General Information on Cichlids
family and to the order
. To date,approximately 1300 species have been described. However, because of both peculiaranatomical and behavioral traits, new species are identified every year, which has suggestedthat over 3000 distinct cichlid species exist.
The cichilds exhibit a wide range of body size and color, with cichlid species as small as 1inch in length to species over 3ft long!The most diverse body shapes can also be found in cichlids. Highly compressed tocylindrical, disc-shaped and triangular shapes are some of the most common. Generallyspeaking however, cichlids come in a medium sized, oval shaped, slightly compressed body.
Anatomy and appearance of cichlids
Typically, all cichlid species have their pharyngeal bones fused into a single structurebearing a single tooth. Strong muscles control the lower and upper pharyngeal bones, whichcan be used as an auxiliary set of jaws to process food.Other characteristic features of cichlids include:
One nostril opening on each side of the forehead
No bony plate at the bottom of the eye
Lateral line organ divided into two sections: one on the upper portion of the flank andthe other running along the midline of the flank, from about halfway along the body tothe base of the tail.
A uniquely shaped otolith
Differently to the other members of
, in cichlid fish, the small in
from the stomach is located on the left side instead of the right side.
Habitat of Cichlids
Cichlids are freshwater fish living in lakes and ponds, although many species toleratebrackish water for extended periods. The most famous species live in Africa (e.g., Malawicichlid and Tanganyika cichlid), Central America and South America.Although, most cichlids live in shallow depths, cichlid species such as
have been found at 500 ft below the surface inLake Malawi, and the
is thought to live at even 520 ft below the watersurface in the Congo.