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Self-Improvement & Hobbies


Learn more about cichlids & the Jack Dempsey
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - November 20, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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I don’t blame you if the title has led you into thinking that this article is about sick fish. But it has nothing to do with the dismal topic of fish diseases and whatnot. Short of using phonetic symbols, which may prove somewhat cryptic to the uninitiated, I’ve instead used “sick-lids” as a convenient phonetic gloss for “cichlids”.

Just what kind of animal is a cichlid, you ask? Let’s find out!

Some background
Cichlids are any of more than 1,300 species of fish belonging to the family Cichlidae under the order Perciformes. They are primarily freshwater fishes found in tropical America, southern Asia and Africa, with the majority flourishing in great diversity in the major African lakes.

Many species are large fish which can grow up to 40cm or longer, and most have a foul temper. By and large, cichlids are aggressive and territorial, and do not tolerate intrusion into their domain.

These critters, however, are relatively smart (unlike guppies, for example). Some even learn to recognise their owners and become tame enough to be hand-fed. This particular trait makes them excellent aquatic pets, and delights many owners.

I’ll probably have retired by the time I run through the gamut of cichlids on a weekly basis, so I’ll have to be selective. This week, let’s take a look at the Jack Dempsey, a species highly popular among cichlid keepers.

The Jack Dempsey
Named after a famous American boxer known for his aggressive style and exceptional punching power, this cichlid is one pugnacious critter! Tracing its origins to Central America, the average Jack Dempsey can grow up to a length of 20cm.

Due to its bellicose nature, Jack Dempsey cichlids are often kept on their own. Take care to avoid having more than one male in the tank, since mature males can become very aggressive when they are ready to spawn. (Some aquarists go to the extent of keeping a lone Jack Dempsey in their tank and nothing else.)

If you wish to keep them with other fish, make sure you select tank mates carefully. Forget about tetras, guppies and other common community fish – these will be toast in no time. Aggressive species of similar size that can fend for themselves are a much better choice.

Maintain a water temperature of 22 – 25 deg C, and regularly check that the temperature does not exceed this range. Warm water can actually make a Jack Dempsey more aggressive. While it is a hardy fish that can adapt to a wide range of water conditions, this cichlid does best in hard water (12 – 20 dH) with pH ranging between 7.0 and 8.0.

Make sure you get a big tank (at least 45 gallons or bigger), and decorate your aquarium in such a way that makes it possible for the cichlid to claim a certain part of the aquarium as its territory. That way, it’ll be less prone to attack fish that stay outside its turf.

To keep your Jack Dempsey healthy and robust, feed it a diet consisting of high-quality pellets and live foods such as small fish or frogs, earthworms, grasshoppers and shrimp. Occasionally, supplement its diet with vegetables such as lettuce or plankton.


The well-tempered cichlid