Lake Malawi cichlid in exhibit

Lake Malawi Cichlid

Scientific Name







East Africa’s Great Lakes, including Lake Malawi


Tropical lolands, subtropical lowlands, and freshwater areas

Estimated Wild Population

Lake Malawai cichlid in exhibit
IUCN Conservation Status: Not Listed IUCN Conservation Status: Not Listed

More Information

Physical Description

Lake Malawi cichlids are highly diverse in size, coloration, behavior, and ecology. Their shape ranges from tubular to perch-like to disk-like. Cichlids have a single nostril on each side of their head, incomplete scales on their head, a well-developed dorsal fin, and distinctive pelvic fins. Their mating system also varies from monogamous to polygynous to cooperative depending on species, habitat, and predator population. Most cichlids are mouth-brooders that carry fertilized eggs in their mouth until they hatch. Parents may also protect their young, called fry, by scooping them into their mouth when a predator approaches.

Interesting Fact 1

Cichlids use color and pattern cues to recognize their own species and discern sex and behavioral state.

Interesting Fact 2

Their pharyngeal bones help them capture, manipulate, and chew food.

Interesting Fact 3

Males perform courtship dances that encourage females to lay eggs.

Animal Care staff working with seal

Commitment to Care

Lincoln Park Zoo prioritizes individual well-being over everything else. Guided by scientific research, staff and volunteers work to provide the best welfare outcomes for each individual in the zoo’s care. 

Learn More

Support Your Zoo

Two Chilean flamingos in exhibit

Animals Depend On People Too

When you ADOPT an animal, you support world-class animal care by helping to provide specially formulated diets, new habitat elements, and regular veterinary checkups.

ADOPT an Animal

Asian small-clawed otter in exhibit

Wish List

The Wish List is full of one-of-a-kind items for the zoo’s animals, including nutritious snacks and enrichment items to keep them active and healthy.  

Browse the Wish List

Take Action With Us

Wildlife face many daunting challenges—some global, like planet-wide climate change, and some that affect individuals, like an animal ingesting plastic—but now is not the time to despair. None of these problems are too big for us to come together and solve.

Learn More