The Cichlid, or Cichlidae, family contains a variety of different fish species. In fact, researchers recognize at least 1,650 different species! People often keep these fish in their home aquariums, and you can find a large number of different species available. Some people even eat certain species as food. Read on to learn about the Cichlid.

Description of the Cichlid

You simply cannot provide a one-size-fits-all description for this group of fishes. The immense number of different species come in an incredibly range of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns. You can find fish with scales blue, black, white, red, silver, and many more colorations. Some species have spots, some have stripes, and some are uniform in color.

These fish range in size, some measure just an inch long while others surpass several feet in length! Each species is different from the next.

Interesting Facts About the Cichlid

Researchers discover new species in this family incredibly frequently. Learn more about a few specific fish in this wide, and still growing, family.

  • Humphead Cichlid – This species is one of the many that people keep in aquariums. Its name comes from the large fleshy hump on its head. You can also distinguish this fish by the dark stripes that cross vertically along its body.
  • Red Oscar – Another incredibly popular species, this animal is quite eye-catching! Though different color morphs exist, this species usually has red or orange coloration with dark marbling on its scales. You can find wild individuals throughout the Amazon and Orinoco River systems.
  • Tilapia – I bet you’ve heard of a Cichlid before, and I bet you had no idea that your tilapia dinner was in the same family! This species is an important and incredibly common food source across the globe.
  • Bumblebee Cichlid – Another species with unique coloration, this fish has yellow scales lined with dark colored, vertical stripes. It primarily forages on the parasites that afflict a single species of catfish!

Habitat of the Cichlid

You can find this diverse group in a wide range of different habitats. Some species have specialist habits and live only in a single, restricted habitat type. Other species can survive in an immense range of different habitats.

Some of the different types of ecosystems that you can find these fish in include lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and more. A few species even range into saltwater habitats, or brackish water areas with a mixture of salt and fresh water.

Distribution of the Cichlid

This group has an impressively diverse range. You can find different species in this family across many regions of the globe. Some have massive ranges and their populations occupy immense areas. Others live only in a single restricted region.

These fish live in North, Central, and South America, as well as Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Diet of the Cichlid

As a whole, these fish eat just about anything. Most species have omnivorous dietary habitats, and eat both plants and other animals. However, some species have incredibly specialized diets, like the bumblebee species discussed above.

Some of the many types of foods that they eat include algae, underwater plants, plankton, insect eggs and larvae, insects, smaller fish, crabs, shrimp, crayfish, worms, and more. Some also feed on carrion, or the carcasses of dead animals.

Cichlid and Human Interaction

Human activity varies from one species to the next, as does human impact. People interact with some species, like those they keep in aquariums, directly. Other species face the impacts of human activity indirectly.

Some of the primary concerns for these fish and their survival include habitat destruction, climate change, pollution, and collection for the pet trade. Many species, such as the Tailbar Cichlid, face dire threat of extinction.


Humans have not domesticated this species in any way.

Does the Cichlid Make a Good Pet

Many species in this group make great pets, many species do not. You should always do your research on the specific species you would like before you purchase a pet. It is also important to only purchase captive-bred animals for the safety of your other fish and the health of wild populations.

Cichlid Care

Because people keep so many different species in this family, their care needs vary drastically. Some need extremely large tanks, while others do not reach the same sizes. Many social species must also live in schools.

Of the various species, most eat commercially produced fish food. However, you must choose a food that best fits the species based on its wild diet.

Behavior of the Cichlid

This family of fish expresses an immense range of social and reproductive behaviors. Some species live in large schools, while others develop territories and behave aggressively towards other fish.

Many establish territories, but live in close proximity to their neighbors in a widely spaced school. The level of aggression varies based on the species at hand.

Reproduction of the Cichlid

As a group, this family reproduces via spawning. In the spawning process, the female lays eggs and the male fertilizes them outside of her body. The number of eggs produced varies based on the species, size, and age of the fish.

Many species form monogamous pairs, or pairs that only breed with one partner. In some cases, these pairs guard their eggs and/or their young. In other species the young are fully independent when they hatch.