Jewel Cichlid: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

jewel cichlid swimming in tank.

Jewel Cichlids are distinct-looking freshwater fish that are a brilliant addition to any aquarium. They are quite deserving of the sizable following they’ve built in the pet industry, but we feel they warrant even more attention from fish lovers across the globe.

The Jewel Cichlids can get quite nasty when incensed, but that’s not enough reason to turn down an opportunity to keep these stunning species at home.

If you are fond of the large, aggressive Cichlid species and want to experiment with a nice-looking African variant, Jewel Cichlid is an excellent choice.

Unfortunately, many people who love Jewel Cichlids don’t have full information about their care guidelines in captivity, and the few who do still make obvious mistakes. For example, did you know that Jewel Cichlids are a strictly monogamous species?

Another fun fact states that these fish’s bodies appear brighter when they are happy and duller when distressed. Perhaps you didn’t even know that adult Jewel Cichlids will take great care of their little ones until they are old enough to fend for themselves.

To provide comprehensive details about Jewel Cichlid’s care, this guide will focus on the fish’s origin, lifespan, appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more.

Species Overview

Jewel Cichlid or Hemichromis bimaculatus comes from the west and east African regions and is sometimes called the African Jewelfish.

They originate from small natural water bodies such as lakes, streams, and rivers and belong to the Cichlidae family.

Having critical information in mind, like the status of the fish’s original habitat, will help you set up the perfect aquarium. For anyone keen to keep a fun-loving freshwater Cichlid with a charismatic personality, African Jewel Cichlid looks like the answer.

CategoryRating
FamilyCichlidae
ColorRed/orange, blue
LifespanUp to 5 years
Care LevelEasy to moderate
Behavior & TemperamentAggressive
CompatibilityNot community compatible
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 6 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with plants and rocks
Tank Size (Minimum)30 gallons

Lifespan

The average lifespan of a full-grown Jewel Cichlid is around five years. We’ve heard stories where some aquarists have managed to keep these fish beyond their standard lifespan, but that’s only possible in the right environment.

In our experience, the best possible lifespan of a typical Jewel Cichlid in captivity is seven years, but as usual, everything hinges on the level of care they get throughout their lives.

Like most Cichlid fish, Jewel Cichlids are an aggressive species. And on the downside, they tend to engage in needless fights inside the aquarium that may sometimes cut short their lives.

Appearance

The beauty of African Jewelfish is sometimes thought to be unfair to other Cichlid species. Their attractive color tones alone set them apart from many species, and they will always stand out in any environment, no matter the companions.

Be it in the wild or captivity, the bright red or orange coloration is the first thing you will spot in Jewel Cichlids.

Also, they have beautifully colored spots all over their bodies that may take on a bright bluish-green hue. The same color tone extends to the fins, albeit with beautiful stripes.

Some species have dark blue bodies even though they aren’t as popular as the standard orange and blue varieties. 

Regarding the general body profile, Jewel Cichlids have narrow, elongated bodies. In addition, they have a large dorsal fin that also contributes to the total body size.

On the other hand, these Cichlids have shallow anal fins that extend backward to form a neat intersection with the dorsal fin.

An up-close look reveals a subtle bump that’s part of their faces and one of the most noticeable features in the juvenile fish.

Size

A typical Jewel Cichlid measures just about 6 inches long in captivity. Of course, this is just a rough estimation because the same species can grow up to one foot long in the wild.

Don’t worry about the significant size difference because that’s a common trend with most freshwater fish. Still, you should prioritize high-quality tank water and a balanced diet to maximize the fish’s growth in captivity.

Jewel Cichlid Care

Jewel Cichlid care is less stressful if you have some experience keeping similar fish. Usually, every care guideline is tied to the tank water conditions, and the dominant question right from the start will be, “can you replicate the exact conditions in the wild?”

With Jewel fish, there’s always a lot more to them than what meets the eye, and the sooner you realize that everything is tied to their aggressive behavior, the easier it becomes to manage their care needs.

In addition, you must understand your fish’s expectations in captivity and how best you can modify the environmental conditions to meet their needs.

That’s comprehensively covered in the next section;

Tank Size

Let’s start with the most obvious aspect, tank size.

Usually, this is the perfect starting point when keeping any fish, no matter their behavior in captivity.

Everybody talks about a 30-gallon tank capacity as the most suitable size for Jewel Cichlids, but we have a different opinion. See, in Jewel Cichlids, we are talking about a highly aggressive species that can get quite territorial if unsatisfied with their new habitat.

From our experience with many Cichlids, we believe a 40-gallon tank capacity would make more sense to the Jewel Cichlids.

A lesser-known theory states that any aggressive fish will feel more comfortable with an extra room for swimming, which may also reduce their aggression in the long run.

Suppose you consider a multi-species aquarium with Jewel Cichlids as part of the broader community, you must factor in an additional 10 gallons for every newcomer.

Unless you are an advanced aquarist, a 30-gallon tank capacity shouldn’t even pop up in a conversation involving a pair of Jewel Cichlids at home.

Water Parameters

Just like you would care for a favorite pet friend, you don’t want to mess around with the water parameters if you keep Jewel fish at home.

The biggest question will be if you can mimic the actual environmental conditions. But all in all, everything should fall within the acceptable range as highlighted below;

  • Water Temperature: 75°F-80°F
  • Water Hardness: Below 12 dGH
  • pH Levels: 6.5-7.5

Because of Jewel Cichlids’ activity levels, don’t overlook the significance of having the right filtration equipment inside the aquarium.

Go for a powerful system that can eliminate the contaminants without compromising the fish’s safety in captivity. If possible, reduce the lighting levels as much as possible to match the habitual environment.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Ultimately, effective Jewel Cichlid care comes down to the exact conditions in the natural habitat. And this step can either make or break a wholesome adventure.

You don’t have to go with fanciful designs all the time or surplus decorations when setting up the aquarium. Instead, you should tailor everything to match the natural environment, starting with the right substrate, enough hiding spots, and other decorative elements.

So, the first step will be to select the right substrate. Here, Jewel Cichlids love fine sand that mimics the actual riverbeds in the wild. Going with rougher options like gravel might be tempting for some reason, but it exposes your fish to physical injuries in the form of deep cuts. 

As far as the general tank cover goes, you will want to create a natural-looking aquarium by opting for a rock-plant combo.

Territorial battles amongst the Jewel fish are best avoided with enough hiding places. And large rocks should help you achieve that from the start.

Common Diseases

Jewel Cichlids are a hardy species but won’t withstand all conditions within the aquarium community. They are particularly susceptible to common diseases troubling freshwater fish.

The first culprit is the Malawi boat, a potentially lethal infection characterized by loss of appetite, swelling, and rapid breathing. The easiest step to counter the disease symptoms is to change the tank water right away because if you don’t act immediately, this condition can have a fatal outcome.

Also, gill flukes are quite common in the Jewel Cichlid community. This condition presents with discoloration and breathing difficulties, but you can readily calm down your fish with the right medications or suitable natural remedies.

Finally, the Ich infection or white spots, as it’s sometimes called, present with restlessness, loss of appetite, and frequent rubbing of the fish’s body against the tank objects. But, again, you can treat it with simple medicines.

Aside from introducing suitable tank mates, another handy, three-plan strategy to keep these conditions away includes reducing stress, maintaining a clean tank, and providing a spacious environment. That’s how you care for Jewel Cichlids in captivity.

What Do Jewel Cichlids Eat?

Jewel Cichlids are true omnivores, and the captive-bred species will readily accept pellets, flakes, and live food for a typical meal. They aren’t picky eaters at all, and you should find it easier to feed them high-quality food at home.

Perhaps the most important thing when feeding these Cichlids is maintaining a balanced diet. As much as Jewel Cichlids appreciate flakes and pellets at home, they would also benefit from the vital nutrients from live foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp.

Regulating the feeding pattern is important to ensure you supply just the right amount of food a few times a day without running the risk of overfeeding.

Behavior & Temperament

Are Jewel Cichlids aggressive? Well, that shouldn’t even be a question at this point.

Jewel Cichlids are quite a territorial species, and their aggressive tendencies may sometimes make them unmanageable at home. This is especially true for beginner-level aquarists lacking prior experience handling a similar species.

Speaking of their hostility, this is not even a harsh judgment on Jewel Cichlids’ temperament. But anyone keen to keep these fish at home must first understand the possible causes of aggression in the Jewel Cichlid community.

Usually, this entirely depends on the tank water conditions, possible tank mates, and diet. Naturally, these fish tend to be more aggressive during the breeding season, especially when they have to compete for mating partners.

Generally, they are reasonably active in captivity and often spend much of their time digging around the substrate and live plants or just exploring their new home.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

The ideal Jewel Cichlid tank mates is a hotly contested topic among fish lovers around the world. For some aquarists, choosing suitable tank mates is pretty straightforward, and you won’t lack the right species if you need new buddies for the community tank.

For others, it’s pure luck. This group believes that what works for one aquarist may not suit your fish in captivity.

According to them, Jewel Cichlids themselves will choose if, where, and when to show their aggression. So, if they settle well in a specific community, they won’t display excessive hostility.

We couldn’t agree more with the second group. In our opinion, there’s no right or wrong way to choose an ideal tank mate for Jewel Cichlids apart from paying attention to the newcomer’s size and temperament.

However, we agree that this is pure luck and what works for one aquarist may not necessarily suit everyone. 

Sometimes, these fish can even kill the supposed tank mates if they are small and defenseless. So, don’t keep Jewel Cichlids as part of a community tank to be on the safer side.

There’s no harm in keeping two Jewel Cichlids in the same space to help you create a vibrant aquarium if the habitat is large enough and they don’t show excessive aggression.

Breeding

What have you heard about Jewel Cichlid breeding at home? Is it challenging? Maybe easy? Or even impossible at all? Well, aside from the major concern about Jewel Cichlid’s temperament, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to breeding these fish at home. 

Perhaps the trickiest part will be to determine the fish’s gender, but you shouldn’t have any other challenge breeding these fish at home once that’s done. Usually, Jewel Cichlids exist in pairs, and the bonded species will be ready to breed as soon as the spawning period approaches.

It’s important to select similar-sized species to limit aggression during breeding. During the spawning season, you can start by raising the water temperature slowly until you reach the recommended level.

The male Jewel Cichlids will display a more vibrant coloration during breeding, with the females later laying their eggs on the tank decorations if the conditions are right.

Typically, the eggs will take about 2-4 days to hatch soon after fertilization. The adult Jewel Cichlids are protective of their young ones and might even transfer the little fish to a separate territory to guarantee their safety.

Final Thoughts

Despite their aggression, Jewel Cichlids are among the most popular freshwater Cichlids that can instantly transform your interior home décor with suitable tank mates.

Much has been said about the fish’s behavior in captivity, but as we’ve mentioned, that alone is not enough reason to break a wholesome fishkeeping adventure.

You will love the beauty of Jewel Cichlids as the only species inside the tank. And if you’re lucky enough, you might even find a few exciting buddies if you need new tank mates for your Jewel Cichlid friends.

As usual, we are happy to recommend Jewel Cichlids to any aquarist keen to augment their tanks with a truly beautiful freshwater Cichlid.

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