Cichlids are a diverse group of fish often referred to as South or Central American Cichlids.American Cichlids are a hardy, easy to care for fish species that add brilliant color to the freshwater aquarium. Cichlids have become popular as aquarium species since it is such a large and diverse family. Virtually every aquarist can find a cichlid suitable for his or her experience level, aquarium size and preferences. Even a small 10 gallon aquarium can house some of the smaller cichlids with a minimum of equipment. Cichlids are not only beautiful to look at, they will also show a long range of fascination behaviours if they are kept in suitable aquarium where they can display their natural habits. Many cichlid keepers insist that their cichlids all develop different personalities and characteristics, just like a dog or a cat would. Another reason behind the cichlid's popularity is the fact that many species can be successfully bred in aquariums. Cichlids are caring parents and will care four there young. Depending on species, the male, the female or both parents will care for egg and/or fry- sometimes even by letting the offspring grow up inside the mouth of a parent!
The smallest cichlids, such as Apistrogramma cichlids, grow no larger than 3 centimetres, while the largest cichlids, e.g. Boulengerochromis cichlids, can exceed one metre. The body shapes of the cichlid species include everything from very compressed bodies to extremely elongated ones. Some shared characteristics are the distinctive shape of one of the otoliths (a calcium carbonate structure located in the inner ear of the fish) and fact teeth are found in both the upper and the lower jaw, as well as in the throat. Unlike all other known fish, except the damselfish, the cichlids have just one single nostril. Cichlids also differ from other fish by their small intestine that exits the stomach from the left side instead of the right side.
Aquarists commonly divide the popular aquarium species into three main groups: American cichlids, African cichlids and Asian cichlids. The first group is often divided into four sub-categories: Large cichlids (e.g. Eartheaters and Heroines), Convict cichlids, Dwarf cichlids and Other cichlids. The group "other cichlids" contains two very popular cichlids-Angelfish and Discus. The African cichlid group is made up by Rift Valley cichlids, Tilapias and Other African cichlids. The Rift Valley cichlids are separated into four groups depending on their native home: Lake Malawi cichlids, Lake Tanganyika cichlids, Lake Victoria cichlids, and cichlids from Lake Rudolph and other rift valley cichlids.