Cichlid Room Companion

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'Cichlasoma' octofasciatum

By , 1995. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1995-Nov-28 "

Roger has turned the PA system ON.

public address system (PA is ON) has been installed in the room.

Roger gives the mic to dwaink.

Roger says: ok, I think we're ready, if anyone wants to ask questions, ask me for the mic.

Dwaink says: I'd like to talk to you tonight about Archocentrus octofasciatus.

Dwaink says: I'd like to reprint an article that appeared in cichlid tails and the title of it is Raising Jack, The Spawning of Archocentrus octofasciatus.

Dwaink says: Archocentrus octofasciatus is a beautiful and pugnacious central American cichlid kept in the aquarium since 1904, it has earned the name Jack Dempsey, after the fighter, for its belligerent nature.

Dwaink says: in my experience, these fish have killed prospective mates and ignored feeder fish with equanimity.

Dwaink says: although considered a beginners fish because of its hardy nature, I struggled for years to match a breeding pair. The common method of growing out six small individuals has often resulted in a splendid example of a full grown male or female, but rarely a pair. Dempseys are extremely particular in their choice of mates, pre- spawning ceremony in this cichlid is all-out war.

Dwaink says: the combatants begin with fin flaring and short blasts of speed in close proximity, culminating in the locking of jaws. A pair thus engaged, seems oblivious to their surroundings. Any sign of weakness at this point will result in severe retaliation by the stronger fish.

Dwaink says: the eggs are deposited on some hard pre-cleaned surface, rock, standpipe, wood, or the tank side all being suitable.

Dwaink says: age of fish and state of condition can vary egg production from some one hundred to three hundred eggs in a three-inch female, to eight hundred eggs in a six inch female.

Dwaink says: Eggs are about 1/8 inch clear dots, that hatch in 3 to 4 days at 80 degrees f. After hatching, Dempsey parents will move the fry into a series of pits dug in the gravel surface. it has been proposed that this is to insure a thorough cleaning of each baby. parents closely guard the fry, spitting stragglers back into the pit with alacrity.

Dwaink says: gnat sized fry are black and brown banded and are free-swimming within a few days. One parent is always attending the swarm, the other on guard against the intruders. this guarding behavior will continue until the fry reach one inch or more.

Dwaink says: Good food for the young fry seems to be mostly infusoria. but finely powdered flake or baby brine shrimp is taken.

Dwaink says: at one quarter inch, three-week old fish take daphnia and brine shrimp with delight.

Dwaink says: a three-inch pair seems fine in a twenty gallon tank. but a six -inch pair needs 55 gallons or more.

Dwaink says: a lighter colored large blasting sand or pea-sized gravel three-to-four inches deep is preferred.

Dwaink says: undergravel filtration will work but Dempseys are diggers and will reduce the efficiency.

Dwaink says: some experts claim that egg crate light diffuser panel over 2 inches of gravel and then covered with two inches more, will slow their ability to disrupt biological filtration.

Dwaink says: planting is optional, as dempseys will soon show you.

Dwaink says: duckweed on the surface can promote spawning, and larger Amazon swords will survive.

Dwaink says: Archocentrus octofasciatus will breed at a pH of 6.8 and a temperature range of 70 to 80 degrees, but can survive in a much wider range of pH and temperature.

Dwaink says: they are known to grow over 8 inches long, and live longer than 10 years.

Dwaink says: The basic coloration is 7 to 9 bars blue-black over a base of cream-to-tan. There is a black spot under the dorsal fin, and one at the base of the caudal fin. The dorsal fin has a red edge trimmed in white. the base color can be almost black when hiding or in a submissive position to a pink/white when stressed or harassed. This base is covered by blue/green spots with a metallic sheen. These spots are concentrated on the fins and opercle. Spangling varies on the bodies of young fish, but becomes fixed with age.

Dwaink says: males develop a muchal hump and usually have sharply pointed anal fins.

Dwaink says: females tend too be shorter in length and broader than males.

Dwaink says: in my experience, the spangles of females only cover one half to two-thirds of the body.

Dwaink says: as this coloration also occurs in less-dominant males, it is not foolproof.

Dwaink says: a rounded anal fin (not bitten off) is usually a sign of a female, but young fish can be difficult to sex.

Dwaink says: a red-headed color morph from Belize has been recently introduced to the hobby.

Dwaink says: any attempt to pair larger fish can be risky business and should be closely observed to rescue the weaker fish. This can be helped by placing the female in the tank first, then later introducing the male. The best method is to grow out a large group and let pairs form.

Dwaink says: be warned, that a solid pair moved, are two strangers again.

Dwaink says: a variety of things seem to promote spawning. A good conditioning feeding of snails or earthworms, plants on the surface, or just a water change that splashes on the surface like rain can all work.

Dwaink says: the Jack Dempsey provides a colorful and firey example of the many cichlids available from Central America.

Dwaink says: its parental antics and pair behavior, make this a captivating aquarium resident.

Dwaink says: good luck caring for and breeding your Central American cichlids.

Dwaink says: that is the end of the article and I would like to do a little discourse on the joys of ichthyology.

Gecko smiles.

Dwaink says: in EXOTIC AQUARIUM FISH the author INNES, states that the fish was wrongly identified as Cichlasoma nigrofasiatum for years.

Dwaink says: in the '576 version of the book ENCYCLOOPEDIA OF TROPICAL FISH Axelrod calls them Cichlasoma biocellatum.

Dwaink says: in the book THE COMPLETE HOME AQUARIUM, Mayland calls them Cichlasoma octofasciatum.

Dwaink says: now, it is a tossup between Nandopis Octofasciata and Heros octofasciatus.

Dwaink says: now the floor is open for questions.

Melissa asks: What do you find is the growth rate for dempseys? Dwaink says: Melissa the growth rate for dempseys varies depending on what you feed them, the temperature of the water, and whether the fish are stunted, or growing as fast as they can.

Melissa asks: I'll repeat myself. What is the normal growth rate for dempseys?.

Dwaink says: they reach a quarter inch within three weeks, reach one inch in just over a month after that.

Melissa says: I was wondering because my dempsey grew about 4 inches its first year and has only gotten another inch or so this past year.

Kenkearney asks: I had a pair of dempseys who paired, just two that I picked out at the store one day, was I just lucky?.

Dwaink says: yes Ken, have they laid eggs?.

Kenkearney says: They laid eggs once, but the eggs either didn't hatch or they ate the babies or something. They froze with most of my fish one winter when the power was out for three days.

Dwaink says: Ken they don't make good parents when they are very young, they have to go through several spawning before the male becomes fertile.

Dwaink says: I had one that was six years old and only 7 inches long.

Melissa asks: What kind of fish do you find make good tankmates?.

Dwaink says: tough ones Melissa or catfish.

Gustavo asks: recommendations for breeding and raising in a pond?.

Dwaink says: Gustavo put them in the pond and feed them well.

Dwaink says: winter them, Gustavo.

Gustavo says: not very cold here :).

Melissa asks: What about water quality parameters?.

Dwaink says: Melissa dempseys will stand it from 65 degrees to 90 degrees, and prefer a slightly acidic water.

Gustavo asks: natural food?.

Dwaink says: they love earthworms and snails for breeding conditioning, Gustavo.

Dwaink says: they also love frozen green peas.

Gustavo says: I don't plan on feeding them on the pond.

Dwaink says: Gustavo, I think in nature they exist on insect larvae so they might be just fine, but for conditioning, you would probably feed them.

Gustavo says: ok.

Dwaink says: Gustavo, add some guppies.

Payara nods his head in agreement.

Gustavo says: no feeding at all, I've raised some convicts that way.

Dwaink asks: are there any furhter questions about Dempseys?.

Dwaink says: ask away Sabrina.

Sabrina says: so in other words, even though beginners get them, they really shouldn't start out with that? Also, not good in community tank?.

Dwaink says: no not in a community tank, Sabrina, in a species specific tank, or maybe with catfish.

Sabrina nods her head in understanding.

Gustavo asks: what countries are they from, apart from belize?, if any.

Dwaink says: they are in the rivers Rio Negro, Amazon, and reports of them being in Costa Rica and Belize.

Gustavo says: as far as amazon? Could they be up to México?.

Editor note by Juanmi: The fish referred to be Archocentrus octofasciatus from Rio Negro and Amazon is a similar fish actually 'Cichlasoma' ornatum, more closely related to 'Cichlasoma' atromaculatum. Archocentrus octofasciatus inhabits very low altitude river and lagoons near the sea from Veracruz city to Belize in the Atlantic coast of México, that includes river systems Papaloapan, Coatzacoalcos, Grijalva and Usumacinta. It is found in murky stagnant water most of the times.

Payara asks: how susceptible are they to pH and salinity fluctuations?.

Dwaink says: Payara, they are very forgiving.

Dwaink says: Gustavo, I have often wondered if the Texas cichlid is not some variation of them, they are quite alike.

Roger says: I have wondered the same.

Melissa says: I was wondering that as well. They are very similar.

Roger says: I keep mine with a vampire pleco.

Melissa says: Mine gets along well with a Cichlasoma urophthalmus and a geo surinamenoid and the others in the tank.

Dwaink says: Melissa, yes they will get along with other fish, and a beginner should keep them by themselves, because they can be mean.

Dev says: beginners don't start with 100g tanks.

Melissa says: True Dwain. Mine have also been together since young.

Dwaink says: that is a good way to start them out, Melissa, and your other cichlids are fairly mean too.

Melissa says: Even when I had them in separate tanks when really young they could see each other because the tanks are next to each other.

Roger says: I bought mine when they were <2", and they bullied my 3" severums.

Dwaink says: When mine spawned the first time the male would try to attack my dog when he walked through the room.

Gustavo says: cool.

Melissa grins.


King, Dwain. (May 27, 1996). "'Cichlasoma' octofasciatum". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on October 20, 2019, from: