Cichlids /ˈsɪklɨd/ are fish from the family Cichlidae in the order Perciformes. Cichlids are members of a group known as the Labroidei, along with the wrasses (Labridae), damselfishes (Pomacentridae), and surfperches (Embiotocidae). This family is both large and diverse. At least 1,650 species have been scientifically described, making it one of the largest vertebrate families. New species are discovered annually, and many species remain undescribed. The actual number of species is therefore unknown, with estimates varying between 2,000 and 3,000. Cichlids are among the most popular freshwater fish kept in the home aquarium.
Cichlids span a wide range of body sizes, from species as small as 2.5 centimeters (0.98 in) in length (e.g., female Neolamprologus multifasciatus) to much larger species approaching 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length (e.g. Boulengerochromis and Cichla). As a group, cichlids exhibit a similar diversity of body shapes, ranging from strongly laterally compressed species (such as Altolamprologus, Pterophyllum, and Symphysodon) to species that are cylindrical and highly elongate (such as Julidochromis, Teleogramma, Teleocichla, Crenicichla, and Gobiocichla). Generally, however, cichlids tend to be of medium size, ovate in shape and slightly laterally compressed, and generally similar to the North American sunfishes in morphology, behavior, and ecology.
Many cichlids, particularly tilapia, are important food fishes, while others are valued game fish (e.g. Cichla species). The family also includes many familiar aquarium fish, including the angelfish, oscars, and discus. Cichlids have the largest number of endangered species among vertebrate families, most in the haplochromine group. Cichlids are particularly well known for having evolved rapidly into a large number of closely related but morphologically diverse species within large lakes, particularly Tanganyika, Victoria, Malawi, and Edward. Their diversity in the African Great Lakes is important for the study of speciation in evolution. Many cichlids that have been introduced into waters outside of their natural range have become nuisances, such as tilapia in the southern United States.