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Jewel Cichlid: Ultimate Care Guide 2021

What are Jewel cichlids?

Jewel cichlids are a group of beautiful fish that belongs to the cichlid family. They are looking very unique and rear all over the world. It is a very popular bright colored fish which popular among aquarists.

Even though they are colorful, are super aggressive.

If you are a beginner at fish keeping, this is the right place to enhance your knowledge. The reason is if you want to breed jewel cichlid you need to know everything about A-Z.

So keep reading.!

From my experience, I love this as they are very good parents for their babies. And nice coloration adds beauty to the tank as well.

As I told you earlier this jewel cichlid is scientifically known as Hemichromis bimaculatus belongs to the cichlid family. Therefore their taxonomical classification as follows,

  • Kingdom- Animalia
  • Phylum- Cordata
  • Class- Actinopterygii
  • Family- Cichlidae
  • Genus- Hemichromis

Source: Jewel cichlid Wikipedia.

Jewel Cichlid

Jewel cichlid Origin and Distribution

They are native to Western Africa and distributed over Faso, Chad, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. They are introduced to Australia, the USA, and Canada. Due to the African origin are also call as African jewel cichlid fish.

Within Western Africa, they can be found in lakes, streams, African river systems. Even can see at the mud bottoms of Brackishwater lagoons.

They are been kept in aquariums for a long time.

Besides the natural habitat conditions, it genetically adapted to any environment which slightly away from the natural habitat.

That doesn’t mean you should not give native conditions, you should. But can tolerate a wider range.

This fish is also called African Jewel fish, green jewel fish, Blue jewel fish. So it is a nice pretty fish to keep in your aquaria.

Jewel cichlid Appearance

jewel cichlid has a bright coloration which varies from bright red to orange color. Even there are bluish-green color spots spread all over the body.

If you see the fish for the first time you will identify it as a red color fish. Close to the fins, you can see a little bit of dark blue color, there also bluish-green color spots are permanently available.

Also have three bigger dark spots and you can see it on the gill flap, on mid-body, and caudal fin.

Cichlid dorsal fin is located at 1/3 of the distance from the head and runs downs the body until the right before it meets the caudal fin.

They also have a shallow anal fin which looks similar to the far back of the dorsal fin. And it says to be trim. Cichlid family other species also share the same body coloration only difference is the intensity variation.

If we look at the Hemichromis lifalili it also has the same red coloration but it is darker. Therefore it is known as Blood red jewel cichlid.

This fish can be found in the oxygen-rich slow-moving water streams in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

How it differs from Hemichromis bimalatus? As I told you earlier in addition to the red color it also has bluish green spots along with bigger dark spots.

But remember this will have only 2 bigger dark spots. Thereby you can easily identify Hemichromis bimaculatus( jewel cichlid) from Blood red jewel cichlid.

When it comes to the jewel cichlid size

In the wild, they grow up to about a maximum size of 6.5-26.5cm ( 2.5-10.5 inches). If you keep this fish in captivity it will only grow up to about 6 inches.

The only thing you have to do is feed and manage them properly.

The behavior of Jewel cichlid

They are super aggressive. Aggressiveness gets higher during the mating period, not only with other species of fish even with their own kinds they get aggressive.

Therefore it is better to rear jewel cichlid in a separate tank. Sometimes you may see they swim everywhere within the tank.

But they always looking for hiding places. It is better if you can give them some places to hide.

You can use to decor the tank with aquarium plants like Java mossJava fern, and Anubias spp. Even can give them with hiding rock caves by a proper aquascape.

Even driftwood also possible to use as decor. Why I am recommending hiding places when it comes to the breeding period they lay eggs on those caves. it will be so easy for you.

They also spend more time digging the substrate therefore better to use a sandy substrate or substrate with pebbles. It can reduce possible injuries to the fish.

Are Jewel cichlids Aggressive?

yes, as I mention in the above paragraph they get aggressive when they are underfed, during mating to have territory over others.

So even they tend to fin nipping. Therefore it is advisable not to keep long finfish species with these jewel cichlids.

Once my friend reared jewel cichlids in a community tank, with some mbuna and peacock cichlids. He has seen after a few days these cichlids floating on the water it was killed by this jewel cichlid. be aware if you have it already.

Even though they aggressive are good parents. They look after their babies carefully even until they get mature.


  • Jewel cichlids are aggressive.
  • Higher aggressiveness can see during the mating period.
  • Tends to fin nipping
  • Very good parents

How fast do Jewel cichlids grow?

Jewel cichlids have a long lifespan of 2 years. Even though have a long lifespan it depends on several factors like how you feed them, care for them, and tank conditions.

Sometimes they may be susceptible to various diseases. In that case, growth can subject to suppression even can die.

Generally, your fish get mature size around 2-3 years.

This may be changing with the fish health and tank size etc. So it can count into the overall aquarium care of the fish. Therefore its growth depends on how you care for your fish. I hope you get the point.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Size

As they are aggressive but very easy to breed. But it is advisable not to breed in home aquaria since you are keeping several fish species together.

If you can provide them separate tank it will fine. They require a minimum size of 30-40 gallons of a tank for a pair of fish. In size 30 times 15′ times 15′ is okay to go with.

The Key is to provide extra space as much as you can. Thereby can increase the comfortability of your fish.

When it comes to Jewel cichlid water quality parameters

The best way is to provide conditions similar to natural habitat. If you are unable to give the following conditions health issues can arise due to suppress immunity.

Jewel cichlids water temperature needs to be between 72-82F and pH must be between 6.5-7.5. And water hardness should be less than 12dGH.

So these fish prefer slightly acidic conditions for their optimal growth.

What to use as Tank decor?

As I earlier mention driftwood, rock caves can be used as decor for the tank. In addition live aquarium plants such as Amazon sword chain, Cryptocoryne can also use.

There you need to cover the roots of these plants with rocks. The main reason is when they get aggressive they dig the substrate there these plants can be uprooted.

If the roots did not cover with rocks they retain floating on the surface be aware of that.

Jewel cichlid Tankmates

You need to have to pay more attention when selecting tank mates. As they are aggressive chance to kill their tank mates also high.

Therefore most of the time Jewel cichlids are not recommend to keep in community tanks. It is advisable to keep them in a single species tank rather than keeping them in a community tank.

Even within a single species tank, you can have a couple of jewel cichlid or a group. In this case, you can not apply only on a 30-40gallons water tank.

So invest in a larger tank of 60 gallons or above. It depends on the number of fish you going to keep.

Some fish keepers rear these fish with other cichlid species as well.

Types of jewel cichlids

Therefore following species includes in this genus.

  • Hemichromis angolensis
  • Hemichromis elongatus
  • Hemichromis fasciatus
  • Hemichromis frempongi
  • Hemichromis guttatus
  • Hemichromis lifalili
  • Hemichromis stellifer
  • Hemichromis exsul are some of them includes in this cichlid family. Each species has a unique characteristic feature.

What fish can go with Jewel cichlids?

There are rare cases where other fish varieties are kept with these aggressive cichlids. It can keep with catfish such as Pictus, Pleco, fast-swimming tiger barbs, lion head cichlids, Aulonocara and Kribensis, etc.

Note: It is better to have tankmates that also having the same temperature and other water conditions.

As I told you earlier when my friend keeps a jewel cichlid couple in a community tank he seen all the other fish species are move to the opposite end of the tank.

Do you know why? These cichlids’ parents guarding the laid eggs and to protect it from other fish it shows the territory ( more in detail will discuss under the breeding, keep reading!)

When it comes to the Jewel cichlid breeding

Most of the beginner fish keepers keep these fish to get experience, especially in breeding. Unlike other fish there you need to pay more attention.

It is a pretty thing because they are monogamous breeders. If a male found his partner even after breeding they tend to have a long-term relation. Before that, we need to identify its gender.

How can you tell if a jewel cichlid is male or female?

It is the hardest part because there is no big difference between males and females. Therefore from our naked eyes we can not do gender identification.

But there is a way, when they are in the breeding season these males get more brighter colors than female fish.

And also male shows more aggressive within the tank. Some people say a male is much bigger than a female, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Even can not rely only on size because it depends on several factors such as health, a diet so on.

The best way is you can either buy them as pairs or several groups of cichlids.

When they naturally pair up it can easily identify male and female.


After identifying you can do two things.

Transfer breeding couple to another tank having the same water conditions as the main tank. Or keeping the breeding couple main tank, remove other fish species to a separate tank.

Otherwise, aggression rises and the possibility of injuries to other fish.

If you observe male jewel well you can identify more net-like patterning present in it and their dorsal fins show prominent pointing towards caudal fin.

Generally, it requires the temperature to be one or two degrees higher than the optimum level of 72-82F. It stimulates the spawning.

It is better if you can provide with rock caves. Females more favor to lay eggs in hiding.

Once matching couple pairs, females produce about 500-600 yellowish eggs which are 2mm in diameter. They lay the eggs on a flat rock/surface.

Thereafter male jewel fertilize those eggs.

These pair work together hereafter; they share the task, both look after eggs by constantly fanning with fins, which prevents the fungus formation and eating by other predators.

Thereafter within 2-4 days, eggs will hatch. It produces hundreds of little babies unlike other fish jewel parents guard these little fries.

That is why at the beginning I told them as great parents.

Up to about 4 weeks even sometimes till fry gets mature, parents continue its ultimate caring.

Female jewel cichlid moves these eggs to a more safer place. The following video shows it very well.

Do jewel cichlids eat their babies?

Yes, there is a possibility. Better to raise the fry in a separate fry tank, there you can use a sponge filter and a heater to maintain the optimum conditions.

Be sure to provide them with enough swimming space. but most of the aquarists keep the fry within the same tank in a breeding net. If you observe it closely you can see parent fish pair stays closer to the net breeder.

The advantage is you can keep the fry within the same tank safely.

Note: Eventually keep these fry away from the juveniles. Because they can be aggressive with parent cichlids for space and food. Therefore better to move them to another tank.

After fry appears they can survive up to about a couple of days. It is having a yolk sac, by absorbing the content in this yolk sac. Thereafter need to feed them with fry food. You can have fry food around local and online pet stores. ( it is more discuss under jewel cichlid feeding).

what happen if breed with other cichlid species?

You may ask can two different cichlids mate each other?

Yes, it is possible. But not advisable to produce hybrids by cross breeding. Even many experts against this type of breeding due to gene mixing.

The reason is we don’t know what health problems will arise in the future. Think if they paired what will happen to future generations; it is doubtful. So avoid such cruelty.

Additional notes: Some aquarists say that fishkeepers tend to keep jewel cichlid with Malawi cichlids as thinking both cichlids are from the same native habitat ( The west African river systems).

Even both have the same origin, water conditions, can’t breed together. The main reason is jewel cichlids are very aggressive even can kill Malawi. So never do that!

Jewel cichlid Diet and Feeding

Jewel cichlids are omnivores. In the wild, their diet consists of algae, small crustaceans, small fish, etc.

Why you should give jewel cichlids with high quality diet?

Actually, a high-quality diet directly affects the body coloration and spawning process. To have a healthy fish proper high quality balanced diet is essential.

These fish can feed with dry, live, and frozen foods. The following food can be given to them,

Flake and pelleted food including,

  • Green flake
  • Cichlid pellets
  • Shrimp pellets 
  • frozen food like White mosquito larvae 
  • Brine shrimps
  • Mysis shrimps
  • Blood worms
  • White worms 
  • Tubifex
  • Fish frames
  • Algae wafers 

Vegetables like blanch spinach, lettuce leaves, Spirulina flake/vitamins can be given to them. Therefore try to give protein rich foods much as possible.

When it comes to feeding jewel cichlid fry

Immediately after hatching, they can survive with the content remains in the yolk sac. If want you can give them baby brine shrimps and finely crumble fry food additionally.

Within 7-21 days ( roughly three weeks) these fries can feed with any adult food. It is preferred to give them micro worms, protein rich food enhances fry growth.

Beyond the 21 days, they can totally give the adults food s which I mentioned earlier.

It also appreciates if you can change the diet daily in order to keep the interest in the food. Proper feeding will help to condition the fish during the breeding season.

Improper feed fish will not even able to breed successfully.


Can Jewel cichlid live with Angle fish?

Now you know most of the cichlids are very aggressive. In the wild, they live among predators and competitors. This high aggressiveness help in competing with each other.

Aggressive nature even comes with cichlids who rear in aquariums as well.

Angelfish originates from the South American water bodies in the river basins of Amazon, Orinoco, and Essequibo. Angelfish also from the same cichlid family but are very peaceful compare with this cichlid.

But they also can be aggressive during the feeding and breeding.

As it is a common characteristic feature for all cichlid family species, you can select a temperament suit, non-aggressive mates, for them.

Why is my Jewel cichlid turning Black?

If you well observe your jewel cichlid it turns grey and to black color with the time. Probably it is due to the bad tank conditions, bad water contains a high amount of nitrate and ammonia.

Black spots are signs of ammonia burnings. you need to fix it. Before that get to confirm whether your filtration system works properly.

It is better if you can measure the tank conditions with a test kit. This can get recover quickly, only you need to have work on it.

Partial water change can be done every day as a remedy.

So keep your eyes on your tank to avoid such situations. Sometimes even when they get stress highly affects their coloration, be sure you have given them enough tank space to live with their full potential. If not immediately change the tank to a bigger one.

Put more attention on your health and maintain water qualities at the required levels.


jewel cichlid is a nice addition to an aquarium tank. most of the fish keepers like their coloration. But no one likes to have it on their tank. One thing is not knowing the exact care guide about them.

Another thing if you wish to keep you can’t keep it in the community tank. Definitely, you need to have a mono species fish tank.

We encourage you to have it on your tank because I love this fish. It is very beautiful while adults being good parents.

You can even easily breed them. I hope this article will help you to give a full guide about how to look after your Jewel cichlid properly.!

Further Reading:

  1. Spotted Congo Puffer: A Complete Care Guide.
  2. Do Platies Need a Heater?
  3. Green Dragon Pleco: Ultimate Care Guide 2020

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