Jewel Cichlid: Full Care Guide, Breeding, Tank Size, and Disease

Jewel Cichlid: A Quick Summary

Jewel cichlids (Hemichromis Bimaculatus) are a species of freshwater fish native to West Africa. They are popular in aquariums due to their attractive appearance and relatively easy care. Jewel cichlids are territorial and should be kept with other peaceful fish. They are omnivorous and should be fed a varied diet of dry and wet foods.

Jewel Cichlid Overview

The Jewel Cichlid is native to Africa and belongs to the cichlid family. You can find this fish species in streams, rivers, creeks, lakes, and various water lagoons in the wild. A popular species in the aquarium, Jewel Cichlid, is a very colorful fish that also sparkles. 

Known as aggressive, the fish needs extensive care as it may be difficult to keep in a home tank if you ignore specific rules. A Jewel Cichlid care guide is therefore important for a beginner.

As most people are taken captive by their beautiful coloration, the desire to keep it in a tank may suffice. Needless to say, before getting into this serious business, it pays to learn as much about it as is necessary. For example, placing them in the same environment as the Danios and Guppies may be very tricky. 

However, do not be put off by their aggression. If you have some experience and want to take care of a gorgeous and entertaining fish, the Jewel cichlid is a great choice.

Information Chart 
Scientific nameHemichromis bimaculatus
Care Level:Easy to moderate
Colour:Many available varieties
Lifespan:Up to 5 or 6 years
Size:0.75 to 4 inches
Minimum Tank Size:40 gallons
Temperature:74°F to 80°F
WaterConditions:pH 6.5 to 7.5
Tank Mate CompatibilityNot community compatible

Jewel Cichlid Appearance

Jewel Cichlid

Jewel Cichlids have a narrow, pointy body. When the Jewel Cichlids are younger, there will be a noticeable bump at the start of their back. They have large eyes and an upward turned mouth.

They come in a variety of bright colors. These vary from bright red to purple with greenish spots. The most common color of all is red or the orange Jewel Cichlid. 

Jewel Cichlids have spots and stripes as well, resulting from their colors. During breeding, however, they become even brighter. 

The males have more apparent brightness with more extended dorsal, anal and ventral fins.

The lifespan of Jewel Cichlid

The typical lifespan of a Jewel Cichlid is up to 5 or 6 years. If well cared for in captivity, the Cichlid fish can live to 10 years or more.

Jewel Cichlid Size

The average Jewel Cichlid can grow from 3 inches to 12. Very few go beyond this size, even after reaching maturity. In the wild, they tend to be bigger than they are in the home aquarium. This fact is easily explainable, as they can meet all the required nutritional needs in the wild instead of the home tank. 

Natural Habitat and Origin

Jewel Cichlids, scientifically called Hemichromis Bimaculatus, are brilliant-looking freshwater fish native to West Africa. They have many other names, such as African Jewelfish, Blue Jewel, Green Jewel, and Jewel fish. You can find them widely in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

In the wild, you can find them, especially in small water bodies such as rivers, streams, and lakes. As a result, they inhabit muddy bottoms which have vegetation floating on top.

Jewel Cichlid Care and Tank Set-up

Jewel Cichlid Care and Tank Set-up

Stocking the Jewel Cichlid in the community tank is a little tricky. They are often territorial and tend to be very aggressive, more so when the female lays the eggs and when they are caring for their fry. Of course, this does not mean you cannot stock them with other fish. They can. But one must ensure the tank is large enough to give room for the cichlid to form their territory.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Size and Specifications

Optimum Tank Size for Jewel Cichlid

In Africa, the Jewel Cichlid is used to living in muddy waters found at the bottom of lakes, rivers, or streams. It helps an aquarist establish the best home for this fish. All the same, they require slightly bigger tank capacities to help them move freely and form territories. As much as fish size heavily determines tank size, for the Jewel Cichlid, 40 gallons or more is the most appropriate. 

The only exception is during breeding when an even larger-sized tank is necessary if other fish are present. We recommend a tank size of 30” x 15” x 15”  for their breeding tank.

Tank Shape for Jewel Cichlid

More giant tanks are suitable for a school of Jewel Cichlid, but any tank that is the size of 40 or more gallons should be fine for starters.

Filter Type

Jewel Cichlids are very messy, so there is a need for a sturdy, external filter to keep the water quality optimal. A power filter will do the job.


Sandy bottom tanks are very ideal for the cichlid. Additionally, some extra background covering with rocks and plants will be ideal for a Jewel Cichlid tank. One must also add some large rocks to mimic their natural habitat of rivers, streams, etc. Remember that rough gravel or small stones could damage their outer skin, as they spend a lot of time scavenging for food at the bottom. Since their propensity for fighting is already going to mean more scrapes and cuts, it would be best to avoid substrate injuries.

How Many Jewel Cichlids in a 40 Gallon Tank?

Jewel Cichlids do not do well in a community tank, so they should only be kept in a pair or two. For one Jewel Cichlid, start with a 40-gallon tank and increase 10 gallons for every new Jewel Cichlid you add to the tank.

Water Parameters

To keep fish healthy, you must adopt its native environmental requirements as much as possible. Of course, meeting these needs 100% may be impossible, but it pays to try. Some points to keep in mind are:

Water Temperatures

The ideal temperature for Jewel Cichlid is between 74 to 80 degrees F. You can also install a heater or a thermometer to keep the water temperature consistent.

Water Flow Rate

Jewel Cichlids will fall sick if the water quality is poor or if the water movement is too slow. They prefer a medium water movement, which is the best for them to thrive.

pH Level

The perfect pH level for Jewel Cichlid should be between 6.5 to 7.5.

Water Hardness

The water hardness should be between 4 to 16 dGH. The fish need neutral water, that is, not too hard and not too soft. It’s imperative to keep it below 16 dGH at all times.

To keep the tank habitable, renew the water occasionally, as indicated in the Jewel Cichlid care guide.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Landscape

Tank Landscape and Plants for Jewel Cichlid

Best Plants for Jewel Cichlid Tanks

Jewel Cichlids dig into rocks and may occasionally interfere with plants in the tanks. The best plants to keep inside the tank are cryptocoryne and sword plants. If there are other plants to be added, ensure more enormous rocks firmly protect their roots. Other plant options are java moss, or hornwort which will provide shaded places and oxygenate the water.

Worst Plants for Jewel Cichlid Tanks

Adding live plants to a Jewel Cichlid tank is risky as they will uproot them and damage the plants, which is why you should place only firm-rooted plants in the tanks.

Decorations for Jewel Cichlid Tanks

Decorations are a must. Since they love to own territories, they would do best with rocks and cave-like features. When in a community tank, it is also important to decorate it with various stones and plants. This is likely to break sightlines and bring aggression to a minimum.

Lighting for Jewel Cichlid Tanks

Jewel Cichlids prefer soft lighting. In their natural habitat, they are often under the shade of vegetation or hidden amongst plants, so a harsh light will not do.

Feeding Jewel Cichlid

Best Diet for Jewel Cichlid

Just like most fish species, the Jewel Cichlid eats numerous foods. For their attractive color to be maintained, however, the diet must be varied to contain blood worms, white worms, tubifex, and fish frames. Vegetables to be added to the diet may include spirulina and lettuce leaves. You must vary the diet to vary these meals for a better healthy diet as this helps break the monotony in feeding.

How Often Should You Feed the Jewel Cichlid?

Jewel Cichlids can be fed a high-quality flake food or cichlid pellet six days a week and allow one day without food for digestion.

Jewel Cichlid Behaviour and Temperament

Jewel Cichlids are high up on the scale of aggression. However, as an aquarist, one must control and manage their anger by ensuring that they don’t feel stressed in their tanks. It may not be possible to eliminate it, but you can keep it to a minimum. 

The main reason why Jewel Cichlids are aggressive is that they are highly territorial. In a tank, you must give them space to claim one section of the aquarium to themselves to avoid fights. 

They are even more aggressive when they are mating. During this time, you should take extra care to keep the mating pair away from the other tank mates — even if they are other Jewel Cichlids. Using a separate breeding tank or a tank divider will be helpful here. 

Jewel Cichlids show aggression when they are hungry or irritated by nipping at other fish, especially long-finned ones. 

Jewel Cichlid on the bottom of the Tank

You may also spot your Jewel Cichlids digging. It is because they have a lot of energy, which they release through their digging. 

Is Jewel Cichlid societal or lone?

Jewel Cichlids are not very social and often prefer to stay in tanks only with other Jewel Cichlids. They are not good tankmates for many species, and mingling with other fish is something they do not do unless they are fighting. This behavior is why they have earned the reputation of being a super aggressive fish species.

Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

Ideal Jewel Cichlid Tank Mates

You can pair fast swimming schooling fish with your Jewel Cichlids. Other Jewel Cichlids species can be excellent tank mates for the tank, such as:

Bad Tank Mates for Jewel Cichlid

One should not forget that Jewel Cichlids quickly become fin-nippers for their other tank mates – more so when not well-fed. This information is essential if different fish varieties are to share a tank with the cichlid. In this case, you should not pair them with fish species that exhibit elongated flowing fins. 

  • Any goldfish species
  • Mbunas Cichlids
  • Rift Lake Cichlids
  • Danio
  • Guppies

Avoid placing larger, more aggressive fish, smaller fish, or slow-moving fish with long fins.

Breeding Jewel Cichlid

Jewel Cichlids are monogamous, and the breeding pair tend to form a close bond during the mating process that lasts long after their eggs have hatched. After distinguishing them and putting them together to breed, remember to take certain precautions.

The first thing is to put the compatible fish in the breeding tank because if the male discovers the female is not ready for this, a war may ensue. It pays, therefore, to observe them until we are sure they suit each other.

When the male is ready, its color brightens. It is good to be vigilant during this period to avoid any damage resulting from war if the female is not ready.

You must raise the temperature of the tank a little to encourage spawning. 

During the spawning period, the female lays about 500 eggs, mostly on smooth rocks. You should purify the breeding ground in advance.

The eggs take about 2 to 4 days to hatch. Soon after, the parents may move them to grounds considered safe until they are old enough to swim. The Jewel Cichlid is a rare species where both the males and females take care of their fry. 

During the first few days, the fry absorbs the leftover yolk. After that, you can introduce them to mashed pellets and crushed flakes.

The parents may eat some of their fry, and this should not be a worry. In case there are other fish in the tank, you can move them during this period.

The males often form a perimeter around the fry where no fish is allowed to venture. When they are protecting their fry, Jewel Cichlids are prone to be aggressive, which might mean moving other fish into another tank to avoid conflicts.

Jewel Cichlid Breeding Level – Easy

Jewel Cichlid – Sexual Dimorphism?

It is difficult to tell them apart, but one sure sign can be that females are usually plumper than males. Unlike most other land and sea animals, the Jewel Cichlid is monogamous. Determining the male from a female may be a tough call. However, females tend to be fatter than males. Also, the males have a deeper coloration than the females, so this can serve as a clue. Both sexes have spots on their body, but the males’ dots are more iridescent and bright compared to females.

Jewel Cichlid – Common Diseases and their Treatment

Jewel Cichlids are hardy and are not susceptible to many diseases if you follow basic hygiene in the tank and give proper care to them. However, like most freshwater fishes, they can fall ill. Some common diseases and their symptoms and maintenance are:

Loss of coloration

Loss of Coloration in Jewel Cichlid

Loss of coloration in Jewel Cichlids takes place when it is highly stressed, ill, or underfed. It is one of the most easily seen warning signs of this fish. Fortunately, you can solve this by taking extra care of your fish and eliminating the factors causing it stress.

Malawi Bloat

Swelling, loss of appetite, rapid breathing, and differently colored feces are all symptoms of Malawi bloat. If you think your jewelfish is suffering from Malawi bloat, then you must act quickly. Firstly, change the tank’s water and introduce a dose of Metronidazole. However, Malawi bloat is a condition that quickly turns fatal, especially if not taken care of immediately.

Gill flukes

Labored breathing and a loss of color might indicate gill flukes, which is a widespread illness amongst freshwater fish. To soothe the fish, you may use Praziquantel or other readily available solutions.

Ich or white spots

Ich symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, and restless behavior, but most importantly, white spots on the fish’s body.

Apart from looking out for these common diseases, stress reduction, offering plentiful space to them, and providing a clean tank are the best things that you can do to care for your Jewel Cichlids.

Facts About Jewel Cichlid

  • The Jewel Cichlid can grow significantly more extensive than six inches. It can grow up to a foot in length!
  • Jewel Cichlids’ body colors appear brighter if they seem to be pleased and joyful. However, the body colors appear dull if they are stressed and unhappy.
  • These fish are extremely territorial and possessive and will aggressively protect an area that they have selected as their own.
  • Jewel Cichlids can eat for six days however must go through a day without any food to digest the previously eaten food!
  • Jewel Cichlids require a spacious tank since they are incredibly territorial, possessive, and aggressive at times (if kept with guppies and danio)!

Is Jewel Cichlid Right for You?

Author’s note: The Jewel Cichlid is an attractive addition to a tank and might be of interest to a fish lover. So long as you meet their requirements as defined in the Jewel Cichlid care guide, this fish species stay quite happy in its home. Although they are known to be aggressive, this can be curtailed by shifting other types of fish to a different tank during spawning. Do not forget that when adequately fed and cared for, the beautiful colorations get even more pronounced.


What is the natural habitat of a Jewel Cichlid?

Jewel Cichlid is a river and lake-dwelling species from West Africa. The waters they live in have muddy surfaces and have a lot of vegetation around them.

Can Jewel Cichlid be of different colors?

Yes, the Jewel Cichlid is a colorful fish with two highly variations, one with a red/orange base color and another in gray/blue. 

How to identify whether a Jewel Cichlid is male or female?

There is only a slight difference between both. However, keep an eye for a bit of the male’s dorsal fin and a net-like pattern on the tail.

How long can a Jewel Cichlid live

With proper care and effort, your Jewel Cichlid can expect a lifespan of about five years.

Are Jewel Cichlids aggressive and dangerous?

Not really, but they can turn aggressive during their mating period or when other fish or tank mates try to take their territory in the tank. Otherwise, these fish are playful and active. They often bond with their owners very well.

What should be the feeding patterns for Jewel Cichlid?

Feed your fish high-quality flake food six days a week and allow one day without food for digestion.

Can Jewel Cichlids live with Oscars?

Jewel Cichlids can live with Oscars, but one cannot guarantee a peaceful co-existence between them as Oscars are larger and more aggressive than Jewel Cichlids. Unless the tank is pretty big, such as 100 gallons or so, it is not recommended.

Will Jewel Cichlids eat Guppies?

Yes, they will. Guppies are not a good food source for your Jewel Cichlids, though, as they might cause infections or spread pathogens in the tank. Keeping Guppies with Jewel Cichlids is not recommended.


The Jewel Cichlid is a fun and joyful freshwater fish that needs more attention and love from the aquarist community. This neglect may be because of their aggressive nature. Jewel Cichlids can be a great fish to care for if you are slightly experienced and do not shy away from a challenge. With the proper love and care, Jewel Cichlids have a lot more hidden under that nasty aggression of theirs. These fish are an excellent choice for an aquarist who is experienced or would like to be, as they need particular care. Jewel Cichlid is an active, engaging, and fantastic addition to any aquarium and must not be discarded simply because of its nature. Sadly, if you are an aquarist set on a community tank, then Jewel Cichlids may not be the right pick for you.

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