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November 02, 2012


Previously, I spoke about the Utaka cichlids of Lake Malawi (known better to us as Peacock cichlids), and as I had mentioned, I will be talking about one of the other inhabitants of the lake in this week’s edition.

I remember one of my first introductions to our boss. I had been told by other employees that if I wanted to know anything about Malawi cichlids that he would be the man to speak to. So, when I saw him come into the shop, I walked right up to him and said, “I want to learn about Malawi cichlids”. He gave me a stunned looked and I quickly realized what I had said was pretty blunt. Quickly, I counter acted and told him “Well, not right now but whenever you have time”. And so within the week he was introducing me to the basics of what I would need to know. So, now I wish to pass on some of the knowledge I have gained over the years…

The word “Mbuna” (pronounced mboo-na) translates into the Tonga word for “rockfish” by people that are native to Malawi in Africa. Many of these species are found nestled in and or around large piles of rocks that are referred to as “reefs” in the lake. These biotopes depending on depth are usually rich in life, which may contain dozens of species. Each of these reefs could have hundreds of fish from several genus’s all coexisting in one ecosystem.

Most Mbuna cichlids are found in the shallower regions of the lake. The reason is Mbuna are very dependent on algae for their food. The deeper sections of the lake are often absent of this due to the lack of light. It’s very important to offer an alga-based diet when keeping these cichlids. Feeding protein-based foods often causes what is known as “Malawi Bloat”. Treating for internal parasites can sometimes cure this but you may lose a few fish in the process. The best ways to avoid this is by feeding sparingly on the “red” flakes, and offer more of a “green” diet such as spirulina.

The other problem many hobbyists run into is aggression. It’s very common when starting out with Mbuna cichlids that aquariasts are afraid of “overcrowding”. Well, unlike your common community tank it is actually best to pack as many of them as you can into an aquarium. The reason being is these fish are highly territorial, especially among males. Malawi cichlids will establish a clear hierarchy among themselves. By overcrowding the aquarium, a single male cannot “target” just one fish at a time. Instead, he would have to defend his territory from many other males making it difficult to kill an unwanted visitor.

Like last week, I will only point out a few Mbuna I think are among the most attractive from the lake.

Cynotilapia sp. “Elongatus Chitimba”

Cynotilapia sp. "Elongatus Chitimba"

Metriaclima sp. “Zebra Chilumba”

Metriaclima sp. "Zebra Chilumba"

Pseudotropheus pulpican “Kingsizei” “Likoma”

Pseudotropheus kingsizei

Metriaclima aurora “Likoma”

Metriaclima aurora

It’s been a few years since I tore down my Mbuna tank. I miss being able to keep such interesting cichlids, but unfortunately you can’t have everything living in an apartment. Maybe one day I’ll be able to set up a bigger and better Malawi display. Until then, I'll just keep wandering the isles of our very own miniature version of Lake Malawi here at the store.

Like always you can find our pricelist through our website,, or by selecting the products link below. I know that were broken after our update, but they’re fixed now. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.

Until next week!

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager