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Types of Cichlids

African Cichlids - South American Cichlids - Dwarf Cichlids

The Electric Blue Jack Dempsey is a favorite South American Cichlid'Electric Blue' Jack DempseyPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

   Cichlids are one of the largest families of fishes with more than 2000 types of cichlids, and new species are being discovered every year!

   Cichlids are attractive, active, are generally quite durable fish. The Cichlid family offers the widest variety of body shapes, a vast range of sizes, and some very beautiful coloration and patterning. These characteristics are further complimented by their remarkable behavior, highly complex yet ritualistic. They are very active, intriguing, and many cichlids can be very personable, readily greeting their keepers and begging for food. All these traits make cichlids a favorite aquarium fish.

   Our list of cichlid types covers a wide array of species from all around the world. The cichlid family is so vast that there are many types of cichlids that make good aquarium inhabitants. Some South American Cichlid species are of a more amiable nature, such as the severum, angelfish, and dwarf cichlids. These can be kept in a group environment. But many others are quite aggressive and are best kept singly. The African cichlids from the Rift Lakes are highly prized for their color. Others for unique characteristics as seen in the popular Tropheus genus, featherfins, goby cichlids, and shelldwellers to name a few.

   Some cichld species, both African Cichlids and South American Cichlids, reach an impressive size and are great specimens for a large show tank. However some are not really suitable for the home aquarium due to size. But most seen in the hobby have a mix of fascinating of characteristics and are a delight to keep.

Information on freshwater aquariums for cichlids:
Freshwater Aquarium Basics - Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium and Fish Care

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African Cichlids - Malawi Cichlids
Click for more info on Auratus
Melanochromis auratus
Click for more info on Blue moorii
Cyrtocara moorii
Click for more info on Dogtooth Cichlid
Cynotilapia afra
Click for more info on Electric Blue Hap
Sciaenochromis fryeri
Click for more info on Electric Blue Johannii
Melanochromis johannii
Click for more info on Electric Yellow Cichlid
Labidochromis caeruleus
Click for more info on Livingstoni Cichlid
Nimbochromis livingstonii
Click for more info on Maingano
Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos
Click for more info on Malawi Eyebiter
Dimidiochromis compressiceps
Click for more info on Red Empress
Protomelas taeniolatus
Click for more info on Red Fin Kadango
Copadichromis borleyi
Click for more info on Trewavas Red-Finned Cichlid
Labeotropheus trewavasae
Click for more info on Venustus
Nimbochromis venustus

African Cichlids - Malawi Peacock Cichlids
Click for more info on African Butterfly Peacock
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
Click for more info on Aulonocara Blue Gold
Aulonocara korneliae
Click for more info on Aulonocara Fort Maguire
Aulonocara hansbaenschi
Click for more info on Flavescent Peacock
Aulonocara stuartgranti
Click for more info on Maulana Bicolor Peacock
Aulonocara stuartgranti
Click for more info on Nkhomo Benga Peacock
Aulonocara baenschi
Click for more info on Rubin Red Peacock
Aulonocara stuartgranti
Click for more info on Sunshine Peacock
Aulonocara stuartgranti

African Cichlids - Malawi Zebra Cichlids - Mbuna Cichlids
Click for more info on Blue Daktari
Maylandia sp. daktari
Click for more info on Bumblebee Mouthbrooder
Pseudotropheus crabro
Click for more info on Demanson's Cichlid
Pseudotropheus demasoni
Click for more info on Kenyi Cichlid
Maylandia lombardoi
Click for more info on Pseudotropheus Barlowi
Maylandia barlowi
Click for more info on Pseudotropheus Ice Blue
Maylandia greshakei
Click for more info on Red Zebra
Maylandia estherae
Click for more info on Tropheops Red Cheek
Pseudotropheus tropheops tropheops

African Cichlids - Tanganyika Cichlids
Click for more info on Blue Neon Cichlid
Paracyprichromis nigripinnis
Click for more info on Brevis Shelldweller
Neolamprologus brevis
Click for more info on Callochromis macrops
Callochromis macrops
Click for more info on Compressed Cichlid
Altolamprologus compressiceps
Click for more info on Convict Julie
Julidochromis regani
Click for more info on Cylinder Cichlid
Neolamprologus cylindricus
Click for more info on Daffodil Cichlid
Neolamprologus pulcher
Click for more info on Dickfeld's Julie
Julidochromis dickfeldi
Click for more info on Fairy Cichlid
Neolamprologus brichardi
Click for more info on Five-Bar Cichlid
Neolamprologus tretocephalus
Click for more info on Frontosa
Cyphotilapia frontosa
Click for more info on Gold Nasuta
Ophthalmotilapia nasuta
Click for more info on Lemon Cichlid
Neolamprologus leleupi
Click for more info on Marlier's Julie
Julidochromis marlieri
Click for more info on Masked Julie
Julidochromis transcriptus
Click for more info on Sardine Cichlid
Cyprichromis leptosoma
Click for more info on Sexfasciatus
Neolamprologus sexfasciatus
Click for more info on Tanganyikan Butterfly
Xenotilapia papilio
Click for more info on White Pearly Calvus
Altolamprologus calvus
Click for more info on White-Tailed Brichardi
Neolamprologus gracilis

African Cichlids - Tanganyika Goby Cichlids
Click for more info on Blue Goby Cichlid
Spathodus erythrodon
Click for more info on Plain Goby Cichlid
Spathodus marlieri
Click for more info on Spotfin Goby Cichlid
Tanganicodus irsacae
Click for more info on Tanganyikan Goby Cichlid
Eretmodus cyanostictus

African Cichlids - Tanganyika Tropheus Cichlids
Click for more info on Blue-Eyed Tropheus
Tropheus brichardi
Click for more info on Blunthead Cichlid
Tropheus moorii
Click for more info on Poll's Tropheus
Tropheus polli
Click for more info on Tropheus Cichlids
Tropheus sp.
Click for more info on White Spotted Cichlid
Tropheus duboisi

African Cichlids - Victoria Cichlids - West African Cichlids
Click for more info on False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid
Steatocranus glaber
Click for more info on Kribensis Cichlid
Pelvicachromis pulcher
Click for more info on Lionhead Cichlid
Steatocranus casuarius
Click for more info on Nanochromis transvestitus
Nanochromis transvestitus

Dwarf Cichlids - South American Cichlids - West African Cichlids
Click for more info on Agassizi Cichlid
Apistogramma agassizii
Click for more info on Black-Stripe Dwarf Cichlid
Taeniacara candidi
Click for more info on Bolivian Ram
Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
Click for more info on Cockatoo Cichlid
Apistogramma cacatuoides
Click for more info on Panda Dwarf Cichlid
Apistogramma nijsseni
Click for more info on Rainbow Cichlid
Herotilapia multispinosa
Click for more info on Ram Cichlid
Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

South American Cichlids - Angelfish-Discus-Hybrids
Click for more info on Altum Angelfish
Pterophyllum altum
Click for more info on Angelfish - Common
Pterophyllum scalare
Click for more info on Discus Fish
Symphysodon aequifasciata
Click for more info on Heckel Discus
Symphysodon discus

South American Cichlids - Large Cichlids
Click for more info on Black Belt Cichlid
Vieja maculicauda
Click for more info on Blue Acara
Aequidens pulcher
Click for more info on Convict Cichlid
Archocentrus nigrofasciatus
Click for more info on Electric Blue Jack Dempsey
Cichlasoma octofasciatum
Click for more info on Firemouth Cichlid
Thorichthys meeki
Click for more info on Flag Cichlid
Mesonauta festivus
Click for more info on Golden Severum
Heros severus
Click for more info on Green Terror
Aequidens rivulatus
Click for more info on Jack Dempsey Fish
Cichlasoma octofasciatum
Click for more info on Jaguar Cichlid
Parachromis managuensis
Click for more info on Midas Cichlid
Amphilophus citrinellus
Click for more info on Nicaragua Cichlid
Hypsophrys nicaraguensis
Click for more info on Oscar
Astronotus ocellatus
Click for more info on Peacock Cichlid
Cichla ocellaris
Click for more info on Pearl Cichlid
Geophagus brasiliensis
Click for more info on Pike Cichlid
Crenicichla lepidota
Click for more info on Port Acara
Cichlasoma portalegrense
Click for more info on Red Devil Cichlid
Amphilophus labiatus
Click for more info on Redhump Eartheater
Geophagus steindachneri
Click for more info on Salvini Cichlid
Cichlasoma salvini
Click for more info on Texas Cichlid
Herichthys cyanoguttatus
Click for more info on Uaru Cichlid
Uaru amphiacanthoides
Click for more info on Wolf Cichlid
Parachromis dovii

Description of Cichlids       Cichlids are categorized as "secondary freshwater fish" - meaning their ancestors were marine fish. It is believed that cichlids moved to freshwaters from the marine environment, and they have features relating to a number of marine species including the wrasses, parrotfish, damsels, and surfperches.  

  Cichlids are found in Africa, Central and South America, and a few species from parts of Asia. Central and South America comprises a huge geographic area with greatly diverse habitats ranging from savannas to rain forests. Other types of cichlids are from the great rift lakes of Africa, as well as other lakes, rivers and streams. Consequently cichlids are found in a wide variety of conditions.

   The actual number of cichlid species is unknown but are generally estimated somewhere between 2000 to 5000, with at least 1300 species scientifically described. African Cichlids are conservatively estimated at about 1300 species, while South American Cichlids and Central American Cichlids are estimated at about 570 species.

   The cichlid family is so vast that there many good aquarium inhabitants, but there are also many species that are not really suitable for the home aquarium due to size. For example, the Boulengerochromis microlepis from Africa, which reaches up to 36" (90 cm) is really too large for most hobbyists. Some large South American cichlids that are occasionally available in the hobby are the Peacock Bass Cichla ocellaris, which grows to a length of 30" (75 cm), and the Wolf Cichlid Parachromis dovii, which can reach a length of 24" (60 cm). Both of these will require at least 250 gallons (946 L) with larger being better.

   These and other large cichlids are popular food fish for the native people where they are found. Many of the smaller sized cichlids species, vast in number, from the great African Lakes are also considered a tasty snack to those native peoples.

African Cichlids    Perhaps the most popular cichlids are the Rift Lake Cichlids, which are some of the most colorful of all freshwater fishes. Besides the many colorful cichlids from the African lakes, there are others highly prized for patterning and other unique characteristics. These includeas seen in the popular Tropheus genus, featherfins, goby cichlids, sarding cichlids, and shelldwellers to name a few.

   Like their South American counterparts, there are also some African Cichlids that reach an impressive size, making great specimens for a large show tank. Yet here too there are a few species are not really suitable for the home aquarium due to size. The Boulengerochromis microlepis, which reaches up to 36" (90 cm), is a good example of too big.

   For more in-depth info see: African Cichlids: Fish Information and Cichlid Care for African Cichlids

   Most African Cichlids available in the hobby have a mix of fascinating characteristics and are a delight to keep.

  • Lake Malawi Cichlids
       The Malawi Cichlids are some of the most brilliantly colored fishes. It is estimated there are over 800 species of Malawi cichlids but with only about 300 currently described by ichthyologists. They fall into two ecological groups, the Mbuna group and the Haplochromis group. Do not mix the two groups in the aquarium, as they are mostly incompatible. Only combining the Utaka from the Haplochromis group with Mbuna is possible if there is plenty of space.

    • Mbuna group
      The Mbuna group is endemic to Lake Malawi. They inhabit the rocky areas of the lake.
      • Zebra Cichlids - Mbuna Cichlids - This group contains 12 genera of rock dwelling Mbuna Cichlids, including the well-known Zebra Cichlids. This is a popular group of very active and aggressive personalities, often colored in blues with black bars, and yellows.
    • Haplochromis group
      The Haplochromis group is another popular African cichlid group that inhabit the more sandy areas and open waters.
      • Peacock Cichlids - Peacock Cichlids are some of the most intensely colored of all the cichlid varieties. These are generally somewhat larger and more peaceful than the Zebra (mbuna) cichlids.
      • Other Malawi Cichlids - These include Utaka Cichlids which tend to live in open waters.

  • Lake Tanganyika Cichlids
       Lake Tanganyika, the second deepest lake in the world, is inhabited with almost 250 different species of cichlids and over 150 species of other fish. It is renown for having two record-breaking inhabitants, the world's largest cichlid at 31" (80 cm) and the world's smallest cichlid at 1.4" (3.5 cm).

    • Lake Tanganyika Cichlids
      Many Tanganyika cichlids are unique in both body shape and in habitat. These include such varieties as the featherfins, gobies, julies, sardines, and shelldwellers.
      • Goby Cichlids - The Goby Cichlids live close to the shore in shallow waters. Like others in this group, these fish are generally more peaceful and a bit larger than the Zebra Cichlids
    • Tropheus Cichlids
      These are popular Tanganyika cichlids that inhabit the more sandy areas and open waters. They are generally somewhat larger and more peaceful than the Zebra (mbuna) cichlids.The popular Tropheus species are endemic to Lake Tanganyika. They are widely distributed along the coastal fringes of the lake and have many geographic variations. Many have not yet been described.

  • Lake Victoria Cichlids - West Africa Dwarf Cichlids, West Africa Cichlids
      There are many wonderful African cichlids that you may run across besides the highly popular species found in Lake Malawi or Lake Tanganyika. African cichlids also include a number of fish from West Africa, outlying islands including Madagascar, and cichlids from Lake Victoria.

    • Lake Victoria Cichlids
      There are several hundred vibrantly beautiful species of cichlids found in Lake Victoria alone. Other types of East African Cichlids include Victoria Cichlids found in lakes surrounding Lake Victoria. Others are native to African rivers and streams, and live in a wide variety of habitats
    • Dwarf Cichlids - West African Cichlids
      Many West African cichlids are native to African rivers and streams, living a wide variety of habitats. These include the interesting and beautiful African Dwarf Cichlids such as the popular Kribensis.

South American Cichlids   The South American Cichlids are also known as New World cichlids, and include Central American Cichlids and American Dwarf Cichlids. They are found primarily in Central and South America, with the Texas Cichlid found in the southern part of North America. This is a vast geographic area with greatly diverse habitats ranging from savannas to rain forests, consequently cichlids are found in a wide variety of conditions. The Amazon River contains a huge number of fish, one fifth of all freshwater fish species. Its waters are acidic and extremely soft, and much of it has detritus covered sandy type substrate.

   For more in-depth info see: South American Cichlids: Fish Information and Cichlid Care for New World Cichlids

   South American Cichlids and Central American Cichlids are attractive, personable, and are generally quite durable fish. They come in a range of sizes and with some very beautiful colorations, making them favorite aquarium fish for many hobbyists. Many also reach an impressive size and are great for a large show tank.

   There are distinctive types of South American cichlids, including:

  • Large Cichlids - Large South American Cichlids
       The large American cichlids, with their personalities, temperaments, and size, are great specimens for an awesome show tank. Because these fish get large, a 75 gallon aquarium is the standard suggested size for these fish.

  • Dwarf Cichlids - South American Dwarf Cichlids
       The American Dwarf Cichlids are also called the New World Dwarf Cichlids. These fish consist of small cichlids that only reach up to about 4 inches (10 cm) or so. They have attractive color patterns, and many species can be obtained in a variety of color morphs. Many will be content in an aquarium as small as 20 gallons. Dwarf Cichlids tend to be shy and somewhat delicate, so they are recommended for a bit more seasoned aquarist rather than a beginning cichlid keeper.

  • Unique Cichlid Types - Unique South American Cichlids
      The Angelfish and Discus have some of the most unique body shapes, and some of the most beautiful and varied color patterns. These cichlids end to be more amiable than others cichlids and each variety will make a great show specimen. Some of the most unique in appearance are hybrids such as the Blood Parrot and the Flower Horn Cichlid. .