Malawi Cichlids

Malawi Cichlids are often kept in the aquarium …. and for good reason. Many of these cichlids are colorful, and not too big and you can combine them. Well, colorful…. often the males are the most colorful. Malawi’s can even be kept with only males… although here in Europe we often prefer a more natural aquarium.

Lake Malawi is also attracting attention from biologists. It is home to about 1,000 different fish species, of which the cichlids make up the largest group. That is why they call Lake Malawi Darwins Playground, because it provides insight into the origin of species.

Classification into three types: Mbuna, Peacocks and Utaka

In our fish database we have divided the Malawi cichlids into three types. At the bottom of this text you can go to each of these types.

Mbuna: These are the rock-dwelling Malawi cichlids
Peacocks: These are the mostly colorful fish from the Aulonocara genus.
Utaka: These are the fish from the transition zones and open water. Sometimes the predators are mentioned separately, we group them under the Utaka.


The Utaka and Peacocks are mostly Carnivores and Omnivores. They eat fish, insects, or larvae and sometimes get some vegetable food. With the Mbunas it is very dependent on what they eat in the wild. Some graze in the algae fields. Other Mbuna comb the algae strands and mainly look for small invertebrates in the algae and are therefore omnivorous. There are even a few that only eat meaty food or steal scales from other fish species.

Malawi Bloat

Malawi cichlids that only eat algae in the wild have an adapted intestinal system. This is much longer than that of omnivores or carnivores. If you give these fish too much meaty food or too often, they can get sick. The fatty food then begins to rot in their intestines resulting in the death of the fish. You can find more about that in the article Malawi Bloat.

Breeding Malawi Cichlids

Breeding Malawi Cichlids is fairly easy for most species. All species from the lake lay eggs, which are incubated by the female in her mouth. We call them Mouth Brooders. You can find more about breeding Malawi Cichlids in the article: De kweek van Malawi Cichliden.

The Malawi Cichlid Aquarium

The setup of the aquarium is the same for almost all Malawi Cichlids. Get an aquarium of sufficient size. Use (filter) sand on the bottom. Place some rocks between which the females can hide. Plants are not necessary and often difficult to keep. Sometimes hardy species like Anubias, Javafern or Vallisneria are used. However, the fish often pick at the plants, so that they do not grow nicely or even die slowly.

The water must be changed regularly to remove the waste. The temperature may be between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius with a pH between 7.5 and 8.5. Always check our database for the specific wishes of a species!