What Is the Best You Need to Know About African Cichlids


Have you heard of African cichlids from Lake Malawi? Very colorful and full of life, these fish of African origin are highly sought after by those who want to have a showy and dynamic ornamental aquarium. However, if you are new to fishkeeping, it is good to stay tuned. Aggressive and dependent on an alkaline environment, they can make the task of keeping the aquarium stable.

To help you take care of cichlid fish, below, we’ll learn more about these little friends

African cichlids: a family with more than 25 thousand species

  • When searching for “Cichlids” on the internet, don’t expect to see a single species of fish. In fact, for biology, the term refers to a family of fish with almost 30,000 species.
  • Considered the largest family of fish in the world, it is believed that cichlids represent about 5% of all vertebrates on Earth.
  • Among the main characteristics of cichlid species are: one nostril on each side of the head, split lateral line and spines on the dorsal and anal fins.

In addition, they are freshwater and brackish fish, and their geographic distribution is quite wide. Although they originate in the American, African and Asian continents, nowadays, it is possible to find them also in European lakes. However, the species are very different from one location to another.

Lake Malawi, home to the most famous African cichlids

  • As stated above, cichlids do not have a single origin, and their characteristics vary according to the region in which they live.
  • In the case of African cichlids, they are mainly distributed among the three Great African Lakes: Victoria, Tanganyika and Malawi, the latter being the one that houses the largest number of species of cichlids.
  • Taking into account the immensity of Lake Malawi, it is to be expected that it shelters species with different habits and needs.
  • In this sense, it is customary to subdivide African cichlids from Lake Malawi into Mbunas and Non-Mbunas. While the former are found in rocky areas, the latter are those located in the central region of the lake.

Characteristics of Mbunas African cichlids

Among African cichlids, the species that inhabit the rocky areas of Lake Malawi are some of the most sought after by aquarists. In large part, this is due to the diversity of colors of the fish, which contribute to the aesthetics of the cichlid aquarium.

However, in addition to beauty, these species also have some very unique characteristics, and it is important to take them into account when setting up the aquarium.


Those who see an aquarium full of African cichlids, do not even imagine that, in fact, these colorful fish are quite aggressive and territorial. Therefore, to avoid fatal fights, it is recommended to place them only in spacious aquariums and, preferably, acquire species of similar size. In this way, you decrease the chance of larger ornamental fish becoming dominant and territorial compared to smaller ones.


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