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Rusty Cichlid Overview, Care Guide & Breeding Tips

Featured Image by FishMagic

Have you ever imagined how colorful and bright your fish tank would appear by keeping rusty orange cichlids having a light purplish hue? Rusty cichlids are the best buddies for your tank if you want to add more fun to your fish parenting.

Rusty cichlids are usually found in the islands of Lake Malawi, Africa. This type of African Cichlids are omnivores by nature and extends up to 10 cm. However, they are peaceful yet partially aggressive within their genus. However, these fish need minimal care for their growth.

Species Overview

Level of CareVery easy
TemperamentRelatively peaceful
AppearanceRusty orange with a violet tinge
Life Expectancy8 years
Size10 cm
DietVegetables and live foods
Tank Size55 gallons
Tank EnvironmentHard water with rocks and cave
Tank MatesVery peaceful fish

The small rusty cichlids are usually found in the Boadzulu and Chinyankwazi islands in the Lake Malawi of Africa. Being originated and grown up in this sandy and rocky lake, you need to make sure to mimic a similar water condition.

These African cichlids are not much territorial and relatively peaceful as compared to other cichlid species. So, are you thinking of keeping them in your tank? Then, you are indeed making the right choice!

However, their aggression exists between male and female counterparts more than with other fish. The rusty peacock cichlids are best to keep in a harem of a single male and a group of 3-4 females. It is necessary to make them stay away from spreading much aggression.



Rusty cichlids usually reach up to 10 cm in size. Typically, the males achieve 4-inches or 10 cm in length. On the other hand, the females are slightly smaller.

You can distinguish males with additional egg spots near their anal fin area. Also, they tend to grow quicker than their female counterparts.

Well, these species of cichlids are dimorphic, which means both the male and female counterparts look almost the same.

Behavior & Temperament

Rusty cichlids are much more peaceful when they are compared to the other fish inhabiting Lake Malawi of Africa. But are you wondering, are these aggressive?

Well, they can show a bit of aggression towards the fish, which belong to the same genus. Well, this Lake Malawi fish loves to live with other Mbuna fish.

But do you know an interesting fact about these? They are not at all pairing fish. Hence, it would be best if you kept the males in a harem, along with a few females, to control their aggression towards one particular female fish during their spawning season.

Also, while keeping these tiny cichlids, make sure you are not placing them with Lake Malawi Peacocks as it is going to stress them much.


Rusty cichlids can be a perfect tank mate for you owing to their long lifespan.

These usually live up to 8 years, making themselves a good buddy for you in the long run.

Tank Requirements

Rusty cichlids are known for their origin in sediment-free rocky habitats near the Boadzulu and Chinyankwazi islands. Thus, for taking proper care, make sure to offer them optimal tank requirements.

A 4 ft. long aquarium is going to be useful for them. An aquascaped tank with a rocky reef effect will be ideal.

You can opt for decorating the aquarium with ocean rocks to build a very sturdy and concrete structure that stretches from the tank’s base area toward the water’s surface.

For preparing the substrate, it is recommended to use coral sand or aragonite to keep the water hard and alkaline. In a darker surface area, Mbuna feels much safe and offers better bright colors.

The ideal pH of tank water should be between 7.8-8.6.

Make sure the water temperature lies within 76-82 ℉.

Too much plantation in the tank is not at all recommended. If you are keeping them with plants, keep in mind that they will eat a lot of foliage. Hence, look for hardy plants and aquascape them in the tank accordingly to complement well with your vibrant fish.

Tank Setup

While keeping rusty cichlids in your home, make sure the tank meets all the essential requirements for the setup. To keep these species of cichlids, you need to follow the below-mentioned guidelines to offer proper care. Here are the factors that you need to ensure a proper tank setup.

The tank must be a minimum of 4 ft. with a 55-gallon capacity. A too-large tank is not needed. Also, make sure the tank has enough room and is not much small to let them breathe.

Ensure that the water is slightly acidic and hard by nature.

Keep the water pH somewhere between 7.8-8.6.

Maintain the temperature of tank water within 76-82 ℉. You can also consider a water heater to maintain a suitable warm temperature.

Add more rocks to the fish tank. Keep several stones at the bottom of the aquarium, along with driftwood pieces. Also, provide something to munch while feeding them.

Keep hard plants like java fern, java moss, or Anubis to ensure that they are not eating away your foliage.

These are quite messy. Thus, it is better to add a filtration system to keep them healthy and fit.

Tank Mates

Do you have this thought on your mind – are these aggressive? Well, then let us tell you, this particular species are undoubtedly very peaceful. So, while picking tank mates for them, make sure that you are getting the right ones.

The other tank buddies must not be much aggressive or large enough to harm them. So, always opt for calm fish, which can easily live with these without territorial violence.

Now, do you want to know the compatible tank mates? Then check out the list of compatible aqua buddies below.

Food & Diet

Well, feeding rusty cichlids is not at all a challenging task. Since they are omnivorous by nature, you can easily provide them with any good quality flake food, which is easy to offer in appropriate sizes.

Make sure the granular foods are specially made for Mbuna fish. You can also change their diet with Mysis shrimps to maintain a variation in their foods.

Also, it is better to offer vitamin-enriched brine shrimps to provide them with the right nutrients.

These also survive well on mosquito larvae. So, why offer the same bland food to them when you can add variety to their diet?

Keep it much more nutritious with veggies like cucumbers or other blanched vegetables like spinach or romaine lettuce. You can even feed them this vegetable-rich diet regularly to facilitate their proper growth and development.

Any of the fish belonging to Malawi Lake are much more prone to Malawi Bloat. In this health issue, they tend to be hungry always, even when they are not.

So, you need to limit your feeding to only 1-2 times a day, and it would be enough for a fish to eat within 30 seconds to a minute.

They are quite hardy. Thus, they can be offered to starve for a few days occasionally. It is completely fine if you skip or forget to feed them for a full day or a couple of days. It will not at all produce adverse effects on their gorgeous body color.

Rusty Cichlid Care

Have you decided on keeping rusty cichlids in your tank? So, do you know how to take proper care of these peaceful creatures in your fish tank? Well, it is easier with these timid buddies.

Rusty cichlids or lodotropheus sprengerae look great with their colorful look and charm. They tend to stay at the top, middle, or near the bottom of the tank.

Now, do you know what the perfect living place for these species is? Well, it’s a tank decorated with many rocks and caves, along with driftwood. Such a tank setup usually gives them more places to play and hide, which is crucial for their fast growth.

Moreover, ensure that your tank has hardy plants, as these fish can damage the plants with their rapid hide and seek activities or even eat them away.

Breeding Guidelines

So, are you thinking of keeping rusty cichlids in your fish tank? Or are you already having them? Well, then you need to know everything about their breeding.

The breeding habit is quite similar to any other mouthbrooder of the African lake. A breeding pit is dug on the substrate, and females tend to swim in small circles just above the pit. During every pass, they drop some eggs into the pit.

The males then swim in small circles right above the pit area. As the females form eggs, the males will release their sperm to fertilize those eggs.

Once the eggs got fertilized, during the next pass, females pick up these inseminated eggs in their mouths and release another egg to undergo the same fertilization process.

The process continues until the female fish release 15-20 eggs and then pick them up in their mouths. During mouthbrooding, the females store the eggs in their mouths for 18 days near their throats.

As the fries hatch, the female fish still store them in their mouth for as long as they become big enough to come out. During this whole process, the female fish do not eat anything.

To offer proper care during the breeding period, you can keep these rusties together in some other breeding or nursery tank. It will help you to keep away any aggressive fish during their breeding period.

After hatching the eggs, it’s essential to keep the females in another tank to give them two weeks of a break so that they can regain their strength and start breeding again.

However, remember that constant breeding is not at all good for females as it can risk their lives.

Fry Care

Well, you don’t have to worry much about caring for the fries as the feamle already offer some initial care for them.

Nevertheless, to take better care of their fries, you can take them to a new nursery tank, which is small enough.

After one or two weeks of their hatching, start performing a routine water change. Changing 10-20% of the water in the tank and adding fresh dechlorinated water will be perfect for their growth.

Well, do you know, a protein-rich diet is much recommended for your fries’ proper development? You can begin feeding the fries two or three times a day with a mixture of protein-rich fry foods. Give them live foods like infusoria and newly hatched brine shrimps too. Besides, do feed them with some veggies as well.

Finally, move them to the original tank after 4-6 weeks as they grow slightly bigger.

Where to Buy?

Rusty cichlids are easy to find anywhere in the nearby stores. They are not at all rare, and you can easily buy them from any aquarist shop.

However, if you do not find it nearby, you can undoubtedly opt for a hobbyist or buy it from any online shop.

Final Thoughts

So now that you have reached the end of the article, you must have realized how rusty cichlids can be a great tank partner for your calm and small tank buddies.

Also, taking care of these cichlids is relatively easier as they are very easy to feed and grow.

So, if you have bought one or deciding to purchase one, make sure you are giving them the best of care and a safe aquatic environment so that they can enjoy living every bit and dazzle brightly in your tank.