I started my venture into the aquarium hobby in a sort of run-of-the-mill way, a story I probably share with countless other reefers. I brought home a small freshwater tank, decorated it with some random rocks and a few hardy plants and then added a bunch of inexpensive, schooling fish. With each passing year that I enjoyed being an aquarist, the size and complexity of my freshwater fish tank grew with my expanding knowledge base. At some point, I stumbled upon a pair of German Ram Cichlids, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, and with this new addition to my then-planted tank, I got hooked on fish from the family Cichlidae. Cichlids, as we universally call them, are perhaps the most interesting family of fish in the freshwater world, being only matched by Wrasses on the saltwater side of the hobby. This amazing, intelligent, and wildly diverse group of fish is known to everyone, even people who never had any experience with aquariums. Iconic fish, like the majestic Discus, the freshwater Angelfish, or the hundreds of species of rift valley cichlids are kept, bred, and collected by people all around the world. 1,650 scientifically described species make this fish family one of the largest in the vertebrate world. They are as diverse as many of the beloved saltwater families of fish and are often described as highly intelligent (for a fish that is). Some would argue cichlids are the closest thing for a fish to be a pet and I have to agree with that. I used to keep Discus fish and they were adorable- I’d pet them and they would follow me whenever I was going in and out the room I kept them in. I have nostalgia for freshwater planted tanks sometimes, but what I really miss are the cichlids I kept in these underwater gardens. Cichlids are awesome and I’m glad I spent the time to capture as many of them at the Aquatic Experience 2018 as time allowed. With this lengthy introduction, I would like to present to you some of the many cichlids displayed as part of the Aquatic Experience Fish Competition organized by the American Cichlid Association. Again, I don’t know who won, but all of these fish were really cool and some could really compete with their saltwater counterparts in terms of looks and behavior. Thanks again, and come back for one last part of the Aquatic Experience 2018 coverage!