Cichlids are distributed in North America, South America, West Indies, Africa, Madagascar, Syria, Israel, Iran, Sri Lanka, and southern India. They are recognized by having interrupted lateral line, a single nostril on each side of the head, a single dorsal fin and anal fin with 3 spines.
They are primarily freshwater fishes with some species that can tolerate brackish water. Many species have been introduced into the wild by accidental release of aquaculture or aquarium fish specimens. Some of the cichlids are predators while some feed on plant and sediment.
There are 221 genera and at least 1,900 species worldwide. All the species in Malaysian water are accidentally or deliberately introduced.