Jack Dempsey cichlid
Pugilistic by nature, the name of the Jack Dempsey cichlid commemorates that of the famous heavyweight boxer of the 1920s. These fish originate from Central America, where they are found in parts of Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, but they are now widely bred commercially for the aquarium trade in parts of south-east Asia and elsewhere.

They grow to about 20cm (8in) in length, and can be sexed quite easily by the shape of their fins, on the top and bottom of their bodies. These are longer and more pointed in male fish, which also tend to be more brightly coloured overall.

Their markings are an attractive combination of sky blue and whitish spots, offset against an underlying greyish-brown body colour, with a narrow red band running along the top edge of the dorsal fin on their back.

Jack Dempsey cichlids can be housed safely in pairs on their own, or with other fish of similar size in a large aquarium that should be at least 1.2m (48in) long. It is especially important to provide effective filtration, especially as the fish grow larger, and carry out regular partial water changes, removing up to 20 per cent of the water every month. This should then be replaced with fresh water at an equivalent temperature of about 25°C (77°F), which has been treated with a water conditioner and dechlorinator.

Special cichlid diets are available for these fish and help to enhance their natural colouration. They will also eat freeze-dried items such as bloodworms.

Jack Dempsey cichlids can be very destructive, uprooting plants and piling up gravel in their quarters. This is related to their breeding habits, because they will dig a spawning bed where the female lays her eggs. Both fish then guard the site and watch over their offspring once they hatch several days later. They may live for over five years.