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Understanding the Different Types of Cichlid

The cichlid family is one of the largest families of freshwater tropical fish and arguably one of the most popular. This article will give you a brief introduction to the different types of cichlid.

discus-turquoiseThe family Cichlidae is one of the largest families of tropical fish. There are nearly 1,500 known species of cichlid but biologists believe this to be only half the number of species in existence. Size, color, shape and behavior may vary among the different species – this variety is why cichlids are a favorite of many aquarium hobbyists. Certain species of cichlid like Oscars have been known to develop a sort of personality and others, such as the discus fish, are widely recognized as some of the most beautiful freshwater aquarium fishes. If you plan to cultivate a cichlid tank it is wise to learn the basics about this family of fishes and to research the particular species you hope to raise in order to ensure that you will be able to provide for their needs. Learning about cichlids begins with understanding the different groups into which the various species fall.

African Cichlids

There are four subcategories of African cichlids: Lake Malawi cichlids, Lake Tanganyika cichlids, Lake Victoria cichlids and other African cichlids. Lake Malawi cichlids account for about eight hundred of the known species of cichlids and African cichlids are often cited as being some of the most colorful. Some Lake Malawi cichlids, like Peacock cichlids, are known for their brilliant combinations of blue, red, and yellow patterns. Another large group of cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi is the Mbuna group which includes a variety of aggressive cichlids which can be identified by their blue and black bar patterns.

cichlid-frontosaLake Tanganyika is one of the deepest lakes in the world and it is home to almost two hundred and fifty varieties of cichlid. Some of the species that make their home in Lake Tanganyika include the Daffodil cichlid, the Masked cichlid and the Frontosa cichlid which is characterized by its bulbous forehead. The Lake Victoria varieties of cichlid are not as well-known as the Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi species and, due to predation and human activity, many species are dying out.

New World Cichlids

herichthys cyanoguttatus 3The cichlids of Central and North America are often referred to as New World cichlids. In their native habitat, Central American cichlids are found in a variety of waterways. Most of the Central American cichlids belong to a group called Cichlasomines which are known for their brilliant coloration as well as their aggressive behaviors. Most cichlids in this group can grow up to eight inches in length but some remain small, around four or five inches. Perhaps the most popular New World cichlids is the Jack Dempsey cichlid, or Rocio Octofasciata. These cichlids can be very aggressive toward other fish so it is best to keep them in a tank with their own species. They can also grow up to ten inches in length so it is important to avoid keeping them in an overcrowded tank. The Texas cichlid, another New World cichlid, is native to the Rio Grande area around Texas and Mexico and it too can be extremely aggressive.

South American Cichlids

South American cichlids are generally found in black water regions where the water is very acidic. In order for South American cichlids to thrive in captivity, these conditions must be replicated. Angelfish are one of the most popular, or at least the most easily recognized, types of South American cichlids. Many varieties of angelfish are sold in pet stores and, like other popular South American cichlids, require excellent water quality and a low current in order to thrive.

oscar xs 13933324Other popular South American cichlids include the Oscar and the Discus fish. Discus fish are unique among cichlids because they are very social - they are one of the few schooling varieties of cichlid. Oscar cichlids are known to be very intelligent fish and many of them develop a personality. These fish require a great deal of attention from their owners in addition to a great deal of space. Oscars can grow up to twelve inches in length and, thus, should be kept in at least a one hundred gallon aquarium.

Tips for Understanding Cichlids

The most important thing you need to know about cichlids is that they should not be kept in a community tank. Many species of cichlid can be quite aggressive and should be kept singly or only in very large tanks with one or two other cichlids. It is also important to note that cichlids from the different groups should not be mixed in a tank. It is not the aggression of these fishes which makes this true so much as the fact that the different groups of cichlids come from very disparate environments - the preferred water conditions for one type of cichlid may not be ideal for another type. If you hope to cultivate a healthy cichlid tank it is wise to perform ample research about cichlids in general as well as the particular species you are considering. Talk with aquarists experienced at keeping cichlids to gain valuable insight – doing so will very likely save you not only time and frustration but unnecessary expense as well. Educating yourself so that you are well-equipped with the proper knowledge regarding the habits and needs of your cichlids is a critical first step to successfully keeping these colorful and fascinating fish.

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