Native to the rivers, streams and lakes of the African continent, the Hemichromis fasciatus or more commonly known as the Jewel Cichlid is quite famous in the aquarium trade for its bright and vivid coloration. Sexual dimorphism is minimal when it comes to Jewel Cichlids but males often tend to display slightly brighter coloration during breeding season compared to females.
They are highly aggressive fish that will require the aquarist to apply a good strategy if he/she wants to keep them in a community tank. Their aggression multiplies during breeding season, making them a death trap for all their tank mates.
Read on to learn more about how to properly care for these fish and to make them feel at home in your aquarium.
|Scientific Name||Hemichromis fasciatus|
|Aquarium Size||40 Gallons|
|Ease of Care||Moderate|
Types of Jewel Cichlids
There are several different species of Jewel Cichlids. Some of the species belonging to this popular genus are as follows:
- Hemichromis angolensis
- Hemichromis bimaculatus
- Hemichromis cerasogaster
- Hemichromis elongatus
- Hemichromi sexsul
- Hemichromis fasciatus
- Hemichromis frempongi
- Hemichromis guttatus
- Hemichromis letourneuxi
- Hemichromis lifalili
- Hemichromis stellifer
All these species are unique in their own way but some of the most commonly recommended species are:
1. African Cichlid
Common to West Africa, these cichlids require warm and acidic waters. They grow up to a size of 6 inches and have a red body with blue spots.
2. Banded Jewel Fish
Also native to West Africa, these cichlids are found in the Nile Basin, Zabezi River or Lake Chad. They grow up to a size of 10 inches and have red and green coloration with five black patches on their side.
3. Blood-Red Jewel Cichlid
They are very easy to breed and grow up to a size of 4 inches. One of the most popular species, known for their dark red color and small rows of blue spots.
It does not have a laterally compressed body like most cichlids, neither is it like an elongated cylinder but it is something in between. The dorsal fin on this majestically shaped body starts a third of a distance from the head, ending right where the caudal fin starts. Going as far as the dorsal fin is their sharp and trimmed anal fin. All their fins are more pointed compared to other cichlids.
Their head features a subtle bump going upwards, something that is much more prominent in younger Jewel Cichlids.
Also known as the Jewel of the Cichlids, these fish feature a bright and vivid red/orange body with several colorful spots on it. Those spots are usually of a bluish-green shade and are featured on the fins as stripes.
Other color variants are turquoise or dark blue with similar spots, but none are as famous as the red jewel cichlid.
They average at around 6 inches in captivity. Fish in captivity are usually smaller in size compared to fish in the wild but the Jewel Cichlid’s size difference is too great. They grow up to a size of one foot in the wild but only to 6 inches in captivity, a phenomenon no one has explained yet.
Difference between male and female:
Since sexual dimorphism is minimal in Jewel Cichlids, the only differences are those of a genital nature with the addition of a subtle difference in number of spots on the body (males have more spots than females around the gill plates and tail).
Females appear plumper during the mating season due to eggs, but the coloration is so similar that sometimes females are confused as males due to their bright colors.
Jewel Cichlids have a roughly 5 year lifespan in captivity, they rarely live up to 7 years. Many factors impact their life span and growth like water parameters and stress. Since they cannot tolerate other fish around their habitat, they will spare no strength to fight off fish they think are invading their space. This will result in constant stress for them which significantly decreases their lifespan.
Like any other cichlid, Jewel Cichlids are anything but picky eaters. They will eat anything you throw at them, but this does not mean that you should feed them whatever is handy. A balanced diet should be maintained to keep them healthy and ready to breed, their diet and health also have an impact on their coloration.
We would recommend feeding your Jewel Cichlids flakes or cichlid pellets and mixing in some live or frozen protein like brine shrimp and bloodworms. Be careful though, not to feed them too much protein as it might result in Malawi bloat, only feed them live or frozen food a couple of days a week and they should stay healthy.
A supplement of vegetables also doesn’t hurt.
Behavior and Temperament
Many fish have a bad reputation for being quite aggressive but that reputation often seems far-fetched. Not in the case of Jewel Cichlids, their reputation is exactly spot on! It is all a matter of territory, Jewel Cichlids are highly territorial, especially when mating. They are known to nip off the long fins of their tank mates and fight any fish that even looks at the bad.
The only solution to mitigate their bad behavior is providing lots of space and cover. A large tank with lots of rocks, plants, and wood that provide privacy to other fish should be ideal for Jewel Fish aquariums. Plant cover will help minimize line of sight, which in turn will keep tank mates protected.
Another factor that might limit aggression is keeping only one pair in a tank. Buy a bunch of them and let them form a pair, once that happens, you can remove the rest from the aquarium.
So remember, space is key.
Aquarium and Water Parameters
These fish are native to tropical waters so you should try and mimic the warm waters of their homeland. Care should be taken to keep water parameters within the ranges mentioned below or else your fish will contract illnesses, some that might even be difficult to reverse.
For this reason we would recommend careful, preventive maintenance.
|Water Hardness||120-150 ppm|
A minimum tank size of 40 gallons is recommended because Jewel Cichlids need lots of space to live comfortably with tank mates, without attacking them. If you use a smaller size, there will be a high risk of other fish dying at the hand of your Jewel Cichlids. So if you want to experiment with tank size, we would advise caution for the safety of the aquarium community.
Keeping your aquarium dwellers stress-free is of vital importance and tank décor plays a major role here. The native habitat of Jewel Cichlids should be mimicked to perfection for them to feel at home and live a healthy life.
The African rivers and ponds feature lots of green life, the use of which in your tank as a background can go a long way. Positioning them against the walls will not only hide the filter and lights but will also cover everything behind the tank. This will make your Jewel Cichlids feel like they are swimming in a dense aquatic jungle of the African continent.
For substrate, you should use something soft like sand. Like any other cichlid, Jewel Cichlids have a habit to dig through the substrate in search of food or just for fun. This also means trouble for any plants you rooted in the substrate, so take care to use pots and floating plants so your Jewel Cichlids do not uproot them.
Rocks, wood, and other decoration pieces provide hiding spots and minimize aggression because every fish will be able to hide and declare its own territory. A turf for every fish to claim as its own will maintain peace in your tank.
A good filtration system will be required because when Jewel Cichlids start digging the substrate, they will make a dusty mess inside the aquarium. An efficient filter will be required to clean that dust. The filter will also help mimic the current flow, to make your Jewel Cichlid feel right at home.
For lighting, we would recommend standard lights.
Jewel Cichlids are notorious for picking fights with their tank mates, no matter the species. There have been reports of them peacefully coexisting with their tank mates but horror stories of their homicidal behavior easily outnumber these reports.
For this reason, we would recommend Jewel Cichlid only tanks if you want a community, otherwise, if you want to take a risk, do so in a tank that is at least 50-60 gallons. Bigger tanks with lots of decorations will be ideal for such aggressive and territorial fish, giving tons of hiding space for fellow tank mates.
Breeding Jewel Cichlids is a relatively easy process because they do not require any specific conditions. However, to catalyze the process, you can turn up the temperature a bit, this will mimic breeding season like in the wild rivers and ponds of Africa.
Jewel Cichlids are monogamous and this relationship lasts long after the eggs hatch. To know when breeding will take place, observe the fish. Males will develop bright coloration and display extreme aggression due to competition. It is recommended to swap the breeding pair to a separate tank if there are more than one pairs in a community tank.
Once the male and female pair up, the female will lay around 500 eggs on a flat rock or leaf for the male to fertilize. It will take a further 2-4 days for the eggs to hatch, after which the pair will take their young to a safe spot and guard them with their lives. Do not be alarmed if the parents eat some of their children.
The fry will feed on the yolk of their eggs during the first few days. Afterwards, you can start feeding them crushed flakes.
The best way to deal with problems is to stay within the water parameter ranges. This will not only keep your Jewel Cichlids healthy but it will also keep them happy. Some of the diseases that might infect your fish are:
1. Malawi Bloat might occur if they overfeed on proteins. A dose of metronidazole or a quick water change might help with this but do not worry if it gets bad quickly because Malawi Bloat is known to kill fish within a matter of days.
2. Ich is another disease that results in lethargy, loss of appetite and white spots all over a fish’s body. To cure this, raise the temperature of the tank, use salt baths, potassium permanganate, acriflavine, and malachite green.
3. The use of praziquantel is recommended for gill flukes. Symptoms like loss of color or faded breathing indicate gill flukes.
4. Hole in the head disease or hexamita is also common among Jewel Cichlids. This causes an indentation in the head.
5. The signs of a stressed or underfed fish will be the loss of color.
Q: Can Turquois Jewel Cichlid be kept with Red Jewel Cichlids?
Yes, they can be kept together.
Q: Can you keep Tetras or Rasboras with Jewel Cichlids?
We would not recommend this because Jewel Cichlids are highly aggressive and their homicidal nature is quite well known.
Q: Can you put Moss Balls with Jewel Cichlids?
Yes, they will keep rolling it around the tank while feeding on it.
We hope this article answered all your curious questions regarding Jewel Cichlids. We would again advise not to keep them in community tanks with other fish, but if you really do want to. Ensure them of a lot of room and hiding spots or keep your aquarium a strictly Jewel Cichlid community because these fish are extremely territorial.
Definitely not recommended for beginners, but they are ideal fish for breeders because of how readily they breed and form a long-lasting bond with their mate.