Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio Octofasciata): Ultimate Care Guide

Common Name(s)Jack Dempsey Fish
Scientific NameRocio Octofasciata
OriginSouthern Mexico
Temperature72F – 86F
Water pH6.0 – 7.0
Adult Sizeup to 8 inches

Jack Dempsey Fish Facts

  • The Jack Dempsey Fish acquired its name due to its strong facial features that have been compared to the famous boxer of the 1920s, Jack Dempsey.
  • Jack Dempsey Fish juveniles do not gain their full coloration until full maturity.
  • Jack Dempsey Fish have teeth to help them eat meat.
  • A breeding pair of Jack Dempsey Fish will mate for life.

Identification and Markings

Jack Dempsey Fish is a Cichlid from Central America. More specifically, they are native to rivers of Southern Mexico, Belize, and Honduras. They are known to have established themselves outside of these native areas as well.

Jack Dempsey Fish are often chosen for home aquariums for their beautiful coloration, and the pop of color their shimmery scales add to their aquarium. Jack Dempsey Fish can be found in a wide variety of colors. They can be blue, pink, green, silver, and purple. Juvenile Jack Dempsey Fish do not quite have all of their coloration until they reach maturity. Immature Jack Dempsey Fish are a duller gray color with flecks of green all over their bodies. It is interesting to note that Jack Dempsey Fish gain their popular coloration as they age. Adult Jack Dempsey Fish can have specks of white, green, purple, or blue. The coloration of a Jack Dempsey fish isn’t just beautiful to look at, but it can be an indicator of the health of the fish. If the Jack Dempsey Fish’s coloration seems duller than usual, you may have a sick fish on your hands.

The Jack Dempsey Fish has a medium, rounded shaped body when compared to other Cichlids, and they have long fins. They also have teeth for eating meat.

Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio Octofasciata)
Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio Octofasciata)

Are Jack Dempsey Fish Aggressive?

Jack Dempsey Fish are an aggressive Cichlid from Central America. They are not the largest species of aggressive Cichlid, but they are still not recommended for a beginner to the fishkeeping hobby for this reason. Jack Dempsey fish are not recommended for a community setup as they tend to get more aggressive and territorial as they age, and during spawning time. Even though they are aggressive, they do not simply kill other fish just because they are capable. If they are maintained in the right setup, they can do just fine in a community tank.

Do Jack Dempsey Fish Have Teeth?

Jack Dempsey Fish have teeth that help them eat meat. These teeth serve them well in tearing at the flesh of other fish, or eating and crushing small crustaceans. They use their mouths to siphon the food in, and their teeth to crush or chew their prey.

How to Care for Jack Dempsey Fish

Jack Dempsey Fish can be difficult to care for due to their aggressive nature. They are not recommended for beginners to the fish keeping hobby, or even to people who have never owned an aggressive Cichlid before. They are not recommended for community tanks either for this same reason.

Tank Size & Requirements

Jack Dempsey Fish require a minimum of an 80 gallon tank to house a single fish. If you are planning on keeping a breeding pair, you will want to add an additional 55 gallons to house another Jack Dempsey Fish. These fish require a lot of room to be comfortable, but if you have the room for a larger aquarium for them, the better. Jack Dempsey Fish tend to get more aggressive and territorial as they age, so it is a good idea to make sure that you are prepared for this behavior. Jack Dempsey Fish require a water temperature of 72F to 86F, and a 6.0 to 7.0 pH. They will require a reliable heater to keep their water at their desired warmer temperature. Bigger fish like Jack Dempseys tend to put out a lot of waste into the water, so a powerful filtration system is a must for Jack Dempsey Fish.

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank to house Jack Dempsey Fish, you will want to try to mimic their natural environment in the wild. For substrate, you can choose a variety of gravel, sand, or small rocks. Jack Dempsey Fish use their mouths to dig and root through the substrate, so the most important thing is to make sure that you have at least 2 inches of substrate. When choosing plants, you will want to go with deep rooted plants like java ferns so that the Jack Dempsey Fish is less likely to uproot it from the substrate. Floating plants are a great option for a Jack Dempsey Fish aquarium as they are out of the way of their rooting, and they help provide the lower level of lighting that they are used to in the wild. Due to their aggressive nature, it is a good idea to give them plenty of places to hide and claim. You can design this with rocks and driftwood. If you are planning on breeding Jack Dempseys, you will want to include large flat rocks to their aquarium as well.

How Do I Set Up the Ideal Habitat for Jack Dempsey Fish?

Setting up the ideal habitat for Jack Dempsey Fish is much easier done if you have a good understanding of their natural habitat in the wild, and their need for lots of room. You must not only make sure that their water parameters are correct and clean, but you also have to make sure that you are providing them with plenty of places to hide with the decor you have chosen . These many hiding places will give them lots of places to claim as their own.

Jack Dempsey Fish Size & Lifespan

In the wild, Jack Dempsey Fish can grow up to 15 inches in length, but in captivity, they only grow to about half that size when fully mature. If they are properly cared for, the average lifespan of a Jack Dempsey Fish is around 8 to 10 years.

Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio Octofasciata)
Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio Octofasciata)

Food & Diet

Jack Dempsey Fish in the wild eat a carnivorous diet. They can be found snacking on insects, worms, other fish, and crustaceans. They use their teeth to help them tear the flesh to eat it. It is important to make sure that your Jack Dempsey Fish receive a high quality, varied diet in captivity. They readily accept the foods you can purchase that are designed for Cichlids, but you should also offer them live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, crickets, bloodworms, fruit flies, and grasshoppers.

While it is true that Jack Dempsey Fish will eat mice, it is not a required part of their diet, and not recommended for feeding in captivity either. In the wild, Jack Dempsey Fish would rarely have the opportunity to eat mice, but if given the chance they would eat them.

How Often Should I Feed My Jack Dempsey Fish?

Juvenile Jack Dempsey Fish require 2 to 3 feedings per day, but as they mature, you can expect to feed an adult Jack Dempsey Fish 1 to 2 times per day. It is easy to overfeed Jack Dempsey Fish, so make sure that you are only offering them as much as they can completely consume in 2 to 3 minutes. This will help cut down on waste in your aquarium, and help avoid overfeeding them.

Jack Dempsey Fish Breeding

In the wild, it takes a juvenile Jack Dempsey Fish much longer to mature, but in captivity, you can have a bonded pair of Jack Dempsey Fish ready to spawn in as little as six months if they are kept in the right conditions. If you have a bonded pair that is not spawning, then you can possibly coax them into spawning by offering them live foods. Male and female Jack Dempsey Fish colors will darken as they near spawning time. If you have a bonded pair kept in the right conditions, you can expect your Jack Dempsey Fish to breed without any intervention.

Jack Dempsey Fish are substrate spawners, and if they are preparing to spawn, you will be able to see the male and female cleaning up a spot in the tank that they have chosen to lay their eggs. This means that the female Jack Dempsey Fish will deposit her eggs onto a clean, flat surface that is readily available to them like a flat rock. In the wild, they usually choose a gravelly spot to lay their eggs. When the female is ready, she will lay anywhere from 500 to 800 eggs. After the female has deposited her eggs, she will then drag the male over by his mouth to the spot where he is to fertilize their eggs.

Jack Dempsey Fry

Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, the parent fish will guard them until they hatch. It takes roughly 3 days for the Jack Dempsey fry to hatch, and once they hatch, the parent fish then move them to small little pits in the gravel for safety. Newly hatched fry will still need to be fed a special diet of infusoria for the first 48 hours of their life. They can then move on to baby brine shrimp and microworms. Even though you are feeding the Jack Dempsey fry a special diet, their parent fish will still try to feed them.

It has been said that newly bonded and spawning pairs of Jack Dempsey Fish will consume their first few broods of fry until they get the hang of what they are doing. After they figure out how to care for their fry, you should have a plan in place for the potential hundreds of Jack Dempsey fry that you will end up with.

How Do You Tell the Difference Between Male and Female Jack Dempsey FIsh?

It is quite easy to tell the difference between mature male and female Jack Dempsey Fish by just looking at them. Male Jack Dempsey Fish have a bluish spot on their cheeks behind their mouths, while female Jack Dempsey Fish have much larger, iridescent markings around their mouths.

Jack Dempsey Fish Disease

Like most freshwater fish, Jack Dempsey Fish are prone to many of the same ailments and common tank diseases.. They can be infected by fungal, parasitic, or bacterial parasites. The health and happiness of your Jack Dempsey Fish is directly related to how well they are cared for. If they are not being kept in the proper environment with proper water parameters and cleanliness, then they will get sick. It is also important to quarantine any new additions to your home aquarium so that you are taking precautions to not introduce any sickness. Ich is a common parasitic infection in fish, and will show up as white spots near the head of your fish that quickly take over. If left untreated, ich can clog the gills of your fish and suffocate them to death. If caught early enough, ich can potentially be treated.

When Jack Dempsey Fish are not well, you will be able to see their colors dull. This is usually the first indicator that something is not right with your fish or your tank. Fish who are sick will also have less appetite, and less activity.

Why is My Jack Dempsey Fish Sitting at the Bottom of my Tank?

If you notice that your Jack Dempsey Fish is sitting on the bottom of your tank, and not really going anywhere, there is the possibility that it is just simply constipated. This can happen with overfeeding. If you suspect that this has happened to your Jack Dempsey Fish, then offer them smaller amounts of food, and try giving them greens for their next meal to encourage them to empty out their bowels.

Jack Dempsey Tank Mates

Jack Dempsey Fish can live alone just fine without issue. In contrast, finding a suitable tank mate for Jack Dempsey Fish can be a challenge, due to their aggressive behavior and tendencies.

Jack Dempsey Fish and Oscar

Jack Dempsey Fish and Oscar Fish are both large, aggressive Cichlids but this does not mean that they can not be kept together. Under the right conditions it is possible to keep these two species together in a community tank setup. The most important thing to keep in mind when considering housing these two species together is having enough room. The larger the tank, the more hiding places you provide, and a complete diet will all aid in the success of keeping them together without much difficulty.

Jack Dempsey Fish and Angelfish

Keeping Angelfish with Jack Dempsey Fish can be done under the right conditions. Both of these species tend to be territorial, so make sure that you have enough space and hiding places for them to each claim their own territory. As with all new fish introduced into your aquarium, you will want to carefully monitor their behavior to make sure that there are no issues, or that you are there to intervene if a problem should arise.

Jack Dempsey Fish and Convict Cichlid

Jack Dempsey Fish are one of the few fish that can be kept with Convict Cichlids safely. Each of these fish are large, predatory, and territorial. Both species grow to roughly the same size, and will generally leave eachother alone if they are given enough space.

Jack Dempsey Fish and Blood Parrot

It is possible to keep Jack Dempsey Fish and Blood Parrot Cichlids together in a community setup as long as they are provided with enough space. They are both territorial species, and if they do not have enough room to claim space as their own, they will fight each other for it.

Where Can I Find Jack Dempsey Fish for Sale?

If you are looking to purchase a Jack Dempsey Fish for your home aquarium, you will easily be able to find one for sale at a local pet store, or from breeders online. You can expect to pay around $15 to $45 for a single Jack Dempsey Fish depending on its coloration, markings and size.

Jack Dempsey Fish Color Variations

Even though there are different types of Jack Dempsey Fish, they are all the same species. These different types have been selectively bred by different breeders. The most common of these different variations is the Electric Blue Jack Dempsey Fish. These fish are smaller, less aggressive, and colored a bright blue. Other color variations of Jack Dempsey Fish also include pinks, gold, and greens. The pricing for each Jack Dempsey Fish is largely dependent on the coloration, and its popularity.