Cichlidae [Sick-li-dee], or Cichlids, as aquarists better know them, are spiny-rayed fishes, with a single nostril on each side of the head, they resemble perches externally, although true perches have the presence of two nostrils on each side.
Cichlids are quite distinctive, with most species being deep, with a large head and eyes, well-developed lips, and a strong jutting jaw. In almost all species males can be distinguished from females by their pointed dorsal and anal fins, the females being more rounded. In nearly all cases the males are more colourful. Depending on the genus, the body shape varies from pike-like to disc-like form.
You often find that many families of fishes are unique to one continent, but the Cichlidae family can be found in almost every tropical climate of the World, having been introduced there as a food source. Naturally though, their distribution occurs throughout Central and South America, and even Texas in the case of one particular species, and from the West Indies to Uruguay. They are distributed over almost all of Africa, especially the Great Lakes of Africa, as well as Madagascar, and Syria.
Although this family are well known for being predaceous and vicious, except for the genus Apistogramma and Nannacara (Dwarf Cichlids), Pterophyllum (Angelfish), and Symphosodon (Discus Fish), the great abundance of these fishes, along with their splendid colours and interesting breeding habits have made them a popular choice amongst aquarists.
In general they require a spacious aquarium, many species are territorial, and will defend and increase their territory, especially when preparing to breed. The aquarium is best furnished with rockwork and caves for them to take shelter. Most Cichlids like to dig, so any plants you may have would be better in pots, otherwise they will be continually uprooted. Larger Cichlids may even take the heater into their mouths and give it a good shaking, so make that secure also, or even consider putting a guard around it (these are available at aquatic stores).
Cichlids are mainly carnivorous, although they will accept all sorts of food, and they do like a little vegetable food in their diet, commercial flake and dried food are ideal.
Because the Cichlidae family is so varied, with some species requiring very specific conditions, and for ease of management, I have split this page into six categories.