Zebra Cichlid Care Guide: Tank Setup and much more – 2021

Zebra Cichlid


When it comes to adding some crazy colors to your aquarium, zebra cichlids are always a great option to add. Along with their large variety, zebra cichlids are bright in color and offer a lovely and pretty tank compatibility.

Zebra cichlid, an inhabitant of Lake Malawi, is another aggressive species. They are available in various types and grow up to 3.9-inches. These cichlids are easy to care for with regular water change and an herbivorous diet. Also, they can be easily found in any aquarist store.


Category Rating
Level of care Very easy
Temperament Aggressive
Appearance Various colors
Life expectancy 10 years
Size 3.9 inches
Diet Omnivorous and herbivorous diet
Family Cichlidae
Tank size 55 gallons
Tank environment Alkaline water with rock decoration and any substrate
Tankmates Semi-aggressive

About Zebra Cichlids


Zebra cichlids, also known as Malawi blue, are usually East Africa residents of Lake Malawi. This species of Malawi cichlids is quite distinctive with its swollen forehead and a lengthy tail fin.

The ending part of their anal and dorsal fins comes with yellow egg spots. Also, it comes in a large variety of colors. Usually, zebra cichlids come with seven or eight blue and black stripes all over their body. Their bottom part of the face is also black.


This gorgeous species of Lake Malawi is great for caring within your aquarium. Being quite aggressive, zebra red cichlids will do fine with other semi-aggressive cichlids as tank mates. Owing to their aggressive nature, always keep a male cichlid in a harem of three female fishes, which makes them best as a group.


Types of Zebra Cichlids


Unlike other Malawi cichlids that are not available in many varieties, these zebra cichlids usually come in a plethora of options. Here are some of the popular ones, which are worth petting in your fish tank.


●    Kenyi Cichlid Pseudotropheus Lombardoi


Kenyi cichlids refer to the muscular Mbuna cichlid with 5-inches in length. This type of zebra cichlids lives up to 10 years subjected to proper care.

This species of cichlids are usually golden in color, with faint vertical bars all over the body. Also, they have egg spots near their anal fin and stomach.


●    Bumblebee Cichlid


The bumblebee mouthbrooder cichlids are usually distinctive with their robust body structure. Its male counterparts typically grow up to 6-inches while the females are 5-inches long.

The males come with a black color body with dark blue vertical bars all over. On the contrary, the female Bumblebees have a golden body with brown-colored zig-zag stripes.


●    Red Zebra Pseudotropheus estherae


Now, I am sure you must have heard about the zebra red cichlids. Well, this is one of the most popular fishes of this group. These Mbunas come with a stockier body and torpedo shape.

Usually, the red zebra cichlids reach up to 4-inches in length. This species’ males are pretty distinctive with their light blue and dark vertical stripes with egg spots near their anal fin. In contrast, the females have an orangish-reddish-colored body with spotted anal fin.


●    Blue Daktari Cichlids


The blue Daktari cichlids are pretty popular with their torpedo-shaped body. They can get as large as 4-inches, while the females grow up to only about 3-inches in length. These Daktari cichlids can live up to 8 years if given proper care.

Both the male and female counterparts of this cichlid showcase a beautiful yellow color, along with orange and yellow hues on their back. However, there are some fishes, which are blue in color.


●    Pseudotropheus Barlowi


Pseudotropheus Barlowi cichlids are popular with their elongated muscular body. They can reach up to 4-inches in length. With a golden yellow anal fin and a light blue body, along with one yellow egg spot, these Mbunas look simply gorgeous.

Zebra Cichlid Temperament


Owing to their excessive aggression, zebra cichlids are not at all a good community fish. They are best kept with the same species group of one male and 3 females.

If you plan for overstocking to reduce aggression, you need to offer the proper amount of care and observation to them.

However, you can easily keep them with other less aggressive Mbuna cichlids from the Malawi lake. But zebra red cichlids usually do not befriend fishes like Haplochromis, as the zebras are too aggressive towards these particular fishes.

Also, zebra red cichlids do not like to reside with those Mbunas, which are similar in shape and size. These zebras likely tend to attack or interbreed with these other similar-looking Mbunas, which is strictly not recommended for a tank owner.


Zebra Cichlid Tank Requirement


Zebra cichlids are quite easy to care for, and they are indeed the most common type of Malawi fishes for aquariums.

While taking care of zebra cichlids, you need to consider how much space they will need for their free movement. These cichlids are aggressive but not at all territorial.

An adult zebra cichlid will usually grow up to 4-5 inches. So, you need to make sure that you are giving them adequate space in a large enough tank for their happy living.

For one young zebra cichlid, a 20-29 gallons aquarium will be perfect. However, a 55-gallon tank is going to be ideal for caring for a harem of zebra cichlids.

The tank set-up for these cichlids needs to have a lot of rocks and caves. The red zebra cichlid loves to dwell in a small rocky cave inside your tank.

You can either use a fine amount of pebble or coarse sand as the substrate of the aquarium. Also, it would help if you offered a lot of hiding places, along with territorial landmarks in the tank.

For decorating the tank, you can consider java moss or java fern, which will improve the quality of the tank environment.

For better thriving of your zebra red cichlids, an optimum amount of water temperature is needed. You can also opt for a heater to achieve 76-84℉.

This colorful species of cichlids are usually capable of tolerating neutral water conditions. However, it would be best if the water condition of the fish tank is slightly alkaline.


Zebra Cichlid Tank Set-Up


Now that I told you about zebra cichlids’ tank requirements, you need to learn how to set them up in the aquarium accurately.


So, here are a few tips to set up the tank for your cute cichlids.


  • Usually, zebra red cichlids prefer hard alkaline water. Thus, you can use salt as a buffering agent to enhance the tank water’s carbonate hardness.
  • A 55-gallon tank with a minimum of 48-inches in length is preferred for taking good care of cichlids.
  • Add movement in the water with a proper filtration system.
  • The substrate needs to be made of crushed coral or sand to keep up the tank water’s pH level.
  • Create a lot of shelter and territories with rocks for zebra red cichlids. They like to dig in the bottom; thus, make sure you are not placing the stones on the substrate; instead, keep them at the bottom of the tank.
  • The hardness range of the water should be between 6-10 dGH.
  • Moderate to normal lighting is highly recommended for the tank.
  • Control the water temperature between 73-82℉.
  • The pH level should be maintained between 7.7-8.6.


Zebra Cichlid Tank Mates


While choosing tank mates for zebra cichlid, you need to be very careful. Usually, other Malawi species are much recommended for keeping along with them.

Zebra cichlids are not community fishes. Thus, it is better to keep them in a group of one male and three females.

But zebra red cichlids are better kept with the same species. Never place them with any other peaceful fish in the tank. However, you can keep them with other semi-aggressive fishes.

Thus, make sure the tank mates are not too aggressive. Here are some of the tank mates that you can consider for red zebra cichlids:

  • Maingano
  • Kenyi
  • Bumblebee
  • Demasoni
  • Bushy Nose Plecos


Zebra Cichlid
Zebra Cichlid

What Do Zebra Cichlids Eat?


Well, these species of cichlids are omnivorous by nature. In the wild, they usually survive on aufwuchs, which include various benthic invertebrates and some zooplankton.

But are you thinking of keeping zebra cichlids in your home aquarium? Then you need to offer them a herbivorous diet. Though they strive to eat a minimal amount of protein in the wild, their diet is majorly based on vegetable matters.

They are perfect buddies as they will eat anything. But to achieve a vibrant and strong color of these cichlids, you must offer them with Cyclops, Spectrum, Spirulina, etc.

Also, feel free to feed them any herbivorous cichlid flake or small pellets. For a change in their bland diet, you can also offer them Mysis and brine shrimps.

Zebra cichlids tend to become overweight. So, you need to ensure that you are not overfeeding them. They also eat off algae grown on the plants and walls of your aquarium. Thus, they act as great tank cleaners.

While feeding, give them smaller amounts of food several times a day instead of offering one large feed. It will prevent them from overeating and also keep the water quality good for a long time.

Also, make sure you are not offering too much protein, which can lead to Malawi bloating. For a change in their diet, you can also provide them meaty food occasionally.


Caring for Zebra Cichlids


You may be thinking of bringing a few zebra red cichlids for your aquarium. But are you aware of how to offer proper care to them?

For keeping them in the best condition in your tank, you need to ensure that you are offering good quality water.

Their situation can deteriorate if the water condition of the aquarium is poor. Zebra cichlids are usually a messy kind of cichlid. Thus, you need to perform a 30% water change in a week based on the bioload. Also, never forget to vacuum the substrate every 2 weeks.

It is also recommended to change the rock set-up in the aquarium if any aggression occurs.


Zebra Cichlids Breeding Guide


So, are you now thinking of proceeding with the breeding of zebra cichlids? Well, in that case, the best result can be achieved through 1 male for every 3 males.

As the male fish starts displaying an interest in the females, they try to coax them for breeding. The females will spawn on a flat rock or near the rocky cave placed on the tank’s bottom.

Female zebras usually lay about 60 eggs during breeding. As soon as they lay eggs, they take them in their mouth for fertilization. After the male zebras release sperm in the water, the females inhale the sperm milt and fertilize the eggs within their mouths.

After mating, the male and female cichlids will separate their ways. The female zebra cichlids then opt for caring for the eggs on their own. The eggs of zebra cichlids are filled with yolk and take longer for hatching.

As the egg hatches, it takes at least 20 days for the yolk sac to get absorbed. Since the zebra females are mouthbrooders, they carry the eggs in their mouths until they hatch.


How to Care for Zebra Cichlid Fries?


If you are thinking of letting zebra cichlids breed in your tank, you need to ensure that you offer them the proper amount of care.

During the breeding season, you can consider placing them in a separate tank. While offering proper care during the breeding season, you need to maintain the water temperature at about 82℉.

As the fries come out, you can offer them finely powdered dry fruits. After a few days, you can offer them brine shrimps or nauplii. However, make sure that you are having plenty of hiding places in your tank so that the fries can feel safe and play around happily.


Where to Buy Zebra Cichlids?


Are you thinking of buying zebra cichlids for your tank? Well, you can easily find them in any aquarist shop. There are also some hobbyists and online shops that sell zebra red cichlids.

While buying, you may also hear the name African Cichlids. Well, these cichlids are commonly also known as African cichlids in the market.


How Big Do Zebra Cichlids Get?


Zebra cichlids usually grow up to 3.9-inches or 10.01 cm. Also, some of them grow up to 4-inches in the wild. With the best amount of care, they can grow up to 5-inches long in an aquarium.

How Long Do Zebra Cichlids Live?


Usually, zebra cichlids live up to 10 years. Thus, they are considered one of the best tank mates with a long life span, giving you a long run for your money.




Zebra cichlids are undoubtedly gorgeous fishes that can add glamor to your tank. So, if you are thinking of bringing them and taking good care of them in your tank, then it is indeed a great decision.

However, make sure you are offering them the proper amount of diet so that they can grow properly and live peacefully. Also, place them with perfect tank mates, who will live happily along with them without indulging in aggressive fights.