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Lake Malawi
Mbuna Cichlids 
Click here for more about buying Mbuna Cichlids from us.
       
This page contains information about the famous group of Cichlid fishes called Mbunas that live among the rocks along the shores of Lake Malawi in East Africa.
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Big Blue Bob, a Maylandia greshakei, shown above, swimming in a large aquarium with a black background, is one of Tom's very favorite Mbuna Cichlids.
 
 

  This video shows a young male Kenyi, which is a member of the group of Cichlids called Mbunas that naturally occur in Lake Malawi in East Africa.
 

This video shows a mature male Melanochromis auratus swimming near a pile of rocks in an aquarium.
 

  Here is another Mbuna species from Lake Malawi. This fish is often called the Red Top Cobalt Zebra, but it may be Maylandia greshakei. Click here for more about this fish.
 

  This video shows a male mottled Labeotrophus fuelleborni, that's about 5" long. In this video you can see this fish's unusual mouth, which is highly modified to chew algae off rocks.
 

Here is a female Mbuna with a mouthful of eggs. Females like this one often hide in dark places among the rocks, where they mouth brood their eggs.
 
 

The Mbunas are a large group of Cichlids that live among and near the piles of rocks along the shores of Lake Malawi in East Africa. Many Mbunas are very colorful with bright patterns of horizontal stripes or vertical bars.

 
Lemon Yellow Labidochromis caeruleus, an Mbuna African Cichlid Species from Lake Malawi in East Africa.
 
Shown above, a young male Lemon Yellow Labidochromis caeruleus, which is a very popular Mbunas Species from Lake Malawi.

 
 

This picture shows two Mbuna Males disputing the property line between their adjacent territories. The fish on the left is a Kenyi Male and the fish on the right is a Tropheops Male.   This picture shows two Mbuna Males disputing the property line between their territories. The fish on the left is a Kenyi and the fish on the right is a Tropheops. I watched them quarrel, back and forth, for over an hour.

 
 

Mbunas are aggressive fish. In fact Mbunas are so aggressive that few other fish can live with them. We recommend you keep a group of Mbunas with a few Synodontis Catfish and no other types of fish. Mbunas will always make Peacocks and Haps miserable, unless they are much bigger than the Mbunas. Click here for more about Peacocks and Haps.
 
 
Pet Fish Talk, an MP3 PodCast, is a weekly internet talk show about keeping pet fish, such as tropical fish and goldfish, in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds. The shows are hosted by the Bailey Brothers, DrTom and Nevin, from 1 to 3 pm, Pacific Time, each Wednesday. Click on this image for more information.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Mbuna Cichlids", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
   
Pet Fish Talk, an MP3 PodCast, is a weekly internet talk show about keeping pet fish, such as tropical fish and goldfish, in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds. The shows are hosted by the Bailey Brothers, DrTom and Nevin, from 1 to 3 pm, Pacific Time, each Wednesday. Click on this image for more information.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Mbunas Spawning", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
   
Pet Fish Talk, an MP3 PodCast, is a weekly internet talk show about keeping pet fish, such as tropical fish and goldfish, in aquariums, fish bowls, and ponds. The shows are hosted by the Bailey Brothers, DrTom and Nevin, from 1 to 3 pm, Pacific Time, each Wednesday. Click on this image for more information.  
Click here to listen to a Special Show titled "Malawi Bloat", an MP3-PodCast, hosted by The Bailey Brothers on Pet Fish Talk.
 
 

It's a very common mistake to try to keep a small group with just a few Mbunas. The secret to minimizing their aggressiveness is to keep a group with at least 15 Mbunas. You could keep 15 of one species, which is less fun than keeping a mixture of different species of Mbunas, as discussed in the story at a link near the bottom of this page.

When these Mbuna Fish are young and smaller than 2" long, a 30 gallon aquarium is big enough to keep 15 of them. But soon they will need a bigger aquarium with at 75-gallons. Even bigger aquariums are better for a bigger group of Mbunas that will be socially stable.

 
 
Picture Gallery of Mbuna Cichlids
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a famous Labeotropheus trewavasae, named Tré.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a young male Pseudotropheus demasoni.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a mature male OB Labeotropheus fuelleborni, which is often called a "Marmalade Cat".
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a young male of an unidentified Mbuna species.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a mature male Melanochromis auratus.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a mature male OB Pseudotropheus zebra.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a mature female Pseudotropheus socolofi.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a young male Snow White Zebra swimming in one of our aquariums.
 
 
African Cichlids at AquariumFish.net
 
Above, a beautiful young female Auratus.
   
 
   
Appropriate Aquarium for Mbunas
When they've grown to be 4" long, they'll need at least a 60-gallon aquarium. You should keep this in mind when deciding to get them. Soon they will need a 60-gallon aquarium. We recommend an aquarium with at least 75-gallons of water. Mbunas are warm water fish, so their aquarium should have the proper size aquarium heater that's adjusted to 78 to 80-degrees F. Click here for more about aquarium heaters.
 
Cichlid Stones - Ceramic Aquarium Caves.
 
Mbunas should not be kept in an aquarium with a thick layer of gravel. It is very difficult to keep Mbunas healthy in an aquarium with an undergravel filter. It helps to regularly clean the gravel with a gravel washer. It may also help to have reverse flow power heads. But by far the best answer is to have no gravel or a layer of gravel that is no more than 1/4" thick. Click here for more about aquarium gravel.
 
 
The Best Aquarium Filters

For most fish, including Mbunas, are the Penguin and the Emperor. Both of these filters are made by Marineland, and each of these filters contains at least one BIO-Wheel.  A very good combination for Mbunas is a 75 gallon aquarium with two Penguin or two Emperor Filters. Click here for more about aquarium filters.

Mbunas naturally live among and near large piles of rocks, and their aquarium should have several big piles of rocks. Mbunas will destroy living plants, but it looks nice to have a few tall natural looking plastic plants. Click here for more about aquarium ornaments.

 
 
Summary

an aquarium for Mbunas should contain at least 60 gallons of water with two Penguin or Emperor filters, and have the correct size aquarium heater, 1/4" or less of gravel, and several big piles of rocks that are intended for use in aquariums.

 
 
Buying Lake Malawi Mbunas for sale from a cichlid dealer.  

The Mbuna Group includes the Auratus, Pindani, Lemon Yellow, Tropheops, Cobalt Blue, Red Zebra, and many other Mbunas such as the 4" Mature Male Kenyi shown to the left.

 
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What to Feed Mbunas
When Mbunas are small, say less than 2.5 inches long from head to tail, feed them floating tropical fish flake food  that is sold in most stores that sell pet fish. If you read the ingredients, you'll see this food has a nice combination of plant and animal foods such shrimp meal, etc. This is very close to the Mbunas' natural diet.

Feed them at least twice a day. Give them several small amounts of the flake until they are satisfied, but be sure there is no uneaten food left in the aquarium. After 10 minutes, remove any uneaten food with a net.

When your Mbunas grow larger, feed them floating pellet food. Hikari makes floating pellet food for cichlids. These pellets are available in a variety of sizes and sold in most stores that sell pet fish.

Do not feed your Mbunas worms or prepared beef heart. Click here for more about feeding fish.

Do not Feed Worms of any kind to your Mbunas. This includes live worms such as Brown Tubifex Worms or Black Worms. Click here for more about Live Black Worms.

 
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PhytoPlankton Plus - Flake Food from Brine Shrimp Direct with special ingredients for fish such as Malawi Cichlids, many Catfish, Bala sharks, gouramis, Barbs, Loaches, and marine fish such Angelfish and Tangs. Click on this ad to learn more about PhytoPlankton Plus.
 
     

Aquarium Maintenance
Click here for an aquarium maintenance schedule with the daily, weekly, and monthly tasks that must be done to keep your aquarium clean and to minimize the stress and disease to the fish living in your aquarium.

 
 

Growth, Maximum Size, and Life Span
Mbunas grow to a length of 1.5" to 2" in a few months, and this is the size we usually sell them. They will sometimes begin to breed a few months later, when they've grown to about 2" to 2.5", but usually start breeding when they're about a year old and have grown to about 3". Mbunas can live for many years up to a maximum of about 10 years.

The smaller Mbuna species will grow to a maximum of about 3", and the largest species will grow to about 8". Most Mbunas grow to be between 4" and 5" long.

     

Click here to go to another page in this web site with a short story about a beautiful aquarium with Mbunas that was in a restaurant named Giselle's many years ago.

     
Click here to go to another page in this web site, where this discussion about Mbuna Cichlids continues.
 
 
   
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 Best Selling Books 
     
  Click here now to order The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums, a bestselling reference, offering an easy-to-understand look at setting up and maintaining a successful first freshwater aquarium.
     
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  Click here now to order Fancy Goldfish: A Complete Guide ... by Eric L. Johnson, DMV, and Richard E. Hess. The most encompassing and thorough treatment of the fancy goldfish hobby to date. Hardcover with 176 pages.
 
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Best Aquarium Products
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 About our Fish ...
Almost all the photographs and videos, shown on this web site, were taken by us of our fish in our aquariums.
 
Compare the healthy, beautiful, energetic fish in our beautiful aquariums to the fish in our competitors pictures. Their fish often look thin with clamped fins and poor color.
We buy the highest quality fish, produced by the best fish farms or caught by the best collectors of wild fish, then we take incredibly good care of our fish in our beautiful aquariums.
 
If you compare the pictures on this site to our competitors pictures, you can instantly see, our fish and aquariums are better!  ;^ }
Will the fish you get from us look like the fish in our pictures? No! This is similar to buying kittens and puppies that will change as they grow to become cats and dogs.
 
We stock and ship fish that are the ideal size to sell. Not so small that they will not do well when shipped. Yet not so big that they have become much more expensive.
 
The fish in almost all of our pictures were young fish like the ones we have for sale that we raised up, and you can too! 
 
 
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This page was updated on July 16, 2014.