Did you know that most Mbuna cichlids types originate from Lake Malawi in Africa? These fish cichlids are very popular in the aquarium trade, and you can find them in nearly every pet shop and store today.
Over the past few years, mbuna african cichlids have become increasingly popular as aquarium fish, and for good reason. They are beautiful, hardy, and offer amazing color varieties that can mesmerize even the most jaded aquarist!
Mbuna cichlids types make some of the most popular species of fish in the aquarium hobby because they are extremely colorful and active. Mbuna, also known as rock-dwelling cichlids, are particularly popular with anglers because they will often readily feed off the sides of rocks placed in their tanks.
While some African cichlids types are easy to care for and will readily take commercial foods that you purchase from your local fish store, others are very finicky about their diets, so you’ll need to do some research and planning before bringing one home with you.
So we will be discussing the 20 popular Mbuna cichlids types and their care tips that you need to know before adding these fish to your tank.
Mbuna Cichlids Types
Flavescent peacock cichlid (Aulonocara stuartgranti/Tropheops chilumba)
The Flavescent peacock cichlid is a popular Mbuna that can be found in many pet stores. They are peaceful and can be kept with other Mbunas as long as they are introduced at the same time. Their diet should consist of meaty foods such as brine shrimp and blood worms.
Flavescent peacocks should also have a dark substrate to hide under because they will use it for refuge when feeling threatened.
If you notice your fish constantly hiding, this could indicate distress and you should monitor their tank more closely. Flavescent peacocks prefer an aquarium that has plenty of room for them to swim about and display their vibrant colors. A good rule of thumb is to make sure there’s enough space for every fish to be able to swim without touching each other or another obstacle
Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)
The Maingano cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos) is a hardy fish that can be kept in freshwater. These fish are typically found in Lake Malawi and Lake Nyasa, although they also originate from Victoria Falls. They eat small insects and crustaceans, such as brine shrimp and blood worms.
They are generally peaceful towards other types of cichlid but may become territorial at spawning time. To create an aquarium for this type of fish, you should have rocks or sand on the bottom to provide cover. Due to their aggressive behavior when defending eggs, these cichlids should not be mixed with non-cichlid species.
Nimbochromis livingstonii (Livingston’s cichlid or kalingono)
Nimbochromis livingstonii, or Livingston’s cichlid, locally known as kalingono, is one of the most popular Mbuna cichlid types. It is known to be a breeding ground for new varieties of the African cichlid due to its diverse gene pool. In the wild, it lives in rocky pools and feeds on algae and smaller aquatic creatures.
The Livingston’s cichlid can get up to about six inches in length and should be kept with at least one other fish for company. They do well in a planted tank with open swimming space and plenty of hiding places. They are easy to breed as long as there are some rocks for them to lay eggs on.
Perlmutt Cichlid (Labidochromis perlmutt)
Labidochromis perlmutt, also known as Perlmutt cichlid, is one of the most popular Mbuna cichlids types. They are endemic to Lake Malawi and have a yellow color that fades with age. Labidochromis perlmutt grows to be about 3.5 inches in length. This species requires a minimum tank size of at least 20 gallons with plenty of rocks and crevices for hiding spots.
It is a good idea to provide some vegetation too. Feed them pellets or freeze-dried bloodworms, but watch out because they can’t go more than four days without food!
Melanochromis joanjohnsonae (Pearl of Likoma)
Melanochromis joanjohnsonae, also known as the Pearl of Likoma, or Exasperatus cichlid, is a species of cichlid from Lake Malawi. It is relatively peaceful and can be kept with other Mbuna types of cichlids, but should not be kept with smaller fish due to their aggressive nature. They are mouth-brooders and will lay eggs in a hole dug by the male.
The eggs are then fertilized by the male and taken care of until they hatch. For this reason, it is best to only keep one pair per tank or any more may lead to aggression. They grow up to about 3 inches (7.6 cm) and do best at temperatures between 76°F and 86°F (24°C – 30°C).
Labidochromis freibergi (Freibergi Cichlid)
Labidochromis freibergi is a popular cichlid that is popular among fish keepers. It has an elongated body and can grow to be up to 12 inches in length. It is a hearty, hardy, aggressive fish that doesn’t require too much attention. They are typically found in the rocky coastal waters of Kenya and Tanzania, although they have been introduced into other parts of the world as well.
They need water that is pH 8-8.5, temperatures between 74-81 degrees Fahrenheit (23-27 degrees Celsius), and enough room to swim around.
In order to keep them happy it’s important not to overcrowd them or give them dirty water because they are quite sensitive. Additionally, it’s best not to feed them live foods due to the risk of parasites being transferred from one fishkeeper’s aquarium to another.
Yellow tail acei cichlid (Pseudotropheus acei)
Yellow tail acei cichlid care is relatively easy and minimal. They enjoy a tank with plenty of rockwork for hiding, and some open space for swimming, and can thrive in any temperature range between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Feeding them should be done two to three times per day, providing them with a diet consisting of flake food, frozen brine shrimp, live black worms, and crushed spirulina tablets.
These mbuna fish are also known as harem spawners, meaning they are polygamous (have multiple mates) and males show aggressive behavior when protecting their territory or harem. Females will lay eggs among rocks that the male fertilizes before chasing away the female so she does not eat the eggs. If there are many females in the territory, the males may just release sperm into the water to fertilize their eggs; this is called broadcast spawning.
Melanochromis dialeptos (Dialeptos Cichlid)
The Melanochromis dialeptos is a popular Mbuna cichlid fish. They have a bright orange coloration with black stripes and can grow to be up to 6 inches long. They are hardy and easy to maintain, making them a great choice for novice cichlid hobbyists. Like other Mbunas they will defend their territory against others of their kind. It’s important to only keep one Dialeptos per tank as they prefer living in groups.
These fish enjoy eating live foods such as earthworms and brine shrimp so make sure you provide an area in the aquarium where your Dialepots can hunt these prey items on their own.
Pseudotropheus perspicax (Perspicax Cichlid)
The Pseudotropheus perspicax (Perspicax cichlid) is a popular variety of Mbuna cichlid. They are peaceful in temperament and can be kept with other types of fish, as long as they are not too large. They live at the bottom of the tank and are primarily carnivorous, eating flakes and blood worms.
They may nibble at plants and rocks but they do so sparingly. Keep them at temperatures between 77°F to 81°F. Because these cichlids are so hardy, they make great beginner’s pets because their environment is not very difficult to maintain.
However, one downside to this particular species of fish is that males sometimes become aggressive during the breeding season; which typically lasts from September through November and again in March through April. Females lay eggs on flat stones or open areas of gravel.
Labidochromis caeruleus (Electric Yellow Cichlid)
Labidochromis caeruleus, also known as Electric Yellow Cichlid or Yellow Lab Cichlids, is a moderately easy cichlid to care for. They require a temperature range of between 75-84 degrees Fahrenheit. An aquarium needs to be at least 15 gallons with a pH level of 8.0 and a hardness level of 10-20 dGH.
This species should not be housed with any other fish types outside of those in the same genus due to aggression and risk of disease. The tank should have rocks, plants, and ornaments placed around the perimeter to provide hiding places. Gravel can be used but it should be cleaned weekly to avoid an accumulation of waste products.
Labidochromis caeruleus is often called Yellow Lab Cichlids because they can be bright yellow. They are usually more of a yellow color when they are young and the darker colors start to come out as they grow older.
Bumblebee Cichlid (Metriaclima crabro)
Metriaclima crabro, or Bumblebee cichlid, is a predator fish that can be found in habitats ranging from Lake Malawi to the rivers of Zambia. They are relatively peaceful fish that will tolerate other species of fish. They are herbivores and will eat algae as well as vegetables such as lettuce and cucumbers.
One key care tip is they need a large tank due to their territorial nature. These fish grow up to 4 to 5 inches long, so they should not be put in tanks with small openings. They prefer temperatures around 78 degrees Fahrenheit but can also handle warmer water. The most important thing when caring for them is making sure they have plenty of hiding places because they have an aggressive side during the breeding season.
Labeotropheus Fuelleborni (Fuelleborni Cichlid)
The Labeotropheus Fuelleborni, Fuelleborni Cichlid or blue Mbuna, is a small, peaceful cichlid from Lake Malawi that is usually found in schools and shoals. They are attractive cichlids with blue bodies and white spots on their dorsal fin. The males have red lines across the front of their dorsal fin.
The females are drabber with an olive coloration and brown markings on the lower half of their bodies. The males also have larger eyes than the females which helps them find food during feeding time. These fish enjoy eating brine shrimp, bloodworms, flake food, and vegetables such as zucchini or peas. The Labeotropheus Fuelleborni can grow to be around 5 inches long but will not get any bigger if kept in an aquarium under 18 inches tall.
Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia Lombardoi)
Kenyi Cichlid is a relatively new species to the hobby. It was only first imported in 1999 but has since become one of the most popular cichlids among hobbyists. Kenyis are peaceful and non-aggressive, making them great fish for mixed community tanks. They are also easy to care for with regular water changes, small feedings, and lots of live rock or bogwood.
Ice blue zebra cichlid (Metriaclima greshakei)
The ice blue zebra cichlid (Metriaclima greshakei) is an attractive and popular fish that belongs to the Mbuna family. These fish have a bright blue color, with occasional black stripes, and are often mistaken for the Jackson’s or Pelvicachromis jacksoni species.
The ice-blue zebra cichlid does not grow as large as some of its cousins in the Metriaclima genus and has a more peaceful demeanor. It reaches an average size of 5 inches (12.7 cm). Males usually reach their maximum size at four years old, while females will reach their maximum size after two years old.
Pseudotropheus socolofi (Powder Blue Cichlid)
The Powder Blue Cichlid, or Pseudotropheus socolofi, is a small Mbuna that has a deep blue to purple body. They are typically found in Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe. Adults can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm).
Powder Blue is the only member of its genus because it was not discovered until 1961. It is omnivorous and will feed on any food including flakes, frozen fish food pellets, and live worms. Breeding with other types of cichlids often results in hybrids so this species should be kept separate from others as they cannot interbreed.
Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)
Auratus cichlids, also known as Golden Mbuna or Malawi golden cichlid, are great beginner fish for people interested in the Mbunas. They are fairly hardy and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. Unlike other mbunas, they do not grow very big, but will still require plenty of space to feel comfortable.
This is because they like to spend time on the bottom of their tank and are prone to digging up the substrate. A 50-gallon tank would be enough room for one Auratus cichlid, with an additional 10 gallons per additional one. A pH level of 7-8 would be appropriate for these fish as well. As far as diet goes, these guys are primarily carnivorous and eat pretty much anything you put in front of them!
Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)
The Red Zebra cichlid, or Red Zebra mbuna, is a beautiful fish that is surprisingly easy to care for. They get their name from the black and white stripes on their body, which makes them look like zebras. They are also known as Estherae after the ichthyologist who first described them.
Their coloration can vary depending on where they live, but the stripes will always remain. If you decide to purchase one of these cichlids, be sure to have an aquarium with plenty of rocks and hiding places for them to feel comfortable. It’s best if there are multiple females per male; too many males can be aggressive towards one another and may fight when it comes time to mate with females.
Labidochromis chisumulae (Clown Lab Cichlid)
Labidochromis chisumulae are a shy, but territorial fish. They can be kept with other Labidochromis chisumulae, as well as Pseudotropheus sauvagei. However, they should not be kept with Pseudotropheus crabro or any aggressive fish species. The tank water needs to be regularly changed and cleaned to keep the environment safe for the Labidochromis chisumulae and their tank mates.
Though these fish do not require strong lighting, it is advisable to have it on for 12 hours per day. A weekly 10-15% water change is recommended in addition to changing food every three days. Feeding them cichlid pellets, freeze-dried blood worms, live baby brine shrimp, and live daphnia will ensure that they remain healthy.
Feeding them at least one of these items twice a day will help them maintain optimal coloration while preventing them from getting bored. These fish prefer to be active during the day so it is important that aquarium lights stay on for at least 12 hours daily even though the lab may sleep through part of this time period.
Elongate Mbuna (Pseudotropheus elongatus)
The elongate mbuna, also known as the elongate cichlid, is one of the most popular mbunas. They are easy to care for and hardy, making them a perfect beginner’s cichlid.
Elongates have a large mouth and pointed snout which makes them ideal for eating plankton.
Their dorsal fin runs along their back from head to tail and they can grow up to 8 inches in length. Males develop intense colors during mating season, while females stay brownish-gray. These fish tend to be shy but should not be housed with aggressive fish such as tiger barbs or male guppies. Elongates should be kept at temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels between 7.2 and 8.2 (slightly acidic).
Cobalt blue zebra cichlid (Maylandia callainos)
The Cobalt blue zebra cichlid (Maylandia callainos) is a species of fish in the Cichlidae family. It is also known as the blue zebra cichlid, Maylandia callainos, and cobalt blue hap. The Cobalt blue zebra cichlid is an aggressive fighter with bright yellow stripes on a dark body. They require a 60-gallon tank and live alone unless you have a large tank to house them together.
They are native to Lake Malawi but are widespread throughout Africa. They are named for their coloration, which resembles that of zebras’ stripes. Their brilliant blues combined with their striped pattern makes them one of the most popular mbunas.
In addition, they can get quite big and need plenty of space. Their aggression can make them difficult to keep if there isn’t enough room in the tank or other accommodations are made. If they’re kept properly, they can be a fascinating display piece and will surely attract lots of attention from visitors!