Jewel cichlid: Care, Tank-mates and Breeding- 2020

The Jewel Cichlid is a fun and unique looking freshwater fish that doesn’t get the attention the aquarist community deserves. 

Sure, all things considered, they are pretty popular. But in fact, we think they are still quite undervalued! 

Their aggression is the principal reason for this. In the right (or wrong) situation, those suckers can be nasty! 

While that’s definitely something to be aware of, it shouldn’t completely turn you away from that fish. The Jewel cichlid is a great choice if you have some experience and want to take care of a beautiful, entertaining fish.

The Jewel Cichlid is native to Africa and is part of the family of cichlids. In the wild, this species of fish can be found in streams, rivers, creeks, lakes and various lagoons of water.

Jewel cichlid, a popular species in the aquarium, is a very colorful fish that also sparkles. The fish is widely known to be aggressive and needs extensive care as it can be hard to keep in a home tank if certain rules are ignored. Hence, a guide to jewel cichlid care is important for a beginner. 

Since most people are captivated by their beautiful colouration, the desire to keep it in a tank might be enough. Needless to say, it pays to learn as much about this serious business as is necessary before entering.


Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cichliformes
Family: Cichlidae
Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Tribe: Hemichromini
Genus: Hemichromis
W. K. H. Peters, 1857
Type species
Hemichromis fasciatus

Here are the recognized species. There are about 12 of them!

  • Hemichromis angolensis Steindachner, 1865
  • Hemichromis bimaculatus T. N. Gill, 1862 (Jewelfish)
  • Hemichromis cerasogaster (Boulenger, 1899)
  • Hemichromis elongatus (Guichenot, 1861) (Banded jewel cichlid)
  • Hemichromis exsul (Trewavas, 1933) (Turkana jewel cichlid)
  • Hemichromis fasciatus W. K. H. Peters, 1857 (Banded jewelfish, five-spot cichlid)
  • Hemichromis frempongi Loiselle, 1979
  • Hemichromis guttatus Günther, 1862
  • Hemichromis letourneuxi Sauvage, 1880
  • Hemichromis lifalili Loiselle, 1979
  • Hemichromis saharae Sauvage, 1880
  • Hemichromis stellifer Loiselle, 1979

The appearance of jewel cichlid

jewel fish in aquarium

They come in a variety of brilliant colours. These vary with greenish spots, from bright red to violet. Yet they become even brighter during breeding. With more extended dorsal, anal and ventral fins, the males have more pronounced brightness.

Its sizes range from 3 to 12 inches. They tend to be larger in the wild than in home aquariums. Basically, this is easily explainable as they can meet all the nutritional needs required in the wilderness as opposed to the home tank. They live for approximately 5 years.

Jewel cichlids’ beauty is something one can not deny. They come in a number of colorful variations but the red Jewel cichlid is definitely the most common. 

These fish have a bright red/orange body and colored spots throughout. Typically these spots are a light bluish-green and cover their whole body. The same colors are also on their fins, but they are stripped a little bit more. 

A dark blue or turquoise body with the same bright blueish-green dots is another color variation that you see a fair amount. They are definitely not as popular as the red bodied fish, but you will see them quite frequently.

Jewel’s cichlid body is rather narrow and pointed. Their dorsal fin begins about a third of their body down and continues right before their caudal fine. Jewel cichlid anal fins are shallow, trimmed and end just as far back as their dorsal fine. 

Their head shape slants from their mouth upwards and then curves to a very subtle bump at the start of their back. Usually, this bump is more pronounced when cichlid fish by Jewel are younger.

While it is quite common for fish to be larger in the wild than when kept in an aquarium, this is a fairly significant difference. There seems to be no strong theory as to why this gap in size is so big when it comes to Jewel cichlids as compared to other fish.

Jewel cichlid Lifespan

The quality of care and habitat they are provided with (just like any other fish) influences their lifespan. What makes them a bit different though is how important it is to manage their aggression. 

You see, the Jewel cichlids in their tank are far more likely to get into altercations and fights. In addition to the obvious health issues that can cause frequent fights, this also places them in a stressful state. 

Constant stress can shorten the lifespan of your red Jewel cichlid considerably, which is obviously not fair to them. We will be getting more into the specific care guidelines to follow, but the impact this can have on their lifespan is worth noting.


Jewel fish swimming in aquarium

Jewel cichlid care is mainly about your ability to manage its aggressive tendencies. When it comes to this fish, this is what you hear people most talk about, and that’s for good reason. 

However, understanding the essential tank and water guidelines which they also need is also crucial. If these are not cared for, then nothing else matters!

Keeping jewel cichlid

It’s a little difficult to store the Jewel Cichlid in the Community tank. They are often territorial, and tend to be very aggressive, especially when the female lays the eggs and cares for their fry. That does not of course mean that they can not be stocked with other fish. They could. But one has to make sure that the tank is large enough to give the cichlid room to form its own territory. 

Decorating it with a variety of rocks and some plants is also important when in a community tank. This likely breaks the sight lines and minimizes aggression. Also not to be forgotten is that when not well fed, they easily become fin nippers more so.


The Jewel Cichlid was essentially used to live in muddy waters found at the bottom of lakes , rivers or streams in Africa from where they originated. This will help an aquarist find the best residence for this fish.

Nevertheless, they require somewhat greater tank capacities to help them move freely and form territories. As much as the size of the fish heavily determines the tank size, 40 gallons or more is the most suitable for the Jewel Cichlid. The only exception is when there is a need for an even larger tank when other fish are present during breeding.

Tank size

When it comes to caring for your Jewel cichlids, tank size is the most important place to begin. 

While many people are recommending a minimum 30-gallon tank, we believe something a little bigger will make your life much easier. A 40-gallon tank will provide some extra space to help make your fish more comfortable and give them the space they need. 

If you’re planning to keep multiple Jewel cichlids in the same tank you’ll want to increase the size by around 10 gallons to make it safe to play. We heard from aquarists that got away with pairs in as little as 30 gallons, but there are also plenty of others that have killed fish trying this.

When it comes to our fish’s health and safety we prefer to play it safe. If you are an experienced aquarist who knows very well about their fish, be free to experiment with caution.

When it comes to Jewel cichlid care you want to take the water conditions very seriously. Failure to remain within these guidelines certainly leads to health problems (some that you may not be able to overturn). 

Because these are tropical fish you will do your best to replicate their natural environment. That means pretty warm water.

  • Water temperature: This should remain at 75 ° F to 80 ° F
  • Niveau pH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: This should remain at a neutral-soft range of no more than 12 dGH

Because of the type of substrate, you ‘re going to put in the tank (more on that in the section below) you ‘re likely going to want some sort of external filtration. This will make sure the water for your Jewel cichlids to swim and live in is clear and healthy. 

Moderate illumination is also recommended. For that, you won’t have to get a fancy lamp. Standard options for illumination will do just fine.

Fun fact!

“Mermaids are mythological creatures with the tail of a fish and the upper half of a woman.”

Setting up tank

Jewel fish Aquarium tank

A large proportion of caring for and keeping Jewel cichlids stress-free comes down to their habitat. Each fish species has its own preferences in their tank for what they like, and it is up to you to understand what’s best for them. 

There are a number of advantages to having your tank setup effectively mimic its natural habitat. 

The first is it will make your fish feel comfortable and able to behave as they naturally would. The second advantage is that it will potentially allow you to keep multiple fish in the same tank. Hiding places and spots to call themselves go a long way!

Sandy substrate: This is because of Jewel cichlids like rooting around the tank and digging at the bottom. When they do that, anything rougher might cause them to get cut. 

Background covering: If you use the background of an aquarium you want to make it as natural as possible. Our advice is something with a mixture of rocks and plants. 

Large rocks: That’s going to make the difference. First of all, rocks help mimic their natural river, stream, and lake habitat. Second, that gives your Jewel cichlids a place to call themselves. That will help to prevent spats in the territories.

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Food and Diet

Jewel cichlids are omnivores and enjoy flake food, pellets and live food. They are pretty easy to feed overall so you shouldn’t have too much trouble managing your diet. 

However, if you want to keep them as healthy as possible, you will definitely want to ensure that you provide them with a balanced diet. That means a mixture of pellets or flakes and a couple of days of mixed live food each week. 

The usual suspects have meaning for live food. Frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms are just two of your best choices. Nevertheless don’t feed these too much on your Jewel fish, it’s the max a few times a week.

The Jewel Cichlid eats numerous foods just as most fish species do. However, in order to maintain their attractive colour, the diet needs to be varied to include blood worms, white worms, tubifex and fish frames.

Vegetables to be added to the diet could include spirulina and leaves of lettuce. 

It is important to vary these meals for a better healthy diet because this helps break the monotony in feeding.

Nutrition value

Jewel cichlids, as is the case with many cichlids, will eat just about anything you offer them. However, to maximize the coloring of your jewel cichlids, you should feed them with a varied diet of living, frozen, and pellet-dried food.

Start with a staple diet of cichlid flakes or pellets, and add various live and frozen foods to it. You can also occasionally bring fresh vegetables to your jewel cichlids.

Especially important is the diet you offer your cichlids if you wish to condition them for breeding. Focus on the live and frozen foods in this case.

Jewel cichlids Breeding

Behavior while Breeding!

The Jewel Fish, is an open water spawner, meaning it’s looking for a place to dig holes for spawning. Once a male and a female have bonded, they form a definite partnership and, if given the chance during the breeding and fry raising process, will kill others of their species.

Unlike other African cichlid species, the duties of egg care and fry raising are evenly split between the two parents who are very attentive.

The young fish are looked after even when they are able to go out alone. The family will sometimes stay together until the fries are almost ready to reach sexual maturity. 

Jewel cichlids have a reputation as quite aggressive fish and are potentially difficult to handle in some situations. 

Although, We are not going to play up with an aquarium fish’s aggression (because many fish aren’t as feisty as their reputation suggests). However, in the right circumstances, Jewel cichlids are definitely worthy of this classification. 

That doesn’t mean they can’t care for other fish or keep it with them. There are actually a handful of aquarists out there swearing they are making great fish for community tanks. 

But if you want to play it safely, this is something that you will probably avoid (more on that in the section below).

Their aggressive and territorial tendencies need to be understood to help you create the perfect habitat for them to thrive.

Feeding a breeding pair: This species is not difficult to care for. They are not food choices but ample live and frozen protein-rich foods must be provided before and during the period of spawning and fry raising. 

Feeding the Fry: Instantly after hatching, the Jewel Fish fry can devour baby brine shrimp and finely ground fry food. The parents will ensure they are safe and well-nourished by leading the brood wherever the food is being provided.

They are large fry and the parent fish will round the tank herd the family in search of infusoria, microalgae and edible tidbits around the aquarium bottom.

For this reason, the breeding aquarium should not be a bare tank with “new” water for the best results; it should be well established with thriving live plants to provide the fry with ample food supply in their first three weeks of life. 

The fry will greedily accept anything they are offered after three weeks but continues to feed at least some fresh or frozen baby brine shrimp for the protein for the fastest growth. A full belly with any growing cichlid is a healthy belly, so feeding should be very often.

Some tips!

Water Conditions: As flood-plain dwellers in nature, the Jewel fish is not particularly selective about pH or hardness within reason. However, in order to ensure clear and clean water at all times, these fish must be provided with an efficient filter system. Keeping a steady temperature from 78 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit is also important for breeding to take place.

  • Tank size: 30 “X 15” X 15 “or 29 gallons recommended. This may sound like overkill, but space is needed for fry rearing with up to 200 surviving fry.
  • Hardness: 120 – 150 ppm (mg / L) is ideal, but they are a species that’s relatively forgiving, so close enough.
  • Temperature: Fahrenheit: 79–82 degrees.
  • Spawning media: This species prefers a pot of terracotta flowers, turned on its side and aged for at least a week in an established aquarium. The size of the opening should not exceed 5 ‘from 3 They appear to like a cave’s illusion.
  • Breeding Method: Like other medium-sized cichlids, Jewel Fish undergoes a mating ritual that looks like fighting; then the pair will be close to each other for a few days, finally laying eggs and fertilizing them side by side, egg by egg.
  • Egg size and number: Mature Jewel Fish produces 250–300 yellowish eggs that have a diameter of about 2 mm.
  • Hatching Time: The eggs hatch within three days; there is no need or suggestion for intervention. Parents will constantly fan the eggs with their fins and pick them up in order to remove fungus and dead eggs. The parents won’t eat the eggs unless they get disturbed during breeding.

Fun fact!

Cleaner fish help out other fish by removing parasites and dead skin from their scales.

Tank mates for jewel cichlid

Some aquarists had fantastic luck with Jewel cichlids being kept in community tanks. They paired them with African cichlids and even some varied tetra types. 

But that’s more a lucky situation than anything else in our experience. 

There are a couple of care guides and videos about Jewel cichlids that say they work great with other fish and the creator has had no problems with them. But when you look at the comments and feedback it’s full of people saying that their Jewel cichlids are super aggressive.

We can not recommend this fish for community tanks due to its aggressive nature with other fishes around it. The risk of their tank-mates being killed is simply too high. 

Although we recommend you keep jewel cichlids together. So, despite the concerns of the tank mate, you can still have a lively and full tank of fish. Try to keep the tank size comfortable enough to make sure they are having a great environment.



Now that you’ve got a better understanding of what’s needed to provide great Jewel cichlid care, it’s up to you to decide whether they’re right. 

Many aquarists prefer to avoid them because of their aggressiveness if they had their heart set on a community tank. However, if you love this fish’s beauty and want to add it to your collection, we are strongly encouraging that. 

Jewel cichlids are a beautiful and enriching freshwater fish to care for when kept in a single species tank. We know the owners who had them for years and couldn’t be happier! 


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