Lake Malawi African Cichlids

Cichlids are by far the most interesting tropical fish that you can keep in an aquarium! The species I’m going to talk about are from Lake Malawi, (also known as Lake Nyasa, Lake Nyassa, Lake Niassa, and Lago Niassa in Mozambique), an African Great Lake and the most southerly lake in the East African Rift valley system. The lake, third largest in Africa and eighth largest in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is also the second deepest lake in Africa. The lake’s tropical waters abound with more fish species than any other lake on Earth.

The “Malawi Eye-Biter,” is a sizeable predator fish. It is usually whitish-silver with a single brown horizontal stripe on its side. Full grown males exhibit quite an array of colors such as electric blue with reds and oranges on their fins. This fish appears distinctive, in that its jaw is approximately one-third its total body length. It’s massive mouth is built for females that are able to family 250 babies at a time! Kenyi, being mbuna (rock dweller), need a rocky tank setup, with lots of caves and hiding places. Sand substrate is preferred for these fish, but gravel and similar substrates can be used. Ideal temperature settings are between 78 and 82 degrees fahrenheit.

Kenyi are herbivores (plant eaters), so a diet consisting mostly of vegetable and algae is best. Kenyi are one of the most aggressive mbuna existing. Unfortunately, because of their pretty, blue coloring, they are also one of the most commonly available mbuna. The little blue babies will grow up to 6″, typically taking over a tank and often shocking other inhabitants. Given the right size tank, ie: Large, long and shallower, they can be kept with others very successfully with restricted aggression. As babies, both sexes will be a bright blue with barring. As they mature, males transform from blue, to a golden yellow, with barring becoming very faint at most times. Females will stay blue. Often only the dominant male will transform, and subdominant males can keep female coloring to prevent a beating from the most dominant male. Kenyi are a very easy fish to breed, as long as proper conditions are maintained, again: A proper ph. 7.7 – 8.6, water temperature between 78 and 82, and plenty of rocks. Because of the male’s aggressive disposition, it’s best to have four of five females to a single male. Provide plenty of hiding spots for females to seek shelter from the aggressive male’s attention. Kenyi are mouthbrooders, so the female will pick up the eggs and store them in her mouth for approximately 24-30 days, at which time the young are prepared to be released.

Giraffe ciclids are like their familiar name suggests, the coloration is reminiscent of that of a giraffe. They usually have a yellowish-white body, with large brown spots. Males often have a blue coloration when sexually active, with the blue being most intense on the head. Giraffes are very aggressive, therefore, in your cichlid aquarium, the only appropriate tropical fish that can be kept with it are other large ones. Basically, any smaller cichlids will turn into food. This species is carnivorous (meat eater). In the wild, this species hunts smaller cichlids, by digging into the sand. It remains motionless until the prey are within reach. They are best kept with 2-3 (or more) females for every male, as this will stop the attack from being concentrated on one female breeding cichlid. Provide the female cichlid with adequate cover in the fish tank to hide from the aggressive male. Follow the same steps you would with breeding any mouthbrooder.