Description: The basic color of the Jack Dempsey cichlid is gray-brown to red-brown. The sides are a deep brown/black and the body (including fins and head) is covered with bright gold and blue spots. Large black spots can be seen on the sides and caudal base. Two gray-black bars extend forward between the eyes. A black lateral stripe begins on the gill cover and ends in the middle of the body. The dorsal fin is edged with red and the iris is red. Several vertical markings can be seen in adults, however, these tend to disappear or fade with age, as does the bright gold and blue spots on the body. Males have elongated anal and dorsal fins; dorsal fins of females are rounded at the tip.
Size: Perch-like in shape, the Cichlasoma octofasciatum is a large cichlid, reaching seven to eight inches (18-20 cm).
Behavior: Its common name refers to the boxer, Jack Dempsey, because of its fighting demeanor. They are extremely aggressive and excitable; schools are formed only when young.
Diet: They are omnivorous, feeding on worms, crustaceans, insects, fish and plants.
Reproduction: These open spawners are highly aggressive during the spawning period. They form strong pairs. Males become a brilliant blue at spawning time. Sexual maturity is reached at three to four inches (8-10 cm).
Habitat/range: The Jack Dempsey cichlid can be found in swampy areas with warm, murky water
(weedy mud-bottomed and sand-bottomed canals and drainage ditches). Coastal plains and slow moving waters of the lower river valleys are preferred. Distribution includes Central America – Atlantic slope from southern Mexico to Honduras. They have also been (incidentally or accidentally) introduced in Florida.
Status: This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.