South American cichlids are attractive, active, are generally quite durable fish. They are found in a range of sizes and with some very beautiful coloration.
Their behaviors are very intriguing, and many interact with their keepers and their environment making them favorite aquarium fish for many hobbyists.
Cichlids are found around the globe, in the Americas, Africa and parts of Asia. The “type specimen” for the cichlid family is the South American cichlid Cichla ocellaris, commonly known as the Peacock Bass or Peacock Cichlid. Thus the American cichlids are sometimes referred to as the “true cichlids” though all species are actually true cichlids.
The South American Cichlids or New World Cichlids are those found primarily in Central and South America, with a number of species native to Mexico, and the Texas Cichlid found in the southern part of North America. The actual number of cichlid species is unknown but estimated at more than 2000, with at least 1300 species scientifically described. South American Cichlids and Central American Cichlids are estimated at about 570 species.
They are categorized as "secondary freshwater fish" - meaning their ancestors were marine fish. It is believed that cichlids moved to freshwaters from the marine environment, and they have features relating to a number of marine species including the damsels, wrasses, parrot fish, and surfperches. This helps to explain why many species can do well in salty water, and in fact some species extend their range into parts of the ocean.