Lake Malawi Cichlids (Haplochromis) Species Profile – Fishinaquarium

Lake Malawi Cichlid


Lake Malawi Cichlid Introduction


Do you love larger species for your aquarium? Larger African cichlids or haplochromis genus have a wide range of species options you can choose from.

These cichlids aren’t larger but they also have an amazing appearance each with unique coloration and pattern.  This genus has been a popular choice for home aquariums and has been consistently imported from their natural freshwater environment.

It refers to a range of species from 4 inches to 13 inches depending on the particular species. They have varying temperaments but have successfully thrived and been bred in captivity worldwide.  You can now find different haplochromis species in the market with no problems.


Category Rating
Level of care Easy
Temperament Semi-Aggressive or Aggressive. Depending on the species
Appearance Bold patterns and coloration. Unique for each species
Life expectancy Up to 10 years
Size 4-13 inches
Diet Herbivorous, Omnivorous, Carnivorous, Insectivorous
Family Cichlidae
Tank size 50-gallon or larger
Tank environment Wide range of water conditions. The exact parameters depend on the particular species
Tank Mates Better kept in a species tank

Possible tank mates include large armored catfishes


Lake Malawi Cichlid Overview


African cichlids or haplochromis host different species with diverse colorations, characteristics, behaviors, and habitats.

The freshwater species are popular among aquarists and can thrive in different sizes of species or community tanks. They’re generally adaptable and resilient in the aquarium environment.

It specifically refers to Lake Malawi’s cichlids that cover 239 different species. It’s impossible to list down all species here but there are some popular species in the


Lake Malawi Cichlid Behavior


This species are very active fish that give energy aquaria appeal. Some species require special care while others are pretty easy to care for.  They unite different levels of aquarists with extensive species to choose from.

Species have different levels of aggression. You must be carefully selecting the cichlid species for a community aquarium.

Even though many cichlids have shown their ability to live together with other species, some species are just intolerable.  Not all species are eligible for home aquariums.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Appearance


This species have diverse colors and patterns that are unique for each of them. You can have the catalog with pictures, but each haplochromis species may take up to all year long to develop its bold coloration.

On the other hand, captivity-bred haplochromis may be slightly different in color and size from the wild specimens.

The appearance of them can also be largely determined by the tank environment, care, and diet.

They may have dull coloration as the water conditions aren’t ideal or they receive an unbalanced diet. It’s true that haplochromis species are mainly differentiated by their appearance.

Lake Malawi Cichlid Characteristics


Haplochromis species aren’t spectacular until they’ve fully grown so you can enjoy their bold colors.

Even sexting isn’t possible until they’re mature enough. You can expect most haplochromis fry to be gray or silver-colored while some of them have bland egg spots that help them avoid predators.

Some popular haplochromis for aquaria include Blue moorii (Cyrtocara moorii), Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri), and Malawi Eyebiter (Dimidiochromis compressicep).

However, haplochromis also refers to larger groups of fishes including Utaka cichlids and some peacocks. They’re usually called “haps”, which refers to their happy behavior even when kept in captivity.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Caring and Tank Guide


The right tank setup haplochromis is generally about resembling their natural habitat as much as possible.

These include the tank size, water conditions, decoration, lighting, filtration, etc.  More importantly, you should know how to maintain the tank and take care of the species.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank Size


It can have a range size of 4 -13 inches so it would depend on the species and how many fish you want to keep in the tank. If you want to keep smaller haplochromis species, a 20-gallon tank would do.

However, haplochromis species can be very active, territorial, and aggressive,  you better use larger tanks like 30-gallon or above.

Let’s say you start with a 20-gallon in mind, you need to add three gallons for each fish you want to add into the aquarium.

Take also into account the maximum size of the fish if they’ve fully grown in the future. Providing more space for haplochromis fish is the best practice whether it’s for species or community tanks.

Lake Malawi Cichlid Setup


Most of this species would love open water with rocky spaces. The substrates must be fine sands or gravels and avoid coarse, sharp materials. It’s because some haplochromis species would scavenge foods in the bottom.

This species can be territorial so you’d need to set up plenty of hiding places, cavities, and ensure they have adequate space. You can use either rocky caves, fixtures, or aquaria plants proportionally in a safe manner. However, some species can simply uproot the plants.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank Water Conditions


Resembling the natural habitat of Haplochromis species in Lake Malawi, you must keep a pH value of 6.5 to 8.5. The exact value would be subject to the Haplochromis species you want to keep. Water temperature is slightly flexible at a range of 75 – 85 F.

If it’s a community tank, you should maintain the best possible setup of all inhabitants. Otherwise, you better choose the tank mates that require similar water parameters with Haplochromis to live in the tank.

To keep the water quality and temperature, you need some instruments to invest in including a thermostat, water heater, and filter. The heating and filtration system must suit the species or community tank size. When it comes to lighting, Haplochromis has no specific requirements except for showcase purposes.

Again, a larger tank is highly recommended if you want to keep Haplochromis in captivity. Since they can live up to 10 years, choosing the proper aquarium is important as a long-term investment.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Tank Maintenance


Despite a robust filtration system, maintain the water quality in the tank by cleaning up your tank on a regular basis.  Do partial water changes of up to 25% each week to reduce the nitrate level that would make water toxic for Haplochromis. The bio-loads would be larger with more inhabitants in the tank.

With proper maintenance, you allow Haplochromis to live healthier and longer. Besides, it provides you with a clear aquarium view where you can see these habitants swimming or schooling around.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Tankmates


It can be aggressive so you must carefully select tankmates. Avoid any species that love to swim in the open water as cichlids may attack them. It may prey on small fishes so they are better kept with similar-sized species.

Don’t put South American cichlids with Haplochromis together since they’d likely fight each other even though they look similar. At this point, the larger bottom-dwellers are likely the best possible options for  tank mates. The armored catfish can defend themselves and won’t disturb the swimming area of cichlids.

Need a more peaceful and less hassle maintenance? You better keep them in a species tank instead of in the community aquarium.  While it looks dull, that’s the safest option for keeping Lake Malawi’s cichlids in a home aquarium.

It’s highly recommended to contact a professional aquarist if you want to set up a community tank. Ask them for the best ideal population and tank mates for these cichlids.


How to feed Lake Malawi Cichlid


This species require varied foods and the exact diet would be subject to each species. They can be carnivores, herbivores, omnivores, or insectivores. You can prepare varied foods of pretty much everything but you must provide adequate but no excessive supplies.

Some common foods for this species include flakes,  insects, tubifex or blood worms, frozen foods, cichlid pellets, algae waters, brine shrimps, vegetables, and fruits. Regardless of the species, you can feed Haplochromis fish twice a day and avoid singly large portions.

Don’t overfeed them and to keep the water quality reduced from decaying waste. Generally speaking, you feed on them with no more than they can finish within 2-3 minutes. Give a longer gap between meals as Haplochromis processes foods slower than other fish.

You won’t find any difficulty when looking for their foods since they’re widely available in the market. There are also special foods for cichlids that may intensify the colors or boost the saturation. Consult with experts whether or not your particular Haplochromis species can take these specialty foods and which products to select.


Lake Malawi Cichlid Breeding guideline


Like other African cichlids, Haplochromis is easy to breed even in captivity. The females are generally maternal mouthbrooders while the eggs can be scattered throughout the tank. Males would fertilize the eggs and the female would incubate them in her mouth.

The incubation period can last up to 21 to 31 days depending on the water condition. Once hatched, the free-swimming fry is released but the mother would collect them again once they’re threatened. Males would typically harass the female after spawning.

You can relocate the females into a separate tank where she can take care of her fry safely. You can feed them with infusoria or other suitable foods until they are large enough for the species tank. In this very tank, females can recover from their brooding season more quickly.

With a separate growing tank, you can expect more surviving fry that would grow beautifully and fill your next tanks. Research further for more techniques and approaches for breeding Haplochromis in a home aquarium.