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About the Cichlid

Class: Actinopterygii   
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Multiple
Species: Multiple – exact amount unknown, at least 1,000+

Cichlid (pronounced “sick-lid”) are a large family of freshwater, bony fish. The exact number of species isn’t certain, but scientists estimate more than 1,000 exist in the Cichlidae family. This family includes angelfish, green terror, yellow lab, firemouth, blood red parrot and tilapia.

About the Cichlid

Cichlids come in multiple patterns and colors. Most species have a single nostril, a rounded tail and a long dorsal fin along the back. Some of the species you may find at Franklin Park Zoo are zebra cichlids, peacock cichlids, slender mbuna, golden mbuna, yellow cichlids, electric blue cichlids, bumblebee cichlids and orange zebra cichlids

The size of this fish varies, with most being between 2 – 12 inches in length. The largest species is the giant cichlid, which can get up to 3 feet in length.

Cichlids can be herbivores (feeding on algae and plants) or carnivores (feeding on other fish and insect larvae), depending on the species. Most mbuna cichlids are herbivores, but may supplement their algae diet with insects and tiny snails. Carnivore or omnivore mbuna cichlids include the species in the genus Labidochromis.

This fish has defined mating and breeding behavior, involving courtship, defending the nest and protecting new young. Many cichlids are moutbrooders, where the female carries the eggs in her mouth until they hatch. Female typically brood for roughly three to four weeks, but this varies among species.

Cichlids can be territorial, especially in tanks. They tend to be more aggressive toward members of different species than their own. Most are specialized feeders, so various species can live together without competing for food.

Role in Habitat:
Cichlids are remarkably specialized and diverse. Each species interacts with its environment in their own way. Mbuna cichlids are rock dwellers and live among the rocks. “Mbuna” means rockfish in the native Tonga language. Other African cichlids like to dig up the bottom of their environment to hide, search for food or to simply play around. They are preyed on by other fish and humans. They are an important source of food for many communities in their range.

Cichlids live in the Americas, from southern Texas to Argentina. They are found throughout Africa and parts of the Middle East. Three lakes in Africa (Victoria, Malawi and Tanganyika) house more than 500 species of this fish. Cichlids are especially abundant in Lake Malawi with latest estimates of over 850 different species. Cichlids can be found on the islands of Madagascar and Sri Lanka, and along the southern coast of India. They are not found in high elevations and generally require a water temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

Median Life Expectancy:
Wild: unknown

Threats in the Wild:
New species of cichlids are discovered every year. While this is exciting, it’s challenging to create conservation plans, as scientists don’t know exact species and numbers. Cichlids are vulnerable to habitat changes, such as pollution. They are also threatened by overfishing and collection for the pet trade. 

Fun Facts :

  • Cichlids are a popular species in aquariums due to their bright coloring and sturdy nature.
  • African cichlids have the ability to change color over their lifetime. Males change their color according to their hierarchy in the group; the more dominant a male is, the more vibrant its coloration. The intensity of their color depends on a variety of factors, such as light source, stress level, diet and mood!