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.