Rift Lake Cichlids


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One of my Labidochromis sp. Hongi. Despite it's size of 8-9 cm it will happily graze on newly hatched brine shrimp.

Rift Lake Cichlids are very diverse. The lakes hold many species which can be split up into dietary needs:-

  • Vegetarian - Those species requiring plant material in their diet. This is gained from algaes covering rocks. Spirulina is present in the lakes which is a free algae generally concentrated near the surface where it can get the most light. When this dies off it sinks to the lake bed where it decomposes. This becomes food for Zooplankton, Chironomid sp. larvae, other insect larvae sp.,worms, invertebrates & crustaceans.
    Vegetarian sp. are part of the genera Tropheus, Lamprologus, Julidochromis & Mbuna sp. (but not all) etc.


  • Mud Layer sp. - These are forms such as Trematocara nigrifrons, Triglachomis otostigma etc. They feed on the above mentioned crustaceans, insect larvae, worms & invertebrates.

  • Omniverous - Aulonocara, Lethrinops fall into this categary & will feed off the bottom by grubbing around. In nature foods like small snails & fish will be taken along with algae from grazing rocks & substrate to a lesser degree. Live foods should be included in the diet. Prepared foods like good quality heavy flake which sinks (Zooplankton flake is good), brine shrimp sticks etc. Red Astax granule can also be fed to enhance colouration. This can also be mixed into pellets with a little water with the addition of small amounts of Spirulina powder (these fish don't require large amounts of Spirulina but it is high in protein & carotenoids which are useful).
    Aulonocara are known to take the Malawi lake fly as part of their diet. Cultured wingless fruit flies should be taken but I've not tried these out.
    Nimbochromis are, in nature, opportunistic feeders & eat a variety of foods including fish fry. Stomach contents have revealed a diet to include Zooplankton so the Zooplankton flake on this site is a good prepared food choice. Other foods known to be taken in captivity are Spirulina & Brine Shrimp sticks, Spirulina flake & frozen foods. Some breeders advise not to feed frozen beef heart or other fatty foods.

  • Open Water sp. - These are known as Utaka & feed on Zooplankton. Copadochromis fall into this category. Copadichromis chrysonotus in nature feeds mid-water on Phytoplankton & Zooplankton. Captive fed fish are known to take Spirulina & Brine Shrimp flake.

  • Carnivores - Comprised of larger fish & some Haplochromis species which eat other fish.

This is a very basic example of the variety of foods found in the lakes & the role various species have evolved to eat. It is obviously important to choose the right food for the fish you are maintaining. Click the lake links below for a more in depth look at various sp. diets. This is a guide only.