Cichlids are a part of the fish family Cichlidae, and they are members of the Labroidei suborder as well as pomacentridae (damselfishes), Embiotocidae (surfperches), and Labidrdae (wrasses). This family is considered to be diverse, and one of the largest family of vertebrates. There are as much as 1,600 described species with an estimate of 3,000 undescribed species. Meaning the real number of this particular species is actually unknown, but annual discoveries keep revealing newer ones.
Cichlid are not just the most diverse fish family, but they are also said to be the most popular fish types that people love to keep as pets in their aquariums at home. If you are one of such “fish lovers”, then it’s wise that you first know everything about them.
In this guide, you will learn about the Cichlid species and the right species you can keep in your home (if you plan to keep them).
Basic Information of Cichlid
Generally, Cichlids range from one species to the other with variable sizes, but ovate shape is the most common one you will find with laterally compressed bodies. Neolamprogolgus is the smallest cichlid species, which measures lesser than an inch at maturity. Whereas other species like the Giant Cichlid, (Boulengerochromis microlepis) can reach as much as three feet in length and sometimes more. Even though most of the Cichlids today have laterally compressed bodies, a few other species have cylindrical or more elongated bodies as compared to the others.
Species may vary in their physical differences, but there is one trait common to all Cichlids and that’s their set of pharyngeal jaws. This means that most of this fish species have their lower pharyngeal bones fused together to a single tooth-bearing arrangement, which is solely controlled by sets of complex muscles. These allow the entire structure to be of use as a second jaw set. With a set of two jaws, cichlids are able to easily process wide ranges of the food (primarily, cichlids are herbivores, meaning they feed on plants and algae) they eat. It also allows them to process meals efficiently. This quality is assumed to be one of the reasons why this particular species is a diverse one. Other features that differentiate them from other Labroidei families include:
- Absence of the bony shelf found below orbits of the eye
- Instead of two nostrils, they have a single nostril locatable on each side of their forehead
- A uniquely shaped otolith
- Their small intestines exit from the left side of their stomach rather than the right as visible in other Labroidei species
- Their lateral organs split into two sections, the first being on the upper half area of the flank and the second along the flanks midline (halfway along their body).
Cichlid are widely spread throughout the world, though they only breed in freshwater habitats. Some of the famous species include:
South American Cichlids
One destination in the world where some cichlid species are easy to identify is South America. You can find popular ones like angelfish, dwarf, Oscars, and severum. It is a fact that over more than a half of cichlid species are native to South America and they come from the warm waters of the Amazon River basin all through the year. A popular cichlid specie worth talking about is found in South America is the discus fish, which are famous for being the most beautiful fish types for aquariums. They have a disc-like and unique shape with bright colors and black stipes on their body.
Oscar cichlids are also popular because they grow to become large. However, what makes them unique is their ability to develop individual personalities. This means some allow their owners to easily handle them.
Though it is difficult to decipher the exact number of species of cichlid in existence today, it is an estimate that over 1,600 species exist just in places like Africa. Majority cichlids are easy to find in natural lake rifts like Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Malawi, some in Lake Victoria. In the world of aquarium trade, cichlids from these lakes are the most common ones and they usually prized high for their brilliant, vibrant colorations as well as being robust in their aquarium world.
Another quality that makes them popular is their interaction or social behavior. These species tend to be highly active and sometimes they can become aggressive and possessive about their territory. Some popular cichlid species you can find today from Lake Malawi are some like peacock cichlids, and Mbuna cichlids (or rockfish). The peacock cichlids are popular for their display of bright colors that range from canary yellow to electric blue.
On the other hand, masked Julies, five bar cichlid, frontosa cichlid, and lemon cichlids originate from Tangyanyika Lake. Cichlid fish species from here are not a famous choice for home aquariums but this doesn’t mean the fish are less beautiful in anyway. A particular one from Lake Tangyanyika known for its captivating beauty is the Aeneocolor, which has a bright red and yellow body.
Other Cichlid Species
Even though majority of the species from this fish family are more in number in South America and Africa, there are also a few different species that originate from Central America, Asia, as well as North America. Rainbow cichlids, convict cichlids, fire mouth cichlids, Dempsey cichlids are common cichlids from regions like Central America. The only cichlid specie native to USA is the Texas cichlid. Throughout the eastern regions of the world, cichlids are not evenly distributed. Some are locatable in Asia, and belong to the Etroplus genus.
With a basic guide on the cichlid species as a whole, you can now make a detailed decision on whether this particular species may be of any interest to you. If you wish to keep cichlid species in the aquarium tank of your home, ensure that you first carry out a detailed research on that particular species and ensure that you attend to all its relevant needs like food, cleanliness of the tank and more. Aquatic Supplies