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What Are Cichlids, Anyway?

Cichlids belong to the Cichlidae family. This is a very large and diverse family with somewhere between 1500-3000 species. Each year, more species are discovered and many have not yet been identified.

It is considered to be one of the largest vertebrate families in the world. Oscars, Jack Dempseys, Discus, and Angel Fish are among the most recognized species of the Cichlid family.

Inhabitants of diverse environments, Cichlids are generally divided into three categories: African, North, and Central American, and South American. Many people also categorize them as New World Cichlids (North, Central, South) and African Cichlids. Each of these categories is often broken down by the lakes in which they live. For example, Victorian Cichlids are found in Lake Victoria. Malawi Cichlids come from the Malawi Lake, and Tanganyika Cichlids come from the Tanganyika Cichlids.

Mostly freshwater lakes, Cichlid fish often habitat in shallow depths. There are exceptions, however, such as the Tilapia which inhabit more brackish waters along the coastlines between rivers. Very few Cichlids habitat primarily in salt waters.

The Cichlids are a very resourceful species, adapting to a multitude of different habitats. Due to their variety of environments, their eating habits, size, and color are much different.

One thing that all Cichlids have in common is their ability to be efficient feeders. They have teeth on their upper and lower jaws that have pharyngeal bones which act as a second set of teeth when they swallow food. Some Cichlid fish feed on algae and plants (herbivores). Other Cichlids known as predatory, feed mostly on other fish, small animals, and larvae.


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