Aquarium Livestock Pet Care Guides

African Cichlids - Lake Malawi & Lake Victoria


Lakes Malawi & Victoria (Southeastern Africa)

Tank Temperature:



pH 7.8-8.5; hard water (8-12dKH)

Tank Requirements:

Provide plenty of rockwork for territory; avoid using substrate with sharp edges.


Omnivorous; flakes, pellets, and meaty frozen foods; may also eat some insects, snails, and spirulina; a diet too rich in protein and meaty items can cause diseases like Hole-in-the-Head and Malawi Bloat.


Territorial, aggressive. Will dart into rockwork to hide. Some species prolific diggers and will dig in substrate, uproot plants and can topple unsteady rockwork.


Generally not community safe. Choose tankmates carefully as some species will not tolerate some others. Avoid species that look alike and research all individual choices carefully.

African cichlids are popular among aquarists for their bold temperaments and bright colors and have spawned their own following of hobbyists who specialize in their care and breeding. They come from lakes in the Great Rift Valley in southeastern Africa, primarily the three largest: Lake Victoria, Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika.

Cichlids from Lake Malawi and Victoria Basin are similar in care and temperament, and these fish are often grouped together in the hobby. Several hundred species of cichlid are found in Lake Malawi, many with several regional color variations, but Lake Victoria has far fewer due to the introduction of invasive predators. Most cichlids in both lakes are rock-dwellers. They seldom stray far from the rocky areas of the lake and will quickly dart into the rocks to hide if frightened. As with all cichlids, they are very territorial and will not tolerate other cichlids around "their" crevice.

Two of the most popular groups of these cichlids are the "Peacocks" (mostly the Aulonocara genus) and "Mbuna's" including the genera Pseudotropheus, Labidochromis, Maylandia, Melanochromis and others). Most Peacocks grow to around 4-6" and most Mbuna's to around 5-6". While aggression and compatibility can vary from species to species, mixing Mbuna and Peacock cichlids is not usually recommended. Mbuna cichlids tend to be more aggressive and may bully the usually more passive Peacocks but some Mbuna cichlids are far more aggressive than others. Several other groups of cichlids can also be found from these lakes, some of which can be large and aggressive predators; research all choices carefully. African Cichlid Compatibility Chart

Decor for a Malawi/Victoria aquarium should be very rocky. Rock "piles" and shelf-like backgrounds are common designs and can be made from tufa rock, lava rock or slate. Substrates can range from the whitish coral sand used in saltwater aquariums to black freshwater sand or even regular decorative gravels. Wood tends to lower pH and is not usually recommended for African cichlid aquariums.

We always suggest that you do further research before adding a new pet to your tank. What we have provided for you are guidelines and suggestions. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or

Recommended Items
Cichlid Food
Cichlid Water Treatments