I am going to change the format on this section as all the information written in the cichlids page is applicable to these fish as well. I will give some specific information on the care of the fish from each individual lake. To view some quick statistics on many individual fish just click on their picture.

African Cichlids

    I have added the word “Rift” in the title of this page to emphasize the specific region where these cichlids live; namely the Rift lakes of Malawi and Tanganyika and Victoria. When you hear the term “African cichlids,” most people think of fish from these great lakes, but Africa is home to a wide variety of Cichlids that inhabit other areas other than the lakes.

Click for full size map.

Non Rift Lake Cichlids



General Requirements:


    1. Due to their aggressive behavior, the tank for African cichlids should be as large as possible, with its length being more critical than its height; meaning the longer the better.

The substrate should be of a material that will aid in the pH buffering capabilities of the water. Good substrate choices could be Dolomite or crushed coral.

Decorations for the aquaria should include rock structures with caves and platforms, but leave an open area for swimming. Try to avoid driftwood as it tends to lower pH over time.

The use of live plants is a hit or miss situation (usually miss) due to the African’s vegetarian nature. Lighting is not critical and can be of any spectrum or color you like.

The water chemistry for the African lakes differs greatly from all other biotopes and more closely resembles marine than tropical fresh water. Due to their high pH and hardness levels it is necessary to treat the water with some sort of African cichlid lake salts. Two products I use and find excellent are Kent AF Cichlid Buffer and Kent AF Cichlid Chemistry.

In nature, feeding is by scraping the algae covered (Aufwuchs) rock surfaces, and in the aquarium it is not a problem as all flake food is accepted, but it should be supplemented with a plant based formula containing something like spirulina.

Almost all of the species from Lake Malawi are known as mouth-brooders. They incubate the eggs and protect their fry in special sacs in the mouth. They are excellent and protective parents and have been known to raise young in crowded community setups.

Tanganyikan cichlids are more varied in their spawning techniques and consist of open spawning mouthbrooders and even some that use empty snail shells. They too are great parents.

This is a general overview of these fish. There is much more in-depth information available on them. Suffice to say that if you are willing to meet their needs, the African cichlids will provide you with many years of enjoyment.



The Rift Lake cichlids have very different and specialized needs, which will be outlined here on a lake to lake basis.

Lake Malawi Water Statistics


Area 11,430 Sq.Miles.
Maximum Depth About 2,300 Feet
Clarity Up To 70 feet
pH 7.7 to 8.6
Total Hardness 4.0 to 6.0º H
Carbonate Hardness 6.0 to 8.0
Surface Temperature 76 to 85º F
Deep Water Temp. 69º F
Conductivity At 68º F 210-285


5/5 - (18 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here