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6 Of The Best Dither Fish For Jack Dempseys!

We are big fans of Jack Dempseys and they are one of our favorite cichlids and its great to see their popularity steadily increasing within the fish keeping community.

After publishing our green terror vs jack dempsey comparison article recently, we noticed a number of people asking about how they are able to deal with the aggression in their jack dempseys.

In our opinion, dither fish are definitely one of the best options for calming an overly aggressive jack dempsey fish in your tank so we wanted to publish this article going over what we feel are the best dither fish for jack dempseys to try and help as many of our readers as possible.

Now, there are going to be multiple factors that you have to think of when choosing the specific species you want to use for dither fish in your jack dempsey tank such as the size of the tank, the number of fish that you are able to add without overstocking it as well as the available schooling fish that is free from decorations.

All of this may push one species above the other for your specific tank setup and there is no one size fits all option but we should have something for everyone in our list below.

Dither Fish For Jack Dempseys!

Here is our shortlist for the best dither fish for Jack Dempsey cichlids and we will cover each of them in more detail throughout our article:-

  • Tiger Barbs
  • Giant Danios
  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Silver Dollars
  • Rainbowfish

Some people try to keep more than one species from the list above in their larger tanks but its really not needed in most situations and in many cases, using more than one species can actually have a negative effect on your fish.

Our advice would be to just choose one and stick to it.

Tiger Barbs

Tiger barbs are usually our number one recommendation for anyone looking for dither fish for any type of cichlid. They were also our number one recommendation for dither fish for African Cichlids too as well as dither fish for Angelfish due to how well they perform with cichlids.

You will usually need four or more tiger barbs in your tank to keep your tiger barbs happy but other than that, they are usually a cheap, low maintenance fish that works well as a dither fish.

Not only are they a very popular option with many people within the fish keeping community using tiger barbs with their Jack Dempsy cichlids successfully but they can work as dither fish for some popular Jack Dempsy tank mates too making tiger barbs our number one choice.

Giant Danios

Although regular danios can work, we would always recommend you try to go with giant danios if you are specifically looking for a dither fish for your Jack Dempsey cichlids.

In our opinion, they are definitely the second best option available with only tiger barbs being a better choice.

You will need to keep at least six giant danios in your tank to let them school but larger tanks can often easily keep more than six giant danios with ease.

They are a very cheap fish to buy, they are low maintenance and they accept most types of foods which is why giant danios are such a popular choice with the fish keeping community.


There are a number of different types of tetras that you are able to use as dither fish for your Jack Dempsy cichlids and here are some of the more popular options:-

  • Neon tetras.
  • Glowlight tetras.
  • Black widow tetras.
  • Diamond tetras.
  • Serpae tetras.
  • Red eye tetras.

You can use pretty much any type of tetra as a dither fish for your Jack Dempsey cichlids though but we would usually recommend that you limit the school size to a maximum of ten as possible.

As usually you will need a minimum of six tetras to get them to school but there rapid swimming and unpredictable direction changes may be too much for your Jack Dempsey if you have too many so try not to go above ten tetras if you choose this option.

We would only recommend that you go with a single type of tetra too, we have seen some people add more than one type to the same tank and although it can work in larger setups, it is usually not needed.


There are a number of different types of rasboras that work well as dither fish for Jack Dempsy cichlids and in our opinion, they are usually the joint third best choice available along side tetras.

When it comes ot using rasboras as dither fish for your Jack Dempseys, you can usually stick to the same rules as tetras and stick to between six and ten fish for optimal results.

Just like tetras, there are a number of different types of rasboras that can work allowing you to get some great colors in your tank but we would recommend you stick to any of the following:-

  • Harlequin Rasbora.
  • Neon Rasbora.
  • Chili Rasbora.
  • Scissor Tail Rasbora.

Silver Dollars

Although silver dollars are a very popular dither fish for Jack Dempsy fish within the community, they can be hit and miss and we have seen multiple reports of the addition of silver dollars making problems with aggression worse in a tank.

Due to this, we would recommend that you go with one of the other options covered earlier in the article if possible rather than choosing silver dollars.

That said, if you are a more experienced fish keeper and you have multiple tanks that you are able to transfer your silver dollars to if they don’t work well in your Jack Dempsey tank then you can give them a go.


Although many people who keep Jack Dempsey fish do use rainbow fish as dither fish for their Jack Dempsey cichlids, we usually recommend against it.

We only included them in the list due to there being so many people using them already and it being a commonly recommended species on social media when people ask about dither fish for a Jack Dempsey.

If possible though, we would always recommend one of the other featured fish species from our list if possible.