Jewel Cichlids – Care, Habitat, Tank Mates And Full Guide!

Jewel cichlids (Hemichromis bimaculatus) are vibrant, unique, and eye-catching freshwater fish native to West Africa. They are often overlooked by aquarists due to their aggressive nature. However, with proper care and management, these striking fish can make a wonderful addition to your home aquarium.

In this guide, we will provide a comprehensive overview of Jewel cichlid care, covering tank setup, diet, water parameters, and compatible tank mates.

By following our recommendations, you can successfully create a thriving environment for your Jewel cichlids while minimizing their aggressive behavior.

Understanding Jewel Cichlids: Key Facts

Before diving into the specifics of Jewel cichlid care, it’s essential to understand some key facts about these fascinating fish:

  • Scientific Name: Hemichromis bimaculatus

  • Common Names: Jewel cichlid, African Jewelfish

  • Origin: West Africa

  • Lifespan: 5-7 years (in captivity)

  • Size: 6 inches (in captivity), up to 12 inches (in the wild)

  • Temperament: Aggressive

  • Diet: Omnivorous

  • Water Parameters: 75-80°F, pH 6.5-7.5, 12 dGH max

  • Tank Size: Minimum 40 gallons

Jewel Cichlids Appearance

Jewel Cichlids are known for their striking appearance, with vibrant colors and intricate patterns making them a visually captivating species.

The most common type, the Red Jewel Cichlid, boasts a bright red or orange body adorned with iridescent bluish-green spots. These spots are scattered across their entire body, fins included, creating a stunning contrast against their fiery backdrop.

Apart from the red variation, Jewel Cichlids also come in other colors, such as dark blue or turquoise, with the same vibrant blueish-green spots. These fish have a slender, elongated body shape with a slightly pointed head.

Their dorsal fin starts about a third of the way down their body and continues right before their caudal fin, while their anal fins are shallow and trim, extending back as far as their dorsal fin.

Natural Habitat of Jewel Cichlids

The natural habitat of Jewel Cichlids consists of small freshwater bodies, such as rivers, streams, and lakes in West Africa, with some populations found further east.

In these environments, they thrive in areas with plenty of hiding spots, such as rocks, submerged wood, and dense vegetation. The water in their natural habitat typically has a slightly acidic to neutral pH and is soft to moderately hard.

Origin and Distribution

Jewel Cichlids (scientific name: Hemichromis bimaculatus) originate from West Africa, primarily in countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon.

These fish can also be found further east in countries like Nigeria, Chad, and the Central African Republic. They are commonly referred to as African Jewelfish.

Due to their vibrant colors and unique appearance, Jewel Cichlids have become popular in the aquarium trade, leading to their distribution in various parts of the world.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Jewel Cichlids

In their natural habitat, Jewel Cichlids can reach up to 12 inches in length; however, in captivity, they usually grow to a maximum of 6 inches.

The growth rate and overall size of these fish depend on factors like diet, water quality, and tank conditions.

Jewel Cichlids have a lifespan of approximately 5 years, although there have been cases where they have lived up to 7 years in captivity.

Providing a well-maintained environment, balanced diet, and managing their aggression are essential factors that contribute to their overall health and longevity.

Jewel Cichlids Behavior and Temperament

Jewel Cichlids are known for their aggressive behavior, particularly when it comes to defending their territory. This aggression becomes more pronounced during mating, where they can become quite territorial and hostile towards other tank inhabitants.

Despite their feisty nature, Jewel Cichlids are also active and engaging fish, often seen digging and rooting around in the substrate in search of food.

It’s important to note that aggression levels can vary among individual Jewel Cichlids, and some may be more peaceful than others.

However, due to their reputation for aggression, it’s essential to carefully consider tank mates and provide an appropriate environment that caters to their natural instincts.

By understanding their natural habitat, origin, distribution, growth, size, lifespan, and temperament, aquarists can create a thriving environment for these stunning fish, making them a rewarding addition to any aquarium.

Types of Jewel Cichlids

Jewel Cichlids belong to the Hemichromis genus, which consists of several species known for their striking appearance and vibrant colors. Although Hemichromis bimaculatus is the most common and well-known species, there are other fascinating species worth considering for your aquarium.

Let’s explore some of the different types of Jewel Cichlids.

1. Hemichromis bimaculatus (Jewel Cichlid)

The most popular and recognizable Jewel Cichlid, Hemichromis bimaculatus, is characterized by its bright red or orange body adorned with iridescent blue-green spots. These spots cover their entire body and fins, creating a visually stunning effect. In addition to their vivid colors, the Hemichromis bimaculatus is also known for its aggressive behavior and territorial nature.

2. Hemichromis letourneuxi (African Jewelfish)

Hemichromis letourneuxi, also known as the African Jewelfish, has a dark blue or turquoise body with the same striking blue-green spots as its bimaculatus counterpart. Although not as commonly found as the bimaculatus, this species is still quite popular among cichlid enthusiasts due to its vibrant coloration and similar care requirements.

3. Hemichromis guttatus (Spotted Jewel Cichlid)

The Spotted Jewel Cichlid, Hemichromis guttatus, is another striking species characterized by its golden-yellow body covered with numerous black spots. The contrast between the yellow and black makes this species stand out in any aquarium. Like other Jewel Cichlids, the Hemichromis guttatus exhibits aggressive behavior, so proper tank management is essential.

4. Hemichromis elongatus (Elongated Jewel Cichlid)

Hemichromis elongatus, the Elongated Jewel Cichlid, has a more slender body shape than other Jewel Cichlids. This species features a unique greenish-brown coloration with faint iridescent spots scattered across its body. While not as vibrantly colored as other species, the Hemichromis elongatus offers an interesting alternative for those looking to add variety to their cichlid collection.

5. Hemichromis frempongi (Blue Jewel Cichlid)

The Blue Jewel Cichlid, Hemichromis frempongi, is a lesser-known species that displays a stunning cobalt blue coloration with subtle iridescent spots. This species is not as readily available as other Jewel Cichlids but is highly sought after by enthusiasts for its striking appearance.

These are just a few examples of the many types of Jewel Cichlids available to aquarists. Each species has its unique characteristics and requirements, so it’s essential to research and understand the specific needs of the Jewel Cichlid you choose for your aquarium. With proper care and attention, these vibrant fish can add a touch of brilliance and excitement to your aquatic environment.

Tank Setup for Jewel Cichlids

Creating the ideal tank setup for Jewel Cichlids is crucial to ensure their well-being and replicate their natural environment. A well-planned tank setup not only enhances their vibrant colors but also helps in managing their aggressive behavior. Here, we will discuss the various aspects of setting up a tank for Jewel Cichlids, ensuring their health, happiness, and longevity.

Tank Size

A minimum tank size of 40 gallons is recommended for a single Jewel Cichlid, with an additional 20 gallons for each additional fish. This allows enough space for these territorial fish to establish their own territories and reduce aggression. A larger tank is always preferable, as it provides more room for them to swim and interact with their environment.


For the tank substrate, a mix of sand and fine gravel works best, as it allows the Jewel Cichlids to dig and forage for food, replicating their natural behavior. The substrate should be around 2 to 3 inches deep to provide ample space for them to sift through and create their territories.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Incorporating rocks, driftwood, and dense vegetation in the tank setup is crucial to mimic their natural habitat and provide hiding spots for these territorial fish. Rocks can be stacked to create caves and crevices, while driftwood and plants add more structure to the tank. Plants such as Anubias, Java Fern, and Vallisneria are hardy and suitable for Jewel Cichlid tanks.

Water Parameters

Jewel Cichlids thrive in slightly acidic to neutral water, with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5. The water hardness should be between 5 and 20 dGH. Maintain a stable water temperature between 75 and 82°F (24-28°C) to ensure their optimal health.

Filtration and Aeration

A high-quality filtration system is necessary to maintain water quality and remove toxins from the tank. A canister filter or a hang-on-back filter is suitable for Jewel Cichlid tanks. Ensure the filter can handle the tank’s volume and has a good flow rate. Additionally, use an air pump or sponge filter to promote proper aeration and oxygen exchange in the tank.


Jewel Cichlids do not require intense lighting, and moderate light levels will suffice. Standard aquarium lighting that supports plant growth is ideal. Provide a consistent day-night cycle of 10-12 hours of light and 12-14 hours of darkness to maintain their circadian rhythm and promote their well-being.

Tank Mates

Careful consideration should be given to tank mates due to the aggressive nature of Jewel Cichlids. Opt for similarly sized and temperament fish, such as other African Cichlids or robust species like Giant Danios, Congo Tetras, or Synodontis Catfish. Avoid housing Jewel Cichlids with smaller, slow-moving, or timid fish, as they may become targets of aggression.


Jewel Cichlids are omnivorous and require a varied diet. Provide high-quality cichlid pellets or flakes as a staple diet, supplemented with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia. Also, include vegetables like spinach or blanched peas to ensure a well-rounded diet. Feed them 2-3 times a day, with only the amount they can consume within 2-3 minutes.


Regular maintenance is essential to maintain a healthy environment for Jewel Cichlids. Perform weekly water tests to monitor pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, and make necessary adjustments as needed. Replace 20-30% of the tank water with clean, dechlorinated water every 1-2 weeks to maintain water quality and reduce the buildup of harmful substances.

Clean the tank substrate using a gravel vacuum to remove debris and uneaten food, which can contribute to poor water quality. Inspect and clean the filter media as needed, but avoid cleaning all the media at once, as it may disrupt the beneficial bacteria essential for the nitrogen cycle.

Trim and prune live plants regularly to prevent them from overgrowing and blocking light or flow in the tank. Also, remove any decaying plant matter, as it may lead to poor water quality and encourage the growth of harmful bacteria.

By following these guidelines and maintaining a consistent tank maintenance routine, you can ensure a healthy and comfortable environment for your Jewel Cichlids, promoting their well-being and showcasing their vibrant colors.

Tank Maintenance of Jewel Cichlids

Proper tank maintenance is essential for the health and well-being of Jewel Cichlids. By following a consistent maintenance routine, you can ensure a thriving environment for your fish and keep them healthy and stress-free.

Here are some key aspects of tank maintenance for Jewel Cichlids:

Regular Water Changes

Perform regular water changes to maintain water quality and remove harmful substances. Replace 20-30% of the tank water with clean, dechlorinated water every 1-2 weeks.

This helps maintain the ideal water parameters and reduces the buildup of harmful substances such as ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Regularly clean the tank and decorations to prevent algae buildup and maintain a clean environment. Use an algae scraper or pad to remove algae from the glass and decorations, and siphon the substrate with a gravel vacuum to remove debris and uneaten food.

Clean decorations outside the tank with a soft brush and water to remove algae and dirt, but avoid using soap or chemicals, as they can be harmful to your fish.

Filter Maintenance

Proper filter maintenance is crucial for maintaining water quality and the overall health of your Jewel Cichlids. Inspect the filter media regularly and clean or replace it as needed.

Avoid cleaning all the media at once, as this may disrupt the beneficial bacteria essential for the nitrogen cycle. Instead, clean or replace only a portion of the media at a time, allowing the beneficial bacteria to recolonize.

Monitor Fish Health

Keep a close eye on your Jewel Cichlids for any signs of illness or stress. Check for unusual behavior, changes in appetite, or visible signs of disease such as spots, lesions, or fin damage.

If you notice any issues, take appropriate action to address the problem, such as adjusting water parameters, isolating sick fish, or consulting a veterinarian for treatment options.

Plant Care

If you have live plants in your Jewel Cichlid tank, proper plant care is essential. Trim and prune plants regularly to prevent overgrowth and ensure adequate light and flow throughout the tank.

Remove decaying plant matter, as it can contribute to poor water quality and promote the growth of harmful bacteria.

Acclimating Jewel Cichlids

Proper acclimation is essential when introducing new Jewel Cichlids to your aquarium. This helps reduce stress and allows the fish to adjust to the new water parameters gradually.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to acclimate your Jewel Cichlids:

  1. Float the sealed bag containing the fish in the aquarium for 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature.

  2. Open the bag and carefully pour some of the aquarium water into it, approximately 1/4 of the bag’s volume. Repeat this step every 10 minutes for about 30-40 minutes, allowing the fish to adjust to the new water parameters.

  3. Use a net to gently transfer the fish from the bag to the aquarium. Avoid introducing the water from the bag into the tank, as it may contain contaminants or pathogens.

  4. Observe the fish closely for the first few days, monitoring their behavior and ensuring they are acclimating well to their new environment.

By following these guidelines, you can successfully acclimate your Jewel Cichlids to their new home and help them thrive in their new environment.

Jewel Cichlids Diet and Feeding

Jewel Cichlids are omnivorous, which means they consume both plant and animal matter in their diet. In the wild, they feed on a variety of food sources, including insects, small crustaceans, and plant matter.

In the aquarium, it is essential to provide them with a balanced diet to ensure their health and well-being.

  1. Commercial Foods: Offer a high-quality cichlid pellet or flake food as the staple of their diet. These foods are specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cichlids and provide essential vitamins and minerals.

  2. Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, and mysis shrimp. These foods provide essential proteins and help mimic their natural diet in the wild. Feed live or frozen foods 2-3 times per week.

  3. Vegetables and Plant Matter: Include blanched vegetables, such as spinach, peas, zucchini, and lettuce, in their diet to provide essential fiber and nutrients. Spirulina-based foods are also beneficial, as they are rich in vitamins and minerals.

Feed adult Jewel Cichlids once or twice daily, offering only as much food as they can consume within 2-3 minutes.

Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and health issues. Juvenile fish can be fed 2-3 times per day to support their growth and development.

Jewel Cichlids Tank Mates

Jewel Cichlids are territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding periods. Therefore, selecting appropriate tank mates is crucial to maintaining a peaceful and harmonious aquarium environment.

It is best to avoid housing them with smaller, more timid fish species that may become targets of aggression.

Suitable tank mates for Jewel Cichlids include:

  1. Other African Cichlids: Larger, equally aggressive African Cichlids can make suitable tank mates, as they are more likely to hold their own against the Jewel Cichlids’ territorial behavior. Examples include other Hemichromis species, Mbuna cichlids, and some Peacock cichlids.

  2. Catfish: Larger catfish species, such as Synodontis and Plecostomus, can make suitable tank mates due to their size and ability to avoid aggression by hiding or staying near the bottom of the tank.

  3. Large Barbs and Tetras: Some larger barb and tetra species, like Congo Tetras and Tinfoil Barbs, may be able to coexist with Jewel Cichlids, provided the tank is large enough and has sufficient hiding spots.

It’s important to observe the behavior of all fish in the tank closely, as individual fish may display varying levels of aggression or tolerance.

Breeding Jewel Cichlids

Breeding Jewel Cichlids can be a rewarding experience for dedicated aquarists. They are known for their strong parental care and vibrant breeding colors.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to breeding Jewel Cichlids:

  1. Sexing: Male Jewel Cichlids are generally larger, more colorful, and have more pointed dorsal and anal fins compared to females.

  2. Breeding Environment: Set up a separate breeding tank with a fine sand or gravel substrate, hiding spots, and flat rocks or slate for the fish to lay their eggs on. Ensure the water parameters are within the ideal range for the species.

  3. Conditioning: Feed the breeding pair a high-quality diet, including live and frozen foods, to help induce breeding behavior and ensure healthy eggs and fry.

  4. Spawning: When ready to breed, the Jewel Cichlids will display intense colors and engage in courtship behavior. The male will establish a territory and begin cleaning a flat surface (rock or slate) for the female to lay her eggs on. The female will then deposit a line of eggs on the prepared surface, which the male will fertilize. This process will be repeated several times until approximately 100-500 eggs have been laid.

Jewel Cichlids Fry and Care

  1. Egg Care: Both parents will take part in guarding and caring for the eggs. They will fan the eggs to provide oxygen and prevent fungal growth. The eggs should hatch within 3-5 days, depending on the water temperature.

  2. Fry Care: Once the fry have hatched, the parents will continue to guard and care for them, moving them to a pre-dug pit in the substrate. The fry will absorb their yolk sacs for the first few days and then become free-swimming.

  3. Feeding Fry: After the fry become free-swimming, begin feeding them with a high-quality, protein-rich food such as newly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, or finely crushed flake food. Feed the fry multiple times a day to support their rapid growth and development.

  4. Growth and Separation: As the fry grow, they may display aggression towards each other. Monitor their behavior closely and consider separating them into different tanks if necessary to prevent injury or stunted growth. Gradually transition the young cichlids to a diet similar to that of the adults.

  5. Water Quality: It is crucial to maintain pristine water quality during the breeding process, especially for the developing fry. Perform regular water changes, and closely monitor water parameters to ensure a healthy environment.

Breeding Jewel Cichlids can be challenging due to their aggressive nature, but with patience, proper care, and a well-maintained environment, aquarists can successfully raise these vibrant and fascinating fish.

Signs of Stress in Jewel Cichlids

  1. Loss of Color: A stressed Jewel Cichlid may lose its vibrant colors, appearing dull or pale.

  2. Lethargy: If the fish is less active than usual or spends most of its time hiding, this could indicate stress.

  3. Loss of Appetite: A stressed Jewel Cichlid may refuse to eat or eat less than usual.

  4. Rapid Breathing: Breathing faster than normal can be a sign of stress or poor water quality.

  5. Frequent Rubbing: If the fish rubs against objects in the tank, this may indicate irritation or stress.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Jewel Cichlids

  1. Ich: A parasitic infection causing white spots on the body, gills, and fins. Treat with an ich medication and raise the water temperature to 82°F (28°C) for a few days to speed up the parasite’s lifecycle.

  2. Fin Rot: A bacterial or fungal infection that causes frayed or disintegrating fins. Treat with a broad-spectrum antibiotic or antifungal medication.

  3. Bacterial Infections: Symptoms include cloudy eyes, ulcers, or red streaks on the body. Treat with a broad-spectrum antibiotic.

  4. Parasitic Infections: Symptoms may include weight loss, visible parasites, or white stringy feces. Treat with an appropriate antiparasitic medication.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

  1. Quarantine New Fish: Isolate new fish in a separate tank for two to four weeks before adding them to the main aquarium to prevent the spread of diseases.

  2. Avoid Overcrowding: Overstocking the tank can lead to stress and poor water quality. Ensure that each fish has enough space to swim and establish territories.

  3. Monitor Water Parameters: Regularly test the water to maintain ideal water parameters, such as pH, temperature, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.

Should You Get a Jewel Cichlid for Your Aquarium?

Jewel Cichlids can be a beautiful and rewarding addition to a home aquarium, but they are not suitable for every hobbyist. Consider the following factors before deciding to keep them:

  1. Aggression: Jewel Cichlids are territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding. They may not be suitable for a community tank with smaller or more peaceful fish.

  2. Tank Size: These fish require a larger tank (at least 50 gallons) to provide adequate space for swimming and territories.

  3. Experience Level: They may be best suited for intermediate to advanced aquarists who have experience managing aggressive fish and maintaining a stable environment.

If you can provide a suitable tank setup, compatible tank mates, and proper care, Jewel Cichlids can be an attractive and fascinating addition to your aquarium.

Conservation Status

Jewel Cichlids are not currently listed as threatened or endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, their natural habitats may be affected by pollution, habitat destruction, and the introduction of invasive species. As with any species, it is essential to source your fish responsibly and ensure they are bred in captivity rather than captured from the wild.

Availability & Pricing

Jewel Cichlids are relatively common in the aquarium trade and can be found at most local fish stores or online retailers. Prices vary depending on factors such as size, color, and rarity of the specific species or variety. Generally, you can expect to pay between $5 and $20 for a single fish, with rarer or more colorful varieties fetching higher prices.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jewel Cichlids

  1. Are Jewel Cichlids aggressive? Yes, Jewel Cichlids are known for their territorial and aggressive behavior, particularly during breeding periods. They may not be suitable for a community tank with smaller or more peaceful fish.

  2. Can Jewel Cichlids live with other cichlids? Jewel Cichlids can coexist with other robust and similarly-sized cichlids, but care should be taken to ensure that aggression and territorial disputes are minimized. Providing ample hiding spots and a spacious tank can help.

  3. What do Jewel Cichlids eat? Jewel Cichlids are omnivorous and require a balanced diet of high-quality pellets, flakes, or granules, supplemented with live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.


Jewel Cichlids are vibrant and fascinating fish that can be a rewarding addition to your aquarium if you can provide the proper care and environment. They require a spacious tank, compatible tank mates, and a balanced diet to thrive.

Due to their aggressive nature, they may not be suitable for beginners or for community tanks with small or peaceful fish. With proper care and attention, Jewel Cichlids can become a stunning focal point in your home aquarium.