10 Best Jack Dempsey Tank Mates (Cichlids & Schooling Fish)

Jack Dempsey Tank Mates

If you’re looking for a pet fish that fit your definition of “dainty,” then get yourself a Jack Dempsey, especially the Electric Blue Jack Dempsey. Native to lakes and rivers in Central America, such as Mexico, Belize, Guatemala. They are one of the big and most fierce cichlids in the aquarium with their bright colors and great personalities. 

Like most cichlids, Jack Dempsey is known for its aggressive nature but can get along with other fish in a well-populated tank. Fishkeepers who want to have a peaceful tank for Jack Dempseys must consider their tank mates very carefully. So, what are the best Jack Dempsey Tank Mates?

Read on to find out! 

What Should You Consider When Looking for Tank Mates for Jack Dempsey?

Tank size and tankmates can’t be exclusive from one another, which is the key that can help determine fish compatibility. We always recommend that you don’t go with the general “one inch to one gallon” rule for most territorial fish. 

In fact, the Jack Dempseys will generally grow up to 10 inches in length. The minimum aquarium size recommended for one adult Jack Dempsey is at least 55-gallons. For a pair of adult Jack Dempseys, a 75g tank is minimum, though I wouldn’t really recommend it. 

Personally, 55-gallons is not even worth considering in my eyes. I’ve seen a medium-sized pair of JDs defend their territory of 250 gallons against other cichlids in the murky warm waters in Mexican.

How Big of Your Jack Dempsey

Is your little guy still a juvenile? Then you should be aware of choosing tank mates roughly the same size as your Jack Dempseys in your aquarium. If he’s more than 4″ inches, you will need to add several other school fish because he’ll zero in on any lone fish you introduce, so it will be easy for him to take over his territory. Most freshwater fish are by nature opportunistic when it comes to food, and even the most peace-loving fish will attempt to eat other fishes if they think that they can. 

Aggressiveness

We know that Jack Dempseys are fall in the middle of the aggression scale so that you would want newcomers can take care of themselves but not be more aggressive, such as Jaguar cichlids or red devils. If you’re going to add another cichlid, be sure to rearrange your rocks and hiding places so territories can be reestablished. 

The South or Central American cichlids are known for being aggressive when they’re trying to reproduce.

Avoid Having More than One Male 

Male fish are notorious for being territorial and aggressive, especially when it comes to mating. This is most common in cichlids but can happen with other species as well. You should be careful not to have more than one male of the same or closely related species living together if there are females nearby because they might fight each other over territory- a very dangerous situation!

I would recommend against putting in more than one, even a female Jack Dempsey! A pair of JDs would team up on the same size tank mate and kill it when they are trying to pair up and breed. 

Personalities

In the end, it’s important to remember that no two fish are alike. There are always exceptions to every rule, and sometimes they behave in uncharacteristic ways even when all of the factors mentioned above come into play. The best approach is being prepared for anything – so be sure you’re always ready with a spare tank! 

Big cichlids have much more personality as well!

Now that I just gave you a brief rundown on how to choose the best tank mates for your Jack Dempseys, the next step would be looking into some popular choices:

Jack Dempsey Tank Mates for a 55 gallon or 75 gallon

With a 55-gallon or 75-gallon tank, I would definitely avoid any South American cichlids because they simply can’t compete against a moderately sized Jack Dempsey. If you don’t plan to upgrade the tank size, it is always suggested not to add more same-sized fish in the tank, and you would be better off with the barbs or tetras. 

In a 75 gallon or smaller tank, any fish big enough to fit in a Jack Dempsey’s mouth will be eaten because there is not enough space to escape.

Here are our favorite species for you to consider.

Denison Barbs

Denison Barbs and Jack Dempsey Fish
Photo: jonasflanken

If you’re looking to add some color and activity dither fish into your JD’s aquarium, then the Denison Barbs are just what you need. Native to fast-moving rivers and streams in Southern India, these fish have been highly sought after by the fishkeepers for years now.

A long and torpedo-shaped body with a base color of silver makes it easy to see why many hobbyists call this fish a Red Lined Torpedo Barb or the Rose Line Shark. It’s set off by a black line that runs from the snout to tail along its entire length. The dorsal fin also boasts red edges, while the caudal fin comes with striking stripes in bright yellow and black!

Unlike other barbs, The Denison Barb is a longer fish that can reach 6 inches when fully grown. They are generally schooling fish as well as jumpers. Therefore they should be kept in groups of 6 in your Jack Dempsey aquarium with a tight-fitting lid.  

Scientific Name:Sahyadria denisonii
Family:Cyprinidae
Origin:Southern India
Care Level:Easy
Size:4½”
Color Form:Black, Red, White
pH:6.8-7.8
Temperature:60-77° F
KH:4-10
Minimum tank size:50 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Peaceful

Plecostomus

Plecostomus

The Plecostomus also called “plecos’, is a great candidate for the Jack Dempseys community aquarium. Native to South America, the Plecostomus is a peaceful bottom-feeder that prefers to rest on the floor of its tank. Their natural abilities as cleaners make them a perfect addition to any aquarium!

The pleco has been known for its distinctive features, like armored plates on their bodies and sucker-shaped mouths. It will grow to a size of 12 inches, which means that Jack Dempsey will definitely not be able to take on this little guy!  

In fact, there are more than 500 varieties of plecos, so no matter the size of your aquarium or what type of fish you want to keep, there is one that’s right for you.

Scientific Name:Hypostomus plecostomus
Family:Loricariidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Easy
pH:7.0-8.0
Temperature:72-86° F
Minimum tank size:75 gallons
Diet:Carnivorous
Temperament:Peaceful

Jack Dempsey Tank Mates for 125 Gallons & Over

A general rule of thumb for fish keeping is the more space that fish have, the happier and healthier they will be. Keeping Jack Dempseys in a tank of at least 125 gallons will make them very happy. Furthermore, you have more tank mates fit the bill. 

Firemouth Cichlid

Can Firemouth Cichlid live with Jack Dempsey?

Firemouth cichlids are equally colorful that will bring a splash of color to any tank. The native habitat of these beautiful cichlids extends from Central America. 

Most Firemouth Cichlids are coming in an attractive turquoise-blue body and a vibrant orange-red coloration that can be seen on the edges of their scales, plus remarkable turquoise spots on the fins, making it stand out in an aquarium.  

A Firemouth Cichlid is a fast-growing fish with an average size of around 6 inches for males and 5 inches for females, which will not be caught and fit into your JD’s mouth. 

Scientific Name:Thorichthys meeki
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:Central America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:6″
Color Form:Blue, Red
pH:6.0-7.5
Temperature:70-75° F
KH:4-10
Minimum tank size:30 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Semi-aggressive

Convict Cichlid

Can Convict Cichlid live with Jack Dempsey?

The Convict Cichlid, also called Zebra Cichlid, are named for their black stripes along its grayish body. Like Firemouth Cichlid, Convict Cichlid also comes from Central America.

The Convict Cichlid is a remarkable fish with many fascinating attributes. Female convict cichlids have orange scales on their lower body and dorsal fins, while males are larger, less colorful, and possess longer fins. The most captivating trait of this species lies in the vertical black bars that run along its length to create an incredible display for hunters looking for prey!

Convict Cichlids have a natural tendency to be aggressive, but they can be housed with your Jack Dempsey because the average convict cichlid size is around 6 inches when fully grown. 

Scientific Name:Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:Central America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:6″
Color Form:Black
pH:6.5-8.0
Temperature:68-73° F
KH: 9-20
Minimum tank size:30 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Aggressive

Gold Severum

Can Gold Severum live with Jack Dempsey?
Photo: Matt Frahm

The Gold Severum is a very popular and colorful cichlid kept by hobbyists for decades, which is a color variation of the wild form Green Severum, also known as Banded Cichlid. They are native to South America, including its tributaries and lakes with trees & vegetation under water. 

The Golden Severum is so-named for its brilliant and beautiful gold tint. It has a yellow color over its entire body, except for its dorsal fin. The tail fins are usually whiter, with some hints of yellow specks mixed in. The Green Severums have a tendency to get really dark. 

The Gold Severum has a trusting nature and will often accept food directly from their owner’s hand. It’s a fairly large fish that can grow up to 8 inches in length, but it’s generally pretty mellow and will usually take on the submissive role with more dominant fishes.

Scientific Name:Heros severus
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:8″
Color Form:Tan, Yellow
pH:6.0-7.2
Temperature:73-77° F
KH:4-5
Minimum tank size:55 gallons
Diet:Carnivore
Temperament:Semi-aggressive

Green Terror

Can Green Terror live with Jack Dempsey?
Photo: lkmathew

The Green Terror Cichlid is an excellent option for any experienced aquarist with large tanks. Originally from Peru and Ecuador in South America, these stunning fish are an excellent addition that can bring life and energy to your tank.

The incredible colors and markings make this fish an eye-catching sight. 

The brighter blue markings create a beautiful contrast with the dark, metal-green color all over their face and body. Bright orange stripes can be seen on a lot of specimens as well. 

Since a male Green terror cichlid can grow up to 8 inches, all potential tank mates should be similar. Luckily, the Green Terrors and Jack Dempseys are both pretty evenly matched in terms of temperament and size, and they have fantastic colors that will please anyone! Enjoy!

Scientific Name:Andinoacara rivulatus
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:8″
Color Form:Blue, Green, White
pH:6.5-8.0
Temperature:72-80° F
KH:9-20
Minimum tank size:50 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Semi-aggressive

Oscars

Can Oscars live with Jack Dempsey?

Native to the slow-moving freshwater rivers and creeks of South America, the Oscar fish has been in captivity since its discovery. These little guys come in lots of colors and make great aquarium pets! 

The common Oscar fish has a dark brown body with yellow, gray, or pale green stripes. The Tiger variety is one of the most attractive and sought-after tank-bred varieties. The most striking feature differentiating wild from domesticated specimens is coloration: while the latter boasts a stunning mix of oranges and red on the dark brown-black body. 

Most Oscar varieties grow to be large, reaching up to 12 to 14 inches. Be very careful when keeping Oscars and Jack Dempseys. Oscars tend to grow very quickly in their lifetime. Jack Dempseys, on the other hand, have a slow growth rate. They may work better only you choose an oscar that is a bit smaller than the Jack Dempsey. 

Scientific Name:Astronotus ocellatus
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:12-14″
Color Form:Orange, Red
pH:6-7.5
Temperature:72-77° F
KH:5-19
Minimum tank size:75 gallons
Diet:Carnivore
Temperament:Semi-aggressive

Salvini Cichlid

Can Salvini Cichlid live with Jack Dempsey?
Photo: cichlid.bros

The Salvini cichlid is one of spark and beautiful mid-sized cichlids, also known as the Yellow Belly Cichlid, found in the lakes and rivers of Southern Mexico and northern Central America. 

The body of this species is bright yellow with turquoise-blue dots scattered and two blotchy dark lines. The fins are long, shimmering in a turquoise hue that beautifully matches the bright red coloration of their tailfin. The head is striped with four horizontals lines running horizontally across the forehead.

Like most Central American cichlids, The Salvini Cichlid can reach around 6 inches in length and is territorial, intolerant and aggressive. Be careful that Salvini cichlids are much more aggressive and agile than Jack Dempseys than people give them credit for when they are in breeding mode. The success of keeping Salvini cichlid with a Jack Dempsey is providing each cichlid two hiding spots in 300 gallons or larger, a group of preferably all females. 

Pro tip: Cichlids should be introduced to a tank all at once so that they can establish their territory and avoid aggression, all being equal.
Scientific Name:Nandopsis salvini
Family:Cichlidae
Origin:Central America
Care Level:Moderate
Size:6″
Color Form:Yellow
pH:7.0-8.0
Temperature:72-79° F
KH:9-11
Minimum tank size:55 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Aggressive

Giant Danios

The Giant Danio fish is an excellent addition to any large freshwater tank, and it can be especially beneficial if you’re already raising larger fish such as cichlids. It makes the perfect companion. 

Originates from highly oxygenated fast-running streams in India, also found in Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Thailand. The fish requires a tight-fitting lid or significantly lowered water line to prevent jumping out of the aquarium.

The Giant Danio is a true giant among danios. It can grow to be up to 4 inches in length and should always be kept with at least six other individuals of its social species, preferably more! The Giant Danio is a fast, active swimmer who likes to hang out near the top of aquariums, make excellent additions to your JD’s tank. 

Scientific Name:Danio aequipinnatus
Family:Cyprinidae
Origin:India
Care Level:Easy
Size:4″
Color Form:Blue, Yellow
pH:6.0-7.0
Temperature:72-75° F
KH:8-12
Minimum tank size:30 gallons
Diet:Omnivore
Temperament:Peaceful

Silver Dollars

Silver Dollars

The Silver Dollar Fish is one of the most popular fish in North America, due to its cute size and unique color. It’s easy to see why this shimmering silver dollar gave them their name! If you want to add some fish variety to your aquarium, Silver Dollar Fish is a perfect choice. These beautiful and energetic creatures are sure not to disappoint!

As the name suggests, originates from the rivers in South America have a tall and flat shiny body, but it becomes more translucent on its fins. 

With a maximum size of 6″, they are perfect for your larger Jack Dempsey’s community tank. Silver Dollars are a lively schooling fish by nature that do much better in a group of three or more. 

Scientific Name:Metynnis argenteus
Family:Characidae
Origin:South America
Care Level:Easy
Size:6″
Color Form:White
pH:5.0-7.0
Temperature:72-77° F
KH:4-8
Minimum tank size:30 gallons
Diet:Characidae
Temperament:Peaceful

Bottom Line

As you can see, there are plenty of beautiful cichlids and peaceful schooling fish to choose from when it comes to picking the best tank mates for Jack Dempseys. 

Due to the aggressive nature of Jack Dempsey, if you want to play safe. Keep them in a solo-species tank is always suggested. 

For your best chance to get a compatible and successful pairing, you usually need to start with about 6 juveniles. Let them grow up together in the same aquarium tank, where they will have time to choose their mate as adults.

I hope you got a good amount of value out of this guide. As always, if there is anything on your mind or any advice to share with us, please post it in the comments below.

Good luck with your Jack Dempsey tank!

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Jeff Colt
Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over ten years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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