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There are over 160 genera and more than 900 species of Cichlids, with newly discovered species reported on a regular basis. This group offers a huge diversity of color, behavior, size, and body shape. Cichlids are widespread throughout the world, including Africa, South America, Asia, Central America, and even North America. All these Cichlids come from only one family, Cichlidae, and thus are separated in this book by the geographical area from which they are found. Most Cichlids kept in captivity come from the Great African Rift Lakes, Lake Malawi or Lake Tanganyika; various African rivers, the Amazon Basin in South America, or Central America.

The Cichlid Family includes a huge, diverse group of fish. Thus, it is difficult to make generalizations about this family. However, it is safe to say that many cichlids have a tendency towards aggressive behavior. This conduct can be attributed to cichlids' highly developed brood care. Other cichlids are shoaling fish which are best kept in groups.