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Fish Bio: Malawi Cichlids

What are Malawi Cichlids?

Malawi Cichlids (pronounced ‘Sick’-‘Lids’) are from the Great African Lake of Malawi in South East Africa. The cichlids are from the family Cichlidae and are one of the largest vertebrate families with over 1,600 discovered species.  There are still many species of cichlids undiscovered as new discoveries are being made every month. They are an extremely popular choice of tropical fish as a pet in the U.K, U.S.A and Australia. As Malawi Cichlids are accustomed to the warm climate of the Lake Malawi, temperatures in a household tank should range from 29 to 44 °C.


Determining Sex

Malawi Cichlids kept as pets in household aquariums usually range from a length of 10cm to 30cm and have several different colours and patterns making them very diverse and attractive to other tropical fish. It is quite diffictult to identify whether a cichlid is male or female from appearance alone as the only identifiable physical features are egg spots on the anal fin as shown by the yellow spot on the male cichlid’s anal fin in the picture below:

Malawi Cichlid
Malawi Cichlid

Yellow spot on anal fin: an identifying factor of determining a Cichlid’s sex

Females may also have spots on their anal fins but it is usually males that have either one or several spots of a yellow or white hue. Males tend to be bigger in size than females in general but the key distinguishing factor of sex of a cichlid is in fact any physical feature but of the behaviour of the fish. Males will be far more active than females in terms of movement as they will be performing several courting dances to attract mates. Males are often aggressive to other fish in the tank, especially other males. The alpha male of a tank (usually the biggest fish in a tank but not necessarily) will be hyper aggressive a lot of time constantly chasing other fish in the tank and moving aquarium gravel and ornaments to suit it’s own environmental preference; if an aquarium has gravel the alpha male will tend to shift all of the gravel to one side of the tank it prefers to establish it’s own territory.


Pseudotropheus Zebra Cichlid
Pseudotropheus Zebra Cichlid

Feeding Cichlids

Malawi cichlids are mainly herbivores that will eat or have a nibble at most aquarium plants and algae. We recommend Aquarian’s Tropical fish food flakes for a complete nutritional feed for Malawi Cichlids which can be purchased here.




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