Cichlids make up one of the largest, most diverse, and most important families of fish in the world. There are an estimated 2000 or more species of cichlids. These fish inhabit the most varied of waters, ranging from roaring rivers to the smallest of ponds. Most cichlids in the wild are found in Africa and Central and South America.
Many cichlids have become valued and popular aquarium fish throughout the world. You may have seen them before or even own them but not know that they are cichlids. For example, oscars, discus fish and angelfish are types of cichlids.
The popularity of cichlids among aquarists is not surprising: many cichlids are easy to keep, there are so many kinds to choose from, and they are considered relatively smart and highly evolved fish. Hundreds of cichlid species are currently available for the aquarium and many are hardy enough to be kept and bred successfully without extremely large tanks or special equipment.
Below is a brief listing of some of the most popular and available aquarium cichlids…
South American and Central American cichlids:
- Convict cichlid
- Red devil
- Green terror
- Red terror
- Parrot cichlid
- Lake Tanganyika cichlid
- Lake Malawi cichlid
- Lake Victoria cichlid
- Electric Yellow
- Red Zebra
Indeed, cichlids come in a surprising diversity of shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, as well as personalities and behaviors for the aquarist to choose from. Central American cichlids are considered to be more dull in color with less patterns, but they have some of the most interesting behaviors and personalities. South American cichlids are pretty and but more docile in behavior. African cichlids are considered the prettiest and their vivid colors and patterns are ceaseless. Furthermore, you can choose from cichlids that have very rich and deep colors with sharp and distinct edges, or others that have more subtle colors with blurred markings and edges.
In terms of size, the smallest cichlids stay under 2 inches. At the larger end, cichlids can grow to 1 foot or even up to 1 meter long. Some cichlids are called “mouth-brooders” because they carry and raise their young in their mouths, and others are called “substrate-brooders” because they simply deposit their young on the substrate (gravel or other material) on the bottom of the tank. Some cichlids are tall-bodied (angelfish and discus) and compressed while others are long and rounded (most African cichlids). Cichlids do share a few common and interesting characteristics, such as having a single nostril and the presence of teeth in both the jaws and in the throat. Most cichlids are freshwater tropical fish.
Because they are such intelligent and highly-evolved fish, most cichlids are very active, curious in nature, and have fascinating behaviors and personalities. They will usually come right up to you as you come up to the tank and even try to interact with you. It is also this intelligence that makes some cichlids aggressive and territorial. This is especially true for the larger cichlids, Central American cichlids, or cichlids who are breeding and spawning. However, there are ways to make just about any cichlid get along well with others in a community aquarium
Large cichlids will get along with large fish of various species and generally should be kept with fish of the same temperament and size as themselves. There are a few large species that are peaceful and can get along in a normal community set up. Some cichlids, such as the angelfish, are actually considered some of the most peaceful and compatible fish in the world. The general rule of thumb for keeping most cichlids is to not keep them with fish that could fit into their mouths, as such small fish may be easily prone to aggression and possibly eaten.
Since there is such a variety of cichlid species, cichlids have a wide range of feeding habits. However, most cichlids have a good appetite and are easily fed. Most cichlids are omnivorous (eats plant and animal matter) but will usually eat more animal foods. These species should be offered a mixed diet of live foods (worms, crustaceans), flakes foods, and some fresh vegetable shreddings. A few cichlids such as the tilapia are strictly plant-eaters. Most cichlids are freshwater tropical fish, so the most ideal temperature range is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and a pH range from 6.0 to 8.0 is good. As with any fish, avoid sudden changes in pH and temperature.