Cichlid | The cichlid is a brightly coloured freshwater fish that can range in size from just a couple of centimetres to over a metre in length. All species of cichlid are very similar in appearance with the exception of their size and colour. There are more than 1,300 known species of cichlid with more being found each year. There is an estimated 3,000 different species in total! Every different species of cichlid is only found in Africa and in very specific places.
The cichlid is native to the Victoria, Malawi, and Edward Lakes of eastern Africa and the Tanganyika lake which is the largest lake in central Africa. The two different types of cichlids are thought to have evolved from different fish. The great diversity of the cichlids in these lakes, is of significant importance to scientists studying evolution within species. Cichlids are often popular fish to keep as they as can be small and colourful but are easier to keep in an artificial aquarium than marine fish. Other cichlids are bred for meat due to their enormous size and are often caught in the wild by local fishermen.
Oddly enough there are actually a few species of cichlid that are found in the waters of the Amazon basin in South America. The freshwater angelfish, the discus fish and the oscar (also known as the marbled cichlid), are thought to have evolved from African cichlids years ago after crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Although there are many different species of cichlid, a great deal of them are considered to be endangered species as they have been over hunted and the waters in which they life have been subjected to vast amounts of pollution, particularly fuels such as diesel.
The diet of the cichlid is largely dependent on it's species. Some species of cichlid feed mainly on algae and small invertebrates, others primarily feed on small animals such as insects and fish and some species of cichlid will eat just about anything that they can find which has proved to be a destructive trait for those cichlids that have been artificially introduced to areas such as Asia and the United States.
Cichlids are prey to numerous predators including humans, other fish and birds. Oddly enough, the biggest predator of the small cichlid species are the larger species of cichlid that exist in the same area. All species of cichlid are known to show strong parental bonds during breed. When the female cichlid has laid the eggs on an underwater log or rock, she fans water over them while the male cichlid defends their territory. Cichlids look after the baby cichlids (known as fry) until they are able to swim freely and are a few weeks old.