Nkhata Bay Cichlid – Some Facts to Know Before Buying One

There are over 1600 cichlid species scattered around freshwater bodies in Africa alone. Interestingly, in each water body in Africa, the range of diversity between the cichlid species is shocking, and the Nkhata Bay cichlid is a vivid example.

You have likely seen various species sold under the name Nkhata Bay cichlids. That is not surprising. Check out this article to learn more about Nkhata Bay cichlids and some facts to know before buying one.

Nkhata Bay Cichlid

The term “Nkhata Bay Chichlid” can refer to several species endemic to Nkhata Bay. This bay is the capital of the Nkhata Bay district in Malawi, located around Lake Malawi’s shores.

Hence, the cichlid species found around the bay of this lake are called Nkhata bay Cichlids.

Perhaps, the first fact you want to keep in mind about the Nkhata Bay cichlids is that there are more than four species. There are many more to know about the Nkhata Bay Cichlids.

Some Facts to Know Before Buying One

If you look up the internet and search Nkhata Bay Cichlid, you will likely come up with several similar images and scientific names. The truth is that there are no one precise species called the Nkhata species.

But several species can be properly called the Nkhata bay cichlids. These species include:

Blue Caeruleus (Labidochromis caeruleus)

This species of Nkhata Bay Cichlid is endemic to Malawi’s south side of the lion’s cove. They thrive in the water around Lake Malawi, which is rich in sediments and rocks. So if you are planning on buying this cichlid, you should have some rocks and sediments in your tank.

Some facts to know about this fish species include the following:

  • The Labidochromis caeruleusare omnivores, unlike many other Nkhata Bay cichlids. They feed on plant matters.
  • Blue Caeruleus are monomorphic.
  • The female Blue caeruleus are maternal mouthbrooders.
  • This species (Labidochromis caeruleus) are generally maternal mouthbrooders.
  • Blue Caeruleus generally grow up to a maximum of no less than five inches from the tip of their mouth to the tip of their tails.
  • They thrive in a pH level range between 7.8-8.6.
  • Blue Caeruleus thrive in a temperature range of about 78°-82°.

Afra Edwardi (Cynotilapia Zebroides)

This species of Nkata bay cichlid originates from the western side of Lake Malawi. They thrive around the caves on the rocky side of the lake. Before you purchase this cichlid, it would be best to redecorate your aquarium. You want to include rocks with large holes to give them the impression of the presence of a cave.

Some facts to know about Afra Edwardi:

  • They are sexually dimorphic.
  • Afra Edwardi is a mouthbrooding fish. Do not be surprised when you see them carry their young ones and eggs in their mouth.s
  • Afra Edwardi is carnivorous. This means that they are predatory species. It would not be best to have them in the same tank with smaller docile fish species.
  • They can be mildly aggressive to other tankmates in the tank.
  • They can grow up to 3 inches from the tip of their mouth to the tip of their tails.
  • They thrive in water temperatures in the range of 73°f-81°f.
  • They can survive within the pH range of 7.5-9.

Lethrinops sp. Nyassae

This species of cichlid is predominantly distributed around Lake Malawi. They are mostly found in shallow sandy areas near rocks within the lake. It would be best to add some soil and rocks to your tank before getting this cichlid.

Some facts to keep in mind for this fish species include the following:

  • Lethrinops Nyassae is a carnivore.
  • Lethrinops Nyassae is sexually dimorphic if gender is of any importance to you.
  • They are generally peaceful;l fish species, but it is not uncommon to find them losing their temper and becoming aggressive sometimes.
  • They are mouthbrooders. It is not uncommon to find their females as maternal mouthbrooders.
  • When their full length is measured, they can grow to a maximum length of no less than four and a half inches.
  • Lethrinops Nyassae thrives in a temperature range of 78°f-82°f.
  • The recommended ph of for the Lethrinops Nyassae is between the range of 7.8-8.6.

Gephyrochromis Lawsi

This species of cichlid is found in the northern half of Lake Malawi. They thrive at the sandy edge of steep rocks along the coast of the lake. Before buying one of these, you will need some steep rocks in your tank and decorate them to depict shallow water that contains some sand.

Some of the facts to keep in mind if you want to keep these fish include:

  • This fish species is a carnivorous species.
  • The Gephyrochromis Lawsi is dimorphic. You can easily tell the masculine fish from the feminine fish.
  • They usually have a maximum length of no less than four inches.
  • This fish species thrive in the temperature range of 78°f-82°f.
  • Gephrochromis lawsi prefers a pH level between 78.8 – 8.6.

More Facts About Nkhata Bay Cichlid


It is not easy to differentiate between the gender of the Nkhata Bay cichlids. If you are not careful, you may end up with a tank full of fish of the same gender. Interestingly, one of the main ways to know one gender from the other is with coloration.

It is pretty common to find that males have brighter and more vibrant colors than females.

Another way of telling a male from a female is that the males are usually larger than the females. Many other times, they are more streamlined than their female counterpart.


Feeding is another shocking aspect to deal with when you choose to keep these cichlids. Interestingly, you would have to feed your fry much more than your adult fish. You must feed your fry no less than seven to eight times daily.

But this is in stark contrast with the adult Nkhata Bay Cichlids. You may have to feed the adults about two to three times daily.

If you house more than one cichlid in the tank, it would be best to feed them all simultaneously. This will greatly reduce the level of their aggression.

Another interesting fact about cichlids is that you will notice how they become very docile after being fed.

Tank Size and Dimension

Generally speaking, the size of the fish determines the size of the aquarium to use. A 55-gallon tank can hold about 15 Nkhata Bay cichlids, while a 40-gallon tank can hold about 8. This is only possible if the cichlids are of the same temperament.

Nkhata Bay cichlids thrive in shallow waters along the coast of Lake Malawi in the wild. So, when you want to domesticate them, you must ensure that your tank has enough room for them.

You also want to avoid using very deep tanks. It would be best to use a tank with a top that is not too high from the base of the aquarium if you want to replicate their natural habitat.

Dealing With Nkhata bay Cichlid MouthBrooders

Many mbuna species are mouthbrooding fishes. The problem with this oral incubation is that the maternal mouthbrooder does not eat anymore when she is incubating her eggs. This means your fish will become underweight and weak in the long run.

This can be particularly dangerous for aggressive mbuna species because the weak maternal mouthbrooder could become the target for other aggressive fish in the tank.

Mouthbrooding allows the female Mbuna to produce a larger number of fries with a higher survival rate than fish species that do not offer any brood care. Although they will release the fries in time, if you do not want them to be fish food for larger fish in the aquarium, it may be best to remove them yourself and keep them in another aquarium.

Many experienced hobbyists remove the small fries from the mouth of the female Mbuna and care for both separately. Relieving the maternal mouthbrooder of her small fries also enables her to eat again to recover from the depletion of her energy reserves and gain normal weight.

But relieving the Mbuna is a skill you must learn. The best way to do this is to get two smaller containers; one for the mouthbrooder and the other for the small fries. Fill them with water from the original aquarium where you took the mouth brooder instead of water from the tap. This will prevent any stress from the rapid change in the fish environment.

Hold the mouthbrooder in the first tank and gently open her mouth with a pair of blunt miniature scissors to let the fries out of her mouth.

After releasing all the fries into the tank, you want to keep the female Mbuna in the other tank. Returning her to the main aquarium could be fatal because she would be too weak to fight off any aggressive attacker. Separating them like this affords you the chance to care for them better.

Remember to return the female mouthbrooder to the main aquarium after she has regained her energy and weight. You can introduce the fries to the main aquarium when you think they have grown old enough to join the others in the main tank.