Jellybean Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Aug 27, 2021

jellybean cichlid care guide

What Is A Jellybean Cichlid?

Jellybean cichlids aren’t naturally occurring fish. Instead, they’re dyed blood parrots in disguise. Jellybean cichlids were first introduced in the aquarium hobby in 1986 in Taiwan.

Usually, albino varieties of blood parrot cichlids are chemically treated to strip their protective slime coat. 

They are then dipped in paint and given a final bath in a chemical solution to stimulate the slime coat to grow back over the dye. Thus, they come in bright shades of blues, pinks, purples, and yellows. 

However, note that these colors will eventually fade with time. Also, a jellybean cichlid’s lifespan is often cut short due to the painful and callous procedures they undergo as juveniles. 

But although some claim these fish are sterile, with a few exceptions, they produce healthy and perfectly fine offspring. 

However, note that the fry will not retain the parents’ vibrant colors. 

As you can imagine, jellybeans go through agonizing processes to develop these artificial colors. Thus, at Urban Fishkeeping, we never endorse buying or selling of these fish just so they can be eye candies for our tanks. 

Nonetheless, if you have brought one home, here’s a carefully researched care guide that will help you give your jellybean cichlids the best life possible. 

JellyBean Cichlid Quick Facts

Name Jellybean cichlid 
Nickname Bubblegum parrot cichlid
Average Lifespan 5-8 years
Size 3-8 inches
Care Moderate 
Diet Omnivore 
Temperament Semi-aggressive 
Temperature 70-82°F (21.1-27.8°C)
pH Range 6.5-8.0

Jellybean parrots are hybrid cichlids created by mixing multiple new world cichlids. 

The most commonly used cichlids to create jellybean cichlids are severums, red devils, midas cichlids, and convicts. 

And since jellybean cichlids are purely the result of selective breeding and meticulous dying processes by breeders and hobbyists, they’re not found in the wild.

So, naturally, they aren’t listed in the IUCN red list. 

Jellybean Cichlid Origin 

There are different schools of thought regarding the parents of blood parrot cichlids – and jellybean cichlids – subsequently. 

The most commonly suggested combinations are:

  • Midas cichlid and red-headed cichlid (both Central American species)
  • Red devil cichlid and severum cichlid or blue-eyed cichlid (Central American and one of two South American species)

Jellybean Cichlid Appearance 

Jellybean cichlids have a roundish, heart-shaped body that’s achieved by cutting the tail while small. They have small mouths, and as a result of a genetic defect, they also have a nose that looks exactly like a parrot’s beak. 

Some other unique deformities include large irises and a deformed spine that gives them their signature shape.

Owing to dramatic bodily features, they sometimes have trouble closing their mouth, which makes eating painstakingly hard. 

Similarly, the egg-shaped body hinders their swimming ability – resulting in an awkward and rather graceless swimming style. 

Like all cichlids, they have one nostril on each side and a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in the throat. 

The ends of their pelvic, anal, pectoral, and dorsal fin have spiny rays to discourage predators. On the other hand, the front parts of these fins are soft to support effortless gliding in water.

Jellybean Cichlid Size 

Jellybean cichlids grow to a maximum size of 8 inches. But since these fish are marred with genetic defects, they sometimes won’t grow to their full potential. 

Jellybean Cichlid Colors 

Jellybean cichlids are found in a multitude of artificial colors like blue, pink, and purple. After chemically treating them to remove the protective slime coat, they’re either dipped in paint or injected with dye to achieve an eccentric look. 

Next, they’re once again bathed in a chemical solution, so the slime coat grows over the dye. 

So, it’s only a matter of time before these colors fade and result in a blotchy appearance. 

Naturally, as juveniles, jellybean cichlids have tan/brown bodies with black spots near the tail. If they weren’t dyed artificially when young, they’d have grown into orange/yellow adults. 

Here’s a closeup look at their vibrant colors:

Jellybean Cichlid Male VS Female 

As it is for all cichlid species, male jellybean species have long and pointier fins. On the other hand, females have rounded and blunter fins. 

Naturally, males have more intense coloring than females. However, since both parties are dyed at a young age, there’s no way of telling them apart by just looking at their color. 

Jellybean Cichlid Temperament 

Jellybean cichlids have somewhat aggressive parents. Thus, they don’t make the best fit for community tanks. – even more so if they have inherited the convict cichlid’s mean streak. 

As juveniles, these fish are timid and reclusive. Therefore, you will need to provide plenty of hiding spots for them to take refuge in. When you bring home a new jellybean fish, it will seem very skittish and take at least a couple of weeks to adjust to the new environment. 

So, you can make them more comfortable by adding plenty of hiding spots and a few dither fish. 

Like other Central and South American cichlids, jellybeans are territorial with their surroundings. They will mark objects to claim their land. So, you need to ensure there’s ample space for everyone. 

Also, due to their natural hunting instinct, they will try to eat any fish smaller than them. 

Due to their deformed mouth, these fish cannot properly nip or bite their opponent if there’s ever a showdown. 

Jellybean Cichlid’s Love For Digging 

Jellybean cichlids have a knack for digging. So you will often wake up to find your gravel in mounds and plants uprooted. But it’s best not to interfere – after all, they too need some fun in their lives! 

Jellybean Cichlid Tankmates 

Given jellyfish cichlids’ comparatively peaceful demeanor, they get along with most Central and South American cichlids with subdued personalities and of similar sizes. 

But note that due to their nervous disposition, they take their sweet time before getting comfortable with anyone besides their own kind.

Some suitable tankmates for your jellyfish cichlid include:

  • Angelfish
  • Plecostomus 
  • Corydoras 
  • Kuhli Loaches 
  • Swordtails 
  • Silver Dollars 
  • Bala Shark
  • Tinfoil Barbs 
  • Rainbowfish 
  • Yoyo Loaches 
  • Emperor Tetras 
  • Honey Gouramis 
  • Firemouth Cichlids 
  • Clown Plecos 
  • Tiger Barbs 
  • Firemouths 
  • Acaras 
  • Eartheaters 

Suppose you’re keeping your jellybean cichlids with some clever and fast species like rainbowfish, giant danios, and tinfoil barbs. In that case, the food will be long gone before your plodding jellybean even realizes there’s food being served. 

Jellybean Cichlid Diet 

Like most cichlids, jellybeans will eat a variety of food – pellets, flakes, worms, and so on. However, eating can be tricky for these poor little fish because of their deformed mouths, gill curls, or other gill abnormalities. 

If they have trouble eating from the surface, choose sinking pellets. Also, note that the pellets offered should be soft enough for the jellybean to crush since they don’t have a fully functional mouth. 

Food with B-carotene would be ideal for promoting good coloring since jellybeans will lose most of their artificial color as they enter adulthood. 

Here’s a list of food you can give your jellybean cichlid:

  • Pellets
  • Flakes
  • Bloodworms 
  • Small crustaceans 
  • Blanched veggies 
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Feeder fish 
  • Thawed peas

Also, keep in mind that the pellet size should be small to fit into their tiny mouth. Standard pellets may not work – so, you will have to buy pellet brands specially formulated for blood parrots. 

Here’s a link to the most popular and loved pellets brand:

What we love about it:

  • Color-enhancing, scientifically derived formula 
  • Includes ingredients like marigold flower meal, phaffia yeast, and krill 
  • Fortified with vitamin C for strong immunity 

Water Parameters For Jellybean Cichlids 

Temperature 70-82°F (21.1-27.8°C)
pH Range6.5-8.0
Nitrate level<10 ppm
Phosphate level <0.05
General hardness 2-25 dGH
Water regionMiddle
Water movement Weak

Jellybean cichlids are messy eaters. Thus, the water will get foul quite quickly. Therefore, you will have to perform 20-25% water change per week depending on the stocking number. 

Although jellybeans are hardy, given their bodily deformities, you should always maintain the water parameters as any illness could deteriorate their health quickly. 

Use a sponge or an algae magnet to clean the glass panes. And once the algae settle, remove it from the substrate using a siphon vacuum. 

And once they’re done eating, remove the excess food before it dilutes and pollutes the water. 

Jellybeans prefer slow to moderate water flow and lighting. 

Make a habit to check the filter, heater, and other equipment daily to see if they’re correctly working or not. 

And every week, check parameters to see if any toxic buildup is brewing underneath. 

We recommend using the API master kit since these are more accurate and provide more value for money than test strips. 

Here’s a link if you’d like to purchase one:

Minimum Tank Size For Jellybean Cichlids

A 30-gallon tank would work well for juveniles for the first couple of years. But as your fish grows in length, you will need to upgrade to a 55-gallon tank

Substrate And Decorations For Jellybean Cichlids 

Provide dark, sandy substrate. Avoid gravel or anything with rough and sharp textures because these fish love to dig and bury themselves occasionally. 

For decorations, add rocks, driftwood, and caves. Caves are particularly useful since these cichlids are on the more reserved side and will frequently hide away. 

You can also add plants. At most, they will take a bite or two, but they will leave the plants alone for most parts. And don’t forget to secure the decorations properly to the substrate as you know jellybeans love to dig around. 

Top Equipment For Jellybean Cichlids

Since jellybeans produce a considerable amount of bioload, your best bet would be using a canister filter. Likewise, the temperature should also always be maintained correctly. Lower temperatures cause them to be reclusive and wash out their color. 

Here are our top picks for equipment for jellybean cichlids:

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

What We Love About It:

  • Works effectively for tanks up to 150 gallons 
  • Filters at 315 GPH
  • Has 4 large media baskets 
  • Comes with filter medium, spray bar, directional spout for customization, and tubing 

Hygger 500W Submersible Aquarium Heater 

What We Love About It:

  • LED digital display controller 
  • 5-second warming time 
  • Intelligent thermostat 
  • Anti-dry protection
  • Built-in dual temperature probe

Penn-Plax Krusty Krab Aquarium Ornament 

What We Love About It:

  • Made with safe and durable resin 
  • Suitable for both freshwater and saltwater aquarium 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Brings the nautical charm of Bikini Bottom to your tank

Breeding Jellybean Cichlids 

Breeding jellybean cichlids is quite hard. Unfortunately, the chances of getting a successful brood aren’t always guaranteed either. All female jellybean cichlids will lay eggs, but there’s a good chance the eggs are infertile. 

For a good part of history, jellybean cichlids were reported to be infertile. Then, occasionally, one or two stories would pop up of how someone’s jellybean yielded healthy and normal fry. And that was all. 

But to my pleasant surprise, while researching for this article, I came across several shared experiences on the web with users reporting that they successfully bred jellybean cichlids. 

But there’s a catch! 

As it turns out, females can breed with males from other species, but it often results in drab hybrids.

With so many successful breeding cases reported on the internet, I wonder if the infertility of jellybean cichlids has started to break down like some of their other mutations (i.e., non-functional mouth and gill covers).

Irrespective of whether jellybeans are fertile or not, they will engage in typical spawning behavior. The male will develop more intense coloring than usual (if only it’s visible). And once he’s done winning over the female, the pair will find a flat rock and clean it. 

After the eggs are laid, both parents will fiercely guard them. At this time, they become pretty intolerant of bottom dwellers. They will also fan the eggs routinely. 

After a couple of weeks, the unfertilized eggs will be covered in fungus. The parents will then either consume or discard them. 

Should the eggs hatch by any chance, the parents will offer postnatal care until they’re about 1 inch long. From your side, you should conduct 25% water changes daily and feed fresh baby brine shrimp. 

Once they’re free-swimming, you can give pulverized flakes and pellets and micro worms. 

Jellybean Cichlid Diseases 

Jellybean cichlids are vulnerable to some usual fish ailments and some that only plague their kind. For starters, foul and poorly oxygenated water will invite several potentially deadly diseases. Some common jellybean cichlid diseases are ich, swim bladder disease, and stress spots. 

And like most fish, they’re naturally prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations, bacterial infections, and fungal infections. 

Ich 

Ich is caused by ciliated protozoan Ichthyophthirius multifiliis and manifests itself as tiny white spots dotted across the body. This disease is super contagious and quickly spreads from one fish to another without additional hosts. 

Elevate the water’s temperature to around 86° F (30° C) to treat ich. Coupling copper-based treatment with elevated temperature results in more effective results. But don’t forget to remove the water conditioners if there are any before you use the medicine. And as it goes without saying, strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to use it.

Ich On Cichlid? We Swear By This Treatment!

Swim Bladder Disease 

As the name gives away, swim bladder disease occurs when the fish has injured its swim bladder. Now, this could be caused due to a number of reasons like nutritional deficiency, physical injury, or a secondary disease like tuberculosis and cancer. 

This disease severely compromises a fish’s ability to swim – causing it to swim sideways in strange patterns. 

Depending on the cause, swim bladder disease could be temporary or permanent. 

If it’s caused by malnutrition, it could be cured by fortifying the diet. 

On the other hand, if it’s due to a physical injury, a fish surgeon could help correct the buoyancy by partially removing the bladder or placing a small stone on it. 

Stress Spots 

Jellybean cichlids are susceptible to developing stress spots that closely resemble black spot disease. These spots manifest themselves when the fish is changing homes, is being harassed, or is suffering from an underlying illness. 

Genetic Defects 

As a result of intensive selective breeding, unfortunately, jellybean cichlids are plagued with several anatomical deformities. 

These include a beak-shaped mouth that doesn’t close fully, a deformed nuchal hump, deformed swim bladders, and unusually large irises. 

Final Words: JellyBean Cichlid Care Guide

Keeping jellybean cichlids is ethically questionable. These fish go through hell just to sport unnaturally bright colors and please our eyes. So if you are considering getting a jellybean cichlid, don’t. This is wrong on many levels. 

But if you have already brought one home, we hope this guide will help you give your fish the best life possible and the one it deserves.

Happy Reading! 🙂

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.