Cichlids are widespread throughout the world, occurring in Africa, South and Central America, Asia and even North America and Iran. There are over 160 genera and more than 2000 species of Cichlids, with newly discovered species reported on a regular basis, as scientists penetrate deeper and more often into previously unexplored Cichlid waters. Amazingly, all these Cichlids come from only one family, the Cichlidae, in the order Perciformes, and are members of a group known as the Labroidei, along with wrasses, damselfish and surf perches.
However, most Cichlids kept in aquaria come from the Great African Rift Lakes, Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, as well as from various African rivers, the Amazon Basin in South America, or Central America. They are so popular, because they offer a huge diversity in colour, behaviour and size, as well as body shape — easily rivalling the beauty of more difficult to keep salt water fish.
In these pages I will, however, mainly focus on the African Rift Lake species, and in particular on the Lake Malawi Cichlids, because these are fish I breed and can offer on a regular basis.
Because Cichlids are so extraordinarily diverse, it is almost impossible to make any general statements about them. However, as all Cichlid-keeping aquarists know, they do share one common trait: a tendency towards aggressive behaviour.
Cichlid aggression is a conduct that can be attributed to many factors, like competition for food, habitat and territoriality, as well as breeding and brood care. But in my opinion, this is much too simplistic, because we are judging Cichlids by what happens in our aquaria — which in many cases, if not the majority, are far from ideal.
Admittedly, aggression certainly must exist as an inherent trait of the species, or it would not be so typical. However, it is unlikely that aggression occurs to the same extent in their natural habitat, alone because of the many escape options offered them by Nature.
This is all the more reason for paying close attention to their particular needs and creating the best possible environment we can when we commit to keeping Cichlids captive in our aquaria. To that end, I will try to give you as much information as I can, to help you make the correct decisions. You will find the necessary information under the cichlid drop-down menu above.