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Jewel Cichlids

Choosing colorful jewel cichlids.

By Richard Bireley |

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jewel cichlid
Colorful jewel cichlid by Tony Terceira.

Q. I have a 55-gallon tropical fish aquarium where I keep a pair of jewel cichlid fish (Hemichromis bimaculatus). I have been trying to breed this tropical fish for a while and finally succeeded a few weeks ago. Now that I have that fish aquarium under control, I am getting a 75-gallon fish aquarium and I want to find a more colorful fish to breed in it. I was wondering if you had any suggestions on a colorful cichlid fish to breed. Also, I was wondering if there would be a good pair of different cichlid species to breed and make a colorful hybrid. Thanks for your time.
Ryan Erne
Rochester, New York

A. First, I’d like to congratulate you on your success with your pair of jewel cichlids. Hemichromis bimaculatus is one of the old standbys of the aquarium fish hobby. It’s also one of the most beautiful cichlids.

Jewel cichlids are widespread in their native habitat of southern Republic of Guinea south to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They spawn readily in the home aquarium, produce a lot of fry and are therefore a mainstay of the hobby. While the coloration can vary a bit, courting pairs are usually spectacular with a bright red background and blue spots. They don’t get very large (5 inches or so) and tolerate a wide range of water conditions. You chose a great cichlid fish to start with. The one drawback is that they can be pretty aggressive toward their tankmates and even their own mates.

I’ll address your question about species to hybridize before offering suggestions about other beautiful cichlid fish to breed. I would never recommend anybody hybridize fish intentionally. To me, part of the beauty of fishkeeping is imagining where a fish comes from. Another point is that there’s something like 25,000 species of fish in the world. Many can be kept in aquaria. They literally come in all shapes, colors and sizes. They reproduce in ways that you probably wouldn’t even think of. Before you give up on all 25,000 species, why not do a little research and find new species that appeal to you? Reading Aquarium Fish Internationalis a great start. Asking questions like you’ve done here is even better.

For beautiful alternatives, there are at least two species of jewel cichlids that are smaller and less aggressive, the forest jewel (Hemichromis lifalili) and also H. cristatus. If you like West African fish but not jewels, consider any of the various species of fish under the heading of kribs. There are a number of species and all are attractive. Finally, if you’d like a big change, look into the cichlid fish from Lake Malawi. There are literally hundreds of species of Lake Malawi cichlid fish in colors from bright blue, greens, reds, yellow and black. Good luck with whatever fish you try.

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Reader Comments

Victoria    Spruce pine, NC

6/8/2014 6:51:41 AM

I have 13 different african ciclids in my 55 gallon tank.3 are jewels and every 4 or 5 days they kill one of my other fish.they always stay together and chase all the others.i tried to catch them and get them out of the tank but I can't.what can I do?

Ms,Tamra    Butte, MT

9/4/2013 4:07:48 PM

I have 2 tinfoil barbs and 2 Jewel cichlids in my tank. my tinfoils they stay together and the 2 cichlids stick together. All of them get a long together. I have a 30 gallon tank that these 4 fish are together. Everyone seems to be doing really good together. I read on here that someone posted that on their jewel cichlids that they have babies every few months and they feed them to their catfish. that is ashame I'm sure other people would love to have those baby jewel cichlids. you could even sell them to other fish breeders like from craigslist or ebay or even on fish forums and websites. Jewels cichlids are very pretty fish I love them. I hope some day my jewel cichlids breed and have babies.

Paul    Snohomish, WA

5/27/2013 9:25:38 AM

Jewel cichlids are great tank buddies. They breed for me every few months and I feed the babies to my catfish. Perfect live foods.

Austin Rodrigues    lemoore, CA

5/1/2010 9:59:02 AM

hello my name is Austin im am a fish expert living in lemoore california, i have a few cichlids my selve i have a blue cobalt,electric yello,2 jewels,and a few others, its an african jewel so there is a variety of colorful fish species lets say if you would get a electric yello The Electric Yellow comes from naturally clean waters, so water should be kept clean in the aquarium. Overfeeding can cause water conditions to be poor, in addition to possibly making the fish unhealthy by being overweight. Tank temperatures should be maintained at approximately 78 degrees Fahrenheit, with pH levels ranging from 7.5 to 8.5. Breeding Electric Yellow Cichlids are reported to breed fairly easily in captivity. To initiate spawning it is recommended that water levels be dropped during a water change. It has been reported that the will usually breed about two days after a water change. During this time the males, which are larger than the females, are quite aggressive and constantly chase all other fish in an attempt to corner a selected female and induce her into breeding. This fish is a maternal mouth brooder (the female keeps the eggs in her mouth). You should remove the female and place her in her own tank (ten gallons will usually suffice) so the male won't harass her during this time. After approximately 15 days, she will spit out the fry. The fry can accept baby brine shrimp, and they grow quickly. The parents usually ignore the fry, so they can be released into the community tank if one isn't worried about losses. It has been reported that males may also help carry the eggs before hatching, but this has not been verified.

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