Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Why Do Jack Dempsey Cichlids Change Colors?

i Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

Jack Dempsey cichlids (Rocio octofasciata) are carnivorous fish that hail from Central America and Mexico. The common moniker of the species is a nod to Jack Dempsey, a famed professional boxer of the 1920s, and also to these cichlids' lively and tough natures, heavyweight style. Like cichlids in general, Jack Dempseys are often pretty fierce creatures.

About Jack Dempsey Cichlids

When placed alongside other cichlids, Jack Dempseys are in the medium range, size-wise. Larger male specimens routinely grow as long as 8 inches and, in most cases, males are longer than females. Out in the wild, Jack Dempsey cichlids frequently inhabit marshy locales, specifically those that are chock full of H20 that is thick, dark and warm.

Basic Coloration

Jack Dempsey cichlids are generally gray, purple or deep brown in coloration, and they also have pleasant shiny green, gold or blue blots, as well as dark streaks on their backs. Males usually have more of these blots than females do. Juveniles of the species are usually beige or light gray, with drab bluish-green speckles. Adult coloration doesn't appear quickly, however, and the youngsters have to wait more than a year to look like the fully mature specimens.

Health and Color Change

If you notice a Jack Dempsey cichlid taking on a lighter overall color scheme, it could be an indication of poor health or anxiety. Perhaps something in his living environment is triggering intense frustration and nerves. Perhaps he's living with some type of sickness, or he simply isn't eating a healthy or diverse diet. Lightening of body color also can signify the aging process, nothing more and nothing less. Their numerous streaks and blots might also lighten in color, for similar reasons. Use your pet's color change as an opportunity to ponder his lifestyle and what you can do to make things more appropriate, comfortable and conducive to glowing health for him, such as switching up his food selection.

Feeling Low

Not unlike human beings, fish experience both highs and lows in their spirits. If a Jack Dempsey cichlid's coloration abruptly and seemingly out of nowhere turns paler, it could be a sign of a fish who is unhappy or irked about something.