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Cichlid Fish: Top 15 Things You Need to Know

Billy is a cichlid fish enthusiast and likes to share information with other aquarium hobbyists.

Whether you keep cichlids or you're just a fan, learn more about these fascinating fish.

Whether you keep cichlids or you're just a fan, learn more about these fascinating fish.

Cichlids: The Most Amazing Fish in the World

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 are 15 things you need to know about these wonderful creatures.

Evolutionary Wonders: Cichlid Fish

Evolutionary Wonders: Cichlid Fish

1. Species

There are many species of cichlid. How many is not known, but it is thought to be in the region of 2,000 to 3,000. At least 1,650 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.

2. Size

The largest cichlid, the Emperor, is as large as your arm. That's 5,000 times larger than the smallest one, which is no bigger than your thumbnail.

3. 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.

4. Cichlids in the United States

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

5. Aquarium Popularity

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 five minutes in a fish tank is tantamount to two hours of de-stress meditation.

6. Jaws

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, allows them to gather every kind of food imaginable.

This is mainly due to them being carnivores, omnivores and herbivores—such is the adaptability they possess to thrive in any ecological surrounding. They can live in a 1-meter-square pond or the largest lake and have self-contained ecologies.

"And in the orange corner . . . " Cichlids engage in mouth-to-mouth combat.

"And in the orange corner . . . " Cichlids engage in mouth-to-mouth combat.

7. Fish Wars

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

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8. Life Span

Their life span can be anything from three years to 10 years.

9. Disease

Malawi Bloat is the most common disease amongst the cichlids

10. Mating

During mating, 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.

At 25 Seconds, the Fish Releases Her Young!

11. Brooding

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.

12. Common or Garden Varieties

There are many, many different species. They all have scientific 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.

13. Kidnapping

Firemouth 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 is that if they are attacked, it will be another fish's fry that are attacked and not theirs.

14. 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 cichlid's willingness to hybridize. This it will do in the wild or under artificial conditions.

15. 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.

This is a lovely Cobalt Blue Zebra cichlid from Lake Malawi.

This is a lovely Cobalt Blue Zebra cichlid from Lake Malawi.

Fascinating, Beautiful Fish

So there you are. You could not be doing any better if starting your hobby as a casual fish aquarium owner than to possess this fascinatingly beautiful fish—the cichlid fish.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Wolfman on March 07, 2019:

Im breeding a male red terror cichlid with a female red tiger motaguense cichlid to make a cichlid

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