Maingano Cichlid (Pseudotropheus cyaneorhabdos) Care Guide & Species Profile

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If you failed to find a Johanni Cichlid (P. johannii) at your local fish stores, the Mangano Cichlid (P. cyaneorhabdos) is a fantastic alternative! Both P. johannii and P. cyaneorhabdos feature the same stunning blue coloration and horizontal stripes.

Yes, their striking coloration makes them very appealing. But these are feisty fish, and there are definitely some things you should know before adding them to your tank.

In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about Mangano Cichlid care. So, if you’re thinking about keeping these beautiful fish, read on!

Species Profile

The Maingano Cichlid is a small mbuna that is endemic to a limited region on the northeast shore of Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. It’s currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable (VU) because of its restricted habitat.

This species was formerly described as Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos by Bowers and Stauffer in 1997, and its scientific name was changed to Pseudotropheus cyaneorhabdos in 2005 by Ad Konings. To aquarists, they are known as the Maingano, Maingano Cichlid, Mangano Fish or Mangano Cichlid.

Pseudotropheus is one of the large genera of Mbunas. This fish is not as aggressive as other members in its genus, but it still boasts a feisty temper.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus cyaneorhabdos
Common Name:Maingano, Maingano Cichlid, Mangano Fish or Mangano Cichlid
Care Level:Advanced
IUCN Red List:Vulnerable (VU)
Origin:Lake Malawi
Lifespan:10 years
Max Size:3 to 4 inches (8 – 10 cm)
Temperature:76-82° F
PH:7.8 – 8.6
Water hardness:10-15 dGH
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″)


When it comes to looks, the appearance and small size of the Maingano Cichlids is something that makes them stand out no matter what.

The fish’s elongated torpedo-shaped body and rounded snout are characteristic of Mbunas. They are primarily darker coloration with electric blue stripes that run from shoulder to tail.

Two thin lines are found on their continuous dorsal fin; one is located nearer to the top edge, and the other runs across the base. This fish has golden-colored eyes and specialized teeth.

Male Vs. Female

It’s challenging to tell the difference between a male and female Maingano Cichlid. However, if you take a close look, the males are usually larger in size, and dominant male Maingano Cichlids have more intense coloration. Additionally, the females have a lighter belly with relatively shorter pelvic fins. 

The most accurate way to determine the gender of your Maingano Cichlid is by venting them. Please note that this is an expert-only way to tell the difference, and we don’t recommend you do this without the help of a professional. 

P. johannii Vs. P. cyaneorhabdos

The Maingano Cichlid is often confused with its close relative Johanni Cichlid because they are very similar in appearance. Perhaps the most physical feature to help distinguish the two is that female Johanni Cichlids are orange while both male and female Maingano Cichlids are colored the same black and blue. Another difference is the absence of vertical stripes on Johanni Cichlid.

Maingano Cichlid Size & Growth Rate

These are smaller Mbunas. The average Maingano Cichlid size can get around 3 to 4 inches (8 – 10 cm) in length when fully grown. 

Despite their small size, Mainganos have a fairly fast growth rate. You can expect them to hit their full potential size in about a year or so. Juveniles start to show their colors within two or three weeks, and they are ready to breed at 1.5 – 2 inches. 

Sometimes, some instances can surpass this size and growth rate, but those are uncommon. If you want to make sure your fish grow at a steady and healthy rate, provide them with optimal living conditions and a high-quality diet from day one!

Life Expectancy

The average lifespan of Maingano Cichlid is around 10 years when given proper care. Well, the number is a generalization, as it may differ from fish to fish. Some Mainganos might live a bit longer, while some might not even make it to half of that age.

The biggest contributing factor to their lifespan is the quality of care they receive. With good water conditions and a nutritious diet, your Maingano will most likely enjoy a long and happy life.

Care & Tank Setup

Due to their aggressive and territorial nature, Maingano Cichlids are typically recommended for intermediate and experienced aquarists who have a bit of experience. These fish are susceptible to Malawi bloat, making them a bit of a handful to care of.

Author notes: If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly Mbuna, try Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus).

In their natural habits, Maingano Cichlids are found over rocky substrates at depths between 10 – 33 feet (3 – 10 m) in the lake. When you’re creating a perfect habit for them, be sure to mimic their natural habitat as much as possible.

Here are some essential things to keep in mind:

Maingano Cichlid Tank Size

Since these are smaller, moderately aggressive Mbunas, the minimum recommended tank size for a group of 9 – 12 Maingano Cichlids is 55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″).

Heavy stocking is the best way to keep aggression down in a Mbuna aquarium. If you want to add more fish or mix Mainganos with other Mbunas, we recommend providing at least 2 gallons of tank space per fish.

Water Parameters

As we mentioned earlier, the goal with any other cichlids is to recreate the water conditions of their natural habitat. Mainganos come from the waters of Lake Malawi in Africa, where the water is hard and alkaline.

The ideal tank should have the following parameters:

  • pH: 7.8 – 8.6
  • Water hardness: 10-15 dGH
  • Temperature76-82° F
  • Specific gravity: < 1.0002
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm

It’s worth noting that African Cichlids from the Rift Valley lakes have a slight tolerance, but they can’t live long in a full brackish environment.

Poor water conditions are one of the main reasons cause Malawi bloat (as well as other Mbunas) because it’s considered the most common cause of fish stress. Many aquarists take for the diet and internal parasites that cause bloat, but IMHO, stress is the root of the problem.

Depending on your bio load, try to do water changes of 20 to 50% bi-weekly to keep the water quality high.

Overcrowding can lower aggression levels, but it’s also the number one reason for the lack of oxygenation in the tank, which can also result in stress. Therefore, using an air pump to increase the water movement and provide adequate aeration is necessary.

Since Mbunas are very sensitive to water changes, it’s crucial to invest in a reliable testing kit to ensure the correct parameters. It’s one of the most important pieces of equipment when setting up a Malawi aquarium, so don’t skimp on it!

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Substrate & Caves

Maingano Cichlids are observed over small to medium rocks with sand, so a coral or aragonite-based substrate is recommended to maintain high pH and alkalinity. However, that brings us to another variable we need to consider – a higher pH means the ammonia is more lethal, so you need to be extra careful with your water quality.

On the other hand, Mbunas feel safer and will show their best colors when given a darker substrate.

Provide piles of rocks to create many caves and passageways for the fish to explore. Be sure the structures are well-built on the bottom of the aquarium, as this fish is known to dig around the substrate.

Diet & Food

The Maingano Cichlid is considered to be omnivorous.

In the wild, Mainganos typically feed on zooplankton, Aufwuchs, and epibenthic invertebrates.

In captivity, they will accept most aquarium fish foods, but you’ll make sure the vegetable should form a large proportion of their diet by providing them with vegetable-rich foods in the form of spirulina flakes, dried seaweed, and algae. You can also supplement with peas, blanched spinach, or lettuce. 

To boost their colors, we recommend feeding them some protein-rich snacks such as freeze-dried brine shrimp, krill, and bloodworms.

Stick to a feeding schedule, and only give them as much food as they can consume in 2-3 minutes.

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Maingano Cichlid Tank Mates

Mbuna Cichlids should only be kept with other Mbunas.

Mainganos are not recommended for a community tank, as they will harass and even kill other fish that they see as a threat or competitor.

They are best kept in groups of only one male and at least three females in a species-only tank. As we suggested, the tank should be overcrowded to reduce aggression.

Mainganos should not be kept with other Pseudotropheus species that have the same coloration and patterning, such as P. lombardoi (Kennyi cichlid), P. saulosi (Saulosi Cichlid), P. demasoni (Demasoni Cichlid), P. Acei (Acei Cichlid), etc. Furthermore, chances are these fish from the same genus will crossbreed, which is something you want to avoid.

If you want to keep Mainganos with other Mbunas, look for species that have totally different appearances.

In a 55-gallon aggressive Maingano aquarium, you can choose another 2-3 species from Maylandia, Labeotropheus, and Tropheops. Also, avoid these relatively peaceful species from Labidochromis, Cynotilapia, and most Maylandia.


The Maingano is a classic polygamous African Cichlid, which means a male will mate with several females and form a matriarchal family.

Mainganos have been bred in captivity, but it’s not that difficult. They are maternal mouthbrooders. Males are extremely intolerant of each other, and the females are not ready for spawning.

When the Mainganos are ready to spawn, the male will become very aggressive and display a more intense coloration. He will clean a spawning site in a cave or among the rocks. When it’s ready, he will then start to court the female by displaying his fins and shaking his body.

When a female is willing, the female will then lay her eggs in the spawning site. A female Maingano can deposit 10 to 60 eggs. After that, she will immediately take the eggs into her mouth.

At the same time, she will continuously stimulate the male’s egg spots on the anal fin to induce him to release his sperm and fertilize the eggs in her mouth.

The incubation period lasts for about 3-4 weeks. During this time, the female does not eat. However, if she is overly stressed, the female might eat the eggs.

The fry are free-swimming after 4-5 days. You can start feeding them with baby brine shrimp.


The Maingano Cichlid is a beautiful Mbuna species that makes a great addition to any Mbuna aquarium. Unfortunately, they are not easy to care for due to their aggressive nature. 

Mainganos are sometimes found in your local fish stores during the season, and the price varies depending on their gender and size. Always looking for this fish from a reputable dealer, or else you will end up with hybrids.

We hope you enjoyed this Maingano Cichlid care sheet and learned something new about this beautiful fish. If you have any questions that were not answered in this article, please leave us a comment below. Good luck!

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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