different Mbuna from Lake Malawi
Different Mbuna from Lake Malawi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Malawi Cichlids originate from the third largest lake in Africa and the eighth largest in the world, Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is home to more fish species than anywhere else on earth. Being a rift valley lake, it is a very rocky lake with little vegetation. The edges of the lake provide a different type of habitat; more sandy with fewer rocks and more open water. These two different types of habitat give rise to two different groups of Cichlid; the rock dwellers (or mbuna) and non-rock dwellers.

If you are thinking of keeping Malawi Cichlids you will really need to decide which group you want to keep as generally the rock dwellers and non-rock dwellers do not get on well together. In fact, they do not particularly get with other types of fish, so you will really need to restrict yourself to just mbunas or non-rock dwelling Cichlids. Once you have decided you will need to set up your aquarium accordingly. For rock dwelling fish, it should come as no great surprise that you need plenty of rocks. Not only this though, your fish need plenty of little caves and places to hide and explore.

The non-rock dwellers prefer a sandy substrate and generally more open water. They should not have a completely bare tank though, they do need some interest. Typically they should have just a few rocks scattered over the floor of the tank, and they do not particularly need caves.

In their natural environment, Malawi Cichlids live in water temperatures of around 24-26C or 76-79F, therefore you will need to try and replicate this within your aquarium. In order to avoid variations in temperatures you will need to locate your aquarium away from heaters and out of direct sunlight.

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