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Types of Cichlids for Aquatic Hobbyists

Are you dreaming of a new tank or adding fishy friends to an existing setup? You might be wooed by the colorful stylings and fast, darting movements of cichlids (pronounced sick-lids) at your local pet store. These freshwater fish are overly social and swim up to the glass quickly when humans pass by, so they don't miss a thing.

Here's what you need to know about cichlids and a few varieties to consider for your tank.

Getting to Know Cichlids

There are an estimated 3,000 species of cichlids hailing from the African great lakes, Central America, North America, and South America. They come in all sizes, from an inch or two to over 36 inches in length, and a rainbow of color combinations.

Cichlids are hardy fish that can do well in unsoftened, alkaline water. It's important to know that the African varieties originating from lakes Malawi, Victoria, and Tanganyika are typically aggressive fish, especially when they feel overcrowded in their environment. They will kill other fish to make space for themselves, so housing them in a single-species aquarium is best.

5 Types of Cichlids to Consider for Your Aquarium

As you choose which cichlids you want to add to your aquarium, allow a minimum of one gallon of tank space per inch of adult-size fish to keep them happy.

For example, if you have a 36-gallon bow front aquarium and are shopping for cichlids that grow to 6-inches long as adults, house no more than six of those fish in the tank. Choosing four cichlids would be even better, so they have room to roam without stress!

1. Peacock Cichlids

Much like their namesake bird, the males display a dazzling blue and orange color combo with vertical barring. Peacock cichlids originated in Lake Malawi. All of them are mouthbrooders, which means the females carry the eggs and fry (which are baby fish) inside their mouths until they are ready to fend for themselves. Peacock cichlids can be housed with some varieties of sharks, other cichlids, and plecostomus.

2. Firemouth Cichlids

Want sass and a sleek profile? The silvery-white iridescent coloring with a black mid-body stripe of the firemouth cichlid is sharp. These semi-aggressive fish grow to about 6 inches in length. Firemouth cichlids originated in Central America and can tolerate cooler temperatures and hard water. They should only be kept with other firemouths.

3. Jewel Cichlids

Sparkling like rhinestones, the red jewel cichlid features blue spots and a yellow tail fin. These West African cichlids are found in the rivers and streams of the Congo river basin. Jewel cichlids thrive in both soft and hard water and like warm temperatures. These fish are very aggressive and are not suitable for a community tank.

4. Brichardi Cichlids

These cichlids originated in Lake Tanganyika, where they live in family groups. Older siblings care for and protect younger fry, a unique trait that's not common in fish communities. Brichardi cichlids grow to approximately 3.5-inches long and live in caves, so they prefer a tank decorated with rocks of all sizes to explore. Brichardi cichlids should be housed solo.

5. Ram Cichlids

These South American fish live in the Amazon river basin in Bolivia and Brazil. They enjoy warm, soft water in areas of heavy leaf litter and sandy-bottomed shallow ponds. When kept as pets, a pair (which will grow up to 4 inches in length each) requires a tank of at least 15 gallons with sand substrate. Rams can be housed with tetras, catfish, and plecostomus.

Cichlids are active, pretty fish that come in many varieties, sizes, and colors. Are you starting up a new tank? One of the many cichlid options is sure to catch your eye! Learn more about cichlids and other fish to consider for your tank in our Care Guides.



Aquatic Veterinary Services, Fish of the Week: Cichlid

Pet Keen, 40 Types of Cichlids for your Aquarium (With Pictures)

Build Your Aquarium, 15 Awesome Types of Cichlids for Your Tank (Cichlid Species Guide)

Adelphi University, Different Fish Types

Tropical Fish Magazine, Neolamprologus brichardi

Tropical Fish Magazine, Mikrogeophagus altispinosus: A colorful butterfly for the Aquarium


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