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cichlid xs 13569664Cichlids are one of the most popular types of freshwater aquarium fish available and they are also some of the most beautiful. Biologists believe there to be as many as 3,000 different species of cichlid in existence, though only roughly 1,300 have been identified. This number makes the family Cichlidae one of the largest families of vertebrates on Earth. Cichlids come from various countries all over the world where they can be found in many disparate environments - from the brackish waters of India to the rift lakes in Africa as well as the waters of Central and South America. If you hope to cultivate a cichlid tank someday, or are simply curious about this interesting family of fishes, it is wise to learn the basics.

Basic Cichlid Information

discus 000014836719xsmallCichlids belong to the family Cichlidae in the order Perciformes. These fish are known for the wide range of patterns and colors the various species display. Some species in this family, like the Convict Cichlid, exhibit bold stripes while others, like the Discus Fish, have vibrant colors and striking patterns. Cichlids range in size from less than 3 centimeters to over 1 meter in length but most tend to be medium in size. In addition to displaying a variety of sizes, cichlids come in many different shapes. While most species have laterally compressed bodies – like the angelfish and discus fish – others, like the Julidochromis, have long, cylindrical bodies.

Though the many species of cichlid vary in shape, size and coloration they all share one trait. In cichlids, the lower pharyngeal bones are fused to form a single structure from which the teeth grow. This arrangement results in two sets of jaws – the true jaws, or mandibles, and the pharyngeal jaws. These jaws make it possible for cichlids to eat a variety of different foods. While some species of cichlid are herbivores, a majority of them are carnivores and omnivores and they need strong jaws to eat crustaceans and other fish.

Native Habitat and Distribution

africa xs 20734852Cichlids are found in bodies of fresh water all around the world. For the convenience of aquarium hobbyists, cichlids are generally divided into three categories based on their origin. The three categories of cichlid are African cichlids, South American cichlids and Central/North American Cichlids. The Central/North American cichlids are more commonly referred to as New World cichlids. Out of the 1,300 species of cichlid that have been identified, only around 120 belong to the New World group. Most of the fishes in this category can be found in Mexico and throughout Central America. There is one species, however, that is native to the United States – the Texas cichlid.

African cichlids are the most popular species among cichlid enthusiasts because they are extremely colorful and are also known to display a variety of interesting behaviors. The cichlids belonging to this group are found largely in the lakes of the Great Rift Valley. These lakes include Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria. These three lakes alone are home to more than 1,000 different species of cichlid. The second largest category of cichlids is the South American group of cichlids, which includes around 200 species. These fish are generally found in the warmer waters of the Amazon River basin.

While African, South American and New World cichlids are the most common there are a few other places in the world where cichlids can be found. In Asia, several species of cichlid originate in the brackish waters of India and Sri Lanka. Because these Asian cichlids are not widely available, many aquarium hobbyists are unfamiliar with them.

Popular Species

African Cichlids – Peacock cichlid, Bumblebee cichlid,  Buffalo Head cichlid, Electric Blue and Electric Yellow cichlids, Frontosa cichlid, Red Zebra cichlid and Mbuna cichlids

South American Cichlids – Angelfish, Pike cichlids, Oscars, Discus fish, Acaras, Apistogramma, Firemouth cichlids, Uaru cichlids

New World Cichlids – Rams, Texas cichlid, Severum, Rainbow cichlids, Convict cichlid, Jack Dempsey cichlid, Oscars, Dwarf cichlids, Parrot cichlids, Acaras, and Keyhole cichlids

Cichlids in the Home Aquarium

angelfish 474339Because cichlids come from such diverse habitats all over the world it is very important that you, as the aquarium hobbyist, design your cichlid tank around the needs of the species you have chosen. Some cichlids, like the angelfish, are relatively easy to care for but others, such as the discus fish, are very sensitive to changes in water quality and can be difficult to maintain. The most important thing you must be aware of if you hope to cultivate a cichlid tank is that cichlids tend to grow much larger than most other freshwater fish and, thus, require very large tanks. Cichlids can also be territorial and aggressive so it is recommended that they be kept singly or in species-specific tanks.

Before you set up a cichlid tank, research the particular species you plan to raise to determine the ideal water parameters. The more closely your tank reflects the natural environment of your cichlids, the more likely your fish are to thrive. While performing this basic research it is also wise to look up compatible tank mates for your species of cichlid. Some species like rams and dwarf cichlids can be kept in large community tanks with other freshwater fish but others, like most of the African species, need to be kept alone. Once you have designed and set up your tank with the proper pH, temperature and water hardness you will be ready to cycle the tank and introduce your cichlids.

tetra xs 23164168You're probably pretty familiar with the aquarium fish department in your local pet store - you may even know some of the staff by name. But have you ever thought there might be a better way to buy aquarium fish? In the past 15 years or so the internet has become more than just a network to connect people from all over the world - it has also become one of the best ways to shop! Buying aquarium fish online has many advantages so, before you make your next trip to the pet store, spend a little time on the internet first to see whether purchasing your fish online might be a good option for you.

It is only within the past few years that buying aquarium fish online has even become an option so don't be embarassed if you're just hearing about it for the first time. One of the main benefits of buying aquarium fish online versus in-store is that your options are nearly limitless. Whereas if you shop at your local pet store you will be limited by the stock available, online aquarium fish suppliers have a much larger selection. In addition to having a wider variety of fish to choose from, aquarium fish suppliers often offer their customers more in-depth information about the fish they have available than pet stores do. Many aquarium fish suppliers have marine biologists and experienced aquarists on staff so you can be sure the information you receive is correct and the fish you purchase are well cared-for.

If you are still nervous about the idea of purchasing aquarium fish online, think about this: your local pet store might offer you a 7-day return policy if your new fish die after you add them to your tank. Many online aquarium fish suppliers offer 14- to 30-day guarantees on their fish! Though online suppliers offer these guarantees, there is actually a lesser chance that you will need to use them than you might if you purchase your fish from the pet store. By the time aquarium fish make it to the pet store they have already gone through an extended shipping process to bring them to that point and then they must endure the added stress of being bagged up and transported home with you. By purchasing your fish online you can cut out one step of that process, ensuring that your fish are less stressed and more likely to survive when they arrive at your home.

Now that you know the benefits of purchasing aquarium fish online you might consider it as an option when it comes time to restock your tank. Don't limit yourself or your fish tank to the slim pickings available at your local pet store - there are countless fish in the sea or, in this case, online!


Finally, beginner aquarium hobbyists have an online resource to turn to when they find themselves in need of a little help. Whether you are a complete novice, just thinking about starting your first freshwater tank or you are an experienced aquarist looking for some tips and advice, is the place for you. This website was created with novice aquarium hobbyists in mind, designed to provide accurate, easy-to-understand information about how to successfully maintain a healthy aquarium.


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The goal of this website is to offer aquarium enthusiasts like you the information you need about cultivating a freshwater tank, all in one place. Browse the Resources menu to find informative articles about aquarium filtration, fish diseases, algae control and more. Click on Fish Photos to see pictures and to read profiles of dozens of the most popular species of freshwater aquarium fish. If you come across an unfamiliar term while reading, pop on over to the Glossary page for a comprehensive list of terms related to freshwater aquariums. Check back often to see what's new! is constantly adding new fish profiles, photos and articles to benefit both novice and experienced aquarists alike. is more than just an informative resource for aquarium hobbyists -- it is the perfect way to connect with aquarium enthusiasts like yourself! Join the community to build a profile; to join groups and make friends; and to receive personalized advice for your aquarium from fellow hobbyists. takes social media to the next level by allowing members to upload photos of their fish tanks in addition to posting video profiles and creating community events. Being an aquarium enthusiast can be more than just a hobby -- by becoming involved with the community, it can become a way of life!

So, make yourself at home here at and feel free to take a look around. You never know what you might discover!

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