The Jewel Cichlid is native to Africa and belongs to the cichlid family. In the wild, this fish species can be found in streams, rivers, creeks, lakes and a variety of water lagoons. A popular species in the aquarium, jewel cichlid is a very colorful fish that sparkles as well. Known widely to be aggressive, the fish needs extensive care as it may be difficult to keep in a home tank if certain rules are ignored. 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 is as is necessary. For example, placing them in the same environment with the danos and guppies may be very tricky.
They come in a variety of bright colorations. These vary from bright red to purple with greenish spots. During breeding however, they become even brighter. The males have more pronounced brightness with more extended dorsal, anal and ventral fins.
Their sizes range from 3 inches to 12. In the wild, they tend to be bigger than they are in the home aquarium. Basically, this is easily explainable as they are able to meet all the required nutritional needs in the wild as opposed to the home tank. They live for about 5 years.
Keeping the Jewel Cichlid
Stocking the Jewel Cichlid in the community tank is a little difficult. 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 they cannot be stocked with other fish. They can. But one must ensure the tank is large enough to give room for the cichlid to form their own territory.
When in a community tank, it is also important to decorate it with a variety of rocks and some plants. This is likely to break sight lines and brings aggression to a minimum. Also not to forget is that they easily become fin nippers more so when not well fed. This information is important if other fish varieties are to share a tank with the cichlid. In this case, they should not be paired with fish species that exhibit elongated flowing fins.
Requirements for a tank housing the Jewel Cichlid
In Africa from where they originated, the Jewel Cichlid was basically used to living in muddy waters found at the bottom of lakes, rivers or streams. This will help 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 a necessity if other fish are present.
To keep fish healthy, it is imperative that its native environmental requirements are adopted 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:
- A pH of 6.5 to 7.5 is necessary
- Tank temperatures should range between 74 and 80 Farennheit
- Decorations are a must. Since they love to own territories, they would do best with rocks and cave-like features
- Sandy bottom tanks are very ideal for the cichlid. Then there is need for an external filter
- They 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. In case there are other plants to be added, ensure their roots are firmly protected by bigger rocks
- To keep the tank habitable, occasionally renew water as is indicated in the jewel cichlid care guide
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 into the diet may include spirulina and lettuce leaves.
For a better healthy diet, it is important to vary these meals as this helps break monotony in feeding.
Unlike most other land and sea animals, the Jewel Cichlid is monogamous. Determining the male from female may be a tough call. However, the females tend to be fatter than the males.
After distinguishing them and putting them together to breed, remember:
- To put 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 carefully until sure they suit each other
- When the male is ready, its color brightens. During this period, it still pays to keep vigil to avoid any damage as a result of a war if the female is not ready
- The temperature of the tank is raised to encourage spawning
- The female lays about 500 eggs mostly on smooth rocks. The breeding ground should hence be purified 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 absorb whatever is left of the yolk. After that, they are introduced 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, they can be moved during this period
- The males often form a perimeter around the fry where no fish is allowed to venture into
- When they are protecting their fry, Jewel Cichlids are prone to be aggressive and this might mean moving other fish into another tank
The Jewel Cichlid is an attractive addition to a tank and might be of interest to a fish lover. So long as their requirements as defined in the jewel cichlid care guide are met, this fish species stays 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 properly fed and cared for, the beautiful colorations get even more pronounced.