A cichlid is a fish of the family cichlidae. Cichlids can be found all over the world. In Africa they typically reside in the lakes Victoria, Malawi, Tanganika, and in these lakes' satalite bodies of water. Also cichlids can be found in South America, Madagascar, India, and even a few varieties in North America. The most popular kinds of cichlids that are found in the hobby are those from the African rift lakes ( Victoria, Malawi & Tanganika) and then those from South America. Cichlids come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the most striking thing about them (especially the Africans) is their wonderfully brilliant colors. They have been refered to as freshwater reef fish, their colors are so bright. The second thing that cichlids are most widely known for, is their amazing and sometimes peculiar behavior. They are facinating fish to watch. Each species has its own mating rituals, and almost all species of cichlids show characteristic territorial behavior.
Cichlids are great fish to own, but a common problem in keeping them is their not so small sizes (With the exception of dwarf cichlids). South American cichlids are at all extremes of the size scale. There are first the extra large cichlids like Oscars and Discus that can average from 8 - 12 in. from nose to tail. Then there are middle fish ranging from 3-7 in. And last there are the dwarf cichlids. Named after their unusually small size, dwarf cichlids reach 1- 2.5 in. African cichlids seem to average to about 5-7 in. long, but there are some very large fish in that group as well. As you can see cichlids are large fish, not at all like keeping little bitty guppies or tetras, and for some aquarists their size can be a problem. Even though they can be big, they really are great fish to keep in an aquarium.