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Do Cichlids Have Teeth? Vet-Reviewed Anatomy & Info!

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By Lindsey Stanton

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Dr. Luqman Javed

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Cichlids come in many shapes, types, and sizes. Yes, these are both beautiful and popular fish, but they do have a bit of a nasty rep. People often wonder whether or not Cichlids have teeth. Well, how else would they eat? Yes, Cichlids have teeth. The type of teeth Cichlids have will depend on the specific species in question. If you are worried about being bitten, there is really no big cause for concern!

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Do All Types of Cichlids have Teeth?

Yes, all Cichlid species have teeth. However, what is important to note is that different types of Cichlids have different types of teeth. The kind of teeth Cichlids have depends on where they live, their natural environment, and their diet. There are some Cichlids that have smaller rows of flatter teeth, ones designed to scrape algae off of rocks and to grind up plant matter. These Cichlids have a diet that is based more on algae and plants than anything else.

There are also some other types of Cichlids that are far more carnivorous by nature, or in other words, there are Cichlids that are big-time hunters. These  Cichlids have larger fang-like teeth to sink into and hold onto prey.

two male cichlids fighting
Image Credit: Kraipitch Supyuenyong, Shutterstock

Do Cichlids Bite?

There are some Cichlids that will bite and some that will not. This really all depends on the specific type of Cichlid in question. In the section below, we will be looking at types of Cichlids, specifically which ones are more aggressive and which types are less aggressive. With that being said, Cichlids can be territorial and a bit aggressive, which is one reason why not all Cichlids make for good community tank fish. On occasion, they may try to bite your fingers, although it is a fairly rare occurrence.

The ittle fish are way more scared of you than you are of them, and often they will just hide. In the cases where they do bite, it’s either out of fear or territoriality, but once again, it’s pretty rare to have a Cichlid bite an owner intentionally, but then again, it happens from time to time.

Do Cichlid Bites Hurt?

Whether or not a Cichlid bite is going to hurt will depend on the size of the fish and the type of teeth they have. The varieties of Cichlids that have smaller teeth designed for plant-eating and algae scraping generally won’t bite very hard. Their teeth are not sharp, so they won’t break the skin. The most you will feel from a Cichlid bite in this sense is a bit of pressure.

That said, the Cichlids with sharp fang-like teeth for catching fish are going to hurt a bit. They have been known to draw blood from human fingers. The South American Cichlid is known for biting fingers pretty hard, often breaking the skin and drawing blood.

Will African Cichlids Bite My Hand?

Generally speaking, no, they won’t bite your hands. Unless you have a very fearful or aggressive African Cichlid, they will usually leave you alone.

African cichlid in fish tank with rocks
Image credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock


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As you can see, although Cichlids are known for being some fairly aggressive aquarium fish, especially towards other fish, they really are no threat to humans. They don’t bite often, and when they do, it usually won’t hurt.

Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

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