Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jack Dempsey (fish)
The fish is native to Yucatan and Central America, where it is found in slow-moving waters, such as swampy areas with warm, murky water, weedy, mud- and sand-bottomed canals, and drainage ditches. It is also established as an introduced species in Australia, the USA and Thailand (presumably as an aquarium escape). It can reach up to 25cm in length, and has an iridescent greenish colour. It is carnivorous, eating worms, crustaceans, insects and other fish.
Jack Dempseys lay their eggs on the substrate (the bottom of the aquarium or pool). Like most cichlids, they show substantial parental care : both parents help incubate the eggs and guard the fry when they hatch.
In 1997 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that a man had died when he put a Jack Dempsey into his mouth as a joke: the fish presumably erected its fin spines to avoid being swallowed, a characteristic cichlid anti-predator response, and became wedged in the man's throat.
- Barlow, G. W. (2000). The Cichlid fishes. Cambridge MA: Perseus. Pp 12/13 recount the choking story.
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