Hands-on learning awaits...

Scientific Name: Cichlidae.

Cichlids are a group of tropical freshwater fish that can be extremely vibrant in their coloration. Colors such as black, white, yellow, orange, silver, blue, green, or red are known to exist. There are over one-thousand species in Africa alone and they are most commonly found in deep volcanic lakes. The Great Lakes of the Rift Valley of Africa, (Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi, and Lake Tanganyika), have a much different water chemistry makeup than other freshwater lakes.  Because they are volcanic in nature, these lakes contain high concentrations of minerals and thus have a much higher pH than other lakes.  The ideal pH for these fish is between 8.1-8.5, where as many other tropical freshwater fish thrive with a pH closer to 7.-7.3.

When breeding, the female will lay up to two-hundred or more eggs on an underwater log or rock. She will fan water over them while the male defends their territory. They will look after the fry (baby cichlids) until they are able to swim freely and are a few weeks old. Some species of cichlids are mouth-brooders, which means that the female will gather up the eggs and hold them in her mouth to be fertilized.  She will continue to hold them during incubation and upon hatching, will allow the fry to return to her mouth for protection if necessary.

Cichlids can be carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores. They eat anything from algae to plankton to small fish, even other small cichlids. African cichlids are very popular in the pet trade. They make beautiful display fish, but use caution as they are very dominant and aggressive. Make sure you research the proper way to care for your cichlid before purchasing them.  Consider fish species, tank size, water chemistry and plenty of hiding spots for your cichlids before setting up your home aquarium.