Cichlids are a type of freshwater fish. They form a large and diverse family of fish. There are currently 1,300 scientifically described species. Each year, new species are discovered. For this reason, no one quite knows how many species of cichlids exist.
Generally speaking, cichlids are of a medium size, ovate in shape, and are later compressed. Many species of cichlids are important food fishes such as tilapia. Other types are important for game fishing. Many other types are popular by aquarium owners the world over. For this reason, and many others, the cichlid species is the most species-rich family of fish in freshwaters world wide.
The population of cichlids is most popular in South American and Africa. The fish is also prevalent in Central America from Panama through Mexico. There are even cichlids found, naturally, in the Rio Grande which separates Texas and the United States from Mexico. While cichlids do not appear naturally in the United States north of the Rio Grande, in areas where the climate is right, such as in Florida, colonies have started of the fish.
Cichlids, like many other species, have a diverse diet. Many of the 1300 discovered species are primarily herbivores. They eat algae and plants for the most part, but small animals and invertebrates do still make up a small part of their diet. Other cichlid species are detritivores. This means that they will eat any type of organic matter that comes across their path. They are not picky by any stretch of the imagination. Other cichlids are carnivores or predators. They will eat smaller fish of any species and consume very little to no plant life.
Because of the wide range of dining preferences evident among various cichlids, they are able to occupy a large number of incredibly diverse habitats. Some fish are purely freshwater while others have been able to live in both brackish and salt water environments. In addition, there is a wide variety in where the fish live in their habitats. Some prefer living among the plants while other prefer living more in open water. All of these things have helped cichlids develop into a wide array of fish.
Since the 1940s, cichlids have been increasingly popular as aquarium fish. This is because they are ideal for aquariums. Many are small to medium sized. In addition, it is also easy to feed the fish with a wide range of prepared foods.