The cichlids from Lake Malawi are usually divided into a number of groups, of which the Mbuna is one of them. The books usually distinguish 3 groups:

Mbuna (Rock dwellers)
Peacock Cichlids


The name Mbuna comes from the local language Tonga and means “Rockfish”. It is therefore not surprising that these fish mainly inhabit the rocks and shores of Lake Malawi. This is in contrast to the Utaka and Peacocks, which more often visit the open water and the sandy plains of the lake.

Depending on who you ask, there are about 200 described species and a number of undescribed Mbuna species. These species are all members of the family Cichlidae and belong to the following genera:

  • Abactochromis
  • Chindongo
  • Cyathochromis
  • Cynotilapia
  • Genyochromis
  • Gephyrochromis
  • Iodotropheus
  • Labeotropheus
  • Labidochromis
  • Metriaclima or Maylandia
  • Melanochromis
  • Petrotilapia
  • Pseudotropheus
  • Tropheops


In general, Mbuna are tough, fierce and very colorful fish that don’t get very big, up to about 6 inches (15 centimeters). The males often occupy a territory where they try to attract females in order to mate. Because they defend their territory relatively fiercely, a combination with species from other areas is not recommended.


Part of the Mbuna is Herbivore, part Omnivore. Most Mbuna have in common that their stomach / intestine length is much longer than that of carnivorous Malawi cichlids. Some fattier live / frozen food such as tubifex, mosquito larvae etc. will take too long to travel through the gastrointestinal tract and can cause Malawi bloat. So you can feed them with granulate, flake food, etc. as long as it also contains vegetable food such as spirulina. Now and then a little frozen food is also possible, just not too much and not too often. Only tubifex I would not give at all.

The aquarium

A typical Mbuna aquarium starts at about 150 centimeters in length. The layout consists of a large number of rocks with cracks, caves and crevices. The male Mbuna try to hold a territory and the females can hide between the rocks if necessary.

Plants are usually not or very little used in a Mbuna aquarium. The fish nibble on the leaves and pull on them, unless anchored to the rocks they do not stay in the bottom for long. If you want to use plants, use tough varieties such as Vallisneria or Anubias varieties.

It is recommended to place rounded sand on the bottom. The Mbuna will flush their gills from time to time. Filter sand size 0.4 to 0.8 is widely used, this has the advantage that all grains have roughly the same size, which reduces the chance that you will suffer from soil rot.

Breeding of Mbuna

Mbuna cichlids are fairly easy to breed. The male tries to lure the female to his territory with vibrating movements. Between the rocks or on the sand, the male and female circle around each other, with the male sliding his egg-stained anal fin over the sand. The female lays an egg, turns and takes the egg in her mouth. As soon as the female bites at the male’s egg spots, she thinks they are her own eggs. The male lets go of the hen and fertilizes the eggs that are already in her mouth.

The Malawi cichlid eggs hatch within 3 to 4 days, but the female keeps the fry in her mouth for a total of about 3 weeks. After this period, she releases the fry between the rocks, after which they have to fend for themselves.

Pseudotropheus sp. polit - Lion's Cove

Showing 1–12 of 61 results