25 Amazing Mbuna Cichlid Types And Care Tips

mbuna cichlid

Last updated on September 24th, 2022 at 09:04 am

The mbuna cichlid is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world, and they are found in many pet shops. They are available in different colors like blue, purple, red, or orange. Mbunas get their name from Lake Malawi where they were first discovered. It means “rockfish” in the local African language Nyasa (Mboja).

Mbuna cichlids are found in the rocky areas of Lake Malawi, where many mbunas can be seen at one time. They are known for their bright colors and interesting behavior which makes them a popular choice among aquarium hobbyists. They have unique mouths that allow them to pick up rocks and feed on the algae that grow on them.

They are a great choice for an aquarium, but they can be aggressive towards other fish. Make sure you have enough room in your tank for them to swim around and avoid putting them with smaller fish. They will do well in a community tank with other peaceful fish.

Origin and descriptions

mbuna cichlid

Mbuna cichlid has a common name of “mbuna” in its native land and is often referred to as zebra mbuna or black diamond cichlid. This species can be found in Lake Malawi, Africa where they live primarily in rocky habitats with an abundance of vegetation.

This species is typically found in crevices or caves and can be seen working as cleaners for other fish. Mbuna cichlid has a dark blue base color with white to yellow colors along its body.

Males are larger than females, reaching up to eight inches long whereas female reaches only about five inches long. They eat vegetation such as algae and weeds, but also eat insects such as flies.

Mbuna cichlid is a peaceful species that prefers to swim in groups of five or more individuals. This fish enjoys an environment with rocks and caves for hiding places and plenty of vegetation to provide natural food sources.

Species profile

mbuna cichlid

There are more than two hundred species of mbuna cichlid. They grow to a maximum length between three inches and six inches, depending on the species.

In general, they have oval bodies with pointed snouts and tend to be slightly smaller than other types of African cichlids. They also have a characteristic black spot on the dorsal fin. Mbunas are found only in Lake Malawi and its tributaries. They are particularly well adapted to the rocky habitats of these lakes, where they feed on algae and other small organisms.

They can be aggressive towards one another, and males will often fight for dominance over each other. They are known for their many different colorations and patterns, which help them stand out in the rocky environment where they live.

Zebra Mbuna Cichlid (Maylandia Zebra)

How big do mbuna cichlids get?

Mbuna cichlids can grow up to six inches in length, depending on the species.

Mbuna cichlids tank size

Mbuna cichlids should have a tank no smaller than 30 gallons.

Tank setup

There are a few key things to look out for when setting up your Mbuna cichlid tank. The first is that you should have at least 30 gallons of water per fish, so if you want a school of ten mbunas in an aquarium, then plan on having 500 gallons or more!

You also need to make sure that you have a lot of rocks and caves in the tank to provide hiding places for the fish. Mbuna cichlids are very territorial and like to stake out their own territory, so make sure there’s plenty of room for each one to do so.

In terms of décor, you can go with either a dark or light substrate, as either will show off the fish nicely. Live plants generally aren’t a good idea unless you have very few cichlids and want something to give them some color and hiding places.

Mbunas are also known for being quite aggressive toward other fish in their territory, so be careful about what types of tankmates you choose. Some good options include other types of cichlids, catfish, and loaches.

One last thing to keep in mind is that Mbuna cichlids like a high level of dissolved oxygen in the water, so make sure your tank has an air pump or some other way of adding oxygen.

Life cycle of mbunas

The life cycle of mbuna cichlid is interesting to observe. Mbuna eggs are laid on the substrate, and the fry stay close to their parents until they are able to fend for themselves. Mbunas typically reach sexual maturity at around six months old. Males will start developing breeding tubercles on their heads when they reach maturity.

These tubercles are used to attract mates. Females will also start developing breeding tubercles, but they are not as pronounced as the males’.

Mbuna cichlids can be bred in captivity. If you want to breed mbunas, you will need to provide them with a suitable environment and a diet that is rich in calcium.

Are mbunas aggressive or peaceful?

Mbuna cichlids are typically considered to be aggressive fish. However, there are some species of mbunas that are considered to be peaceful.

If you want to keep mbunas in your aquarium, it is important to research the different species and choose one that will be compatible with your other fish.

Mbuna cichlid care

mbuna cichlid

Like most cichlids, mbuna care is challenging. They are more difficult to care for than the average freshwater fish because they can be aggressive and require a lot of space in their aquariums. It also helps if you have several females for every male so that the males do not become too violent with each other.

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Mbuna cichlids are native to Africa. In their natural habitat, mbunas prefer to live in rocky areas with lots of caves and crevices where they can hide from predators. They also require very hard water that is high in minerals like calcium and magnesium so that they can build strong bones.

Tank mates

Mbuna cichlids are best kept as a single species in an aquarium because they become much more aggressive when housed with other fish. If you really want to keep them with other types of fish, the only tank mates that work well for mbunas are other large African cichlids.

In order to have happy and healthy mbuna cichlids, it is important to provide them with a tank that mimics their natural habitat. This means including plenty of rocks and caves for them to hide in, as well as a strong current so they can swim around.

Mbuna cichlids compatibility

Mbuna cichlids compatibility is a key concern for anyone looking to keep these fish. As a general rule, it is best to house mbuna cichlids with other mbunas. This helps them feel secure and reduces aggression. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, certain species of mbuna cichlids can be housed with other fish, such as Tanganyikan cichlids.

When choosing tankmates for your cichlids, consider the size of their aquarium and the aggressiveness of the different species. You also want to make sure that the other fish in the tank will not pose a threat to your cichlids.

For example, if you house aggressive fish like tiger barbs with your mbuna cichlid, the other fish may bully them and make them feel threatened enough to attack their own kind.

Water conditions

Mbuna cichlids are very sensitive to chemical changes in their water. They require a lot of care when it comes to the pH, hardness, and temperature of their tanks. This means that you need to regularly test your tank’s chemistry with an aquarium testing kit so that everything is right for them.

If you want healthy mbuna cichlids, you need to make sure that their water is on the hard side and has a pH between eight and nine. The water temperature should be kept between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to breed mbunas?

mbuna cichlid

Mbuna cichlids are easy to breed in an aquarium setting. All you need is a male and female, and they will take care of the rest. The eggs will be laid on rocks or cave walls, and the parents will guard them until they hatch.

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The fry (newborn fish) will stay with their parents for about six weeks. After this time, they will become more aggressive and should be separated from the group so that no further aggression occurs.


Mbuna cichlids can live for up to eight years in an aquarium setting.

Parasites and diseases

Mbuna cichlids are susceptible to a number of parasites and diseases. This is why it is important to quarantine any new fish before adding them to your main tank. Some common parasites and diseases that affect mbunas include ich, velvet, fin rot, and white spot disease.

If you notice any signs of illness in your fish, you should immediately move them to a quarantine tank. There are many treatments available for different parasites and diseases that affect cichlids. Read more about these illnesses here.


Mbuna cichlids are preyed upon by a number of different predators in their natural habitat. These predators include large fish, birds, and even crocodiles! In an aquarium setting, the main predators of mbunas are other cichlids.

It is important to provide your fish with plenty of hiding spots so that they feel secure. This way, the other fish in your aquarium will not bother them as much and cannot attack from behind.

Do they make good pets?

Many of the Mbuna cichlids are not the best choice for a beginner fish keeper. They require a lot of care and can be quite aggressive. However, if you are an experienced fish keeper and have a large aquarium, they make excellent pets.

What mbuna cichlids can be kept together?

Mbuna cichlids can be kept together in a large aquarium, but only if they are of the same species. If you mix different types of mbuna cichlids together, they will become very aggressive and may even kill each other.

If you want to keep more than one type of mbuna cichlid together, you can try to do so by adding a divider into the aquarium. This way, they will be separated from each other and cannot see or chase one another.

One of the best ways to keep mbuna cichlids is in a species-only tank with plenty of rocks and caves for them to hide in. This will help to reduce aggression and keep them healthy.

Can I mix mbuna and peacocks?

No. It is not recommended to mix mbuna and peacocks together in an aquarium setting. Mbunas are very aggressive and will chase the more passive peacocks around. This can lead to injury or death for the peacocks.

If you want to keep both of these types of cichlids, it is best to have a separate tank for each. This will help to reduce aggression and keep the fish healthy.

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How do you know if Mbuna is holding?

If you see your mbuna cichlid in a head-down position, it is usually “holding” or caring for eggs. Cichlids will often pick one female to hold for and protect their eggs.

After they lay the eggs, both male and female fish take turns holding them until they hatch (usually within 48 hours). While they are holding, the fish will not eat and should be kept in a separate tank. This way, you can easily feed them while their mate is protecting the eggs.

If your mbuna cichlid is lying on its side or upside down, it probably has ich (Ick). Ich causes white spots to form all over the fish, which is why it is often called white spot disease.

If you notice your mbuna cichlid has ick, immediately move them to a quarantine tank. There are many treatments available for different parasites and diseases that affect cichlids. Read more about these illnesses here.

Amazing mbuna cichlid types

Below are lists of beginner-friendly mbunas for new fish keepers:

  • Chilumba Cichlid (Tropheops chilumba)
  • Maingano Cichlid Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos
  • Livingstonii Cichlid (Pseudotropheus livingstonii)
  • Perlmutt Cichlid (Labidochromis perlmutt)
  • Pearl of Likoma Cichlid (Melanochromis joanjohnsonae)
  • Freibergi Cichlid (Labidochromis freibergi)
  • Yellow-tail Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus acei)
  • Dialeptos Cichlid (Melanochromis dialeptos)
  • Perspicax Cichlid (Pseudotropheus perspicax)
  • Electric Yellow Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Here are lists of large and aggressive mbuna species to avoid by beginner fishkeepers:

  • Bumblebee Cichlid(Metriaclima crabro)
  • Blue Mbuna Cichlid (Labeotropheus fuelleborni)
  • Kenyi Cichlid (Metriaclima lombardoi)
  • Ice Blue Cichlid (Metriaclima greshakei)
  • Pindani Cichlid (Pseudotropheus socolofi)
  • Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)

This list is perfect for both beginner and experienced fishkeepers:

  • Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)
  • Bumblebee Cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro)
  • Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)
  • Golden Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)
  • Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus sp.)
  • Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)
  • Clown Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis chisumulae)
  • Elongatus Jewel Spot Cichlid (Pseudotropheus elongatus or Elongate Mbuna)
  • Blue Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia callainos)


Mbuna cichlids are a great choice for any aquarist. With their striking colors and ease of care, they make an excellent addition to most aquariums. The important thing is to research the varieties you want beforehand so you know what you’re getting yourself into with both adult size and temperament!