Cichlids: One Of The World’s Most Fascinating Freshwater Fish Species
Colorful and plentiful, cichlids are a popular freshwater aquarium fish. If you’re looking to add them to your tank, here are a few basics to keep in mind.
If you want to stock your tank with some of the most beautiful and interesting freshwater fish, you definitely need to consider cichlids as an option. While it is true that saltwater fish are generally more colorful than freshwater fish, cichlids are some of the most colorful freshwater fish in the world.
Basics About Cichlids
The name cichlid is given to fish belonging to the taxonomical family Cichlidae within the order Perciformes. There are about 1,650 species of cichlid that have already been described, but it is estimated that there are as many as 3,000 species of cichlid in existence. Cichlids can be found all over the world in a variety of different habitats ranging from Asian rivers and streams to African rift lakes. These fish span a wide array of body sizes, but most of them are laterally compressed or elongated in terms of body shape. Cichlids range in size from as small as 1 inch to more than 3 feet in length. In addition to being popular in the aquarium industry, many cichlid species are important food sources for people as well.
The Anatomy of Cichlids
In addition to being some of the most colorful fish on the planet, cichlids are also unique in terms of their anatomy. Though there is a great deal of variation among different cichlid species, they all have one trait in common – their lower pharyngeal bones are fused into one tooth-bearing structure. In simpler terms, cichlids have two sets of jaws – one in their mouth and one in their throat. Each species of cichlid is unique and many of them are highly specialized feeders with specific adaptations for certain types of food. Cichlids are also very unique in terms of their breeding habits. Many cichlids actually care for and protect their young – some even keep their babies in their mouths to protect them until they grow large enough to fend for themselves.
Popular Cichlid Species
There are more than a thousand species of cichlid out there, but not all of them make good additions to the home aquarium. Below you will find a list of some of the most popular cichlid species for the freshwater tank:
- Freshwater Angelfish: These cichlids are known for their long, pointed fins and for their graceful, angelic appearance. Freshwater angelfish are generally not picky eaters but they can be aggressive feeders so they are best kept in an angelfish-only tank.
- Convict Cichlid: One of the most commonly kept cichlids, the convict cichlid is named for its striped appearance. These fish grow up to 4 inches long and they can live for up to 10 years when properly cared for. Convict cichlids can be territorial but they are generally easy to breed in the home aquarium.
- Discus Fish: The discus fish is named for its round, disc-like shape and it is one of the most colorful species of fish in the world. These fish come in many different color varieties and patterns and they grow to about 6 inches in length. Discus fish are beautiful but they can be a little challenging to keep because they are sensitive to changes in water chemistry.
- Jewel Cichlids: These cichlids are so named for their bright coloration. Jewel cichlids grow to about 5 ½ inches long and they come in a wide variety of different colors. These fish are beautiful but they can be challenging to keep with other fish because they tend to be aggressive when forming pairs.
- Oscars: The Oscar is one of the larger species of cichlid kept as a pet – it generally grows 10 to 12 inches in captivity. Oscars are unique because they form their own personalities and they show dog-like behaviors, begging for food and allowing their owners to handle them.
Cichlids are a highly diverse group of species which is what makes them so interesting. If you are thinking about keeping cichlids in your aquarium at home, keep the information from this article in mind and consider some of the popular species described.