One of the most popular types of fish to keep in a home aquarium are african cichlids from Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is a vast body of water located in Africa. It is over 347 miles long and reaches 46 miles in width at it's widest point. The lake is so large that it in fact found within the boundaries of 3 different countries: Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. It is one of the three major lakes in the Great Rift Valley rerion. Lake Malawi has had several different names in the past. Some of these names include Lake Nyassa, Lake Niassa, Lake Nyasa and Livingstone's Lake. The lake is teeming with life and is over 40,000 years old. Many of the cichlid species found in Lake Malawi do not have a natural habitat anywhere else in the world.
Because the lake is so large, it actually contains several different environments. These environments include rocky shores, sandy areas and large areas of open water. Malawi cichlids are found in each of these distinct areas of the lake and each have adapted to fit in their particular environment. When keeping Malawi cichlids in a home aquarium, it is important to know which area of the lake your species comes from. Because the areas are so different, the species that inhabit each area will thrive under different conditions.
Lake Malawi cichlids are generally divided into two main groups: Peacock cichlids and Mbuna cichlids. Peacock cichlids stick to the open waters and sandy areas of the lake while Mbuna cichlids tend to inhabit the rocky areas of the lake. In fact, the term Mbuna is roughly translated into "rock dweller" because these cichlids are always found in and around the rocks.
Peacock cichlids tend to be very colorful with many colors on each individual fish. They are often rainbow colored and the same specimen can have blues, reds, yellows, greens and purples. The male peacock cichlids tend to be much more colorful than the females. A fully mature male is certainly a sight to behold when spawning season arrives. Peacock cichlids are carnivores, but they will also feed on zooplankton. Peacock cichlids are mouthbrooders. The female will keep the eggs and even the fry in her mouth for protection.
Mbuna cichlids are quite territorial. Providing plenty of rocks and crevices is an important part of a successful Mbuna aquarium. These fish need the rocks for protection, territorial concerns and even breeding. Mbunas breed in caves and the rocks are very important to their overall success in aquaria. Because they are so territorial, only 1 male Mbuna of a particular color pattern should be kept in a home aquarium - unless you have a very large aquarium (along the lines of 6' or longer). Multiple males of similar color patterns do not only cause issues with aggression, but the less dominant male will often lose most of his coloration to avoid confrontation and aggression. It is simply better to keep multiple females with a single male.