Mbuna are freshwater African Cichlids from Lake Malawi. They are rock dwellers preferring to swim close to rocks rather than the open water. The vibrant color and patterns of Mbuna cichlids makes it a popular freshwater aquarium fish. Although Mbuna cichlids are not schooling fish but they do live in groups. Mbuna cichlids are territorial and aggressive cichlids. They are primarily vegetarian however, there are a few Mbuna cichlids that are omnivores. Below you will find tips on how to care for Mbunas and how to breed Mbuna cichlids.
Aquarium Set Up for Mbuna Cichlid
The Mbuna Cichlids are rock dwellers. In its natural habitat at Lake Malawi, Mbuna cichlids are often seen swimming around the rocks and caves. It is a very aggressive fish and will usually swim in groups (although not schooling fish). Since Mbuna cichlids are rock dwellers, you will need to recreate its rocky environment. Set up the aquarium with plenty of rocks and caves for hiding with a sandy bottom. You should house your Mbuna cichlids in a big aquarium at a minimum 60 gallons, ideally 150 gallons. You can have around 15 Mbuna cichlids in a 60 gallon aquarium.
How Often to Change the Water of Mbuna Cichlid Aquarium?
Mbuna aquarium water should be changed weekly. Change 25% of water weekly. It’s important to keep up with water changes.
How to Decrease Mbuna Cichlid Aggressive Behavior?
Mbuna cichlids are naturally territorial and aggressive. There are three ways to decrease aggressive behavior amongst Mbuna cichlids. The first is to have a big group of Mbuna cichlids in the tank. You need a minimum of 8 Mbuna cichlids per tank, this will diffuse the aggressiveness towards one particular cichlid because there are many cichlids in the tank. The second way to decrease Mbuna cichlid aggressive behavior towards each other is to have a bigger fish tank. At a minimum you need a 60 gallon tank but if you can fit a 100 or 150 gallon tank, you are better off and will likely decrease aggressiveness because they have space to stake out their territory. Finally, a third way to decrease Mbuna cichlid aggressive behavior is to add more aquarium rocks and decor, this will create more hiding places, restrict line of sight and diffuse aggressiveness towards each other.
What to Feed Mbuna Cichlid
The Mbuna Cichlids are primarily herbivores. In the wild, they feed on aufwuchs. Aufwuchs are algae that grows on rocks.
Some Mbunas are omnivores but be careful feeding them animal protein, it can cause digestive issues. I’d stick with a vegetarian diet for Mbuna cichlids. Feed Mbuna cichlids vegetarian pellets.
How to Breed Mbuna Cichlids
Mbuna Cichlids are mouth brooders. Start off with a harem of cichlids, have 1 male and 3 females.
Breeding starts with the male Mbuna cichlid chasing after the female, doing his mating dance to get her to start spawning. When the female Mbuna cichlid is ready, she will lay her eggs. He will then fertilize the eggs and then she will pick up the eggs and keep them in her mouth.
The eggs will stay in her mouth and hatch in 10-14 days. The female Mbuna cichlid will continue keeping the fry in her mouth for another one or two weeks. Even after releasing the cichlid fry, if there is danger or at night, the mother Mbuna cichlid may bring back her babies into her mouth for safety.
During the time when her babies are in her mouth, the mother Mbuna cichlid will not be eating so she will become weak.
It’s best to separate the mother and baby away from the other adult Mbuna cichlid. If you keep the mother cichlid with the other adult cichlids, you risk the babies getting eaten. I’d do the separating after the eggs are fertilized by removing the male cichlid and not removing the mother Mbuna. It’s too stressful for the mother to be moved to a new tank, you risk her spitting out the babies.
Mouth brooding Mbuna Cichlids is fun and rewarding. They can easily be bred at home with ideal water conditions and aquarium set up.
Below is an infograph showing how Mbuna cichlids breed.
Types of Mbuna Cichlid
There are many types of Mbuna cichilds. Most Mbunas are aggressive cichlids however, there are a few more peaceful Mbunas.
Cyahtochromis are a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are vegetarian cichlids and aggressive in nature.
Cynotilapia is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are small sized cichlids. Cynotilapia are omnivores feeding primarily on aufwuchs algae and insects, snails. Cynotilapia afra also commonly called Dogtooth cichlid is a popular type of cynotilapia cichlid.
Genyochromis is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. It is a medium size cichlid that grows to 5 inches in length. Genyochromis is a very aggressive Mbuna cichlid that is known for biting the fins of other fish eating the scales of other fish.
Gephyrochromis is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. It known for being an aggressive Mbuna cichlid. At Lake Malawi, it is a vegetarian cichlid primarily feeding on aufwuchs.
Iodotropheus is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. Iodotropheus are omnivores and are medium sized Mbuna growing to 4.5 inches long. It is one of the least aggressive Mbuna cichlids, making Iodotropheus a good choice for beginners. Rusty Cichlids or Lavender Cichlid (Iodotropheus sprengerae) is a popular Iodotropheus.
Labeotropheus is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. Labeotropheus are vegetarian cichlids that feeds on aufwuchs in the wild. It is one of the more aggressive Mbuna cichlids.
Labidochromis is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. It is one of the more popular Mbuna cichlids. Labidochromis are omnivores and compared to other Mbunas, they are not as aggressive. There are many species of Labidochromis including the popular Yellow Lab (Labidochromis caeruleus). Check out our page on Labidochromis cichlids.
Metriaclima or Maylandia is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are vegetarian cichlids. Compared to other Mbuna cichlids, Metriaclima Mbunas are more aggressive. Popular Metriaclima cichlids are cobalt blue zebra cichlids, red zebra cichlids, Kenyi cichlids and Ice Blue ciclids. Check out our page on Metriaclima cichlids.
Melanochromis is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are vegetarian cichlids. Melanochromis are aggressive Mbuna cichlids.
Petrotilapia is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. Petrotilapia is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are vegetarian cichlids. Petrotilapia are aggressive Mbuna cichlids.
Pseudotropheus is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. Pseudotropheus is a type of Mbuna cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are vegetarian cichlids. Pseudotropheus are aggressive Mbuna cichlids.
Mbuna Cichlid Facts
Origin: Lake Malawi in Africa
Max. Size : 4-6 inches
Min. Tank Size: 60 gallons
Water Temperature: 77-84°F
Water Conditions: PH 7.5-8.4
Color : Colorful
Temperament: Aggressive and Territorial
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