There are more than 250 species of Lake Tanganyika cichlids that have been identified, in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Like all rift valley cichlids, the Tanganyika cichlids generally like to be homed in a rocky environment.

Almost all (98%) of the Tanganyika cichlids are endemic to the lake and it is thus an important biological resource for the study of speciation in evolution. Most Tanganyika cichlids live along the shoreline down to a depth of 100m, but some deep-water species regularly descend to 200m.