Cichlids of Lake Malawi

The majority of tourists go to Africa to see lions, zebras, and hippos. It’s also one of the greatest locations for different types of safaris, according to those in the know. Because one of the most diversified and priceless freshwater lakes in the world may be found in the landlocked wilderness of Malawi. The unique and priceless Lake Malawi

The importance of Lake Malawi in nature cannot be overstated. the world’s fourth-largest freshwater body. hosting more than 1,000 different fish species, with discoveries appearing to be made every other week or so. Additionally, more than simply the sheer number of species is impressive. The lake is a biological treasure trove. The majority of its residents are also restricted to Lake Malawi.

We’ll look at what makes it such a remarkable place as we celebrate this natural gem. We’ll talk about our fantastic Lake Malawi display as well. Here at Blue Planet Aquarium, you may take in the grandeur of this magnificent African lake.

What are Cichlids?

The most varied family of fish known to man, cichlids are mostly freshwater fish. They gained notoriety thanks to aquarium hobbyists, and a public aquarium is seldom ever found without a display of cichlids.

Apart from a few anatomical characteristics, they are found in tropical seas. All Cichlids provide paternal care to their children through a variety of means. ‘Mouthbrooding’ is one of the most intriguing of them (most common to many species of the genus Tilapia).

Colorful rock-dwelling cichlids, known as “Mbuna” in Malawi, are delightful to snorkel with but carrying them illegally carries heavy fines. On the other hand, some Cichlid species, like the Chambo (Oreochromis lidole), which is currently on the IUCN’s Red List of Endangered Species, are a regular source of food.

How Many Species of Fish Are There in Lake Malawi?

There is nothing typical about Lake Malawi. With over 1,000 kinds of fish (and counting) in its waters, it is home to an astounding diversity of life. More species exist there than in all of Europe’s lakes and rivers put together.

And Lake Malawi is unique not simply because of the variety of creatures that live there. Fish that are unique to the lake are found nowhere else on earth. Due to its high natural variety, it is one of the most valuable aquatic habitats on the planet.

The collection of more than 600 species of cichlids found in Lake Malawi is perhaps the most adored of the lake’s many freshwater species. These vibrant fish may be found all around the world, but Lake Malawi has a large population. This demonstrates that it is a really distinctive undersea habitat.

The river was given UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1980 in recognition of its remarkable biodiversity. Even so, the supplies of its distinctive fish are in dwindling. Its variety and native species are being harmed by overfishing, alien species, and an increasing population.

A few facts about the Lake Malawi

First off, there are three names for Malawi Lake due to its size. These are Lago Niassa, Lake Nyasa, and Lake Malawi in Malawi (Mozambique). It is the second-deepest lake in Africa and the third-largest lake overall. The ninth-largest lake in the world is that one. The lake is up to 700 m deep, 75 km broad, and over 600 km long. More fish species are present there than in any other lake in the world.

Another intriguing property of Lake Malawi is that distinct water strata don’t mix together. This quality is referred to as meromictic. But the astounding fact that it has almost 800 different varieties of fish.

Lake Malawi is gorgeous and exceptional since 90% of those are cichlids. The Ruhuhu River is the largest of the 200 rivers that empty into the lake. The water is really clear and warm. You can clearly see 20 meters below the surface.

Marine Life

Over 500 different fish species may be found in the freshwater of Lake Malawi. The vibrant cichlid family is the biggest group of fish. Snorkeling in the famed Lake Malawi provides you with the ideal opportunity to see the beautiful mbuna, which is Tonga for rockfish and is found in Malawi. One of the highlights of your trip will be diving with cichlids.

A excellent area for water sports including deep-sea diving, snorkeling, and kayaking is Lake Malawi. Malawi is the ideal beach destination for travelers to come all year round because of the quiet and clean seas and the moderate temperature.

Large concentrations of sungwa and tiger fish may be found in the pristine Shire River, which runs through the Liwonde and Majete Private Reserves.

Bird Life

Malawi is a bird sanctuary, with 650 different kinds of birds being found there. Birds from grasslands and woodlands make up the majority of the population in the Malawi area. Species including the Livingstone flycatcher, Lilian’s lovebird, fish eagle, kingfishers, egrets, and pelicans can be seen during birding safaris.

Breeding birds depart the Malawi region during the dry season, which lasts from May to mid-November. Safaris for bird watching are most effective between November and December in Malawi. Visit Malawi’s five national parks for the greatest bird viewing locations for an experience beyond your wildest dreams.

Why are there so many Cichlids endemic to the Marelli Islands?

The East African Rift was created when a tectonic plate split, creating the valley where Lake Malawi now stands. A checkerboard pattern of rocky habitats may be seen in Lake Malawi, and some rocky coastlines are isolated from other outcrops by considerable distances of sand that are too great for rockfish to travel.

Each rocky coast eventually assumed the role of an isolated island where the fish that live in the rocks developed into new species without being influenced by those in nearby islands.

Cichlid species that are unique to the Marelli Islands have developed through time, particularly the little, colorful rockfish. The islands offer for natural protected breeding grounds because fishing is prohibited within 100 meters of the islands. This magnificent species is always in danger from illegal fishing.

Are Lake Malawi’s Fish Endangered?

Sadly, Lake Malawi is in trouble despite the speed with which cichlids grow and the area’s designation as a protected historic site. Since overfishing is the biggest threat to the lake’s distinctive biodiversity and ecosystems, one in ten of the fish there are now considered endangered.

On the Lake Malawi shoreline, the population has doubled during the last 20 years. This has caused overfishing to dramatically increase. Something that is not just harming the lake’s delicate ecology. But it also causes a decline in the number and variety of its uncommon species.

The natural marvels of the lake are being threatened by overfishing. Unique ecosystems and biodiversity are also being harmed by agriculture and pollution. The future of the lake’s endangered inhabitants is now being threatened by invading predatory species like the Nile perch.

Fortunately, conservation efforts are underway, and local biologists are doing a fantastic job of raising local awareness of the lake’s natural importance. Today, a sizable portion of Lake Malawi is protected. Fish variety and population numbers are quickly increasing in these protected regions.

The homeland of cichlids

Although cichlids are found all over the world, at least 1600 of the species are native to Africa. One of the most well-known bodies of water that naturally support cichlids is Lake Malawi.

Evolution produced such an abundance of different fish species because the quality of the water varies not only across continents but also inside the lake itself. Cichlids’ propensity for mixed breeding is undoubtedly another factor that considerably contributes to the wide range of species that exist. Representatives of the subspecies mix and reproduce with other cichlid species.

Cichlids from Lake Malawi demand slightly different fish tank conditions than those found in American waters.

The best species for complete novices are not cichlids, however certain subtypes are simpler to maintain than others. Mbuna are unquestionably an excellent option for novices. You must abide by certain guidelines in order to maintain your Lake Malawi fish tank’s setup.

Where is Lake Malawi?

Located in southeast Africa between the countries of Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania, with the most of it being inside Malawi’s picturesque hinterlands. The waterway is one of Africa’s Great Lakes due to its enormous size. It covers an area of more than 11,000 square miles and contains 7% of the world’s fresh surface water.

When the Earth’s crust split apart millions of years ago, forming the stunning Rift Valley, Lake Malawi was born. Within this massive gorge, freshwater formed over thousands of years. creating a sizable body of water that now makes up a large portion of Malawi’s eastern border. This creates a natural boundary between Mozambique, Tanzania, and Malawi.

It’s tough to imagine Lake Malawi’s size without actually seeing it. However, to give you a sense of its size, the lake is around 400 miles, or about the distance between London and Edinburgh. At its broadest, it is 47 miles across, more than twice as long as Lough Neagh, the longest lake in the UK. So, yeah, it is large enough.

Lake Malawi cichlids aquarium setup

Size is important when setting up an aquarium with a Lake Malawi cichlid theme. Though little is more, more is better. Aquarium cichlids flourish in the same circumstances as Lake Malawi’s high pH and alkaline water. Low amounts of plants and algae are another effect of high pH.

Aquariums with a Lake Malawi theme often have no plants added as decorations. For this reason, having a good aquarium background is essential if you want to improve the aesthetics of your fish tank. It’s preferable to build a 3D aquarium rock background since cichlids naturally reside in such type of landscape. In reality, mbuna means “rockfish.”

The ideal water temperature range is between 72°F and 82°F, and the pH level should be at least 7.8. The optimal backdrop and aquarium size might vary depending on the cichlid genus, however rocks with lots of hiding spots and a large tank are the best options.

Experience Lake Malawi at Blue Planet Aquarium

We at Blue Planet Aquarium have long recognized Lake Malawi’s beauty and variety. This inspired us to design a unique exhibition to highlight the amazing and uncommon species found in the lake.

You may view a huge variety of cichlid species in our magnificent Lake Malawi show. Providing you with a peek of the distinctive diversity, color, and look of these adored fish.

A daily discussion and presentation by our in-house specialists will teach you more about the varied animals and ecosystems of the area while you take in Lake Malawi’s marvels.

This is a fantastic chance to learn more about the importance of Malawi’s freshwater fish stocks and the current conservation efforts being made to protect their population.

Popular Lake Malawi Cichlids for aquarium keeping

The Mbuna cichlid is most likely the most well-known, and for good reason. These Lake Malawi beauties are among the fish species with the most vivid colors. Although the word Mbuna merely translates to “rockfish,” it is a common term for a wide variety of fish.

Cichlids are often not the greatest fish for novices in aquarium fish management, as was already noted. This is mostly due to their aggressive nature and preference for very alkaline water.

If you intend to maintain cichlid, it is often advised to have an aquarium that is purely themed. It is recommended to not overcrowd the aquarium to keep aggression to a minimal. Keep a couple girls for every guy as well.

The finest subtypes for an aquarium with a Lake Malawi theme often include the bumblebee cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro), golden cichlid (Melanochromis auratus), red zebra (Maylandia estherae), and blue zebra (Maylandia callainos).

The genus Utaka cichlids is another one that is only somewhat well-liked by aquarists. But there is one significant way that this family of cichlids varies from the mbuna. Up to adulthood, Utaka cichlids are basic and gray. Being simple renders them less noticeable to predators when they are little and powerless to protect themselves. This is just an evolutionary phenomenon.

However, after they grow up, they match the beauty of the majority of cichlids in terms of beauty. Males are the most vibrant and brightly colored, yet keep in mind that there is a significant variation in their colour and that of females.


Malawi is well known for its aquatic life, but its animal species are also noteworthy. In the game reserves of Malawi, antelope species are frequently seen. Visitors can see bushbuck, grey duiker, kudu, grysbok, klipspringer, and reedbuck in the numerous reserves in Malawi.

The Liwonde and Majete National Parks recently welcomed back the threatened black rhinoceros. Among the other types of big mammals, the Malawian bush is home to enormous populations of elephants, while the Shire River is home to hippos and crocodiles.