The Jack Dempsey is one of the most popular “pet” fish (a fish that is often kept alone and develops a relationship with the owner). Oscars are another, probably even more popular, fish that is kept this way. While we have all kinds of other cichlids to choose from now, in the early days of the aquarium hobby the Jack Dempsey was probably the favorite cichlid. Named after the famous prizefighter, it is a piscine pugilist in its own right. However, it is far from the nastiest cichlid in the river.
The Jack Dempsey is easy to take care of, and if you have a pair that do not kill one another, they are very good breeders. If they breed, the problem is usually how to get rid of the baby Dempseys — this species has very large spawns. They are typical substrate spawners, with both parents taking care of the fry in a most dedicated manner.
The Jack Dempsey will eat just about anything, and can survive temperatures ranging from 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and pH from 5.5 to 8.0. This is not to suggest that you should subject this fish to these extremes; it is just a really hardy fish. This fish does best either by itself or in a community of other tough cichlids. Be sure, however, that the other cichlids you have them in with are not real terrors, because the Jack Dempsey is not as aggressive as a red devil, green terror or the like. This fish is rough on plants, so consider keeping it with plastic plants. To really bring out all of this fish’s sparkling colors, provide a bed of black gravel.