Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos): Ultimate Care Guide

Originally from Lake Malawi in Africa, the Maingano Cichlid is a common and beginner friendly Cichlid. It can be aggressive to other species, so it’s often kept in a single species tank. Males have a tendency to fight each other, so it’s important to only have one male per tank. The Maingano is part of the Mbuna group of Cichlids. The word Mbuna means “rockfish,” or “rock-dwelling.” This species enjoys plenty of rocks and caves in their tanks, which make them feel more at home. Like all African Cichlids, they prefer alkaline water so you’ll need to take extra steps to keep their water pH high. This is a big difference between these and Central or South American Cichlids, which like neutral to slightly acidic water. With some simple knowledge, this can be a great beginner’s fish that can provide years of enjoyment!

Maingano Cichlid Care

Maingano Cichlids are hardy African Cichlids with only a few unique care needs. They’re often kept in single species tanks to prevent fighting. It’s important to know how to keep your tank’s water clean and avoid overfeeding to get the best results from this visually striking and beginner friendly species.

Are Maingano Cichlid easy to care for?

Maingano Cichlid are hardy and one of the easiest species to care for. They need well maintained water and are sensitive to overfeeding. But learning how to keep this great African Cichlid species is easy. When you’re ready to add Maingano Cichlids to your tank, we’ve included all you need to know in this care guide!

Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)
Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)


Maingano Cichlids prefer water temperature between 72° and 82° F.

Water pH

Like many African Cichlids, Mainganos prefer alkaline water with a pH between 7.6 to 8.8 pH. Help maintain these pH levels by choosing a substrate which includes crushed coral or aragonite. Avoid including bogwood or other additions which can lower alkalinity.

Maingano Cichlid Size

Maingano Cichlids grow 3 to 4 inches in length. While smaller than some other Cichlid species, this fish is active and territorial, and will need a larger aquarium than their small size suggests.

Food & Diet

Maingano Cichlids are omnivores but should eat mostly plant-based foods. African Cichlid pellets can be this species’ staple food, but it’s a good idea to supplement with lettuce, peas, and cucumber slices. Feed this fish twice or three times daily. Only feed what they can fully consume within 5 minutes. Extra uneaten food can rot and spoil tank water. When adding any type of fresh plants or vegetables, be sure to first blanch in boiling water then cool before feeding. Plant matter that hasn’t been blanched can introduce parasites and bacteria into your aquarium. Meaty foods can be an occasional treat, but don’t feed this more than twice per week. The best source of high-protein food is frozen brine shrimp or bloodworms. Live food can introduce bacteria and fungus to you tank, so stick to commercially prepared frozen foods unless you have experience feeding live food. Never overfeed Maingano Cichlids as this can lead to bloating and other health problems.

Maingano Cichlid Lifespan

Maingano Cichlids can live 8 to 9 years with good care.

Maingano Cichlid Tank Size

Maingano Cichlids need tanks of at least 40 to 50 gallons. This may seem like a large tank for such a small species, but they are both active and territorial, and need room to swim. If you are keeping more than one Maingano Cichlid, allow 20 to 30 extra gallons for each fish.

Tank Setup

Maingano Cichlid need tanks with open space for swimming. Include natural features and plants for hiding and establishing territory. Consider using a substrate which includes coral; either crushed coral or aragonite. Coral will slowly dissolve, increasing water alkalinity. Commercial substrates for African Cichlids are also a good choice, as they usually contain material which will buffer alkalinity. Maingano Cichlids like to have caves and other hiding spaces. Include hardscape, rocks, and caves but avoid certain natural materials like as bogwood, as these can increase acidity. Plants can be a good tank addition as well. Popular choices for this fish include Java Fern, Java Moss, and Anubias. Maingano Cichlids may nibble plants, so don’t place plastic plants in your aquarium as pieces can clog your fish’s digestive tract.

Maingano Cichlids prefer moderate to strong water flow. Some of this can come from your filtration system. You’ll need a filter which can turn over 5 times the tank’s volume of water per hour. For instance, a 50 gallon tank will need a filter which runs at 250 GPH (gallons per hour) or greater. Canister filters can be a good choice for larger aquariums as they can hold more filter material and often have high GPH ratings. If you have a very large aquarium and need more water flow consider adding wavemakers. These small, fan-like devices can be positioned to add current to tanks if the filtration system doesn’t create enough flow.

Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)
Maingano Cichlid (Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos)

Maingano Cichlid Breeding

Maingano Cichlids are mouth brooders, and one of the easier Cichlid species to breed. You’ll need to make sure you have a breeding pair: female Maingano Cichlids will have a light blue belly and a somewhat rounder looking body. Males have more streamlined bodies and darker bellies which sometimes have stripes. Prepare a breeding tank and place it in a dimmer area of your house. This tank will need to have some flat rocks or pots to give these fish a place to lay eggs. Once you have transferred your breeding pair to this tank, increase the water temperature. A dim and warm environment will encourage your fish to begin spawning. The male will choose and clean a flat area on a rock or pot. The female will lay her eggs on this spot, which the male then fertilizes. The female will collect and hold the eggs in her mouth until they hatch in around 12 to 14 days. Remove the male before the eggs hatch to prevent him from eating the newly hatched fry. Once the fry hatch, the female will continue to carry them in her mouth for up to two weeks; letting them out so they can feed. Maingano Cichlid fry should be provided a diet of infusoria, moving to baby brine shrimp as the fry become larger. Other fry foods would include vinegar eels or microworms. When the female has stopped letting the fry back into her mouth, she can be removed from the tank. At this point the fry should be eating larger food and can be allowed to mature on their own. Keep your fry tank’s water clean by performing regular water changes and including a sponge filter. Sponge filters are safer for tiny fry than conventional aquarium filters. After the fry have lived on their own for three to four weeks, they are ready to be moved into a larger aquarium.

Maingano Cichlid Disease

While Maingano Cichlids are hardy fish, they still can suffer from diseases like Malawi Bloat, Ich and Swim Bladder Disease. Malawi Bloat can affect any freshwater fish, but is more common in African Cichlids. Help avoid this condition by making sure your aquarium water is well filtered and clean. Feed your fish a varied diet including mostly vegetable material. Meaty foods can be given once or twice a week, but shouldn’t form the majority of this fish’s diet. Overfeeding may also cause Malawi Bloat. These fish are smaller than some other African Cichlids and will eat less. Overfeeding can also result in uneaten food rotting and spoiling tank water.

Ich is caused by a parasite and is visible as white spots around the fish’s gills, fins, and face. If you are keeping a single species tank with only Maingano Cichlids, Ich can be treated by raising water temperatures. Some hobbyists will treat Ich solely by increasing temperatures, but some will also apply commercially available Ich medications from their local fish store.

Swim Bladder Disease is closely related to constipation, and can result from a poor diet or overfeeding. If your fish are swimming at an odd angle, or have a hard time moving to the bottom or middle levels of your tank, it could be a result of this condition.

Maingano Cichlid Tank Mates

Maingano Cichlids do best with members of their own species. Only include one male per tank as adult males will fight over territory and mates. Some hobbyists report success in paring with other Cichlid species such as Lemon Cichlid and Red Zebra Cichlid. While it’s possible to have tank mates of other species, it is a risk. If attempting to keep other species with your Maingano Cichlids, keep watch for signs of fighting. Separate fish to other aquariums if necessary to prevent injury.

Where can I find Maingano Cichlid for sale?

Maingano Cichlids are a popular species which is easily bought from local fish stores or online sources. Expect to pay under $10 USD per fish.

Maingano Cichlid vs Johanni Cichlid

Maingano Cichlids can look similar to Johanni Cichlid males, however the Johanni have a darker blue color. Johanni Cichlid females are easy to tell apart as they’re completely yellow. Juvenile Johannis are all yellow with only the males turning dark blue with maturity.

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