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FAQs on Jack Dempseys Foods, Feeding, Nutrition

Related Articles: Jack Dempseys, Oscars, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Jack Dempseys 1, Jack Dempseys 2, & FAQs on: Jack Dempseys Identification, Jack Dempseys Behavior, Jack Dempseys Compatibility, Jack Dempseys Selection, Jack Dempseys Systems, Jack Dempseys Disease, Jack Dempseys Reproduction, & Oscars 2, Neotropical Cichlids 1, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,


Electric Blue Jack Dempsey, Not eating and almost no poop. No rdg.      2/11/14
<Mmm, why? And what conditions, foods...>
Short story, through my own ignorance and incompetence (and I thought I was doing everything right) my EBJD suffered a bout of HITH or HLLE about 1 1/2 to 2 years ago (yes, tank was overstocked then, and probably still is). I then changed the lighting fixture last year and had an algae bloom from hell (nearly 9 months).  During this time, I did perform weekly 30-50% water changes with gravel vacuuming - a couple times up to 75%. Mind you, I did not have a test kit at this time. I cleared the bloom just recently utilizing a UV sterilizer, and noticed that he wasn't eating. Prior, if his appetite was decreasing, which may have gone unnoticed, I didn't clear the uneaten food and this probably contributed to the bloom along with my stupidly rinsing filter media in tap water. I now have a test kit, and have determined I must do a minimal 30-50% water change with vacuuming twice a week to keep nitrates from going over 20,
<? Read on WWM re NO3 control... why not? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/NO3ContrF.htm
and the linked files above>
 instead of the once weekly that I had been doing.  The holes from his HITH or HLLE seem to have healed.  No new pits.
<Do you use vitamins?>
He has not been eating anything or pooping anything (until a little bit now-pooping that is), though he looks and acts okay. He will not eat anything. I've tried cooked peas soaked in garlic.
... try somethings more palatable... Worms of many sorts, insect larvae, crustaceans...>
 No go. He does go to the back of the tank when the lights are on but swims around a bit when they're off. I finally saw some poop and I have attached the photos (best I could get). It isn't what I would call stringy, but it is a translucent very pale green. He also has a slight bulge on his left side. I don't want to just throw meds at him willy-nilly as usually this causes more problems or even fatalities. I currently have SeaChem Metronidazole**on hand but have not used, yet.
<IF you go this route, make it a one-time administration. See WWM re why, dosing, dosage>
I like this guy and I hope being a survivor of my what I thought was care, he can pull through.
I do not have a quarantine tank.
*Current Parameters:* 36g bowfront corner, Temp: 78d, PH 7.8, Ammonia: 0, Nitrites:0, Nitrates: 5, T5HO twin 24" lighting, Fluval 305 filter currently running one basket carbon, one polishing pads, one ceramic biomedia, River stone gravel, 4 plants.
He is now about 6" from nose to end of tail.
Tank mates: 1 6" plecostomus(will probably have to re-home), 2 Mystery snails
Thank you,
<.... search, read... think, act. Bob Fenner>

Re: Electric Blue Jack Dempsey      2/11/14
Thank you for your response. Again, ignorance was/is at play. He was being fed primarily Hikari Gold pellets and he would snag algae wafers. At times freeze dried bloodworms and occasional flake food. No I haven't given him vitamins. I'll hit the lfs for some worms of some type and see if they have vitamins.
<Do dig about in your yard for earthworms... a fave. See WWM re Feeding of Dempseys period>
Do you feel there is any significance to the bm of that color?
<Not really; no.>
I do hesitate on medicating and will hold off for now. I may change the water 3 times per week. I'll check out the no3 link you provided when I get home from work.
Thank you.
<And I would move that Pleco... may be harassing. BobF>
Re: Electric Blue Jack Dempsey      2/11/14

Again thanks.
I'll dig out in the yard when the temp gets above 12F average we've been having and there isn't 2' of snow :)
<Yeeikes. Down to the seventies F. today in San Diego. I even had to put on a long-sleeve tee!>
And I've already spoke to the lfs about rehoming the Pleco, and they'll take him in trade for some worms and other goodies.
<Ah good. B>

Re: Electric Blue Jack Dempsey      2/15/14
Mr. Fenner:
I brought the Pleco to the lfs and picked up some earthworms.
Mr. Dempsey seemed interested and did try to eat the worms.  He would repeatedly pick it up and spit it out and after doing this a few times  he would swim away.  I've tried giving him the worms a few times.
<Keep trying; daily>
Each attempt, I would make the worm smaller and smaller and the result was the same.  I then tried Mysis shrimp and he would spit them out.  I'm at a loss really.  Do you recommend the Metronidazole? 
<Mmm; not unless there's good reason to believe it would be of benefit>
I read the info on WWM regarding dosing.  Since he isn't eating, I assume I have to add to the tank water, but according to the site, this is not very effective. 
I guess I don't have too many options.  :(
<Patience; hope... and frequent partial water changes! BobF>

Re: Ornate Bichir and Jack Dempsey (problems) Now the latter's fdg.    12/14/11
Bob and crew,
Thank you so much for the reply. I ended taking the Jack to the fish store on a Saturday morning. I immediately regretted this and missed him enough to go back for him on Monday. i took the foot long Bichir in and hope he finds a happy home. So my question is ... how often should i feed my Jack?
<Mmm, this depends... Please read here:
 I've never had him in the tank alone and would feed every other day and all the food would be gone but this was in part because the Bichir would eat whatever was at the bottom. Is feeding every other day the way to go for a single Jack?
<If it is of size, as yours is, this should be fine. BobF>

EBJD's Poor Eating Habit   8/3/11
I have owned my 8 inches (head-to-tail fin) Electric Blue Jack Dempsey since it was about 3 inches over 1 1/2-years ago. At that time, I had him with a Green Terror and fed my 55 gallon tank about 1-2 times daily with flakes in the morning and meat (i.e. krill, bloodworms, etc) after work, so my EBJD has always access to a decently well-rounded diet (Note: I gave my Terror away about 1 year ago...that fish ate any food type that I put in the tank). However, my EBJD will only eat frozen bloodworms. Since I've owned it, he has never taken to pellets or flakes (I've tried all major brands to be sure) and also refuses to even eat any other frozen foods, including silversides, beef heart, krill, shrimp, etc. About 4 days ago, I purchased live ghost shrimp and live brine shrimp and he never touched the brine shrimp (although the next day, all but one of 8-10 ghosts were bitten clean in half).
I've read on WetWebMedia a week or so back that I should attempt mixing bloodworms with flake at feeding times; I tried that for about 3 straight days to no avail. However, when I drop a cube of frozen bloodworms into the tank, my EBJD hardily accepts every time.
So, basically my question is two-part: (1) Should I continue to attempt to "force" him into a healthier diet, inclusive of pellets/flakes; and (2) will my EBJD's long-term health be on the line if I cave and solely feed it the bloodworms that it wants on a daily basis?
<Cichlids eat readily when healthy, and generally aren't picky. So my concern isn't "what does he want to eat" but "what's keeping him from being interesting in food". With cichlids, a good place to start is water quality. Check, in particular, nitrate level as well as the usual ammonia and nitrite. If the tank has been set up a while, but the fish has grown, then you can easily have reached a point where ammonia, nitrite and nitrate production have passed over a critical threshold. Improved filtration (i.e., more/bigger filters) and more water changes could help. Certainly, do a big water change, get nitrate down to below 20 mg/l, and ensure nitrite and ammonia are zero. Next, check water chemistry. The bigger the mass of fish in a tank, the faster acidification occurs, so again, there's a threshold point where the mass of fish is such that any pH drop between water changes can be big enough to harm your fish. Finally, review water temperature. During summer temperatures above 25 C/77 F are common, and warm water contains less oxygen, and that can affect cichlids. Cooling the tank is helpful. Cheers, Neale.>

last 3-4 weeks my 7-8" Jack Dempsey will not eat
Dempsey Not Eating Again    6/29/10

For the last 3-4 weeks my 7-8" Jack Dempsey will not eat. During feedings he will shutter his head, sometimes violently. He did this before 8-10 months ago but that only lasted 2-3 weeks. He shows no outward signs of disease. Any suggestions as to what could be wrong?
< Could be something caught in his throat like a plastic plant leaf or he has damaged the pharyngeal bones in his throat by eating something too hard. Offer a soft food like presoaked pellets or small flake food and see if he can take those for now. The bones may heal over time.-Chuck>

Dear WWM, I was wondering  6/21/10
Dear WWM, I was wondering what the best type of food for a Jack Dempsey is worms, pellets or feeder fish?
<Do not ever use feeder fish. These are "parasite bombs" that will eventually make your fish sick. Cyprinids such as goldfish and minnows also contain fat and thiaminase that causes nutritional problems. Good quality flake or pellet food, e.g., Hikari Cichlid Gold, makes a fine staple.
Augment with earthworms, small pieces of tilapia fillet, and chopped seafood as you prefer. Cheers, Neale.>
Dear WWM, if I have
Dear WWM, if I have 2 Jack Dempseys will having feeder fish in the tank
increase or decrease there aggression toward each other
<The use of feeder fish tends to make fish MORE aggressive. The use of feeder fish is also unsafe, unhealthy, and inhumane. There are NO GOOD REASONS to use feeder fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Jack Dempsey Not Eating - Behavior or Illness? Hi, just found your wonderful website this morning, and hoping you can advise me on a sick Jack Dempsey.  I have a 65 gallon tank with 2 - 10" Oscars and 1 - 6" Dempsey. I have had the tank for 3 years, and these are my original fish, purchased as infants. In the past week, I have noticed the Dempsey not eating, and hiding behind a couple of plastic plants I keep in the tank. I keep the tank at 78 degrees, maintain aquarium salt at 1 tbspoon/7 gallons, and do weekly water changes (about 12 gallons each week). The Dempsey looks fine, great color, no external signs of illness other than his shrinking stomach.  I have noticed he is timid around the ever-growing Oscars, and has always "eaten second". Am I dealing with an internal parasite, or is there a possibility this is a behaviour problem and he needs a separate tank? This fish has become an "old friend" so I would greatly appreciate any advice. THANK YOU! < A couple of things come to mind. Sometimes these large fish eat all kinds of stuff that get stuck in their throat or damage their second set of jaws or their pharyngeal bones. Try and see if anything is stuck in his mouth with a flashlight. If nothing looks like it is stuck there then try to presoak the food and make it softer. If he is still not eating because he is so intimidated by the Oscars then it might be time for a new tank.-Chuck>

Chokin' Your Jack! I've had my jack Dempsey in a ten gallon tank for a while and now moved him into a 30....everything seemed fine tell now when I feed him his food he will eat one pellet then quickly rush down to the bottom and lose color and will not go back up and eat again...he is acting very strange only when he eats. can you help me....  < Could be he is choking on the pellet. Try and presoak a pellet so it is not so hard and then give it to him. If he has the same reaction then I would switch to flakes or a different food and see how he reacts.-Chuck>

African Cichlid Tank Size, feeding Dempseys  11/12/06 I currently have 3 butterfly male peacocks in a 20 gallon long. Two cichlid "experts" told me this will work fine with no other fish in the tank. <Mmm...> It's been 2 months and so far they are doing fine. I will soon be acquiring 2 yellow labs from a friend and want to add them with the peacocks. I have a 30 gallon tank I could set up for all of them. Will this work okay for them or do I need a bigger tank yet? <Bigger would be better, but the thirty might work> Also, I have 2 Electric Blue Jack Dempseys (approximately 2 inches long) in a 60 gallon tank. They will not eat anything but blood worms. They refuse flakes and pellets. I know they need more variety in their diet, so how can I get them to eat something else? Thanks for your help, Kelly Jones <Try Spectrum pelleted food... Highly palatable, and mix some of this in with the bloodworms in increasing concentration... Bob Fenner>

Jack Dempsey Hooked On Blood Worms    11/27/06 I have a 2 inch electric blue jack Dempsey and he is in a 60 gallon tank. He has been pooping stringy white for several days. He is eating fine (although he refuses to eat anything but bloodworms) and moving around fine. Water tests all measure zero for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. No signs of ick on him or other fish in the tank, and the others poop the normal brown/black poop. Is the poop from eating only bloodworms or is it reason to be concerned about something else? Thanks for your help, Kelly < Don't feed him for three days then offer a few blood worms with some other foods like Spectrum pellets. Over time his blood worm only diet will cause problems.-Chuck>

Worms in my tank  4/10/07 Hello, I have been reading your site and it has been really helpful, but to be sure I just wanted to explain my situation and see what you thought.  I have a 75 gallon freshwater tank with one Jack Dempsey cichlid and a algae eater (not sure of the real name) <Algae eater is probably Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, a nasty son-of-a-gun and a Jack Dempsey is one of the few fish that would be able to handle it. Big (30 cm), greenish fish with distinctive spiracle (opening) above each gill slit.> They both seem very healthy, very vibrant in color.  I was looking very closely and I saw very thin hair looking worms that didn't really move. The only reason I new they were living things is because I poked one with my finger and it squiggled.  There are only a few of these worm things and I was wondering if it was a parasite from my Jacks stomach. <Unlikely. Parasitic worms sometimes come in with wild-caught fish, but they don't wiggle about in the gravel. If you see a swollen belly and/or worms protruding from the anus, then parasite worms are possible. Otherwise these are harmless nematodes or oligochaetes that have (for example) come in with live food.> The only reason why I'm concerned with this is because lately he hasn't had and appetite.  Any thoughts on this? <Try using garlic to stimulate appetite. You can even buy ready-garlicked frozen food! Also try starving the fish for a few days, and then offering something new. Maybe some seafood or a bit of whitebait instead of the usual flake and pellets. One thing aquarists often overlook is dried food loses its savour after a while. Though safe to use for months after opening, after about 4 weeks it doesn't smell strong enough and many fish ignore it. If you buy big tubs, divide it up, freeze most of it in a dry container, and remove only a portion at a time. Maybe check for constipation (yes, happens to fish too) a remedy by offering green foods such as cooked peas.> Thanks for your time, <No probs. Cheers, Neale> Jennifer

Re: Worms in my tank   4/13/07 Hello again! <Hello again!> You were so Helpful the last time I wrote, <Glad to help...> I wanted to ask one more question in regards to my Jack Dempsey's eating problem.  I Didn't know about the food going old and it totally makes since and thanks for that. <A safe rule is think what you'd eat. Would *you* eat cereal from a box that'd been opened for months? Probably not. Your fish aren't wild about old food either.> But the part that got me thinking was about maybe him being constipated, so I was looking at him and his stomach does seem swollen. I looked at his area and it does seem like some stuff wants to come out but cant and it's a whitish color with a little pink color the color of his food)  I was also looking around the tank and I saw what defiantly looked like a bowel movement but not the usual color. <Interesting. Certainly, constipation is one possible problem. I'd certainly recommend not using dried foods for a while, and instead going for high-fibre things like whole krill and Mysid shrimps plus cooked peas. Whole mussels would be good, too, as they contain a gut filled with algae.> It was a clear jelly substance. (definitely a bowel movement)  I have not fed him in 2 days and plan on feeding him some cooked peas tonight. <He may look at you like, what? you expect me to *eat* these... but persevere. Squish the peas if you like, sometimes that helps. Don't worry about starving... an adult JD can go two weeks without food and not come to harm. In fact most fish can fast for long periods, and often have to during the "off" season.> Hopefully that will do the trick. He also stays in one spot all day practically, on the bottom behind a plant.  This is fairly new. <Means he's unhappy, probably. Whether sick or simply out of sorts, who knows, but do the food thing and also check the water quality/chemistry.> I did do a 15% water change last night and he was swimming around for about 10 minutes after the new water was in, then he went back to his spot. <Ah, interesting. Do a bigger water change, 50%, today, and then see what happens. If that helps, then water problems may be the key. Don't forget to check the temperature: people often overlook this. Too warm or too cold, and the fish get unhappy/sick.> Other than these behaviors his color looks very healthy.  The PH may be a little high. It is a little above 7.0. <Hang on a second... where was the pH before? JDs don't like acidic water at all. In the wild they are found in waters between 7.0 and 8.0 (according to Fishbase anyway) and I'd certainly recommend keeping these (and other Central Americans) at pH 7.5, no less. Central Americans are generally incredibly hardy, but I wouldn't take that as an excuse not to optimize the conditions to their benefit. Raise the pH by either adding some coral sand and/or crushed coral to the aquarium substrate and filter, or else by adding a one-quarter to one-half dose of Malawi "salt" mix to the water when you make up each batch. What you want is pH 7.5 and a hardness of "moderately hard" to "hard" on whatever scale you're using. Don't use tonic salt or marine salt -- salinity isn't what you're after here, you want to pH and hardness.> Also where would I find food with garlic in it, or do I have to add garlic my self? <You buy it ready made. I use the frozen food sort, I believe it's beef hearts with garlic, minced up into cubes. To be honest, most of my fish aren't wild about it, but cichlids seem to enjoy it, and many aquarists swear by the stuff.> I just have one more question!! What is the best way to feed frozen bloodworms? When I do it I just put the cube in a cup with warm water to defrost it then I put in the worms a little at a time. Even then they fall to the bottom before my Jack has a chance to eat them. <Defrost in a small cup filled with a bit of water (I use the plastic dosing cups that come with medications). Remove the worms using forceps or tweezers. Discard the murky water left behind into the sink (or a pot plant!). What you don't want is to pour that water into the aquarium -- all it does is add nitrate to the system.> Thanks so much for your time and your responses.  I promise I won't bother you all the time:)- Jennifer <Take care, Neale>

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