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Jack Dempsey

(Nandopsis octofasciatum)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Aggressive   • Maximum Size: 12"
• Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons   • Water Conditions: 72-83° F, pH 6.5-7.5, KH 2-10
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: Central America   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Jack Dempsey   • Aquarium Type: New World Cichlid Aquarium

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Species Information

Jack Dempsey native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

Nandopsis octofasciatum, also known as the Jack Dempsey, is a colorful and extremely hardy Cichlid native to still and slow moving bogs, lakes, ponds and swamps in Central America. Jack Dempsey are one of the most popular species in the hobby and are known for their territorial instincts as well as the intense coloration they can bring to any aquarium. They have a gray to tan base color with vertical, dark striping on the body.

They also have vivid, iridescent, electric blue-green and gold hues throughout, with the addition of some red outlining on the males dorsal fin. Jack Dempsey can also have (to varying intensity) black splotching on their lateral lines. Males will also grow out to be much larger than the females and will display more vivid colors.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Jack Dempsey in the home aquarium.

Adult Jack Dempsey require an aquarium of at least 55 gallons and should be provided with multiple places where they can find shelter like driftwood, rocky structures (especially caves), and vegetation. In addition to a good hiding place, Jack Dempsey appreciate clean, acidic to neutral water as well as areas with plants.

While they can be kept with rooted plants, they are known to dig in the substrate from time to time which can cause some uprooting. Jack Dempsey are territorial and aggressive, which can lead to the weaker fish being bullies as well as the small fish being eaten. Tank mates should be considered carefully and should be comparable in size and temperament.

Larger fish that swim at mid or higher levels in the aquarium and who have a different body shape make for good tank mates for the Jack Dempsey, who prefers the lower areas of the aquarium near the substrate.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Jack Dempsey and provide a healthy diet.

The Jack Dempsey is an omnivorous fish species, thus should be fed a variety of foods including both meaty and vegetable based foods. They are generally not picky eaters and will usually accept a wide variety of foods including: live, frozen or freeze-dried ghost shrimp, minnows, shrimp, crickets, bloodworms, blackworms, earthworms, flake food, and Cichlid pellets. It is best to feed them a couple of times a day small amounts of food that they will consume within a few minutes.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Jack Dempsey in the aquarium environment.

Jack Dempsey are egg layers that practice brood care. For the ideal breeding environment, the water temperature should be raised to and maintained at 84-86° F and the pH stabilized on the more acidic side. The female Jack Dempsey will lay around 650 eggs in a carefully cleaned location (driftwood, rocks, stones, slate, large plant leaves, etc).

The eggs will hatch in 2-3 days and the fry should be free-swimming within a week. The newly hatched fry should be fed a diet of baby brine shrimp or crushed flake food and then moved to other foods as they mature.

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