure their optimal health and well-being.

1. Striking a Balance in the Jewel Cichlids Diet

A balanced diet is key to keeping Jewel Cichlids in peak health. While they’ll readily take flakes or pellets, supplementing their diet with live food a couple of times each week can help maintain that balance.

Common options like brine shrimp or bloodworms are ideal choices. These mimic the kind of small, protein-rich prey that Jewel Cichlids would naturally consume in their native habitats. However, it’s essential not to overdo it – feeding these to your Jewel Cichlids a couple of times each week should suffice.

2. Don’t Forget the Greens!

Jewel Cichlid Greens Plants

Adding vegetables to their diet is another critical aspect of nutrition management. Greens like spirulina and lettuce leaves can contribute to a balanced diet for Jewel Cichlids, offering them a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

Remember, a varied diet is always the best approach to ensure your Jewel Cichlids enjoy a long, healthy life.

Behavior & Temperament

Jewel Cichlids rank considerably high on the aggression scale among aquarium fish. As a dedicated aquarist, managing this inherent aggression becomes a significant part of your care routine.

While completely suppressing this trait isn’t possible, you can keep it within manageable limits with the right strategies.

1. Territoriality and Its Role in Aggression

One of the primary triggers for aggression in Jewel Cichlids is their territorial nature. To avoid potential skirmishes, providing each fish with ample space within the aquarium is vital. By allowing them to stake out their territory, you can significantly reduce stress-induced aggression.

2. Mating Period: A Time of Heightened Aggression

Jewel Cichlids are known for heightened aggression during mating. This period demands particular attention from aquarists to avoid conflicts. A common practice is to separate the mating pair from other aquarium inhabitants, even if they are other Jewel Cichlids. This can be achieved by using a dedicated breeding tank or introducing a tank divider in your main aquarium.

3. Identifying Signs of Aggression in Jewel Cichlids

These fish express their aggression, hunger, or irritation by nipping at other fish, particularly those with long fins. Thus, it’s important to observe their behavior regularly and take appropriate measures, such as providing adequate food, to alleviate any potential triggers.

4. Active by Nature

Aggression isn’t all Jewel Cichlids are known for. These fish are incredibly active. A common sight in your aquarium would be these energetic fish rooting around in the substrate, digging and scavenging for food.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

Finding the right tank mates for Jewel Cichlids can be a particularly challenging task for any aquarist. Known for their aggressiveness, these fish often have a reputation that leads many to believe they are unsuitable for community tanks.

These fish are notoriously aggressive, leading to some real-life horror stories regarding their tank mates.

And the fact is, I don’t recommend incorporating Jewel Cichlids into a community tank. They are simply too mean, and the risk of them causing harm or even killing their tank mates is rather high due to their aggressive tendencies.

Despite these risks, it is common to keep Jewel Cichlids with one another. This can still result in a lively and full tank, provided the tank size is large enough to accommodate them. They need space to move and stake out their territory, after all.

Possible Companions for Jewel Cichlids

However, cohabitating Jewel Cichlids with other species isn’t an impossible task. There are successful examples of aquarists integrating these fish into community tanks, leading to thriving, harmonious aquatic environments.

While I prefer to play it safe and don’t recommend them for a community tank, for those willing to experiment, here are some possible compatible tank mates that may fit the bill:

A Word of Caution: An important reminder is that Jewel Cichlids are notorious fin-nippers, particularly when not adequately fed. This behavior can be problematic for their tank mates, reinforcing the need for careful monitoring and maintenance.

Breeding Jewel Cichlids

Jewel Cichlid Breeding

When it comes to the breeding process of Jewel Cichlids, there’s a refreshing sense of simplicity despite the complexities associated with these fish in other areas. Identifying their gender accurately is the first crucial step, and then the fascinating journey of breeding these stunning creatures unfolds.

1. Monogamy: A Peculiar Trait of Jewel Fish

It’s intriguing to note that Jewel Cichlids are as monogamous. There’s a tight bond that forms between the breeding pair during the mating process, a bond that continues to hold long after their eggs have hatched.

This unique aspect of their behavior is something that sets them apart in the underwater world.

2. Mating Time: A Time of Heightened Aggression

As the time for mating approaches, Jewel Cichlids become significantly more aggressive. It’s of paramount importance that both fish in the breeding pair are evenly matched physically. This equal footing helps to prevent any potential conflicts that could arise during this critical period.

3. Encouraging the Breeding Process

Jewel Cichlid Breeding
  • Raising the Temperature: A Subtle Nudge

    One way to stimulate the breeding process in these fish is to slightly raise the water temperature.
  • The Male’s Vibrant Display: A Sign of What’s to Come

    During the onset of the breeding process, you’ll observe that the male’s colors become more vibrant. This flamboyant display is a sign that the mating dance will commence shortly.

4. From Egg-Laying to Hatching: A Remarkable Process

  • A Quest for the Perfect Nest

    The female Jewel Cichlid lays around 500 eggs, typically on a flat-surfaced rock. Before this, you may notice her meticulously examining the bottom of the tank in search of the perfect spot to lay her eggs.
  • A 2 to 4-Day Wait

    Following fertilization, the eggs will take between 2 and 4 days to hatch. Once the eggs hatch, the protective parents transport the new hatchlings to a different part of the tank. They fiercely guard this area, ready to defend their offspring if necessary.

5. Caring for the Jewel Cichlids Fry

Jewel Cichlid Hatched Fry
  • Initial Days: Survival on the Leftover Yolk

    In the initial few days post-hatching, the fry absorbs the remaining yolk for sustenance.
  • Introducing the New Diet

    Once this period ends, it’s time to introduce them to baby brine shrimp and finely ground fry food. Ground pellets and crushed flakes make excellent options for this, helping the fry transition to their new diet.

Differences Between Male & Female Jewel Cichlids

Recognizing the gender differences among Jewel Cichlids isn’t the easiest task in the world. These stunning creatures are as challenging to sex as Oscars, which are notorious for their subtle gender differences. However, certain key markers can guide you in discerning the males from the females.

1. Body Size and Shape: The First Indicators

Generally, male Jewel Cichlids are larger than their female counterparts. This size difference can be a reliable, albeit not foolproof, indicator of their sex.

Apart from size, another trait to look out for is body shape. Females are usually plumper than males, so a more rounded body could indicate a female Jewel Cichlid.

2. A Closer Look at Coloration

Coloration can serve as an additional clue in determining the gender of Jewel Cichlids. Males usually display deeper coloration than females, with their hues standing out more prominently.

Also, while both male and female Jewel Cichlids bear spots on their bodies, males’ spots are more iridescent and bright, setting them apart from the slightly duller spots on females.

3. The Fins

Male Jewel Cichlids often exhibit a more reticulated, or net-like, pattern on their fins. Furthermore, their dorsal fins might be noticeably pointed, another trait typically absent in females.

4. Examining the Tail Coloration

Tail coloration offers yet another subtle clue. Female Jewel Cichlids have tails with a red tip that fades to yellowish, while males sport red tails dotted with blue speckles. However, these color distinctions are more apparent in younger fish and may fade as the fish matures.

5. Venting: The Most Reliable Method

If all else fails, ‘venting’ is the most reliable method to discern the sex of your Jewel Cichlids. This involves closely observing the vents. Males’ vents will be equal in size, while females’ vents will show a noticeable size disparity. The vent located close to the anal fin in females will be the larger of the two.

Wrapping Up

Armed with the right knowledge about their care needs, ideal tank conditions, compatible companions, and expected lifespan, you are now prepared to provide the best environment for these aquatic gems to thrive and dazzle.

The journey to understanding and caring for Jewel Cichlids is a testament to the fascinating diversity of the aquatic world. It is a journey brimming with both rewards and challenges. But every glance at the vibrant life unfurling within your aquarium will remind you: the vibrant and rewarding adventure with Jewel Cichlids is absolutely worth it.

After all, an aquarium graced by the gleaming hues of Jewel Cichlids is not just a hobby but a testament to the remarkable wonders of the underwater world brought into our homes.

Embark on this journey with an open heart, and the world of Jewel Cichlids will never cease to amaze. So, here’s to adding a splash of color to your life and starting an unforgettable adventure with Jewel Cichlids!

Frequently Asked Questions about Jewel Cichlids

Q1. What is the ideal tank size for Jewel Cichlids?

Jewel Cichlids require ample space to swim and claim territory. A 40-gallon tank is generally sufficient for one Jewel Cichlid.

Q2. What is the optimal diet for a Jewel Cichlid?

Jewel Cichlids are omnivores. A balanced diet should include high-quality pellets or flakes complemented by live or frozen food, like bloodworms or brine shrimp, as well as vegetables.

Q3. Are Jewel Cichlids aggressive?

Yes, Jewel Cichlids are known for their territorial and aggressive behavior, especially during mating season.

Q4. What fish can be safely housed with Jewel Cichlids?

Although these fish can be aggressive, certain fast-swimming and robust species such as Jack Dempsey, Firemouth Cichlid, and Green Terror can make suitable tank mates. However, ensure they have enough space to avoid territorial conflicts.

Q5. How to differentiate between male and female Jewel Cichlids?

Male Jewel Cichlids are generally larger and exhibit deeper coloration and more pronounced markings on their fins than females. Venting is the most accurate method to determine the sex; males have equally sized vents, whereas the vent closest to the anal fin in females is larger.

Q6. How to breed Jewel Cichlids?

Breeding Jewel Cichlids involves raising the tank temperature slightly to encourage mating. The female fish will lay eggs on a flat rock, and the eggs will typically hatch in 2-4 days. It’s important to note that these fish become highly protective parents, fiercely defending their fry.