cichlid (sĭkˈlĭd) [key], common name for members of the family Cichlidae, several hundred species of spiny-finned freshwater fishes of moderate or small size, native to Africa, S Asia, Mexico, and Central and South America. Cichlids are found in tropical waters, where they occupy the same ecological niche as their colder-water relatives, the sunfishes. The larger species are food fish of some importance, and small species are popular as aquarium fish. Cichlids are noted for the care they give their young; the eggs are laid in a basin hollowed in the sand and, until they hatch, are stored in the mouth of either the male or the female, depending on the species. Cichlids are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Osteichthyes, order Perciformes, family Cichlidae.
See study by G. W. Barlow (2000).