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Southern Company River Scout




Cichlids (pronounced: “sick-lids”) comprise one of the largest families of freshwater fishes in the world, with more than 1,350 species already identified. They occur in a wide range of warm water habitats in Africa, Central and South America, as well as parts of the Mid-east and the Indian Subcontinent. However, most cichlid species are found in three East African lakes: Lake Malawi, Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Lake Malawi alone contains more than 500 species.


Cichlids exhibit a very wide range of body shapes and sizes and are known for their profusion of bright colors and color patterns. They are also noted for their variety of feeding adaptations and complex courtship rituals. Females of many cichlid species carry the fertilized eggs and fry in their mouths for up to three months. Well known cichlids include food and sport fish, such as tilapia, and popular aquarium species, such as angelfish, oscars and discus.


Come see hundreds of these colorful fish in their new expanded habitat in the River Scout gallery.

Fun Facts

  • Some species of cichlids mimic the coloration of their prey so they can infiltrate their schools and nip off the prey’s fins and scales, which is the principal food of these cichlids.
  • Another species has the coloration of a dead fish and lies on the bottom to attract scavenger fish, which it then grabs and eats.
  • Males of some cichlid species build elaborate “sand castles” from bottom sediments to attract females during breeding season.
  • The introduction of the non-native Nile perch into some African lakes has resulted in the elimination of some cichlids.
  • Since the 19th century, cichlids have been the subject of intensive studies on how new species evolve.
  • Download full fact sheet

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