Quick FAQ

How easy are they to keep?

Yes, Malawi cichlids are 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 environment. Do your research in to which of the species you would prefer and set up your aquarium to the correct needs of that particular group. Remember try not to mix the groups as this may end in trouble.

Are Malawi cichlids aggressive?

The Mbuna species of Malawi cichlids are very aggressive due to the territorial and breeding behaviors, unlike the Haplochromis species most of which are much less aggressive. You will always find that keeping more than one male of the same breed is a recipe for disaster. Even males from different breeds may fight non stop until one is badly injured or killed. Always watch your tank for signs of stress or bullying.

What is the best PH Level?

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 and if you intend to breed your cichlids this could have a damaging effect. If your cichlids are showing signs of ill health or dying and you are not sure why, the first thing that you should do is test your water with a good quality test kit. These test kits can now test for all kinds of problems.

What temperature should they be kept at?

Between 78 - 82° f

Are Malawi cichlids territorial?

The Mbuna family 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. It is never a good idea to keep more than one male Mbuna from the same species together as this will cause you no end of problems. Although in the past I have happily kept more than one male of the larger Haplochromis family together with no problems at all but these peaceful cichlids rarely fight for caves or breeding space.

Are some species predatory?

Most of the larger Haplochromis such as Nimbochromis Aristochromis Rhamphochromis are predatory fish so they must NOT be kept with the smaller vegetarian eating Mbuna species or they may become lunch. You must remember that in the wild these larger cichlids hunt Mbuna for food and keeping them in an aquarium will make no difference. With that said I have kept many Aristochromis over the years and strangely some of them would only eat stick food. So I wonder if where they were raised has a lot to do with it, even so be very care and avoid mixing these groups.

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. Please be careful to create the correct environment for your cichlids needs, if not you might find that you have to remove some of your cichlids or become witness to constant Mbuna fights as there is just not enough breeding caves to go round.

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 so the more time you spend arranging your expensive real aquarium plants the less time you spend watching your cichlids. Mbuna will take great pleasure in digging up and destroying those nice plants that you have just planted so you might as well not use plants but more caves. Haplochromis like to hangout in tall aquarium plants.

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, mussels and prawns but will also eat good quality pellet stick and some flake foods. Read more about feeding Malawi cichlids from the Feeding Malawi Cichlids website page.

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 guaranteed. If you need to know you can have them vented which is sometimes frowned upon. An in-depth guide to sexing can be found at the following website, http://www.fishhead.com/articles/ventsex.htm

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. You may catch glimpses of her letting them out when she feels safe but any sudden movement and they are straight back in mum's mouth. Read more from the Malawi Cichlid Fry website page.

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 a lot 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.

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