When you are deciding what type of cichlids to get,the rest area to start is in deciding whether to get African Cichlids or South American/Central American Cichlids. While both are technically cichlids, they come from different areas of the world and thus require two separate tank conditions, and therefore should never be kept in the same tank together. The decision between African Cichlids and Central/South American Cichlids will come down to personal preference between the two groups of sh, as they do look visually different.
In general, African Cichlids are brighter colored and have an elongated body and can range from 2 inches to 6+ inches long depending on species.Central/South American Cichlids are also colored (though not as bright generally) but their body shape generally has a larger girth than their African counterparts (particularly the Discus and Angels) and have a greater range in size from 2 inches to over 12 inches long (Oscar Cichlid and Texas Cichlid).
Cichlids, in one form or another, can be found at almost any pet store, from national chains to local sh supply stores. Most stores, for instance, will carry a variety of African Cichlids, although ending a specific species of African Cichlid or Central/South American Cichlid may require going to a specialty tropical sh store. After doing the research and determining what species of cichlids that you want for your tank, visit your local pet store to make sure that they carry that specific species so that you can get the tank ready for the right type of cichlids.
The size of the cichlids you choose will dictate the size of the aquarium that you will need, and vice-a-versa. This must be taken into consideration when determining the size of the aquarium that your space can accommodate along with what you can afford. The most common size of sh tank for cichlids is 40+ gallons, although a pair of some of the smaller species of cichlids can be kept in a tank as small as 20 gallons. The larger the aquarium, the more cichlids that it can accommodate as well. If you plan to have over a handful of cichlids, then you will need at least a 50-gallon tank.
Once you establish the size of the tank that you will need in order to properly house the cichlids that you want, the next step is to set-up the tank in order to be fully prepared to bring your cichlids home.