Mike’s Fish Tank – Cichlids

Posted by  //  November 25, 2013  //  Articles, Mike's Fish Tank

Cichlids are members of a group known as the Labroidei. This family is both large and diverse. At least 1,650 species have been scientifically described.  New species are discovered annually, and many species remain undescribed.

The actual number of species is therefore unknown, with estimates varying between 2,000 and 3,000. Cichlids are among the most popular freshwater fish kept in the home aquarium.

Many cichlids, particularly tilapia, are important food fishes, while others are valued game fish. The family also includes many familiar aquarium fish, including the angelfish, oscars, and discus. Cichlids have the largest number of endangered species among vertebrate families.

Cichlids are particularly well known for having evolved rapidly into a large number of closely related diverse species within large lakes, particularly Tanganyika, Victoria, Malawi, and Edward. Many cichlids that have been introduced into waters outside of their natural range have become nuisances, such as tilapia in the southern United States.

Cichlids are efficient and often highly specialized feeders that capture and process a very wide variety of food items. This is assumed to be one reason why they are so diverse. Cichlids vary in body shape, ranging from compressed and disc-shaped to triangular to elongate and cylindrical. Cichlids are the most species-rich family in freshwaters worldwide. They are most diverse in Africa and South America. It is estimated that Africa alone hosts at least 1,600 species. Central America and Mexico have approximately 120 species, as far north as the Rio Grande in southern Texas. Madagascar has its own distinctive species.

Many cichlids are primarily herbivores feeding on algae and plants. Small animals, particularly invertebrates, are only a minor part of their diet. Other cichlids are detritivores and eat all types of organic material. And other cichlids are predatory and eat little or no plant matter. Their main diet being small fish and insects.

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