FIA is community supported website. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn More.

Livingstoni Cichlid (Nimbochromis Livingstonii) Care

A cichlid for your aquarium?

Ensure that you have Livingstoni Cichlid on your list. The Lake Malawi cichlids are a superior selection to add into community tanks if you want to set a species tank for them.

It’s a medium-sized cichlid with an appealing appearance and adorable behavior.

Also known as the Livingston’s hap, livingstoni cichlid have become a quite popular species among aquarists. It’s not difficult to care in the tank environment and requires no specific treatment. Still, you need the best tank setup, tank mates, feeding, and breeding approaches when keeping them in the home aquarium.

Species Overview

Level of CareIntermediate
AppearanceStar pattern in the eye radiating outwards
Life Expectancy10 years
SizeUp to 10 inches
Tank Size150-gallon or larger
Tank EnvironmentHard and alkaline water
Tank MatesBetter kept singly or a male with a harem
Selected same-sized peaceful cichlids
Avoid Mbunas

Nimbochromis livingstoni or popularly known as the livingstoni Cichlid is a freshwater species native to Lake Malawi in the Great Rift Valley Region. They have been consistently imported for home aquariums.

Natural Habitat

As an endemic species to Lake Malawi, the livingstoni cichlid typically live in rocky environments and muddy bottoms. You can find this cichlid thrives in debt more than 90 meters. The population occupies regions with dense vegetation in the shallow lakes and sheltered bays.

Even though they’re found in rocky environments, these are not Mbuna cichlid or rock-dwelling. They doesn’t prefer open swimming areas like the Mbunas. It has different hunting techniques compared to active stealth techniques even though they may look similar in appearance.

When coming to the home aquarium, livingstoni cichlid require easy care. They’re not demanding on foods or specific environments. However, you’d better have the best possible tank setup and treatment to ensure their well-being when kept in captivity.


Despite the unique behavior, you can adore the appearance of these species.


The body has a mixed style of silver, yellow, bluish background coloration with spots that contrast the whole scene. Being so appealing, more people keep them in their aquarium.

The area surrounded the eye house start-like pattern with four dark lines radiating outward. Surprisingly, this pattern helps The livingstonii cichlid to camouflage in their natural environment. It allows the cichlid to blend through the vegetated environment and hunt prey efficiently.


The livingstoni cichlid can grow up to 10 inches even in the tank.

You can find that male and female fish are different from physical observation. Female have shorter and rounder fins while the male has an elongated, pointed anal and dorsal fin.

Males’ forehead would host a light blue when adult. You don’t find that development in females. In general, male fish grow bigger than females. However, female fish may get even bigger when spawning.

Behavior & Temperament

They a unique behavior, especially when hunting live foods. They would pretend to be dead to invite prey and would immediately devour them once closer enough in their range.

That’s why feeding them is another attraction for aquarium trades. The smart ambush-style preying technique is mind-blowing and just very interesting to witness.

It is quite aggressive and doesn’t live well in a community tank except with very specific tank mates.

These may stay on the tank bottom flatly for a while. When small fish you added to the tank start nipping their fins, The livingstoni cichlid quickly prey on them with lighting sideways motion of the head and mouth without moving its body. So quickly and deathly.

They have harem-polygamous nature so they’re better kept in a group of one alpha male and several females.

Other aggressive, boisterous, and territorial species are certainly not recommended tank mates.

Livingstoni Cichlid Care & Tank Setup

When keeping them, it’s best to have proper tank size, setup, substrate, and decoration. It’s very important to resemble water conditions and the environment of their natural habitat as much as possible.

They appreciate a well-aquascaped environment.

Tank Size

Since they can grow up to 10 inches and become territorial, you’d need a fairly large 70-gallon tank to keep juveniles. However, you’d need at least a 125-gallon aquarium to keep a group of adults. The dimension of the tank should prioritize the length and width instead of the height.


Livingstonis appreciate a well-decorated tank environment resembling the natural habitat. You can build rocky structures with caves and crevices where they can explore when venturing.  They must be sturdy enough when installed in your aquarium to prevent accidents.

You can use dense plants proportionally whenever possible. However, the whole construction must be stable from the bottom to the top of the tank. The robust filtration system is mandatory as they would produce large amounts of bio-loads.


When keeping livingstoni, you better use coral sand to maintain the hardness and alkalinity of the water environment. They would appreciate darker surfers and the light ones may make them feel insecure. Besides, darker substrates would enhance their color showcase.

Containing your coral sands into the mesh bags is very important to prevent them from infiltrating the internal filtration. Choose the best Aragonite for your tank.

Water Parameters

Even though livingstoni is quite adaptable, it won’t thrive in poor water conditions. You need to set the proper water parameters in the tank resembling their wild habitat.  Lake Malawi is highly mineralized and relatively stable in terms of pH and alkalinity so you need to set it that way in the aquarium.

Livingstoni would thrive in hard alkaline water. You can keep the pH levels at 7.7 to 8.6  while you can maintain the hardness at a range of 6 to 10. Maintain the warmer water environment at a temperature of 75 to 79 F.

You must invest in a reliable water heater with a thermostat for your giant tank to keep them warm in their tank.

Despite the filtration system, you must change up to 20% of water volume weekly to manage water quality. This is very important to manage the bio-loads and to control nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia buildup.

Group of livingstoni cichlids

Tank Mates

Livingstoni  is not a community fish as they’re better kept alone. They’re semi-aggressive species with predatory nature. Small fish would become food for them. However, some species can live with them.

You can keep these with similar-sized, peaceful cichlids. However, they can be very territorial so you’d need to use a larger tank if you want to keep them with other cichlids in the community tank.

Double your filtration filter as there would be a very large amount of bio-loads products by those medium-sized cichlids.

Other possible tank mates include some large species from Great Rift Valley Lake:

But you need to be very cautious when choosing a particular species.

Anyway, it’s still better to keep livingstoni along in the aquarium. Otherwise, you can follow their polygamous nature by keeping one male and three or four females in the tank. This way you can keep peace of mind.

Food & Diet

Livingstoni is an omnivorous species that have small fish in its natural habitats. You can feed them with high protein foods of any form including pellets, frozen foods, freeze-dried krill, high-quality piscivore foods. These can be the main staples on two feeding times.

You can supplement their diet with small amounts and moderation of Mysis and fish. Living foods can trigger aggressiveness which can be an issue in a community tank.

Balance their diet with some vegetables or greens.

Adults and juveniles require different foods to eat. You can feet juveniles below 4 inches with a small amount of flakes. Frozen foods are highly recommended for adult fish.

Keep proportional amounts of food and don’t overfeed them. You can do two or three feeding times per week and provide something they can finish in minutes. Supplement sessions are allowed in controlled amounts and frequency.

Livingstoni cichlid front view

Breeding & Reproduction

Livingstonii is maternal mouthbrooder species.

You can see males get their coloration intensified while females have their bodies changing when ready to spawn. Males typically prepare the spawning spot that also becomes the place where females lay their eggs including the flat rocks or simply in the substrate.

Once successfully enticing females to breed, males let them lay those eggs. Males would then fertilize these eggs and females would take fertilized eggs in their mouth.

Within 25 days, 100 hundred or more eggs will hatch into swimming fry but are still cared for by their mother until they’re released.

You can start feeding fry with crushed flakes and bring shrimp. During spawning, you must take care of the water parameters and nutrition. If it’s kept in a community tank, you’d likely need a separate breeding tank.