The Apistogramma cacatuoides or Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is th emost popular Apistogramma


Cichlids are a large group of tropical fish that are very popular with home aquarium owners. There are well over 1,000 different species of cichilds and more new species are being discovered every day. All are freshwater fish and possess certain common characteristics. The most noticeable characteristics are a single long dorsal fin with spines and soft sections, an anal fin with multiple spines and single nostril openings.

The family of cichlidae includes very large fish that can measure over 2 ½ feet and very small fish which may measure less than 2 inches. But even with their varying sizes, most cichlids are well suited for home aquariums. Those who are interested in keeping these fish just need to be aware of tank requirements and compatibility with other species. Some cichlids like African Mbuna from Lake Malawi, are very territorial and aggressive and should only be kept with certain other African cichlid species. Then there are others like dwarf cichlids which can do well in a community tank.

African Cichlids

A brighly colored male Red Empress cichlid, Protomelas taeniolatus

Africa is the home to some of the most colorful freshwater fish in the world. Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria are the natural habitats to hundreds of different species of cichlids which are now being sold in the hobby. The stunning colors of fish like the Red Empress cichlid, are the reason African cichlids continue to attract freshwater aquarium owners.

South American Cichlids

The very popular Tiger Oscar cichlid, Astronotus ocellatus

Also known as New World cichlids, these fish are commonly found in the freshwater lakes and streams of Central and South America. This group includes cichlids which can grow to be over 2 feet and will require a much larger aquarium. South American cichlids include some of the most popular species like the Oscar, Jack Dempsey and Firemouth Cichlid.

Dwarf Cichlids

A male German Blue Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

These are a group of smaller and much less aggressive cichlids that often mix well in community tanks. The smallest of this fish will not even get to 2 inches in length and because of their small size they should not be kept with larger, more aggressive fish. Some popular dwarf cichlids are the German Blue Ram, Bolivian Ram and Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid.

Angelfish and Discus

Altum Angelfish in a home aquarium

Though they have a unique "flat" body, Angelfish and Discus have the same characteristics that are common to cichlids and are part of the family of cichlidae. These tropical fish are very popular with aquarium owners and are not as aggressive as many of the other cichlids. Angelfish and Discus can be kept with other mild mannered cichlids and community fish.