Livingstoni Cichlid (Nimbochromis livingstonii): Care Guide

Livingstoni Cichlids (Nimbochromis livingstonii) is an African Cichlid type that is beautiful and colorful. They originate in the alkaline lakes of Mozambique, Africa.

They have a flat shape, large mouth, and a color changing body. The color changes based on their environment. These fish are quite social with their owners as well, and they will actively swim along the glass as if they are asking to be food. Their unique appearance and personality captivates many fishkeepers. They have a lifespan of almost 10 years.

Inside the aquarium, they can be territorial and aggressive with other fish. Therefore, it is important to understand their care requirements.

Livingstoni Cichlids Care

The ideal environment to raise Livingstoni Cichlid consists of a fairly large tank with slightly warmer water temperatures of 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C) and alkaline pH between 7.7-8.6.

Given the Livingstoni Cichlid can grow up to 10 inches (25 cm), the ideal tank size ranges from 70-gallon tank when they’re smaller, to 125-gallon when adults. Some fish keepers say a 30-gallon tank can be used when they’re still small. Given this species needs a good amount of swimming area in the tank and can be aggressive, skewing to a larger unit would be wiser. 

Active and playful, the best elements to make the Livingstoni Cichlid feel at home are sand combined with natural hiding places made of wood, rocks, and freshwater plants. Choosing saltwater sand can be the best cost-benefit as it also helps maintain a higher pH in the water.

Be mindful of the substrate used in the sand, since Livingstoni Cichlid like burying themselves – and, so, they could get hurt with sand made of tougher elements.

Livingstoni Cichlid
Livingstoni Cichlid (Nimbochromis livingstonii)

Food & Diet

The African Cichlid can eat plants and fish. In the wild, they’re mostly piscivores feeding off of smaller fish, which could translate to a high-protein diet in the aquarium. They’ll appreciate live or frozen food, pellets, and other high-quality foods for piscivores.

Feeding them with a feeder fish can spark hunting instincts and aggression. So, aquarists should balance out the Livingstoni Cichlid diet with plants making them more peaceful towards other fishes in the tank.

Be careful to not hurt your Livingstoni Cichlid by overfeeding them. These fish have a huge appetite and will continue eating even after their stomach swells.

Livingstoni Cichlids Tank Mates

Considered moderately aggressive, Livingstoni Cichlid will best get along with some cichlid species or moderately-aggressive, similar-sized fish. So, keep that in mind when mixing them with smaller species, you might notice some of them have gone missing in the next few days.

Remember that the Livingstoni Cichlid are territorial and predatorial. According to Animal-World, “during spawning, they will attack and kill any other males of the same species unless the tank is large.”

Livingstoni Cichlids are best kept in groups of 1 male with 3 or more females of the same or with other semi-aggressive species in a large tank. Some other good examples of compatible tank mates for Livingstoni Cichlid are Rafael Catfish, Plecos, Synodontis catfish, and Larger Rainbowfish.

In comparison, you should avoid putting them together with other larger, aggressive, and predatory fish species, slow swimmers & eaters, and shrimps, crabs, and snails. Some examples of incompatible tank mates are Angelfish, Guppy Fish, Red Rainbowfish, Discus, Corydoras, and Glassfish.

Finally, according to Saurabh Kumaralthough on Fish Tank Master,  you should avoid mixing African Cichlid with the South American ones. They both are the most aggressive of the Cichlid and the particularities of both Cichlid’s immune systems can make each other sick.

Breeding Livingstoni Cichlid

Livingstoni Cichlids are a polygamous fish species and moderately easy to breed in captivity. Usually, one male attends to three to six females.

First, it’s important to differentiate the Livingstoni Cichlid males from females to keep the right breeding ratio in your tank. The quickest way to do so is by observing their size, colors, and behavior.

Livingstoni Cichlid males will be larger with longer dorsal, anal, and caudal fins, brightly colored with “egg spots” on their anal fins, according to the Fish Channel. Striping may be seen on both male and female fish. Some Livingstoni Cichlid males lack egg spots which can lead to being hurt by other males. Male cichlids may change colors and display aggressive behavior when preparing to spawn.

According to Animal-World, the Livingstoni Cichlid are egg-layers and don’t dig spawning pits. They prefer a flat stone or slate to lay the eggs on. Depending on the age and health of the female, she can lay up to 100 eggs. As a mouthbrooder, she will then pick up the eggs into her mouth for incubation that lasts 3 weeks and protect the larvae and eggs. She will also take care of the young fish and take them into their mouth if they perceive danger.


In summary, if you’re thinking of getting a Livingstoni Cichlid, remember to invest in a larger tank ensuring enough swimming space for the territorial and predatory 10-inch fish. Make sure the tank mates match the Livingstoni Cichlid in size, aggressiveness level, and recommended male-female ratio.

Choose natural decor and water conditions that fit with the origin and behavior of the African Cichlid. Wood, rocks, sand, and freshwater plants are some of the species’ favorite to swim around, bury themselves and hide. Regular water changes help achieve an alkaline pH with low ammonia levels.

In conclusion, the Livingstoni Cichlid can be a great addition to your aquarium as it’s a fairly easy type of fish to raise. Even if you’re just a beginner.