Cichlid Fish: Top 15 Things You Need To Know

Updated on December 29, 2016

Evolutionary Wonders - Cichlid Fish

The Most Amazing Fish In the world
The Most Amazing Fish In the world | Source

Cichlid Fish

Cichlid Fish (pronounced "sicklid") can be found in South American and African freshwater in abundance. They can also be found in aquariums the world over. They are, simply put, the most amazing evolutionary wonders of the world.

Here's fifteen things you need to know about these wonderful creatures.


There are many species of cichlid, how many is not known, but it is thought to be in the region of 2000 to 3000. At least 1650 of them have been identified and scientifically described, but it is possible some species may die out and become extinct without ever having been discovered.


The largest cichlid, The Emperor, is as large as your arm. That's 5000 times larger than the smallest one, which is no bigger than your thumbnail.

Natural Habitat

They are tropical freshwater fish that can be found in Central and South America, Asia and Africa, especially in the lakes and rivers of the Great Rift Valley. Lake Malawi, the largest lake in Africa, is teeming with them. They mostly live close to the surface of the lakes, rivers or lagoons where there are rocks and sand.

Cichlids In America

Cichlid fish can be found in canals in Florida, USA due to them being dumped from farms in the 1950s. They are much sought after by anglers.


They are amongst the most popular freshwater fish kept in home aquariums. It's easy to see why. Their different colours are simply fantastic and to watch them for 5 minutes in a fish tank is tantamount to 2 hours de-stress meditation.

Cichlids Aquarium courtesy of African Cichlids byAngel


Cichlid Fish have not one, but two sets of jaws. The inner one is for mashing food. The outer one, free to evolve specialised teeth, allowing them to gather every kind of food imaginable. This is mainly due to them being carnivores, omnivores and herbivores, such is the adaptabality they possess to thrive in any ecological surrounding. They can live in a 1 meter square pond to the largest lake and have self-contained ecologies.

Fish Wars

To say they are bizarre in their rituals is an understatement. When in confrontation they face each other and open their mouths and if one has a smaller mouth it will back down, but if they are evenly matched they will engage in mouth to mouth combat.

....And In The Orange Corner



Their lifespan can be anything from 3 years to 10 years. Malawi Bloat is the most common disease amongst the Cichlids


There is a lot of chasing, dancing together and kissing or, at least, locking their mouths together. Male and female do not join together. The female deposits her eggs and the male deposits his sperm over the eggs.


Cichlids stand out in the fish world as unusual in that both parents share a deep concern for their young. Their mouths are not only used for feeding and fighting, but they are also used as a nursery in which their young are kept.

Watch at 25 seconds as the fish releases her young

The Common Or Garden Variety

There are many many different species. They all have scientific unpronouncable latin names. The best known are Pterophyllum scalare or Angelfish, Astronotus ocellatus or Oscar, Symphysodon spp or Discus and Rocio octofasciata or Jack Dempsey named after the boxer due to its aggressive nature.

Firemouth Cichlids

Firemouh cichlids can recognize their fry (young babies) and will sometimes kidnap other cichlids fry and place these on the outside edge of their own school. The idea being if they are attacked it will be anothers fry that are attacked and not theirs.

Frankenstein Monster

The blood parrot cichlid has been referred to as "the Frankenstein monster of the fish world" due to it being a cross of several different related species, and this is an example of the cichlids willingness to hybridize. This it will do in the wild or under artificial conditions.

One Of The Rarest Cichlids

The "Cichlasoma" beani is not necessarily the rarest, as many species are under threat, but it is one of the most desired by keepers, due to its rarity.

So there you are. You could do no better, if starting your hobby as a casual fish aquarium owner, than possess this fascinatingly beautiful fish that is the Cichlid fish.

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