Malawi Cichlid FAQ

Are Malawi cichlids a community fish ?

No, Malawi cichlids are NOT a community fish and should only be kept with cichlids of their own kind. It is also not recommended to mix the two main species, Mbuna and Haplochromis.

How easy are they to keep ?

Relatively easy to keep just like any other cichlid but be aware of what they require before you start such as water conditions, correct food and enviroment.

How big do they grow ?

The average size for an adult Mbuna is around 5 inches (12cm), an adult Haplochromis can grow up to 14 inches (35cm) but are rarely seen this size in a none professional aquarium.

Are Malawi cichlids aggressive ?

The Mbuna species are very aggressive due to the territorial and breeding behaviours, unlike the Haplochromis species most of which are much less aggressive.

What is the best PH Levels ?

Malawi cichlids prefer the a PH level range between 7.4 - 8.6 however they can adapt to lower levels but may not be as active or colourful as they should. A lower PH may also effect their breeding habits.

What temperature should they be kept at ?

Between 78 - 82° f

Are Malawi cichlids territorial ?

Mbuna are very territorial unlike Haplochromis. They will sometimes fight to the death when it comes to getting that perfect breeding cave or the attention of a female.

Are some species preditory ?

Most of the larger Haplochromis such as Nimbochromis Aristochromis Rhamphochromis are preditory fish so they must NOT be kept with the smaller vegetarian eating Mbuna species or they may become lunch.

What enviroment do Malawi cichlids need ?

Mbuna need a built up rocky enviroment and Haplochromis need large open swimming spaces with a few rocks scattered on the bottom.

Which is the best substrate ?

A sandy bottom is best for both Mbuna and Haplochromis.

Do Malawi Cichlids need plants ?

Plants are not native to Mbuna but giant vallis is found in the lake where Haplochromis live. Mbuna will eventually dig up and destroy any plants that they find in the aquarium.

What is the best diet to feed ?

Mbuna need good quality vegetable based foods but will eat anything while Haplochromis need fleshy foods such as shrimps, mussles and prawns but will also eat good quality pellet and stick foods.

How do you sex Malawi cichlids ?

Some general guide lines for sexing Malawi cichlids are that some males have egg spots on their anal fins and are much more colourful while the females can be smaller with rounded fins but this is not guranteed. If you need to know you can have them vented which is sometimes frowned upon.

Are they easy to breed ?

These cichlids have a tendency to breed quickly and easily once you have an established pair. Many of them produce large batches of young so if you are thinking of breeding your Malawi cichlids then make sure you have some tanks available for all the fry.

How do they care for their young ?

The female will incubate the eggs in her mouth and once hatched will hold them for a further three weeks.

Does the size of the tank matter ?

Yes, the bigger the better. The minimum recommended tank for Mbuna is 48" long (4 foot) by either 15, 18 or 24 inches high and or wide. This family do alot of chasing about and some Mbuna genus can grow to 6 inches in length, not to mention that you do overcrowd Mbuna as a general rule. If you plan on keeping the open swimming Haplochromis family then you should really be looking at a minimum tank size of 72" (6 foot). Another fact to bare in mind is that the smaller the tank the more frequent you need to do your water changes.