Kenyi Cichlids (Maylandia Lombardoi) Care

Kenyi cichlids

Last updated on August 14th, 2022 at 07:04 am

Maylandia lombardoi, or Kenyi cichlids, are among the most popular fish in the aquarium trade thanks to their bright colors and small size (usually no more than 5 inches long). Unfortunately, these same factors that make them such popular pets also make them susceptible to disease and injury from overcrowding or aggressive tank mates.

Think you can’t care for this fish? Think again! Kenyi cichlids, or Maylandia lombardoi, are beautiful and colorful South American cichlids. They’re fairly easy to take care of, provided you have the right aquarium, substrate, food, and water conditions

You can keep kenyi cichlids in the community aquarium, provided you keep them with peaceful tank mates and offer them enough space to swim around.

To keep your Kenyi Cichlids happy and healthy, follow these steps to learn how to take care of Kenyi Cichlids properly!

Origin and descriptions

Kenyi cichlids

Maylandia lombardoi is one of five closely related species in its genus, all popularly called Kenyi cichlids. Of these, Maylandia lombardoi has often been thought of as a less hardy fish than some of its cousins. Originally collected from Lake Malawi in 1975 by British ichthyologist J. R. Trewavas, it wasn’t until 1999 that it was described and given a scientific name of its own.

Other common names for Maylandia lombardoi include Blue Zebra Peacock and Lembeni. Like other kenyis, they are visually stunning with an iridescent blue pattern running vertically along their flanks and tail fins. Unlike most of their relatives, they grow slowly and reach only about 5 inches long at maturity.

The real challenge with keeping them seems to be getting them started in your aquarium; while they have quite friendly dispositions toward tankmates once established, reports on how easy they are to get established vary widely.

Species profile

Maylandia lombardoi, also known as Kenya red or kenyi cichlids, was discovered in Lake Malawi by R. Mayland in 1975. Since then, it has become a very popular aquarium fish due to its beautiful colors and appealing form.

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They belong to the family Cichlidae. The males are usually more colorful than females with their black bodies and fins. However, since breeding programs have been implemented, almost all of them now show black-and-yellow coloring like that observed in wild Maylandia specimens. This species is not considered extremely aggressive towards its tankmates.

This is why many aquarists decide to keep them with other species from Lake Malawi.

Kenyi cichlids were being bred in captivity for some time now, which makes it relatively easy for aquarists to get their hands on healthy fishes at reasonable prices.


Maylandia lombardoi like to live in water that has a neutral pH, is slightly hard, and has a high oxygen content. To replicate these conditions, you can use tap water treated with a product called Seachem Prime. Seachem Prime will remove chlorine and chloramine from your tap water, as well as help adjust its hardness and oxygen levels.

Kenyi cichlid size

This species can grow up to 5.1 inches (13 cm) in length.

Kenyi cichlid tank size

Due to their size, the minimum recommended tank size is 55 gallons (208 liters), though larger is better.

Tank Requirements

Since Kenyi cichlids are only able to reach up to 5 inches in length, they do not require much space. A 75-gallon tank is large enough for a pair of kenyis. Because these fish are small, it’s best that you use larger gravel or sand for your substrate since smaller pebbles may be sucked into their mouths when feeding.

Filters should provide ample flow but also have ample surface area for biofilm growth, where beneficial bacteria colonize and grow. You will want both biological and mechanical filtration with this species due to their small size and diet consisting mostly of zooplankton. The most convenient filter for a kenyi tank would probably be an internal power filter such as those made by Fluval or Eheim.

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These filters create good current without taking up much room inside of a small aquarium. Do bear in mind that Kenyis are schooling fish and thus should be kept in groups of 3 or more. For even better companionship, try adding some other dwarf African cichlids to your tank!

Kenyi cichlids tank mates

While most Maylandia species do fine on their own, you’ll often see aquarists keep multiple Maylands in a single tank. They are generally peaceful and can be kept with other Mbunas, Cyprichromis, and other Tanganyikan cichlids that aren’t too aggressive. Avoid putting them with larger or more aggressive fish such as Tropheus or Rift Lake cichlids; they will get eaten in no time.

Some other good tank mates are  Haplochromis and Synodontis catfish.

Kenyi cichlid breeding

Kenyi cichlids

Kenyi cichlids breed in a very similar fashion to their close cousins, Neolamprologus cichlids. Both are mouthbrooders, meaning they spit eggs and sperm into a communal nest and care for their offspring as parents until they hatch, after hatching, they care for their young in their mouth.

Breeding Maylandias isn’t terribly difficult, but it does require a dedicated effort. Male egg spots become darker in color with age; females should be kept in groups when ready to spawn.

A breeding cave or flat rock at one end of your aquarium will attract males to begin building their bubble nests on which they will deposit their eggs. The male builds his bubble nest by blowing air under pebbles from below, carefully arranging them in a cone shape atop, an artificial or natural stone cave, or over flat rocks placed at one end of your aquarium tank.

The female observes her mate’s efforts for several days before joining him inside the bubble nest, where she releases her eggs before turning around and swimming away to allow him to fertilize them externally. The female kenyi cichlids usually keeps her fry up near her mouth through day three, during which time you can remove all other fish from your tank except for those that have bonded already with young fish.

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After day three, it is imperative to remove any remaining fry-eater fish such as adult Kribensis or adult Julii cichlids! After 3 days and beyond, depending on water temperature and the presence of benthic algae in your aquarium, a newly hatched fry will swim out toward open water along with their parents. This behavior is referred to as swimming off by experienced aquarists who have observed Kribensis cichlid families raising offspring.

Kenyi cichlid aggression

They are among the notoriously aggressive types of cichlids and care should be taken when housing them with other species.

Kenyi cichlid care

Kenyi cichlids

Kenyi cichlids are moderate-level fish. They appreciate a well-planted aquarium with lots of swimming space and a sandy bottom. The aquarium should be kept between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH of 6.0-7.0 and hardness of 10-20 dH. Like most African cichlids, they prefer slightly alkaline water that is free from copper compounds.

It is also important to monitor nitrate levels as these fishes have been known to become more aggressive when nitrates are high. A weekly water change of 30% is recommended for optimal health, but only partial changes need to be made if ammonia or nitrite levels exceed zero ppm.

Kenyi cichlids

Maylandia lombardoi can be quite fussy about what they eat. They need a varied diet, and won’t thrive on flake food or pellets alone. As omnivores, they require a balanced diet of both vegetable and animal protein sources. Feeding them frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp will help keep their hunger pangs at bay while giving them essential proteins and fats that they need. You could also try feeding them chopped earthworms or other meaty live foods.

Kenyi cichlids lifespan

Kenyi cichlid lives anywhere from 10-15 years. This beautiful fish requires a good amount of care and attention because they have many different needs that must be met in order to thrive.

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Parasites and diseases

Kenyi cichlids

The most common ailment of Kenyi cichlids is fish lice. These are small, red, pinhead-sized crustaceans that latch onto your fish and suck their blood. They look like little ticks or coral and you should be able to see them moving around on your fish. Fish lice are very contagious among tropical fish, so remove any infected fish as soon as possible to avoid spreading them.

Fluke infections in cichlids can cause major damage to a fish’s organs. Black fungus is sometimes mistaken for bacteria but it isn’t bacterial in nature. This infection has brown spores growing off your fish, hence its name.

It thrives in poorly maintained aquariums with low oxygen levels and high nitrate levels (which often result from overfeeding). This disease is hard to cure once it gets started because it spreads quickly between fish if not kept under control by antibiotics.


Although they can be territorial, in large groups, and in plenty of space, kenyi cichlids are known as one of the most peaceful African cichlid species. With that said, they are still prey to many large fish such as barracuda, jackfish, and tiger fish. This is why it’s vital for you to house them with similar-sized specimens or larger if you want to avoid unwanted aggression.

Do they make good pets?

Yes. While kenyi cichlids do make great pets, they do require a large tank and they are very territorial, meaning they may not get along with other fish. If you’re willing to provide them with adequate space, these fish can be fun and interactive pets that will brighten up your day when you come home from work.