Mbuna Cichlids Growth & Size Chart

Mbuna Cichlids originate from Lake Malawi, and they’re collectively known as African cichlids. There are over 100 species of Mbuna cichlids, but we’ll talk about the most important ones in this guide. If you’re thinking of buying Mbuna cichlids, you need to know how large they become, how fast they grow, and how you can speed up their growth.

This will help in better maintaining their growth and optimizing your tank space. Some Mbuna cichlids get really big in adulthood, while others remain small for the rest of their lives. Keep reading to find out more!

How Big do Mbuna Cichlids Get?

The size of Mbuna cichlids varies depending on the species. Some are small, like the dwarf Demasoni Mbuna, while others are pretty big, like the Blue Mbuna. As for the rest, they’re relatively similar, around 3.5-6 inches across the board. The size chart below will show you the exact measurements of 13 species of Mbuna cichlids.

Mbuna Cichlid Species Size
Electric Yellow Cichlid 4 inches
Yellow-Tail Acei 6 inches
Lavender Mbuna 4 inches
Perlmutt Cichlid 3.9 inches
Afra Cobue Cichlid 3.9 inches
Red Zebra Mbuna 4-5 inches
Socolofi Cichlid 4-4.6 inches
Blue Mbuna 12 inches
Bluegray Mbuna 3.9 inches
Auratus Cichlid 4.3 inches
Kenyi Cichlid 5 inches
Golden Mbuna 4.4 inches
Demasoni Mbuna 2.5-3 inches

Depending on the average and maximum size of your Mbuna cichlid, the size of the tank should also change. Larger Mbunas require more space to develop properly, while smaller ones make do with smaller tanks. You’ll need a minimum tank size of 30 gallons for the smaller (3-4 inches) Mbuna cichlids you have.

For larger cichlids, you should also increase the tank size for extra space. For every cichlid in the tank, you should double the size of the tank.

How Big Are Mbuna Cichlid Fry?

Mbuna Cichlid fry are generally less than an inch in size when they’re born. Over time, they grow larger until they reach their maximum size. Initially, they’re very small but they still need the required space to grow large. Fish generally grow larger if they have enough space and if their diet is healthy and diversified.

Most Mbuna cichlids grow at a steady rate, so the fry won’t be fry for too long. If you feed them daily and make sure they’re not bullied, Mbuna fry will grow quickly. I recommend keeping them in a separate tank until they become adults. Then, move them to the community tank.

How Fast do Mbuna Cichlids Grow?

Mbuna Cichlids’ growth rate differs based on their species. Some grow faster, while others take their sweet time. Look below to see a general approximation of how fast Mbuna cichlids grow:

  • Electric Yellow Cichlid – Very fast growth rate
  • Yellow-Tail Acei – Average growth rate
  • Lavender Mbuna – Fast growth rate
  • Perlmutt Cichlid – Average growth rate
  • Afra Cobue Cichlid – Very slow growth rate
  • Red Zebra Cichlid –Very fast growth rate
  • Socolofi Cichlid – Fast growth rate
  • Blue Mbuna – Average growth rate
  • Bluegray Mbuna – Average growth rate
  • Kenyi Cichlid – Very fast growth rate
  • Golden Mbuna – Average growth rate
  • Demasoni Mbuna – Fast growth rate

Generally speaking, Mbuna (African) cichlids grow faster than their American peers. But among themselves, there are early birds and crawling worms. Some grow fast, and others will take their time.

How Long Do Mbuna Cichlid Fry Take to Grow?

Mbuna Cichlids take 1-2 years to grow to their full size, but there are small differences between every species. Some Mbunas grow very fast during the fry stage and reach adulthood pretty fast. Other Mbunas prefer to stay as fry for longer.

Electric Yellow Cichlids take about 6 months to grow to adult fish, reaching a size of 1.97-2.36 inches. They’re still not at their full size yet, but they’re not fry either.

Yellow-tail Acei cichlids are fast-growers. They’ll reach 1.5-2 inches in 2 months, which is when you can put them in the community tank.

Lavender Mbuna grows pretty fast from the fry stage. In 1.5-2 months, they’ll reach adulthood. They will take about a year to reach their full size of 4 inches.

Perlmutt, Afra Cobue, and Red Zebra cichlids are pretty similar in that they reach adulthood in several months. In a year at most, they’ll reach their full size.

Socolofi Cichlids, just like the Kenyi and Demasoni Mbunas, are fast growers. The fry will take off in 1-2 months, and then you can place them in the community tank. These ones are a bit sturdier than other species.

Blue Mbuna and Bluegray Mbuna grow pretty fast until their reach 2 inches, and then they slow down until they reach their full size.

Lastly, the Golden Mbuna will double in size in about 3-4 weeks but after that, it’ll slow down its growth until it reaches adulthood and its full size.

When do Mbuna Cichlids Reach Full Size?

Most Mbuna Cichlids will reach their full size in 1.5 years. Very rarely do Mbunas take 2 years to grow to their full size. The Electric Yellow Cichlid, for instance, will reach its full size in about a year due to how fast it grows. But you shouldn’t expect to wait too long before your Mbunas get big.

How to Speed Up the Growth of Mbuna Cichlids?

African Cichlids are harder to keep and manage than American Cichlids. But the same principles apply. If you want to speed up the growth of Mbuna Cichlids, you need to emphasize four aspects:

  • Feeding – How often do you feed your Mbuna Cichlids? What type of food do you feed them? During the fry stage, these fish will need constant food to grow faster. A balanced diet is essential in keeping Mbunas on a healthy growth course. Provide them with enough protein and fat!
  • Water parameters – this applies to all fish, not just Mbunas. You should maintain a temperature of 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain the pH between 7.8-9 at all times. Mbunas like hard water too, but make sure the DH is between 4-6. No plants are needed, and you should focus on a rocky substrate.
  • Stress and sickness – All fish will stunt their growth if they’re stressed and sick. Mbunas can become stressed if they get into fights with other fish or if they’re bullied by their own kind. Fry will get stressed if they have to hide constantly from bigger fish. Incorrect water parameters may stress them out or make them fall sick.
  • Overfeeding – Overfeeding your fish may make them bloated and stressed. It also makes them more vulnerable to sickness, so make sure you feed your Mbunas just enough

Mbuna Cichlids are just like any other fish – they’ll grow big and healthy if you take good care of them. This means nutritious food, a good temperature, pH, and no stress. If your fish don’t fall sick, then their growth rate will keep going up.


If you want to grow Mbuna Cichlids, you should know how big they get before buying a tank. Depending on the species you want to get, the size of the tank changes as well. You should also know what you’re getting yourself into and how long it takes before your Mbunas grow to their full size.

The growth and size chart will help you make an informed decision, and if you have any questions, leave them below!

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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