Beginners Guide to Cichlids

Three African Cichlids



This article was produced for those looking for more info on cichlids, and probably should be considered as a beginners guide. It was produced for those just getting into the hobby and requiring more info on Cichlids.

Cichlids are part of the genre of fish called Cichlidae pronounced Sick- Li- Dee. The word Cichlid is pronounced as Sick- Lid, which includes many species from Africa and America, and even some parts of Asia. Members of the Cichlid family also include the "normal" Oscar-type looking fish and Angelfish and even the Discus fish. All Cichlids are found naturally in the tropics and there are NO COLDWATER varieties.

Cichlids were believed to have evolved from Perch, probably millions of years ago, and while perch have 2 nostrils on each side of the head, the Cichlid has only 1 pair.

Cichlids range in size from 2cm (3/4in) to about a meter (36in) Cichlids are generally a hardy fish, that has adapted itself to thrive in conditions ranging from brackish to freshwater. A species of Cichlid called Tilapia Macrocephala, can migrate from the ocean to fresh water.

African Cichlids
*Warning, any of these fish, should not be mixed with other fish from different lakes, so do your research first, if you want to avoid running into problems later.

There are 3 main Lakes in Africa, where Cichlids are found these are:

Lake Malawi- other wise known as Lake Nyssa. Malawi is the name of the lake in it's native language, and is home to a subspecies of fish referred to as "Mbuna", which are exclusive cave dwellers.

Lake Tanganyika

Lake Victoria

These lakes are part of the East African Rift Valley.

The characteristics of these 3 main lakes are sandy type substrate (bottom covering) and large rock walls for the fish to swim through and congregate. Remember fish LOVE structures. Hard alkaline water (add limestone or coral), with a high oxygen content is necessary, to keep these colourful and unique fish. A pH of round 8 is essential. Plants are generally unsuitable for rift lake cichlids as the fish will either dig them up or eat them, or they will perish in the tank water due to high pH.

The New World Cichlids or Neo Tropical
The New World Cichlids? What are these? The New World Cichlids are those which are native to the America's, they are also often referred to as Neo Tropical, which means new tropics. These are Central and South American Cichlids, and comprise of the Oscar, Jack Dempsy, Fire Mouths and Convicts just to name a few of the popular species. American Cichlids generally grow large and are usually aggressive, and therefore should not be kept with many other fish, especially those that will fit in their mouths. Otherwise their tank mates may become tonight's dinner. But there are also a few miniature variety's like the Ram (Microgeophagys Ramerizi), which grows to a full size of around 2 inches.

The general habitat of these fish are rainforest type ecosystems, so Driftwood (appropriately treated) would be ideal for an American Cichlid tank. A slightly acidic pH is desired by many aquarists as South America Cichlids originate from the Amazon basin, with a low pH and water stained brown often referred to as "Blackwater". This blackwater often resembles tea or Coffee in colour. Central American cichlids though do like neutral water.

Asian Cichlids
Not much or info is available on these types of Cichlids, except that they are not very brightly coloured except during breeding periods, and thus are very rarely imported. The most common Asian Cichlid you would most likely see in shops is the Orange Chromide (Etroplus Maculatus), which grows to about 8cm (3in) in length. This fish is actually quite interesting as it excretes a mucus from it's skin, (like discus) that the fry feed on.

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