Cichlids (SICK-lids, not chich-lets) are a type of fish that is found in the Americas and Africa. Cichlids are characterized by being at least somewhat territorial, and also by being more intelligent than your average fish - even though some of them are purely herbivorous. South American Cichlids come in a range of colors, sizes, and shapes, from the tiny dwarf ram to the farmiliar oscar. Some, like the dwarf ram and other dwarf cichlids, can be kept together in numbers without fear of them harming their fellows. Most others are territorial enough that having more than one in a tank is a bad idea, unless you are lucky enough to end up with a breeding pair. The only large SA cichlid I can think of that is not territorial is the discus, which is notoriously hard to keep (they tend to up-and-die on you for no apparent reason). African Cichlids have the same general slender body shape, but range in size from 4" to over 12", and are some of the most colorful freshwater fishes available. They inhabit the rift lakes in africa, which have a pH of ~8.0.

As a follow-up to Tsarren's writeup, there are actually a few species of cichlid found in Asia. Recent phylogenetic analysis of mRNA has shown that these (along with species from Madagascar) are the most basal lineages of cichlids (family Cichlidae) and that development of the entire family is congruent with the fragmentation of Gondwana.

Three cichlid species from the genus Etroplus inhabit India and Sri Lanka. They are similar to members of the genus Paretroplus of Madagascar. Etroplus maculatus, commonly called the Orange Chromide, is a small (5-10cm.) fish, relatively common to the tropical fish hobby. Etroplus suratensis, commonly called the Green Chromide, grows much larger (15-22cm.) and is occassionally available. The third species, Etroplus canarensis, is rarely available.

A few other cichlid species, e.g., Saratherodon galilaeus, are found in the Middle East but are closely related to African cichlids.

Also, adding to the cichlids and the sorts of things they do... Very scary fish who crush and eat snails,insects, algae and zooplankton. They also scrape the scales off tails of other fish, they eat other fishes' eggs, and worst of all literally engulf the snouts of the mouth-brooding female fish and suck the developing eggs and fry out of her mouth, like a vacuum cleaner!

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