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Livingston's Cichlid

(Nimbochromis livingstonii)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Semi-aggressive   • Maximum Size: 10" male, 8" female
• Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons   • Water Conditions: 75-82° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.8
• Diet: Piscivore, Carnivore   • Origin: Lake Malawi   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: African Cichlid   • Aquarium Type: African Cichlid, Rift Lake

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Species Information

Livingston's Cichlid native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Livingston's Cichlid (Nimbochromis livingstonii) is from the inshore areas of the African rift lake, Lake Malawi. They grow to about 10" (males) and 8" (females), have a tall laterally compressed body and a large mouth for the overall size of the fish. Livingston's Cichlid patrol the sandy inshore areas of the lake looking for small fish to prey on. When insufficient quantities of prey fish are available, the Livingston's Cichlid will resort to an ambush hunting strategy where it will mimic a dead fish by laying on the substrate, only to quickly lunge at the prey and swallows it whole.

Livingston's Cichlids are not suitable for the average Lake Malawi Cichlid community aquarium. They reach roughly twice the size of many of the more commonly kept Malawi Cichlid species and are ambush predators who feed exclusively on other fish in the wild. They will spend their time in the aquarium hanging motionless around rocky formations or lying "playing dead" on the substrate as they attempt to lure in smaller fish on which to prey. However, hobbyists can easily integrate the Livingston's Cichlid with suitable larger tank mates and convert them over to commercial meaty foods designed for African Cichlids, after which they make for interesting inhabitants for any non-standard Malawi Cichlid aquarium.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Livingston's Cichlid in the home aquarium.

Adult Livingston's Cichlids when housed with other similarly sized African Cichlids will do best in an aquarium of 75 gallons or more. A single specimen or pair can be kept in aquariums as small as 45 gallons. Suitable tank mates include large mbuna, other large rift lake cichlid species and catfish. In nature the Livingstons Cichlid is a loner and thus should be kept as a single specimen in the aquarium or if breeding is to be attempted, as a harem with several females and a single male. Average sized aquariums will not be large enough to provide enough territory for multiple males to coexist.

When housing African Cichlids in community aquariums it is important that they be kept in aquariums of 75 gallons or larger in order to provide enough room to properly recreate their natural environment. Provide plenty of rocky caves and crevices in order to provide the fish with hiding places, along with adequate territory and places to graze for algae growth.

Most African Cichlids are pretty territorial, thus the aquarium should be decorated in such a way to provide them with enough caves and rocky formations to both establish their own territory and still have adequate swimming room. By distributing rock formations and suitable plants like Anubias all over the substrate of the aquarium with open swimming room above, the hobbyist creates distributed territory that allows for more fish to be kept in a single aquarium.

If only one or two areas of the tank have well defined territories in the form of just a few rocks or plants and too much open area at the substrate level, a few dominant males will claim the limited territory and fight with the other tank mates continually.

All forms of standard aquarium filtration including: power filter, canister, sump based and even sponge filters are suitable for providing adequate filtration for keeping African Cichlids. It is recommended that a power head be used to provide additional water flow to increase dissolved oxygen and keep detritus and debris suspended in the water column so that it can be removed by the mechanical filtration. Regular partial water changes will help keep nitrate levels low and overall water quality high, with frequency depending on tank size, stocking levels, amount of feedings and level of filtration being used on the tank.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Livingston's Cichlid and provide a healthy diet.

In their native Lake Malawi the Livingston's Cichlid feeds almost exclusively on small fish. They are known for their ambush tactics, where they will lie on the substrate on their side as if dead and wait for small fish to come in close looking for an easy meal. Once their target fish is within range they will quickly lunge at the prey attempting to swallow it whole. Locals who have observed their ambush tactic have dubbed them the kalingono or sleeper fish.

Despite being a piscivore in their natural habitat, the Livingston's Cichlid will quickly adjust to being a carnivore in the aquarium environment feeding readily on all manner of commercial meaty foods designed for Cichlids. Juveniles can be fed commercial flake, freeze-dried or small pellet foods and frozen foods. Adult specimens should be offered larger pellet foods or larger frozen food like krill, chopped clams or squid.

Hobbyists can also feed home made foods comprised of chopped fish, prawns, shrimp or other meaty aquatic items, combined with liquid vitamins designed for African Cichlids. It is best not include animal meat of any kind when making home made food for African Cichlids, as their digestive system is not designed to process it and it can lead to digestive problems over time.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Livingston's Cichlid in the aquarium environment.

Males are polygamous and will mate with multiple females if given the chance. This species is an mouth brooder with the female incubating upwards of 100 eggs in her mouth until they hatch and the fry become free swimming. An ideal breeding environment would consist of a 75 gallon (48" length) aquarium with a soft sandy substrate, areas with smooth or flat rocks and an area with tall grass like plants. This will give the breeding colony potential spawning areas and provide the fish with a sense of security, as opposed to a bare aquarium. Water quality should be excellent a pH of 8.0-8.5 and a temperature between 78-82°F being ideal. A breeding group should consist of a single male and 3-6 females, and it is highly recommended that they are fed a high quality, meat-based diet consisting of frozen or freshly prepared raw foods.

The male will exhibit an intense blue coloration when he is ready to spawn, and will choose a location in the aquarium as the spawning site. Spawning sites generally consist of a flat rock located on the substrate or an area in the substrate that the male will excavate by digging a depression in the substrate. Spawning occurs in a similar fashion to many other mouth brooding Cichlids, with the female laying a line of eggs before moving away and allowing the male to take her place and fertilize them. At which time she will return to the site, pick up the fertilized eggs in her mouth and then lay down another batch of eggs.

The female will carry the eggs for about 3 to 4 weeks before they hatch releasing the free swimming fry. She will not eat during this time and can be easily spotted by her distended mouth and brooding coloration, consisting of dark blotched patterning. Females are notorious for spitting out the brood early when stressed, so extreme care should be taken if you decide to move the fish or disturb their breeding aquarium. Once the fry are released from their mothers mouth, they are large enough to accept brine shrimp nauplii.

It is also worth noting that if a female is kept away from the larger colony in the main aquarium for too long, she may lose her position in the pecking order of the larger group. Females moved to a separate breeding aquarium should be given ample time to feed and strengthen before being returned to a larger community aquarium. Some breeders will artificially strip the fry from the mother’s mouth at the 2 week stage and raise them from that point on in a separate aquarium, and this usually results in a larger number of fry.

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