Cichlids, or scientifically speaking, fish of the family Cichlidae, are usually talked about in fish keeping circles of being in two groups. These groups are often referred to as African or American cichlids. There are a few exceptions to this however as a few species occur in Madagascar and Sri Lanka and the Middle East. Cichlids are either lacustrine (lake dwelling) or riverine (river dwelling). American cichlids are tropical or sub-tropical species that occur in the southern parts of the North American continent down through Mexico and central America and into the northern parts of the South American continent.

American Cichlids

American cichlids are very popular fish in the fish-keeping hobby. Fish such as the familiar Discus, Angelfish and Oscars are amongst the most popular of all tropical fish. American cichlids come in a variety of sizes, colours and temperaments and as such, they are always popular with fish keepers.

The reasons that American cichlids are so popular include colours, varieties as well as interesting behaviours. Many are suitable for absolute beginners and these fish include Convict cichlids whereas there are also some American cichlids that require more specialised water and tank conditions such as Discus. Many are small to medium sized, are easy to keep and feed, take a large range of prepared foods and breed readily in aquaria.

One of the interesting characteristics of the American cichlids is the brood care exhibited by parents. All species show some level of care for eggs and larvae. The eggs are generally laid in a cave, on an open rock or in a pit in the gravel. The parents generally both tend to the eggs and to varying degrees guards the eggs. The fry are then generally looked after while they are feeding and free swimming until they can fend for themselves.

Discus and Uaru are almost unique in the fish world in secreting a nutritive mucous from their skin that the young feed off, firstly as a sole food source and later as a supplementary food source. Some American cichlid adults signal to the swarm of baby fish that danger is approaching and this makes the baby fish head for the cover of the parent fish mouth until they are released when the danger goes away. The interesting and odd behaviours of cichlids goes on and on and this is one the reasons these fish are so popular.

There are many small American cichlids called Dwarf cichlids. These include very interesting aquarium inhabitants such as Rams and Apistogramma. These fish are known for their peaceful nature and will generally live quite happily with other small, peaceful fish. Some of the larger American cichlids grow to 50cm or more and need very large tanks. Single specimens of particular large cichlids make attractive pets and will allow their owner to pat and play with them.

Most fish keepers have at some stage kept American cichlids and they are highly recommended as pets, whatever your fish keeping experience is.


** Article sourced with permission of Just For Pets.