Sunday,21 January 2018, 6 : 38 AM    
Library > Cichlids > General Articles > Taxonomy of Cichlids
Taxonomy of Cichlids
Scientific classification
Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Actinopterygii
Order : Perciformes
Suborder : Labroidei
Family : Cichlidae







Cichlids are large family of fish called Cichlidae in the order Perciformes.
Cichlids are members of a group known as the Labroidei along with the wrasses Labridae, damselfish ,Pomacentridae, and surfperches Embiotocidae.
This family is both large and diverse. At least 1,300 species have been scientifically described, making it one of the largest vertebrate families.
New species are discovered annually, and many species remain un described.
The actual number of species is therefore unknown, with estimates varying between 1,300 and 3,000.

Kullander (1998) recognizes eight subfamilies of cichlids:

Cichlid taxonomy is still debated, and classification of genera cannot yet be definitively given.
A comprehensive system of assigning species to monophyletic genera is still lacking, and there is not complete agreement on what genera should be recognized in this family.

As an example of the classification problems, Kullander placed the African genus Heterochromis phylogenetically within neo tropical cichlids, although later papers concluded otherwise.
Other problems center upon the identity of the common ancestor for the Lake Victoria super flock, and the ancestral lineages of Tanganyikan cichlids.

Comparisons between a morphologically-based phylogeny and analyses of gene loci produce differences at the genus level. There remains a consensus that the Cichlidae as a family is monophyletic.

One problem that transformed cichlid taxonomy is related to dentition, which had been used as a classifying characteristic. In many cichlids, tooth shape changes with age, due to wear, and cannot be relied upon. Genome sequencing and other technologies transformed cichlid taxonomy.



Astronotinae is a subfamily of cichlids from South America, where they are found in the Amazon, Orinoco, Paraná and Paraguay river basins, and various rivers in the Guiana's.
The subfamily includes three genera, each with two species.



Cichlasomatinae is a subfamily of cichlid fishes.
It includes all cichlids native to islands in the

  • Caribbean (Cuba and Hispaniola),
  • USA (southern Texas),
  • Mexico and Central America, and many of the cichlids from South America (the other South American subfamilies are Astronotinae, Cichlinae, Geophaginae and Retroculinae).

The subfamily Cichlasomatinae is often divided into two tribes:

  • Cichlasomatin
  • Heroini.


Heroini:Heroini is a fish tribe from the Cichlasomatinae subfamily in the cichlid family.
It includes more than 150 species.
All cichlids from islands in the Caribbean, USA (southern Texas), Mexico and Central America are members of this tribe, but it also includes species from South America where other tribes exist.
A large percentage of its species were formerly placed in the genus Cichlasoma (itself now placed in the tribe Cichlasomatini), but have since been moved to other genera.


Cichlinae is a subfamily of South American fishes in the cichlid family.
They are predatory and relatively elongated in shape. Of the three genera in the subfamily, some species of Cichla reach almost 1 met re (3.3 ft) in length, making them by far the largest cichlids of the Americas, and among the largest cichlids anywhere.
In contrast, Teleocichla are among the smallest cichlids of the Americas, and most species only reach around 6 centimeters (2.4 in) in length.



Etroplinae is a subfamily in the cichlid family of fishes. The subfamily includes two genera:

  • Etroplus, which are the only cichlids native to India and Sri Lanka, and
  • Paretroplus from Madagascar (other genera native to this island are in the subfamilies Paratilapiinae and Ptychochrominae).

Geophaginae is a subfamily of cichlid fishes from South America, where they are found as far west as the Andes and as far south as northern Argentina.

A single species, Geophagus crassilabris is from southernmost Central America.
Very roughly, the subfamily can be divided into two subgroups based on appearance and to some extent behavior (from a phylogenetic point of view this grouping is not correct, however)

Dwarf cichlids: which do not surpass 10 centimetres (3.9 in) in length, they are represented by following genera:

  • Apistogramma
  • Biotoecus
  • Crenicara
  • Dicrossus
  • Mazarunia
  • Microgeophagus
  • Taeniacara.

Earth eaters: A range of medium-small to fairly large cichlids, where many species have a habit of picking up large mouthfuls or earth or sand, they are represented by following genera

  • Acarichthys,
  • Biotodoma,
  • Geophagus,
  • Gymnogeophagus,
  • Satanoperca (the superficially similar Retroculus are sometimes also called earth eaters, but are members of another subfamily).

Heterochromis multidens is a species of cichlid endemic to the Congo River Basin in Central Africa.
It can reach a length of 29.5 centimetres (11.6 in)TL.
This species is likely more closely related to cichlids from the Americas rather than other African cichlids.
It is currently the only known member of its genus and tribe.


The Pseudocrenilabrinae is a subfamily in the cichlid family of fishes to which, according to a study from 2004, includes all the Middle Eastern and African cichlids with the exception of the unusual Heterochromis multidens and the Malagasy species.

Some authors recognized additional African subfamilies, e.g. the Tilapiinae of Hoedeman (1947), Tylochrominae of Poll (1986), Heterochrominae of Kullander (1998) or Boulengerochrominae of Tawil (2001)
Cichlids of the greater East African lakes like the Mbuna in the Lake Malawi, and various species from Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika belong to this subfamily.
The Pseudocrenilabrinae tribes Haplochromini and Tilapiini are widespread in Africa; the others are more localized, particularly in the East African Rift lakes.


Ptychochrominae is a subfamily in the cichlid family of fish.
They are restricted to lakes and rivers in Madagascar, and the majority are threatened.
Most cichlid genera native to Madagascar are included in this subfamily; the only exceptions

  • Paretroplus (subfamily Etroplinae)
  • Paratilapia (sometimes included in  Ptychochrominae, but likely belongs in its own subfamily).

Retroculus is a genus of cichlid native to tropical South America where two are native to rivers in southeastern Amazon Basin in Brazil, while the final is native to rivers in Amapá (Brazil) and French Guiana.
They are superficially similar to Geophagus. It is the sole genus included in the subfamily Retroculinae




  Sandeep Raghuvanshi
Picture Credits   Alf Stalsberg
CITATIONS/FURTHER READING   Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2011.FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., ( 10/2013 )