Cichlids in the Wild

There are 2 types of cichlids. One species originates from Central and South America. The other species is from Africa. They are separate types of fish and cannot be kept together. Their requirements are similar. African cichlids are the most commonly kept species and the most widely available in pet stores. They also tend to be more colorful which attests to their popularity. Most species regardless of where they originate in the wild are easily bread in captivity which lowers the price for the consumer in the end. Certain fancy cichlids can have a large price tag but the majority of species are very reasonable for the aquarium hobbyist to own.

African Cichlids originate from the lakes in the Great Rift Valley, which is an ancient valley created by the separation of tectonic plates. This area is located along the middle-right side of Africa. It’s an isolated region, not exposed to the ocean or other areas so these species of cichlids are only found in this region. The main lakes where they originate from Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. Both lakes are so large and deep that they are practically considered inland seas. The are both similar in shape, very long and narrow. Since the lakes were created millions of years ago, time has allowed the evolution of many different cichlid species which is why there are way more Africans the South Americans.

Each lake has their own species of cichlids and you can safely mix and match these in your aquarium. They thrive in various areas, from the rocky shores to the depths among the plants. You will notice this when you stock your aquarium that some fish will hang out near the plants while others will spend most of their time sitting beside a rock. This is another reason it’s very important to have a large range of aquarium decorations in your cichlid tank. You will need rocks, plants, ledges open spaces resembling a sandy bottom and hiding spots usually in the form of a hole in a decoration.

Lake Malawi Facts:

Length: 370 miles

Maximum width: 30 miles

Average depth: 290 meters

Maximum depth: 700 meters

Surface area: 11,400 sq. mi

Countries it borders:
Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.

It is located south of
Lake Tanganyika. The north shore is shallow, the southern section is very deep. There are sections which are very rocky, some species live only within the rocks. The bottom is wide open and sandy and there are sections with tall grass which certain species live within.

Lake Tanganyika Facts:

Length: 400 miles

Maximum width: 45 miles

Average depth: 570 meters

Maximum depth: 1,470 meters

Surface area: 12,700 sq. mi

Countries it borders: Burundi, Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia

It is located north of Lake Malawi. It is the second largest lake in the world and is much deeper then it’s northern neighbor and is also less rocky and more sandy.

South American Cichlids originate from the Amazon basin and Central American cichlids originate from the rainforest and rivers of Central America. These 2 types can be mixed together in an aquarium. Most of these species live in plants, along the sandy shore and in the muddy waters. They are not as common as African Cichlids.

South American cichlids tend to be much larger in size and not as colorful as their African counterparts. Just like with Africans, you’ll need a range of hiding places and plants for these fish to swim about. The South Americans require less rocks then the African cichlids but this is to your advantage because some get so large that you won’t have room for rocks in your aquarium anyway! Popular types of South Americans that most people don’t really consider to be cichlids are the Oscar fish and the piranha.