Livingstoni Cichlid Overview, Care & Breeding Guide

Livingstoni cichlids are sedentary, beautiful freshwater fish that can adapt to both soft muddy, and completely rocky environments.

They like to exist alone and often have colorful mottled bodies. Their varied colors, patterns, and active behavior often pique aquarists’ interests.

So, if you’re also one of them, keep reading!

What are the Characteristics of Livingstoni Cichlid?

OriginAfrica, Lake Malawi
Scientific NameNimbochromis livingstonii
Common NamesLivingstoni cichlid, kalingono (local name)
IUCN Red List StatusLeast Concern
AppearanceBoth male and female fish have yellowish, silvery, or blue skin with black blotches. Males have gaudier colors.
SizeUp to 25.0 cm (9.85 in)
LifespanUp to 10 years
Tank LevelBottom dweller
Water Temperature77-82 °F (25-28 °C)
pH Level7.5-8.5
Water Hardness9-15 dGH
Care LevelIntermediate
Minimum Tank Size65 gallons for 1 or 215 gallons for 3
Tank EnvironmentEnough hiding spots and vacant swimming space
Tank MatesOther cichlids of similar size, large Synodontic catfish, Dimidiochromis, Nimbochromis or Haplochromis species.

What is the Natural Habitat of Livingstoni Cichlid?

Livingstoni cichlid is mainly found in Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe, and the upper Shire River of East Africa. They are specifically found in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania countries (Africa).

They can thrive in diverse habitats but are mainly found in the intermediate habitat. So, they occupy a range of depth between the lakeshore and 114 m deep. The species is demersal in nature, which implies it swims mainly in the bottom levels of the water.

They enjoy muddy and rocky environments in vegetated regions especially in breeding seasons as it helps them ambush small fish.

The fish was last assessed in the 2018 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and deemed as Least Concern.

Fun Fact: Livingstoni acts dead by being motionless and laying on its side. It preys on smaller fish that approach it.

How to Classify Livingstoni Cichlid?

The scientific name of livingstoni cichlid is Nimbochromis livingstonii. The fish belongs to the Cichlidae family of Perciformes order.

The fish is commonly known as livingstoni cichlid and its local name is kalingono.

How does Livingstoni Cichlid Look?

Livingstoni cichlid front view

Livingstoni has a streamlined, elongated, and torpedo-shaped body and a large mouth.

What is the Size of Livingstoni Cichlid?

A mature male of this breed can grow up to 25.0 cm and a mature female up to 20.0 cm. The dimensions of each part of the fish body are as follows:

  • Head length: one-third of standard body length
  • Head width: almost half the head length
  • Lower jaw: a third to half the head length
  • Body depth: a third of standard body length
  • Dorsal fin base: half of standard body length

What is the Color of Livingstoni Cichlid?

Their unique colors and patterns include 4 bright dark bars from the eye. They don’t have speckles on the head or body.

The fish has yellowish, silvery, or blue skin with contrasting black blotchy patterns. The patterns also include anastomosing vertical and horizontal details.

Both genders have a white ground color with brown spot patterns. Their dorsal fins might have orange to red band and rarely even white lines.

What are the Features of Livingstoni Cichlid?

This fish species has a unique number of spines and soft rays as listed:

  • Dorsal spines: 15-16
  • Dorsal soft rays: 10-11
  • Anal spines: 3
  • Anal soft rays: 9-10

Their pectoral fins have faint spots.

What is the Sexual Dimorphism of Livingstoni Cichlid?

The males have a light blue color around their heads and egg-shaped patterns on their anal fins, unlike the females.

Males also grow to be larger and some even have blue-purple or blue-green shine which become brighter during mating seasons and the spotted pattern becomes almost invisible.

What is the Behavior & Temperament of Livingstoni Cichlid in the tank?

These fish are aggressive predators and the males can also act rashly with the females and other smaller species.

They are territorial so it’s better to keep one male with multiple other female livingstonii during mating season. Otherwise, multiple males in the same tank might start fighting for dominance during the mating season.

Further, this fish is diurnal, i.e., stays active during the day and sleeps at night.

Author’s Note: Though aggressive, livingstonii cichlid knows better than to pick a fight with bigger or equally big species.

What is the Lifespan of Livingstoni Cichlid?

If you take good care of the fish, it can live up to 10 years or even longer (like 12). However, diseases, poor diet, and unsuitable environments can shorten its lifespan considerably.

How to take care of Livingstoni Cichlid?

Group of livingstoni cichlids

This fish has specific needs in its tank environment which if remain unfulfilled may lead to difficulty in breeding or worse, life-threatening diseases. Their cohabitants must also be chosen wisely, especially if you’re looking for a happy and healthy aquarium.

What should be the Tank Size for Livingstoni Cichlid?

An adult fish needs a tank of about 65 gallons. However, if you want to keep 3 adult fish together, you need about 215 gallons of tank volume.

Tip: It’s better to keep 3 adults together at least. Otherwise, they become susceptible to stress and even diseases due to loneliness.

What should be the Water Chemistry for Livingstoni Cichlid?

The water conditions of these fish must be similar to their natural environment. To mimic that, you must have –

  • pH Levels: 7.5-8.5
  • Water Temperature: 77-82 °F (25-28 °C), never more than 87.8 °F (31 °C)
  • Water Hardness: 9-15 dGH
  • Ammonia: Undetectable
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Less than 50 ppm

What should be the Tank Environment for Livingstoni Cichlid?

The fish especially prefers to have enough hiding space to relax, mate, feel at home, and live close to their natural lifespan.

You can also modify the tank to their liking with the right kind of substrate, plant, and decor!

Which Substrate should be used for Livingstoni Cichlid?

They are more comfortable in the sand substrate as it mimics their natural habitat and supports specific needs for salts to maintain a desirable pH range. Different limestone rocks like travertine or millstone are good for maintaining the alkaline water quality.

Though you can use coral sand or Aragonite, the fish prefers dark substrate to feel safe and show their colors clearly.

Which Plants should be used for Livingstoni Cichlid?

Dense Vallisneria patches are ideal for them to practice ambush predator tactics or rest peacefully. Vegetation-rich areas are also helpful for breeding. You can also add Java fem, Java Moss, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne.

What type of Lighting should be kept for Livingstoni Cichlid?

The fish prefers a fairly dim lit environment.

Which Décor does Livingstoni Cichlid like?

Livingstoni cichlids like to act dead to hunt and they need flat surfaces for fertilization. So, to keep them stress-free and make them feel at home, use flat rocks, wood, and vegetated areas.

You can also form caves using rocks and there must be enough space for the fish to swim around.

What is the Filtration recommendation for Livingstoni Cichlid?

To maintain moderate water movement and clear water, a strong and efficient filter befitting your tank size is necessary

What is the Water Flow Rate for Livingstoni Cichlid?

Avoid any kind of strong current in the water flow. A medium flow is preferred.

Note: If you use tap water in your tank, use a water conditioner to remove toxic elements (copper, lead, zinc, and chlorine) for both good fish and vegetation growth.

What does Livingstoni Cichlid eat?

The fish exclusively enjoys a diet of smaller fishes. However, it’s not the only food that can give them a great living.

Livingstoni cichlids can thrive off a meaty high-quality diet containing whitebait, lancetfish, prawns, brine fish, omnivore pellet, freeze-dried krill, and feeder fish.

Their hunting instincts are set off from eating feeder fish, so make sure there aren’t smaller breeds around.

However, you must also feed them vegetables for their balanced diet. Moreover, avoid feeding them animal meat.

Never overfeed or it might pollute the water and make them sick. Go for small portions multiple times a day.

Dietary Tip: Some of these species won’t ever accept freeze-dried food, so go for a piscivorous diet if your seller mentions avoiding malnutrition.

What are the Tank Mates for Livingstoni Cichlid?

Despite being the solitary kind, these fish can peacefully stay with other fish of similar size like these.

  • Sunshine peacock
  • Blue dragon blood peacock
  • Victorian hap
  • Malawi hap
  • Malawi peacock
  • Large synodontis catfish
  • Dimidiochromis species
  • Other sizeable Nimbochromis or Haplochromis species

Which Tank Mates to Avoid for Livingstoni Cichlid?

It’s better to avoid keeping them around smaller fish species. You must also avoid keeping multiple males together during mating season.

What are the Common Diseases for Livingstoni Cichlid?

Another way to ensure the health of your pet fish is to keep an eye on its health. Stay alert of the symptoms of the following diseases:

Disease NameCausesSymptomsTreatment
Fin RotBacterial InfectionLethargy, appetite loss, fraying and/or disintegration of fins, fin discoloration.Water quality enhancement, removing objects that may physically injures them further, antibiotics.
IchExternal Protozoan ParasiteLethargy, appetite loss, white spotting, flashing.Addition of aquarium salts or ich medicines, elevation of aquarium temperature.
ColumnarisBacterial InfectionLethargy, appetite loss, gray/white patches, fin fraying.Water quality enhancement, antibiotics, stress reduction.
Malawi bloatPoor diet, overfeeding, too much salt (NaCl) in water, stress, bacterial infectionPoor appetite, spitting food, white and string-like feces, hiding, bloated stomach, scales lifted from the body.Epsom salt, clout, metronidazole

How to Breed Livingstoni Cichlid in an Aquarium?

Livingstoniis are ready to breed once they are 2-3 years old. The males are polygamous and prefer to mate with 3-6 females alone.

What is the Mating Ritual for Livingstoni Cichlid?

The male fish often becomes aggressive and their blue color intensifies as it prepares to spawn. It chooses a specific flat hard surface or digs a pit.

After that, the female fish lays eggs in the chosen place and moves away. The male fish spawns and fertilizes the eggs.

As the female fish is a mouthbrooder, she takes the brood (up to 100 eggs) in her mouth for an incubation period of 3 weeks to protect them from danger and releases the young fry at the end of 3 weeks. After this, she lays another batch of eggs.

What is the Incubation Phase for Livingstoni Cichlid?

During the incubation period, the female fish won’t eat and her mouth seems swollen and a dark pattern of brooding coloration appears.

She needs extreme care during this phase especially if you want to move her to a new tank to release her young fry in a safe space. Otherwise, she may spit out the brood too early out of stress.

However, it’s better to avoid isolating females for too long from her colony. Otherwise, she might lose her social ranking (pecking order).

So, unless she’s harassed by the remaining fish, delay the isolation for as long as possible. Experienced breeders artificially take the fry out of the mother’s mouth after 2 weeks.

They raise them in a different tank with brine shrimp (nauplii) right away. However, if you’re not a pro, avoid taking this risk.

Breeding Tip: Before spawning, maintain a high-grade meat-based diet for their good health. Maintain a temperature around 25 °C and 8.0 pH.

To avoid hybridization, you must never mix different species of similar genus or the same species of different kinds.

How to Buy Livingstoni Cichlid?

Livingstoni cichlids are mainly available in aquarium clubs or specialized shops. If the shop has bred the fish for a long time, you can take care and breed the specimens easily. However, you must always be mindful of the water conditions.

A word from FishInAquarium

Livingstoni cichlids prefer to live in small groups. They have a calm temperament only if they are with similarly-sized fish species.

So now if you enjoyed and learned a lot about your next pet fish, make sure to share with other fish enthusiasts. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to mail us your queries!

Minnie B Miller - Professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium

About Minnie B Miller

Minnie B. Miller, a professional aquarist and owner of FishInAquarium, has over 8 years of expertise in fish breeding and care, gained through her roles at AquaticTX and Sea Lion Landing. Having honed her skills with various aquatic species, she is dedicated to empowering fellow enthusiasts by sharing her knowledge and experience.