The beautiful cichlid fish is a very active and durable fish that comes in many different body shapes and sizes. There are over 2000 different species of Cichlid making it one of the largest of the vertebrate families. Every year, new species are discovered making it impossible to determine how many species actually are found in the fresh water lakes around the world. They come in many different vivid colors and patterns. These fish are inquisitive and make a wonderful aquarium fish because they will greet their keepers and beg for food. The most amiable of the cichlid family are found in South America, but because they are found all around the world, they are sought after by many aquarium owners. The most popular are the angelfish, dwarf cichlids and the severum. It is advised to know which cichlids can live together because some can be very aggressive and need to be kept separately. Some of the most spectacular because of their splendid colors are the African cichlids found in the Rift Lakes. These are great for large show tanks because of their impressive size these do not do well in small home aquariums such as the intriguing Oscar some of these fish can get as big as three feet long, and are amazing to watch.
All cichlids have one common trait, their lower pharyngeal bones fuse together making up a single tooth-bearing configuration in their throat. They have an intricate set of muscles that allows their upper and lower pharyngeal bones be used for food processing and are highly-specialized hunters of their prey. They use their jaws to hold the prey while using their teeth to crush them. It depends upon the species what they eat, some eat mostly plants and other vegetation while others are carnivorous and will eat fish, snails, insect larvae, invertebrates or small animals.
The only cichlids that live on any oceanic islands have been found in Cuba and Hispaniola. Cichlids do not like brackish water preferring the shallow freshwater lakes instead. . One of the most common cichlids is tilapia a very popular white fish served in many restaurants. Other game fish for the Cichlid family are the peacock bass of South America; the Oscar, Jaguar guapote and Mayan Cichlid is also sought after by anglers who are avid sport fishermen.
Many cichlids of the haplochromine group are on the endangered species list among vertebrate families. These fish are wonderful for aquariums and fishermen alike and are growing in popularity in both avenues.