Added by on August 15, 2012

Dwarf Mbuna are an ideal Mbuna for the hobbyist that hasn’t got the space for a large tank or the funds to buy large tank. Dwarf Mbuna can also make a stunning 1 species tank.

Dwarf Mbuna will max out at around 4″ in length.

Lets get started…

Minimum Tank Size and Water Volume
Tank size: 3ft (Larger the tanks footprint the better)

Water Volume: 150L – 180L (39.6258 US gal – 47.551 US gal)


We should be turning the volume of water over a minimum of 5-7 times per hour.
I recommend using external filters/canisters or a sump.


Heaters & Temp
2 x 200w or 2 x 300w
300w heaters will heat the water quicker and will be more cost efficient.
Having 2 heaters will give you peace of mind if one happens to fail the other one will kick in – Have one set at a slightly lower temp.
Ideal tank temp: 24-26c 75F – 78F


Water Movement & Surface Agitation
Both of these are a must!
Water movement: Can be achieved by using the filters outlets and the use of either a wavemaker or powerhead.
Surface Agitation: This is very important as breaking the waters surface will result in aerating the water! (Wavemakers/powerheads and filter outlets can do this)
Wavemakers can also be used for pushing waste towards the filters inlets.


Tank Décor
Substrate: Mbuna will sift and dig breeding pits so try and avoid large gravel type substrate.
Recommended Substrate: 1-5mm: Coral Sand (pH buffer) Play sand, Pool filter sand, CaribSea Eco-Complete African Cichlid. Remember to move the substrate around on a weekly basis to release nasty gases that build up.

Rocks: Mbuna are mostly Rock Dwelling.
Examples of rocks to use: River Rock, Cobbles, Ocean Rock, Texas holy rock, chunks of slate.
Try not use rocks that are porous as they could possibly leech unwanted chemicals in to the water. If you’re unsure if the rock is not porous pour some white vinegar over the rock/s and if it fizzes avoid using it.


Is down to personal preference.
I’ve found that using Marine white and Marine Blue (10k – 14k) really make African Cichlid colours pop.
Increasing the blue spectrum in the lighting can increase algae growth on the rocks – Which most Mbuna will graze on (free food)
T8’s – T5’s – LED


Water Parameters
pH 7.6 – 8.6
KH 180 – 240 ppm
GH 160 – 320 ppm


Stock Numbers & Compatibility
Remember Mbuna do better in an overstocked environment – This spreads out aggression – But saying that! Just because a fish fits in a tank doesn’t mean it’s right. An experienced African Cichlid Keeper will be able to judge if the tank if over stocked or understocked. Always try and have a higher ratio of females to male of the same species.

Here’s a recommended stock ratio to volume guide (This is just a general starting guide) Ratio will go up due to volume and the tanks footprint increasing.
150L – 39.6258 US gal (10-12 Dwarf Mbuna)
180L – 47.551 US gal (12-15 Dwarf Mbuna)
240L – 63.4013 US gal (15-25 Dwarf Mbuna)
300L – 79.2516 US gal (25-35 Dwarf Mbuna)
400L – 105.669 US gal (40-50 Dwarf Mbuna)
500L – 132.086 US gal (50-60 Dwarf Mbuna)
600L – 158.503 US gal (60-80 Dwarf Mbuna)
700L – 184.92 US gal (80-100 Dwarf Mbuna)


Easiest tip I can give: Stay away from species that have similar looking males and females. For example most of the Afra species have very similar looking females – stocking multiple species of Afra with similar looking females can result in possible cross breeding.


Dietary Requirement
A quality vegetable flake food (like those containing Spirulina) by itself is all that’s needed. . Spirulina is an excellent source of Phycocyanin, which is the blue pigment derived from blue-green algae, but for yellow or red fishes to show their best colour, additional vitamin sources must be provided. Furthermore, fish fed too much Spirulina, may in fact develop dark, irregular spots or stains along their sides, called Spirulina spots.
Keep the food high in fibre and low in proteins. Let algae grow on your rocks – Mbuna will graze on it just like in the wild.
New Era, New Life Spectrum, Hikari, Dainichi are among the best manufactures of African Cichlid food.


Dwarf Mbuna Species List
Below is growing list of Dwarf Mbuna Species (I would like to thank Kevin Michiels for his involvement in compiling this list) If you would like to contribute more species please contact a member of the ACH team.


Cynotilapia afra (Chewere)
Cynotilapia afra (Chinuni)
Cynotilapia afra (Chitande)
Cynotilapia afra (Chuanga)
Cynotilapia afra (Cobue)
Cynotilapia afra (Jalo Reef)
Cynotilapia afra (Likoma)
Cynotilapia afra (Lumbila)
Cynotilapia afra (Lundu)
Cynotilapia afra (Lupingu)
Cynotilapia afra (Mbenji)
Cynotilapia afra (Metangula)
Cynotilapia afra (Minos Reef)
Cynotilapia afra (Msobo)
Cynotilapia afra (Ndumbi)
Cynotilapia afra (Njambe)
Cynotilapia afra (Nkhata Bay)
Cynotilapia afra (Nkolongwe)
Cynotilapia axelrodi
Cynotilapia sp. “Blue and Blue” (Mandalawi)
Cynotilapia sp. “Chinyankwazi”
Cynotilapia sp. “elongatus mdoka”
Cynotilapia sp. “Lion” (Lion’s Cove)
Cynotilapia sp. “Lion” (Magunga)
Cynotilapia sp. “Maleri” (Nakantenga)
Cynotilapia sp. “Mbamba” (Lion’s Cove)
Cynotilapia sp. “Mbamba” (Nkhata Bay)
Cynotilapia sp. “mbamba” (Nkhungu)

Gephyrochromis lawsi (Nkhata Bay)
Gephyrochromis sp. “patricki”
Gephyrochromis sp. “Zebroides” (Gome)

Iodotropheus sprengerae
Iodotropheus stuartgranti

Labidochromis chisumulae
Labidochromis joanjohnsonae
Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba”
Labidochromis pallidus
Labidochromis sp. “Perlmutt”
Labidochromis textilis
Labidochromis sp. “Zebra Eastern”

Melanochromis dialeptos
Melanochromis lepidiadaptes
Melanochromis simulans

Metriaclima aurora
Metriaclima sp. “black dorsal mbenji”
Metriaclima sp. “chinyankwazi”
Metriaclima sp. “daktari”
Metriaclima flavifemina (Thumbi West)
Metriaclima sp. “lanisticola north”
Metriaclima sp. “lime nkhomo”
Metriaclima sp. “Membe Deep”
Metriaclima mossambicum
Metriaclima nkhunguensis
Metriaclima pulpican

Pseudotropheus ater
Pseudotropheus cyaneorhabdos
Pseudotropheus cyaneus
Pseudotropheus demasoni (Mozambique)
Pseudotropheus demasoni (Pombo Rocks)
Pseudotropheus minutus “Mbowe”
Pseudotropheus sp. “dumpy”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Bee”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Boadzulu”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Chailosi”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Chisumulu”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Chitimba”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Greenback”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Linganjala”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Masimbwe”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Mbako”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Mbenji Brown”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Metangula”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Namalenje”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Ndumbi”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Ngkuyo”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Ruarwe”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Slab”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Taiwan”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Usisya”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Elongatus Yellowtail”
Pseudotropheus interruptus
Pseudotropheus perileucos
Pseudotropheus sp. “Perspicax Orange Cap”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Perspicax Tanzania”
Pseudotropheus sp. “Perspicax Tanzania” (Liuli)
Pseudotropheus sp. “Perspicax Tanzania” (Puulu)
Pseudotropheus sp. “Perspicax Yellow Breast”
Pseudotropheus polit
Pseudotropheus purpuratus
Pseudotropheus saulosi
Pseudotropheus sp. “Tursiops Mbenji”

Credits: Marc Boulton & Kevin Michiels

If you wish to use the “Dwarf Mbuna List” please refer back to this forum topic.
Any other questions regarding this article can be asked at an admin. ( )

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