Scientific classification

Cichlids are a family of perciform fishes.

Table of contents
1 Types and characteristics of cichlid
2 Range
3 Diet
4 Reproduction
5 Cichlids as aquarium fish
6 External links
7 References

Types and characteristics of cichlid

The family Cichlidae is large and very diverse, and is one of the most important families of fish. It includes some 2000 species, in sizes that range from ca. 3 cm (e.g. Apistogramma) to close to a meter (Boulengerochromis, Cichla), and with morphologies ranging from highly compressed (Pterophyllum, Symphysodon) to extremely elongated (Teleogramma, some Crenicichla spp.). Some notable cichlids are the angelfish, discus fish, Jack Dempsey and the oscar.

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.


Cichlids are secondary freshwater fish and inhabit most of the Paleotropics (
Africa) and the Neotropics (Americass south of ca. 30 deg N). Many species are found in African lakes.


Diets are also diverse: generalized predators, plankton-feeders, herbivores, piscivores, scale-eaters, paedophagus (eat other species' young).


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. Some species are important food fishes, and many other are valued aquarium fishes.

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 hobby.

Aquarium cichlids are not the most peaceful aquarium residents, though behaviour varies, and so 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
    • Dwarf cichlids (Apistogramma etc)
    • Other (including angelfish, discus)
  • African cichlids
    • Rift valley cichlids
      • Lake Tanganyika
      • Lake Malawi
      • Lake Victoria
      • Lake Rudolph and other
    • Tilapias
    • Other African cichlids
  • Asian cichlids

External links


  • Barlow, G. W. (2000). The Cichlid fishes. Cambridge MA: Perseus Publishing.