Jewel Cichlid Care: Tank Mates, Setup, Diet and More (2022)

One of the most lovely and colorful fish available for your aquarium, the Jewel Cichlid is a popular freshwater species for enthusiasts everywhere. Like little gem flakes they float around your tank and dazzle onlookers.

However, there is much more to the Jewel Cichlid than merely meets the eye. These fish tend to be mischievous and active, but they can also be difficult for beginner fish keepers to successfully integrate into a group tank, due to their nippy behavior and territorialism.

So, what do you need to know about the Jewel Cichlid and how to care for them? Read on for a comprehensive discussion on this particular fish species.

Jewel Cichlid: Origin And Appearance

These shiny little fish are true to their name and have very jewel-like coloration, making them a lovely addition to your home fish tank. Now, let’s take the time for a closer look at the Jewel Cichlid as a species, as well as its unique appearance!

Jewel Cichlid origin

Where Do Jewel Cichlid Fish Come From?

Jewel Cichlids originate from the waters of West and North Africa, where they inhabit freshwater lakes, basins, and streams, such as the Niger, Nile, and even Lake Chad. They like to burrow to the bottoms of muddy areas and hide in floating natural matter as part of their routines.

What Do Jewel Cichlid Fish Look Like?

Among the most colorful and exciting fish you could have in your tank, the Jewel Cichlid is a vibrant little creature. These fish are known for the stunning ruby color that dominates their bodies, interspersed with little flecks of sapphire blue that glow under tank lights.

Their anal, dorsal, and ventral fins are primarily a red that fade into nearly transparent tips, ribbed with more iridescent blue marks. These fins are also more pointed in shape, mirroring the sloped snout that Jewel Cichlids sport at the front.

Their colors are most pronounced when water quality and acidity levels are ideal for a Jewel Cichlid habitat, and when breeding their hue and patterning becomes even brighter.

How Big Do Jewel Cichlid Fish Get?

In the wild these fish can range from 3 inches to nearly 12 inches, given the right circumstances and habitat. However, when placed in a home aquarium the Jewel Cichlid tends to only grow to about 6 inches.

Generally, Jewel Cichlids will reach their full mature length over the course of the first 2 to 3 years of their life.

Jewel Cichlid: Species And Varieties

You might not know about the several varieties of Jewel Cichlid that exist, as some are more readily available than others and others are not recommended for at-home aquarium life. However, these shiny little fish also exist in many subspecies within the Jewel Cichlid genus including the following:

  • Hemichromis Angolensis.
  • Hemichromis Bimaculatus.
  • Hemichromis Cerasogaster.
  • Hemichromis Elongatus.
  • Hemichromis Exsul.
  • Hemichromis Fasciatus.
  • Hemichromis Frempongi.
  • Hemichromis Guttatus.
  • Hemichromis Letourneuxi.
  • Hemichromis Lifalili.
  • Hemichromis Stellifer.

What Jewel Cichlid Varieties Are Best For Your Home Aquarium?

Though the Jewel Cichlid is a varied fish in terms of subspecies, three specific varieties are most popular for aquarists and are the easiest to incorporate into your home tank setup. Let’s take a moment to meet these fish briefly!

African Jewel Fish — Hemichromis Bimaculatus

Native to West Africa, these fish grow to be about 6 inches long, and thrive in warm water with slightly acidic pH levels. They are flashy specimens, with a bright crimson body dotted with neon blue flecks. This variety is also the primary fish type known within the species, and the one we will be discussing further here.

Note that this variety is quite aggressive even outside of breeding, so a fully communal tank would not be the best fit for them.

Banded Jewelfish — Hemichromis Fasciatus

This Jewel Cichlid variety also hails from the waters of Africa, including the Nile Basin and Lake Chad. They are larger, growing up to 10 inches in length, and with a unique yellowish-emerald hue, sporting black patches along the sides of their body.

Keeping these fish in pairs is advised, as well as a large tank of at least 55 gallons.

Blood-Red Jewel Cichlid — Hemichromis Lifalili

Often confused for the African Jewel Fish because of their similar markings, these fish are smaller and more docile. They are known for their red bodies flecked with iridescent blue dots, growing up to 4 inches long and perfect for a communal tank.

jewel cichlid in aquarium

Jewel Cichlid: Lifespan

The Jewel Cichlid does not have the longest life expectancy, but for a small freshwater fish, it’s pretty good! Expect Jewel Cichlids to live for about 5 years, however, if the conditions of your tank are ideal and well maintained your Cichlid might even live a bit longer.

Something that severely limits their lifespan though is the acidity of the water, as too low a pH will harm their digestive system, and too high a level will deteriorate their overall physical health.

Jewel Cichlid: Behavior

For many aquarists, the Jewel Cichlid is seen as a fairly aggressive fish. However, this is not always the case. Jewel Cichlids can be nippy and territorial, particularly with others of their own species, but they can still be implemented into group settings.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you should avoid adding other aggressive fish to your Cichlid tank, and keep the habitat diverse and large enough to provide plenty of breathing room and activities to keep their high energy levels fulfilled.

In this way, Jewel Cichlid aggression can be managed quite effectively. By keeping them in a large enough tank, providing them enough food, and separating breeding pairs that become more easily provoked, you can avoid stressing your Jewel Cichlids enough that their nippy sides come out.

In general, Jewel Cichlids are great little pets, with active and inquisitive personalities that allow them to bond with their keepers and provide hours of enjoyment for watching.

Jewel Cichlid: Compatibility

As previously mentioned, the Jewel Cichlid is not a great option for an entirely communal tank setting. They are prone to aggression and nippiness, particularly with smaller fish and even within their own species.

However, this doesn’t mean that Jewel Cichlids should be kept on their own. Solo Cichlids tend to mature into even more aggressive fish, and will be very stressed by being the only fish in the environment. Because of this, you should always pair your Jewel Cichlids, and provide enough tank room for both.

Tank Mates For A Jewel Cichlid

Though Jewel Cichlids are not amenable to living with every other type of fish, there are a few species that various keepers have had success with pairing in the same tank.

Generally, these fish are large and active fish that will not allow themselves to be bullied by Cichlids, which makes them able to live together in most circumstances.

The following fish are the best options for tank mates when you have Jewel Cichlids:

  • African Butterfly Peacock Cichlids.
  • Aulonocaras.
  • Clown Loaches.
  • Electric Blue Acaras.
  • Giant Danios.
  • Leopard Bushfish.
  • Oscars.
  • Plecos.
  • Rainbowfish.
  • Redtail Sharks.
  • Scavenger Catfish.
  • Synodontis Catfish.
  • Tetra Fish.

Jewel Cichlid: Habitat And Tank Requirements

Possibly one of the pickiest aspects of the Jewel Cichlid is the tank size and water quality that they require. These fish are not particularly adaptable to changes in tank conditions, so keeping the water levels and temperature consistent is essential for their health.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Size

Because of their territorialism, Jewel Cichlids need enough space to move about and not bump into each other all the time. This will avoid any unpleasant spats or fights that might emerge in a smaller setting.

Jewel Cichlid keepers should always start with a tank that is at least 30 gallons for one fish, and add another 10 gallons in size for every additional Cichlid that you incorporate into the enclosure.

And, keeping in mind that you should pair off your Jewel Cichlids to give them adequate companionship, this means your tank size will be 40 gallons for the two adult fish, not to mention the size needed for any others you might try to integrate.

Jewel Cichlid Water Requirements

In terms of water, Jewel Cichlids need a warm temperature to properly thrive. Experts recommend that you install a tank heater to keep your water between 74°F and 80°F at all times.

Because Jewel Cichlids are naturally freshwater fish, keeping the salinity and acidity of the water at a maintained level is essential to healthy and happy fish. Ensure the dGH levels do not exceed 12, and the pH should be kept between 6.5 and 7.0.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Setup

Play to their territorial side by giving your Jewel Cichlids plenty of places to hide and zoom around between objects. These fish love having caves, wood, and large rocks that replicate their natural habitat and give them lots of variety in their day.

Additionally, you should use a sandy substrate on the bottom, as Jewel Cichlids enjoy burning energy by burrowing around in the mud and silt for additional snacks they might have dropped. Avoid gravel or any kind of hard, rocky substrate in the tank as this can damage their belly scales when they go digging at the bottom.

Finally, Jewel Cichlids are known to uproot and destroy a variety of aquatic plants that are commonly found in fish tanks, due to their high activity levels. Stick to greenery that grows large and has stiff leaves, such as Anubias plants or Java ferns. On the other hand, floating plants are also good for tanks with Jewel Cichlids.

Jewel Cichlid: Diet

Feeding your Jewel Cichlids the right foods, amounts, and on a routine basis is another key element to keeping them from becoming aggressive in the tank. The proper diet will also help their colors to enhance and brighten even more, giving them a healthy scale shine.

Your Jewel Chichlid’s diet should be an omnivore-style one, with fish food or pellets being their main nutritional source and being supplemented with fresh or frozen treats of meat and vegetables. Look for specially formulated Cichlid fish food for an extra nutritional boost!

Feed your Cichlid once a day with the flakes or pellets, and dedicate two days a week to vegetable bits and live or frozen foods. These can be bloodworms, brine shrimp, or any other small organism that is available for freshwater aquarium fish at your local pet supply store.

Jewel Cichlids also like eating broccoli, cucumber, and other green vegetables, which can be cubed into fish-sized pieces. Just make sure to remove any food refuse that they don’t finish from the tank, as it could rot and cause health issues in your fish if you don’t!

Jewel Cichlid: Breeding

These fish are actually quite easy to breed at home when compared to other freshwater species. However, their natural aggression tends to heighten when breeding, as they are drawn to protect their eggs with fierce parental instincts, so remove your Jewel Cichlid pair to a separate tank before they mate.

Raise the water temperature to around 79°F to 82°F to prompt their mating behaviors, and slightly increase the acidity in the tank. This breeding tank should be around 30 gallons to account for the parents and their fry.

After the mating ritual, the female Jewel Cichlid will descend to the bottom of the tank and make a burrow for her eggs to go in. In general, she will produce around 250 to 300 eggs, which will hatch within about three days.

Some of the ease involved in breeding Jewel Cichlids is the lack of intervention needed on the keeper’s part after the mating sequence starts. Once the eggs are laid, the parent fish do all the work—consistently fanning the eggs and removing unfertilized ones and various debris.

jewel cichlid breeding

Jewel Cichlid: Health And Wellness

As a freshwater fish, the Jewel Cichlid is susceptible to most of the health issues that plague others of the same kind. However, these fish also tend to get ill primarily when feeling very stressed, or when the water quality or tank conditions deteriorate.

Keep your Jewel Cichlid active, engaged, and with a companion, as well as habitat levels that are well maintained to avoid sickness.

But if you notice your fish beginning to show signs of listlessness or lowered activity, this is often the first sign of a sick Jewel Cichlid. The most common illnesses that affect Jewel Cichlids include swim bladder disease, Malawi bloat, and even tuberculosis.


Now that we have made their acquaintance, hopefully you are buzzing to get your hands on some Jewel Cichlids for your home aquarium! But just in case you have some further queries, read on for the most commonly asked questions about Jewel Cichlid fish.

Are Jewel Cichlids Aggressive?

Jewel Cichlid fish are known for being quite aggressive within their own species, but some fish keepers have had success pairing them with types of Tetra fish or Oscars, particularly when only one Jewel Cichlid is kept with the other species.

Can Jewel Cichlids Live With Oscars?

Though nippy with others of their own species, Jewel Cichlids can still live with some other types of fish, including Oscars. Just make sure to remove the Cichlids during breeding, because they become more aggressive when they mate.

Alternatively, keeping only one Cichlid with your Oscars seems to remove most of the aggression shown in the tank.

Can A Jewel Cichlid Live Alone?

While fish can in theory live alone, it is generally not recommended. And that includes Jewel Cichlids—which, though they can be nippy even when in a pair, are still not happy alone.

They tend to be more aggressive when raised alone and can often exhibit stress and lessened color schemes due to unideal living conditions when solo. Pairs are generally advised for Jewel Cichlids to keep them healthy and happy.

How Many Jewel Cichlids Can Be Kept Together?

It’s advised to keep Jewel Cichlids in pairs. That being said, some aquarists have been successful in having more than two in a tank, but the habitat must be large enough to give them all enough space to exist without bumping into each other constantly.

How Fast Do Jewel Cichlids Grow?

Jewel Cichlids are not terribly fast growers, but they will expand their size at a steady rate. Look to see the full length of a Jewel Cichlid of about 6 inches reached within 2 to 3 years as they mature.

However, you should still make sure to place growing Jewel Cichlids in a big enough tank for them to grow into. That usually entails a 30 to 40-gallon tank, expanding it by 10 gallons for each additional fish inhabiting it.

Final Thoughts

The Jewel Cichlid is a great fish to add a splash of color to your aquarium setup. They are active little creatures that sparkle in the light and are quite mesmerizing.

However, you do need to be cautious when filling your tank around them. Either another Jewel Cichlid can fit nicely, or even a hardier species such as Tetras or Oscars, but either way it’s wise to keep the Cichlid’s territorialism in mind.

Apart from this communal housing consideration, Jewel Cichlids are surprisingly easy to care for and make a great pet for many aquarists who want a flashy, fishy friend.