19 Best Jack Dempsey Tank Mates

The Jack Dempsey cichlid earned the famous boxer’s name because of its extreme aggressiveness. If you want to add this beautiful cichlid to your tank, then you will need to know which fish are compatible with the species. We have some tank mate suggestions for you!

Jack Dempsey Cichlids generally co-exist best with other South American Cichlids. Suitable tank mates for them are oscars, blind cave tetras, green terror cichlids, tinfoil barbs, fire mouth cichlids, jaguar cichlids, convict cichlids, plecos, and silver dollars.

You’ll definitely want to look up the compatibility of all your aquarium fish before you put them together. This will prevent fighting, food aggression, and territorial behavior.

The Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata) | Source: Deposit Photos

Even though a Jack Dempsey isn’t the easiest fish to get along with, these cichlids can coexist with a variety of tank mates. Just make sure the others are ready to deal with these aggressive fish! We’ve compiled this list of the 19 best fish friends (or at least neighbors) for your Jack Dempsey.

1. Oscars

TIGER OSCAR FISH astronotus ocellatus, CICHLID OF SOUTH AMERICA | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish have aggressive personalities, so they can easily be a tank mate for the Jack Dempsey because they both have bold personalities.

2. Blind Cave Tetras

Blind cave mexican tetra aquarium fish | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish do well with Jack Dempsey fish because they are too large for them to eat!

3. Green Terror

Akara Turquoise fish in the aquarium (Andinoacara rivulatus). Green Terror | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish are great tank mates for the Jack Dempsey because they have pretty similar personalities. They typically will not fight with one another unless their tank is too small. I have a list of other fish they get along with here.

4. Tinfoil Barbs

Tinfoil Barbs | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish grow just as long as the Jack Dempsey fish! Although they may be thinner in size they are fast and will avoid aggression with other fish.

5. Fire Mouth Cichlids

Mexican Fire Mouth (Thorichthys ellioti) – Male | Source: Deposit Photos

Fire mouth cichlids are a lot smaller than the Jack Dempsey, although they will be good tank mates as long as they have enough space to swim around (they need at least a 55-gallon tank).

6. Jaguar Cichlid

Jaguar Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

These cichlids are even more aggressive than the Jack Dempsey. The main reason they do so well with Jack Dempsey Cichlids is because they get even bigger than the Jack Dempsey fish in size. They will need a 180-gallon tank or bigger.

7. Midas Cichlid

Midas Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

This species is similar in size to the Jack Dempsey fish. They have a very thick build and like to threaten other fish, but will generally stay in their own territory.

8. Common Plecostomus Catfish

L400 Pleco | ID 118660049 © Logan | Dreamstime.com

This is an armored catfish and their size is what makes them a good tank mate for the Jack Dempsey. Sometimes they will nip and chase other fish but will keep their peace at most times.

9. Convict Cichlid

The convict cichlid (Amatitlania nigrofasciata) | Source: Deposit Photos

These cichlids may be smaller than the Jack Dempsey but they have very bold personalities and can be ferocious. In other words, they can stick up for themselves.

10. Blue Acara

Electric Blue Acara (Andinoacara pulcher) | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish are similar to the Green Terror and work well as a tank mate for the Jack Dempsey. They usually tend to be aggressive when they are breeding. You can see other fish they get along with here.

11. Red Blood Parrots

Blood Red Parrot Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish are either very aggressive or laid back. They make good tank mates because they are generally calm and they are large in size.

12. Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlid | Source: Deposit Photos

These cichlids also match up to the size of Jack Dempseys and sometimes grow even bigger. They are territorial and swim quickly. Because they are just as aggressive, they will designate their own space in the tank and co-exist well with one another.

13. Red Devil Cichlid

Amphilophus Labiatus | Source: Deposit Photos

The Red Devil Cichlids have very aggressive behaviors and are backed up with a very strong jaw and sharp teeth. You will likely need to have a male and female together so that they do not pick on all of the other fish in the tank.

14. Jack Dempsey

The Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata) | Source: Deposit Photos

Most experts say that you can pair Jack Dempsey fish with the same type of Jack Dempseys. When you put a male and female together, they will likely breed though. Make sure you’re ready to deal with a lot of mini Jacks if you choose a male a female pair!

15. Salvini Cichlid

Cichlasoma Salvini | Source: Deposit Photos

These fish are equally aggressive and will be very territorial just like the Jack Dempsey fish.

16. Texas Cichlid

The Texas Cichlids get large in size as well and match up to the Jack Dempseys. They can grow to be as big as 12 inches long. Because they are also an aggressive species, they will make suitable tank mates for a Jack Dempsey.

17. Pearl Cichlid

Pearl Cichlid (Geophagus brasiliensis) | Source: Deposit Photos

This fish measures up in size as well, usually, when full-grown it will be about 11 inches. They too are a territorial species and will like to stay in their own space.

18. Striped Raphael Catfish

Striped Raphael catfish (Platydoras armatulus) | Source: Deposit Photos

This Catfish is also armored and will make for a good quality tank mate with a Jack Dempsey.

19. Silver Dollars

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen) | Source: Deposit Photos

If you have a lot of tank space these fish are a great addition to your aquarium with Jack Dempseys. They may be small, but they travel in a large school and have very strong teeth.

How to Choose Tank Mates for Jack Dempseys

Petco commonly carries Jack Dempsey fish due to their popularity. People love their vibrant colors and fiery personalities, so they’re a common fish for employees to deal with. We contacted an employee and asked for their wisdom when it comes to caring for a Jack Dempsey and other tank mates.

Generally speaking, the associate said that, in addition to the species listed above, you can get away with pairing a Jack Dempsey and a catfish. This is a suitable option because they are an armored fish and they are similar in size to the Jack Dempsey.

In most cases, you will want to keep aggressive fish with other fish that are also aggressive. This prevents the unnecessary deaths of weaker fish.

The Jack Dempsey Cichlids are aggressive and territorial fish and they should generally be mixed with other fish that share those same traits. They will eat anything that fits in their mouth, so you must think about the size of fish that you will be purchasing for your tank.

Some of the more peaceful cichlids will probably be bullied by the Jack Dempsey, so be aware of that. They may be goners if they are not in a large school of fish.

The employee also mentioned that a Jack Dempsey needs to be kept in a large tank (at least 80 gallons). Depending on the size of the other tank mates, you may need to make accommodations and purchase an even bigger tank.

If they are living in close quarters, even compatible tank mates can become aggressive and kill each other. A larger tank also helps prevent sickness and disease.

The video below shows a fight between a Jack Dempsey and a Red Tiger Oscar. Keep an eye on your fish so you can spot rising tensions and aggressive behavior early. The fish may need to be separated or re-homed if problems don’t stop.

Jack Dempsey Habitat Necessities

Hosting a Jack Dempsey aquarium will require you as the owner to give them plenty of space to call their own. Because so many of these fish are territorial, they need to have enough room so that they will not fight with one another.

An employee who worked at Fins, Feathers, and Fur shared that a lot of the complications of owning Jack Dempseys and other tank mates depends on the size of the tank. If you put them in a tank that is too small, it will stunt their growth and likely cause more fights because they have to compete for living space.

Everyone needs personal space, including fish. If you were trapped in an overstuffed apartment, you might lash out too!

Jack Dempseys will try and bite other fish if they get in their way or invade their territory. These fish will probably establish themselves at the top of the food chain in your tank.

This employee also said,

“Most fish don’t mess with Jack”.

-Todd miller

When it comes to choosing a substrate, consider using gravel or other large pebbles. These won’t become stirred up and muddy the water, plus you can choose a fun mix of colors and sizes. Gravel is a great substrate for the tank and you should also have good LED lighting.

Make sure to keep a lid on the tank at all times, as many of the cichlids will jump and could fly out of the tank. This could happen because of agitation, curiosity, or just by accident.

It is also important to have lots of decorations, plants, places to hide, and caves. Fish like their privacy, and you can prevent aggressive behavior by giving them something that can occupy their attention span. Plus, it makes the tank look nicer!

Advice from Jack Dempsey Owners:

Aquarium owners have a lot of personal experience when it comes to dealing with Jack Dempsey Cichlids. I went to a Facebook group that’s dedicated to this topic and asked, “What other types of cichlids can be a tank mate with the Jack Dempsey Cichlid?”

Various people shared their input on this question, but the general consensus was that Jack Dempseys could be partnered with “…pretty much anything that it won’t kill or kill it”.

Everyone agreed that you need to give them plenty of space in the tank. They are large fish and need the room to not only move around but to find hiding spots and areas to claim as their territory. It is important to pair it with other fish that will stand up for themselves if approached or engaged with the Jack Dempsey.