Quick Care Facts
• Care Level: Easy • Temperament: Semi-aggressive • Maximum Size: 10"
• Minimum Tank Size: 70 gallons • Water Conditions: 76-82° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.6
• Diet: Carnivore • Origin: Lake Malawi • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: African Cichlid • Aquarium Type: African Cichlid, Rift Lake
Malawi Eye-Biter native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.
The Malawi Eye-Biter is one of those fish species that has a well deserved common name that clearly illustrates its behavior. Malawi Eye-Biters are well known for their propensity to bite or eat the eyes out of smaller fish species before consuming them tail first. Both habitats are a bit unusual as most fish simply swallow their prey head first and do not specifically attack the preys eyes.
With a well deserved reputation such as this it is understandable that this species is not suited for most community African Cichlid aquariums. Malawi Eye-Biter need to be house with larger species that will not be considered as a food source. A general rule of thumb is that Malawi Eye-Biter tank mates be at least six inches in length or just over half as long as an adult Malawi Eye-Biter. This species is endemic to all of Lake Malawi and are commonly collected for the aquarium trade, where they are typically sold as Malawi Eye-Biters or Compressiceps Cichlids.
How to successfully keep Malawi Eye-Biter in the home aquarium.
The Malawi Eye-Biter (Dimidiochromis compressiceps) grows to about 10 to 11 inches in length and requires an aquarium of at least 70 gallons in size, but does better in a longer aquarium like a 125 gallon. A larger properly aqua-scaped aquarium will provide more suitable territory, which will allow the Malawi Eye-Biter to co-exist more easily with other large African Cichlid tank mates.
Their large mouths and aggressive temperament make the Malawi Eye-Biter unsuitable for most African community aquariums where there is a wide variety in the sizes of the fish. However, they do fine with tank mates that are not seen as a prey item, ie. too large to fit in their mouth.
They do best in aquariums designed to replicate the shoreline of their natural Lake Malawi habitat. Ideal tank decor would include a sandy substrate, large smooth rocks piles or caves, open swimming areas and areas of vegetation. They are accustomed to living in shallow water that reaches temperatures well into the 80's during the middle of the day, thus will prefer aquariums with water temperatures between 79 to 82°F.
Malawi Eye-Biter live near the shoreline where there are not strong water currents like that produced from power heads or filter returns, thus they will appreciate an aquarium environment with gentle or indirect water flow.
Feeding & Nutrition
How to properly feed Malawi Eye-Biter and provide a healthy diet.
In their natural habitat the Malawi Eye-Biter feeds primarily on smaller fish that it hunts for in the vegetation growing along the Lake Malawi shore line. They will readily consume any fish in the aquarium small enough for them to fit in their mouth, including both bait fish and fellow tank mates.
Malawi Eye-Biters can easily be weaned off of live fish for a variety of other dead meaty foods, which is generally safer and more cost effective. Fresh or frozen foods like silver sides, lance fish, mussels, prawns, cockle and other similar meaty items make excellent food choices.
They can also be fed a quality pellet or frozen preparation designed for carnivorous African Cichlid species once they are weaned from live foods. It is best to feed them multiple smaller feedings per day and to monitor their overall growth to determine the ideal feeding regimen.
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