An Introduction To Cichlids

An Introduction To Cichlids

All cichlid species belong to the family Cichlidae. This family is remarkably diverse and cichlid species inhabits a vide range of habitats all over the globe. They are naturally occurring on and around the African continent, south of the 30 deg N in the Americas and some cichlid species also exist in Asia. Today you can also find cichlids in other parts of the world where they have been intentionally or accidentally introduced to the fauna. Today we know of more than 2000 cichlid species, and many more are most likely to be found in the future.

A lot of people have met the most commonly known cichlids without realising that these species all belong to the same family. Very popular aquarium species such as Oscars, Discus, freshwater Angelfish and Jack Dempsey are all cichlids. You might also have encountered cichlids at the dinner table since several of the larger species are utilised as food. Tilapia, a fast growing cichlid native to the African continent, is one of the most well known cichlids in the kitchen.

Cichlids have become popular as aquarium species since it is such a large and diverse family. Virtually every aquarist can find a cichlid suitable for his or her experience level, aquarium size and preferences. Even a small 10 gallon aquarium can house some of the smaller cichlids with a minimum of equipment. Cichlids are not only beautiful to look at, they will also show a long range of fascination behaviours if they are kept in suitable aquarium where they can display their natural habits. Many cichlid keepers insist that their cichlids all develop different personalities and characteristics, just like a dog or a cat would. Another reason behind the cichlid's popularity is the fact that many species can be successfully bred in aquariums. Cichlids are caring parents and will care four there young. Depending on species, the male, the female or both parents will care for egg and/or fry – sometimes even by letting the offspring grow up inside the mouth of a parent!

The smallest cichlids, such as Apistrogramma cichlids, grow no larger than 3 centimetres, while the largest cichlids, e.g. Boulengerochromis cichlids, can exceed one metre. The body shapes of the cichlid species include everything from very compressed bodies to extremely elongated ones. Some shared characteristics are the distinctive shape of one of the otoliths (a calcium carbonate structure located in the inner ear of the fish) and fact teeth are found in both the upper and the lower jaw, as well as in the throat. Unlike all other known fish, except the damselfish, the cichlids have just one single nostril. Cichlids also differ from other fish by their small intestine that exits the stomach from the left side instead of the right side.

Aquarists commonly divide the popular aquarium species into three main groups: American cichlids, African cichlids and Asian cichlids. The first group is often divided into four sub-categories: Large cichlids (e.g. Eartheaters and Heroines), Convict cichlids, Dwarf cichlids and Other cichlids. The group “other cichlids” contains two very popular cichlids – Angelfish and Discus. The African cichlid group is made up by Rift Valley cichlids, Tilapias and Other African cichlids. The Rift Valley cichlids are separated into four groups depending on their native home: Lake Malawi cichlids, Lake Tanganyika cichlids, Lake Victoria cichlids, and cichlids from Lake Rudolph and other rift valley cichlids.

You can find a lot of other information about cichlids by reading the articles on this site. If you can't find the information you are looking for here on Aquatic Community we recommend the following cichlid resources:

The Gas Station - African Cichlids

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