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Understanding the

Cichlid Fish

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae

Apistogramma - Dwarf Cichlids
Astronotus (Oscars)
Cichlasoma - American Cichlids
Pterophyllum - Freshwater Angelfish
Symphysodon - Discus

Cichlids are a family of perciform fishes. The family Cichlidae
is large and very diverse, and is one of the most important
families of fish and is a major vertebrate family. It includes
some 2000 species, in sizes that range from ca. 3 cm (e.g.
Apistogramma) to close to a metre (Boulengerochromis, Cichla),
and with morphologies ranging from highly compressed
(Pterophyllum, Symphysodon, Altolamprologus) to extremely
elongated (Teleogramma, some Crenicichla spp.).

Some species are important food fishes, and many other are valued
aquarium fishes. Some notable aquarium cichlids are the
angelfish, discus, Jack Dempsey, shell dwellers and the oscar.

Types and characteristics of cichlid

The common features of cichlids include:

a single nostril (a characteristic they share only with damselfish)
an interrupted lateral line organ (except for genera Teleogramma
and Gobiocichla)
a distinctive shape of one of the otoliths
the small intestine leaves the stomach from its left side, not
from its right side as in other fish.
the presence of teeth in both the jaws and in the throat.

Range of Cichlids

Cichlids are secondary freshwater fish and inhabit most of the
Paleotropics (Africa) and the Neotropics (Americas south of ca.
30 deg N). A few species are also found in Asia. African lakes
are particularly rich in Cichlid species.

Cichlid Diet

Diets are also diverse: generalized predators, plankton-feeders,
herbivores, piscivores, scale-eaters, paedophagus (eat other
species' young). Scientists believe it is this wide adaptability
of feeding styles that has helped the fish of cichlidae to
inhabit such a wide range of biotopes. It is largely the
pharyngeal teeth (teeth in the throat) that allows the cichlid so
many 'niche' feeding behaviors. eg: the jaws may be used to hold
or pick food, while the pharyngeal teeth are used to crush what
was harvested.

A substrate-brooding female Cichlasoma managuense guards a clutch
of eggs in the aquarium.

Cichlid Reproduction

All species show some form of parental care for both eggs and
larvae, often extended to free-swimming young until they are
several weeks old. Parental care falls into one of three
categories: mouthbrooders, substrate brooders, and those that
substrate brood the eggs and then mouthbrood the young.

Cichlids as aquarium fish

During the 1960s and 70s, the lakes of the Great Rift Valley in
Africa were discovered by aquarists, and the great wealth of
cichlids endemic to those lakes became a goldmine of novelties
for aquarists. Most popular were Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi,
and many of the species from those lakes remain common in the

Aquarium cichlids are not the most peaceful aquarium residents,
though behavior varies, as do their water quality demands and
feeding habits.

The main groups of cichlids kept in aquariums

American cichlids
Heroines, acaras, eartheaters, and other large cichlids
Convict cichlids
Dwarf cichlids (Apistogramma etc)
Other (including angelfish, discus)
African cichlids
Rift valley cichlids
Lake Tanganyika (including Frontosa)
Lake Malawi (including Electric Yellow and Red Zebra)
Lake Victoria
Lake Rudolph and other
Other African cichlids
Asian cichlids.

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