The Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia lombardoi) is a popular fish in the aquarium trade, where it’s often found under a variety of names, including kenyi mbuna, kennyi mbuna, and lombardoi mbuna. It’s also sometimes classified under the genus Metriaclima, due to an ongoing dispute over the naming.
This species is highly sexually dimorphic, and the mature males take on a bright yellow color, while the females are a light blue and have dark vertical bands. When mouthbrooding its young, a female will take on the yellow coloration of the dominant male in the aquarium.
These fish are not recommended for a beginner and are known for their nastiness in the aquarium hobby. However, if someone is an experienced aquarist, they are a rewarding and interesting fish to keep.
|Life Span:||10 Years|
|Size:||5.1 inches (13 centimeters)|
|Minimum Tank Size:||55 gallons (208 liters)|
Kenyi cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa. They were historically restricted to only two locations – the rocky shores of Mbenji Island and the Nkhomo reef. However, in recent years, it has been introduced to Namalenje Island, where it has established a stable population.
These fish are usually found at depth of around 32 feet (10 meters), and dwell where the rocky bottom of the lake meets the sand surrounding the islands. The males excavate nests underneath rocks in the sandy area and will aggressively defend their territory from other males.
Kenyi cichlids are notoriously aggressive, and they need a large aquarium to allow them to establish a territory. Numerous caves and overhangs should be provided in their tank, along with flat areas to allow them to graze for algae.
The minimum aquarium size for kenyi cichlids should be viewed as 55 gallons, though a 75-gallon aquarium is recommended for keeping these fish. A larger aquarium allows the male to claim a territory, while still providing enough space for the females and any juveniles to swim freely.
Kenyi cichlids are large fish and require a powerful filter to keep their aquarium healthy. It’s usually best to over filter their tank slightly, and a hang-on-back filter provides the perfect mix of quality and affordability.
I, personally, recommend the AquaClear Power Filter, which is incredibly rugged and reliable. These filters have been running on my aquariums for years without any problems and do an excellent job of keeping them clean.
Kenyi cichlids mainly feed on algae and plankton in the wild, and their diet in a home aquarium should mimic this as closely as possible. While they will accept most prepared foods, it’s best to only feed them food designed for herbivores. I recommend Hikari Algae Wafers, as it provides a good mix of vegetables and protein.
Vegetables should also be offered regularly, and blanched zucchini medallions are especially appreciated. Some other good vegetables to feed them are shelled peas, cucumber medallions, and leafy greens like spinach. (Learn more about how to feed vegetables to fish here.) However, it’s best to avoid high protein foods like beef heart with these fish, as it may lead to digestive problems.
Somewhat surprisingly for a cichlid, kenyi cichlids usually take their time to spawn in a home aquarium. To best promote spawning, place one male and several females in a species only tank. The aquarium should have a sand substrate and include rocky areas with flat surfaces for the females to deposit their eggs on.
Once the fish have been placed in the aquarium, they should be conditioned with a high-quality diet of live and frozen foods, but care should be taken to ensure they have enough vegetable matter in their diet as well.
The male will then claim a territory where he will excavate a pit and defend it. The male will usually choose an area under a rock overhang or one with a flat surface. He will then do his best to entice females to mate with him. There will be significant aggression during this time, which is why it’s important to keep several females in the breeding tank, as it helps to spread the aggression around.
Eventually, one of the females will deposit her eggs in the pit the male has dug and wait for him to fertilize the eggs before she takes them into her mouth. The female will brood the eggs in her mouth for several weeks before free-swimming fry emerge. It’s important to not disturb the female while she’s mouthbrooding, as it may cause her to devour the fry or spit them out to fend for themselves.
Once the fry emerge from the female’s mouth, they should be fed with microworms or baby brine shrimp, though commercial fry foods are also acceptable.
Kenyi cichlids have a well-deserved reputation as one of the most aggressive commonly available fish in the hobby. No peaceful fish should ever be kept with Kenyi cichlids, though some aquarists have reported success keeping them with other mbuna fish not belonging to the same family and with dissimilar colors. Also, any community tank must be overcrowded to prevent territories from being formed, and the fish must be introduced at the same time.