What is The Best Food For African Cichlids

What is The Best Food For African Cichlids

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African cichlids, especially those from Lake Malawi, are some of the most intriguing and exciting fish for the mid-level hobbyist to keep. They require a tank that is only fairly big since they do better in groups, plus they’re moderately simple to care for.

Feeding African cichlids is not complicated either. Most are omnivores that’ll accept sinking pellets and flakes as a staple. Green vegetables like spinach and occasional treats meaty treats like brine shrimp are also acceptable, though in moderation.

Even so, to better keep your African cichlids healthy, as well as bring out the best of their appearances, you may want to feed them proper cichlids formulas both for color and the fishes digestion.

Overall, avoiding feeding you cichlids too many meaty foods, and if possible, no meats like beef-heart or worms such as bloodworms.

Also, steer clear of goldfish, and tropical fish food, as stated, cichlid formulas work best.

Please read on for more insight

What To Food to Give Your Malawi Cichlids

Most times, when aquarists speak of African cichlids, they are referring to either Malawi or Tanganyika cichlids (though there are other types), with the former being a little more popular and synonymous with the phrase than the latter.

As such, most diet discussions are premised around Malawi cichlids, particularly peacocks and mbuna species.

Overall, Lake Malawi hosts three species of African cichlids kept in aquariums, which are peacocks, mbuna, and hap cichlids. And while their diets are pretty much the same, they are a few glaring difference depending on the area of the lake each species occupy.

Peacocks and Haps are bigger and live more in the open water, so their diet is widely varied. Mbuna, on the other hand, are rock dwellers that seem to prefer foods on the greener side, probably because they are accustomed to eating algae on the rock surface around them.

For these reasons, when keeping Haps or Peacocks, you may want to place more pellet, flake, and live foods such as bloodworms in the tank for your cichlids.

And in the case of a mbuna biased fish tank, the diet should have a more vegetable-based outlook, though that’s not to say mbunas won’t accept sinking flake, pellets, and specific fleshy foods..

That said, mbunas are known to have a weakly digestive system, thus varying their diet is highly recommended for a longer, healthier life. Even so, make sure you know what to avoid as well. For instance, feeding mbuna cichlids some fleshy food like bloodworms is not advisable.

Moreover, moderation is recommended with all Malawi cichlids, too much of one type of food, more so protein-rich meaty diets, result in digestive complications such as the dreaded Malawi cichlids.

See below what you should (and should not) feed your African Malawi cichlids.

Best Food For Your Malawi Cichlids: Peacocks, Mbuna, Haps

As I’ve mentioned, all Malawi cichlids will survive on a somewhat uniform diet, but depending on the species your keeping, you may want to tweak it a little.

Majorly, please note the digestive strains of mbuna cichlids and their affinity for a greener diet.

So, what should you feed your Malawi cichlids?


Pellets make an ideal staple for African cichlids and can be fed as a base diet for frequent feeding.

Special formulas for cichlids that increase color and boost fish health such as New Life Spectrum cichlids formula are recommended.

These pellets are particularly ideal because they are sinking type that gradually moves towards the bottom of the tank, an area where African cichlids, particularly Mbunas, seem to prefer.

Hikari and New Era cichlids pellets are also good options you can opt to feed your Malawi and other African cichlids.

New Era Rift Lake Cichlids pellets are particularly a good option for Mbunas because they are low in proteins.

Some pelleted foods also tend to swell up when they are placed in water, so to make sure they don’t bloat your cichlids, soak them before adding them to your fish tank.


Flake foods, like pellets, are another ideal staple option for your fish. Cichlids feed very enthusiastically on flakes, as much as sinking pellets.

Therefore, you can opt what to feed your fish or go with both pellets and flakes. Your option will depend on preference and your fish tank setup.

For instance, sinking pellets are best when you have other bottom-dwelling species such as catfishes, loaches, and cories that will feed on the pellets if your cichlids don’t.

Feed your cichlids flake they can consume in two minutes so that they are not gorging themselves on large amounts of food at any time.


Spirulina is a high vitamin supplement that is well suited for Mbunas because of their affinity for greener foods.

Quality spirulina foods will also act as ideal occasional treats and vitamin nourishment for Peacock and Hap cichlids, though they are do not exhibit strong herbivores traits.

Usually, spirulina comes in flake or pellets form, but it is a vegetable-based food, substituting algae, which is part of your cichlid’s diet.

Even so, do not feed them too much spirulina as it has been linked to black spots on the fish, altering the look of your rather colorful fishes.

#4&mdashMeaty Foods

Your African cichlids will also accept meaty foods, though they are to be fed cautiously, and as treats rather than a staple. This is particularly true for Mbunas because of their somewhat delicate digestive system.

If you must, I recommend feeding you Malawi cichlids more meaty foods when keeping Haps because they enjoy a wider variety than Peacocks and Mbunas.

That said, please note that it’s not all meaty fish foods that are ideal for African cichlids. Ideally, you want to steer clear of bloodworms, and instead, go with chopped up prawns, daphnia, and Mysis.

Brine shrimp is also Ok but should be used in moderation.

Moreover, aim to feed your Malawi cichlids the acceptable meaty food only twice a week. Any more than that would be overkill and risk causing you to fish digestive troubles.

African cichlids digestive treats really aren’t suited for meat, so beef-heart, chicken, or any other meaty food like this are a no-go. Ashley Kirk.

Lastly, if you are new at keeping African cichlids and without much experience with their digestive challenges, start by using them sparingly, see how your fish react, then move on from there.

Feeding Your African (Malawi) Cichlids Frozen Foods

Feeding your Malawi cichlids frozen foods is not expressively harmful or prohibited. But make sure the food is fully defrosted and has been broken up.

You do not want any of your fish snatching a whole cube up because it will inevitably wake up the next morning with serious bloat.

As I’ve already described above, meaty foods are not very ideal for your African cichlids, and so much so when they are frozen. Flakes and pellets are much better because they are easily digestible, hence are less likely to clog up your fish’s intestines.

Spirulina is also much better than animal proteins, including krill, brine shrimp, daphnia, plankton, and most definitely bloodworms.

To feed your Malawi cichlids frozen foods, first, defrost the chunks in a cup of tank water, and use your finger or toothpick to break it up. Also, remember to only this food option only once a week.

Feeding Your African (Malawi) Cichlids Vegetables

Vegatables are a great source of vitamins for African cichlids, though they are more an option for species like Mbuna that show an affinity for greener diets.

For Haps and Peacocks, green foods are more for variety and treats than a staple, though they are a really great source of beta-carotene and help retain the full-color intensity for your fish.

Another advantage you may notice feeding your Malawi cichlids vegetables is they help reduce incidences of intestinal blockages because of their high fiber content.

Vegetables based options you should consider, include spinach, peas, zucchini, carrots, and romaine lettuce.

Boil, freeze and thaw your vegetables to soften and make them more consumable, which will also help the greens sink to the bottom of the tank.

How Many Times A Day Should You Feed Your African Cichlids

Depending on the number of times you feed your fish each day, an amount enough for your cichlids to consume in two to five minutes should be adequate.

If you choose to offer you African cichlids food once a day, then an amount the fish would finish in five minutes or so is more advisable. Only stagger that amount downwards to a two minutes munch if feeding them twice a day.

That said, remember the already mentioned digestive challenges of African cichlids. Taking that into consideration, you may want to feed your fishes small amounts twice a day, to avoid overfeeding them just in case the first amount is sufficient.

Plus, maintain a keen eye on what you are giving them to avoid any avoidable complications.

That all. Happy fish 🐠🦐 keeping.

Eddie Waithaka

Resident Content Creator and Marketer at AquariaWise who talks about aquariums and fish and aquascapes a lot.

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