Cichlids are a collection of fish species in the cichlidae family. The are thousands of species of cichlids, but some of the better-known types include oscar fish, angelfish, discus, african cichlids and the firemouth meeki. You can find detailed information about many of the individual species of cichlids by visiting our fish profile area. There are many different types of cichlids. Some are round and plump, others are long and thin. The primary cause for the large variance in appearance for the different cichlid species is the vast amount of environments and niches the cichlid family lives in. The temperament, body length, coloration, feeding preferences, optimal water parameters are all due to these enviromental variations. Cichlids are found in both fresh and brackish water and are found all over the world.
The cichlid family is typically divded into three main groups. These groups are African Cichlids, South American Cichlids and Central/North American Cichlids. Each of the individual species in these groups share more in common than geography. They often require similar water parameters and have similar levels of aggression. For instance, African Cichlids usually require much higher pH levels than their American counterparts.
African Cichlids are also placed into subgroups based on their geographic location in Africa. These sub groups of species are referred to as Lake Malawi African Cichlids, Lake Tanganyika African Cichlids, Lake Victoria African Cichlids and Other African Cichlids. Although Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria are all located in the same Great Rift Valley region in Africa, the species found in each lake vary greatly. Species from lake Malawi are very colorful and have the reputation for being quite aggressive. Other cichlid species found outside of the three main lakes tend to be less aggressive. New species of cichlids are being discovered each year in Africa because the waters are not thoroughly researched by scientists. Additionally, species are becoming extinct in Africa. Some of the species taken from the Great Rift Valley are now only known to exist in captivity.
South American cichlids tend to be large but there are species of all sizes. South American Cichlids require a lower water pH and prefer softer water. The most popular South American cichlid species is the oscar fish. Central and North American cichlids are also quite large. They are notorious for being quite aggresive and territorial. With names like the Wolf Ciclid or the Red Devil, it is difficult to overstate the aggression of some of the species found in these waters.
Because cichlids are found in such a wide variety of environments, the degree of specialization is amazing. Because of the degree of specialization, some species can be quite difficult to keep in a home aquarium, while others actually fare quite well. Size can certainly be a limiting factor with cichlid species. Some of the larger cichlid species can reach a length of 40 inches! Other species of cichlids never grow over 1 inch in length. These dwarf cichlids are very popular with fish keepers because they can be kept in smaller aquariums.
Although the differnt types of cichlids can be very different in appearance and behavior, there are many anatomic characteristics that are shared among cichlids. The intestines on cichlids connect to the stomach on the left side, but with all other species of fish the intestines connect to the stomach on the right side. Cichlids also have no more than one nostril (a characteristic shared only with damselfish). Cichlids also have teeth in the upper and lower jaw as well as the throat!