Jewel Cichlid care guide

Jewel cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus) is a cichlid that became famous due to its beauty and aggressiveness. Of course, jewel cichlid is aggressive if it is kept together with guppies and danio. But in case when cichlid has tank mates of corresponding size and temper it’s no way a troublesome fish. The only exception is its spawning period, but who can consider a fish protecting its eggs an aggressive one?

Habitat in the wild

Jewel cichlid inhabits in West Africa from South Guinea to central Liberia and can be seen mainly in the rivers where it swims in the middle and bottom waters. The jewel cichlid feeds on juveniles, small fish, insects and spineless species.

Two close fish types are often described by this name – more famous Hemichromis lifalili and another one is Hemichromis bimaculatus, which differs only in the presence of black spot at the bottom of its fluke.

Scientific NameHemichromis bimaculatus
Common NamesAfrican jewelfish; jewel cichlid; jewelfish
Range and habitatBrazil, Colombia, Peru
Size4 cm (1.5 in)
Lifespan5 years
Ease of keepingMedium
Minimum tank size80 liters (20 gallons) and more
Temperature22–28 °C (72–82 °F)
Water hardness5-25 dGH


From the fish name it’s already clear that fish is a beautiful one. The body color is red that varies up to bright purple when the fish is exited or during its spawning period. There are greenish spots scattered around the body with a black spot in the middle.

Jewel cichlid max size is about 13-15 cm (5-6 шт), which is rather long one for a cichlid. Lifespan is about 5 years.

Difficulties in keeping

In general jewel cichlid care isn’t difficult. The thing is that amateurs often buy this fish because of its bright color and they keep it together with small fishes in a community tank. In its turn jewel cichlid eventually extirpates all the small fishes in a tank.

This fish is recommended for African cichlid fans or for the aquarists which know exactly what kind of cichlid is this one.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

The tank has to be spacious (starting from 22 gallons capacity), since jewel cichlid is a territory-dependent fish and an aggressive one. A lot of covers, flowerpots, caves, tubes, snags and other places where the fish likes hiding are required in the tank.

Tank decor

Sandy bottom is preferable because the cichlid likes digging it and the water becomes muddy. Clean water is important for jewel cichlid just as it is for all African cichlids. Taking into account the diet and its habit to dig the bottom it’s better to use an external filter. Also frequent water renew and bottom siphonage are needed.

This cichlid isn’t good with plants, because they dig them out and damage leaves. It’s preferable to put stiff leaved types of greenery in the tank. Something like Anubias and big plants in flowerpots.The fish prefers hard water but not harder then 12 dGH, however they adapt well to rather hard water.

Water parameters

Desired water temperature is 22–28 °C (72–82 °F), pH: 6.0-7.8, 5-25 dGH.


Jewel cichlid gladly eats all types of feed, but to get the maximum of its color it’s desirable to feed the fish with live feed: blood worm, tubifex, white worms, fish frames etc. – this isn’t a full list of what this cichlid can feed on. Plant feed can be added to the diet – lettuce leaves or feed with spirulina addition.

Tank mates

This type of cichlid fish is famous for its aggressiveness and territory-dependent temper, especially during spawning period.

The jewel cichlid is kept in couples, however partners have to chose each other themselves from the group of juveniles. It’s possible to keep this fish with the following tank mates corresponding in size – some catfishes (like, pictus or pleco), or fast fishes like tiger barb.

In large tanks it’s possible to add some other tank mates such as african cichlids – african butterfly peacock, lionhead cichlid, aulonocara, kribensis and oher mbunas.

Gender differences: male vs female

It’s very difficult to see between jewel cichlid male and female. It’s considered that the female is smaller in size and it has more roundish abdomen. Sadly, there’s no easy and precise way to define the gender.


Jewel cichlid is a monogamous fish, so once it has chosen its mate, the fish will breed only with it. The problem is to find a female (it’s difficult to be distinguished from a male) and the one that will suit the male, otherwise they will kill each other.

These cichlids are very aggressive to each other if their mate doesn’t suit them. First, when you put the couple mates together it’s very important to watch how they behave. Otherwise, you may find one of the fishes with damaged fins, injured or dead.

If the couple mates match each other, male prepares to spawn and its color becomes more bright. In this case, it’s crucial to watch the female since the male may kill her if she’s not ready for spawning. The female lays up to 500 eggs on a surface purified in advance. Sometimes cichlid breeds inside a flowerpot, but more often on a flat and smooth stone.

Ich fry appears in 2 days and the parents take care of it. Female gathers ich fry and hides it somewhere else till the time the fry eats all content from its umbilical vesicle and starts swimming.

This will happen in about three days from the time the ich fry appears. The male will guard the juveniles and create some kind of perimeter which no fish will be allowed to cross. The female will also participate.

The juveniles gladly feed on brine shrimp eggs, but the juveniles grow with rather different pattern and they eat each other. They have to be sorted. The parents will watch the juveniles till they become about 1 cm long and then they leave them.