The Kenyi Cichlid Resource

Kenyi Cichlid
Male (front) and female (back) Kenyi Cichlids © 2006 Ged~commonswiki

The fish that make up the Maylandia lombardoi species are known as Kenyi Cichlids. That’s their official common name. However, people also refer to them as Kenyis, Kenyyis, Kennyi Cichlids, Gold Zebras, and Lombard’s Malawi Cichlids.

Adult size: 5-6 inches
Minimum tank size: 30 gallon
pH: 7.6-8.8
Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
Hardscape: Rocks
Substrate: Sand
Diet: Omnivorous


How to Keep Kenyi Cichlids

The decision to keep Kenyi Cichlids shouldn’t be taken lightly. By keeping them, you are responsible for their well-being. However, if you think you’re up for the challenge, you’ve come to the right place. This section of The Kenyi Cichlids Resource will explain everything you need, need to know, and need to do to go from not having any experience in fishkeeping to successfully keeping Kenyi Cichlids.

Here an overview of the entire process:

I know it sounds like a lot of information, but don’t worry. It’s all provided in an easy-to-understand manner so that even if you’ve never kept a fish before, you’ll know exactly how to keep Kenyi Cichlids by the time you reach the end. Let’s get started.

Choosing the Right Aquarium

The first step in keeping Kenyi Cichlids is choosing the right aquarium. To do so, there are two rules you have to keep in mind.

Rule #1: Kenyi Cichlids must be kept in an aquarium of at least 30 gallons.

If you’ve never kept fish before, you might be wondering why this rule is in place. Well, first of all, if you keep fish in an aquarium that is too small, they will:

  • Not grow to their appropriate size
  • Become stressed

Causing stress is the last thing you want to do to your fish. It suppresses their immune system, thus lowering their health’s defense.

Anyways, just know that when you’re selecting a new aquarium, the size of the aquarium will always be clear. But if you’re ever in doubt, use our Fish Tank Calculator.

Rule #2: Kenyi Cichlids must be in an aquarium that is under-stocked, or slightly overstocked with a filter capacity above 65%.

You see, Kenyi Cichlids are a rather aggressive species. If they are in an aquarium that is 100% stocked, they will fight for territory. Usually what happens in a situation like this is the weakest of the group get picked on. And with constant bullying and harassment, they don’t last for long. By under-stocking their aquarium, you allow for plenty of space for each fish to claim their own territory, thus eliminating the fighting. And on the other hand, by slightly overstocking their aquarium, there will be too many fish for them to be picky about their own territory, allowing the weaklings to easily blend within the group.

Dropping below a stocking capacity of 100% is fine in a situation like this, but you do need to ensure that the filter on your aquarium can handle it’s inhabitants. Most manufacturers are generous in how they claim their filter capacities, so as a general rule of thumb you shouldn’t drop below 65% of your filter capacity.

How big is my aquarium?

Providing A Proper Canopy and Lighting Schedule

After you’ve got the right aquarium, it’s time to talk about the canopy. In most cases, when you buy an aquarium, a canopy will be provided for you. However, if one isn’t, you’ll need to get one for Kenyi Cichlids. They love to jump, so it’s important that you provide them with one that completely covers the top of the aquarium. This isn’t the only thing the canopy is good for, however, the canopy actually serves two other purposes. It prevents:

  • Contaminates from entering
  • Water temperature from fluctuating

As far as lighting goes, you typically want to turn the lights on and off and the same time everyday, to give your fish a sense of time. To make things really easy, we recommend just plugging your aquarium lights into an outlet timer. Then all you have to do is program it to when you want the lights to turn on and off each day, and it relieves you of your duty.

Light bulbs (which are frequently embedded into the underbelly of the canopy) are how you supply them with this light, never direct sunlight. Your aquarium’s water temperature will fluctuate, affecting other parameters. And since algae growth is stimulated by sunlight, it will bloom in there too, affecting other water parameters as well.

Designing the Aquarium

After you’ve got the aquarium and canopy set up, the next step is designing it. Now, when it comes to designing an aquarium, your fish always do their best if you design it so that it mimics their natural habitat. To give you an idea of what this means for Kenyi Cichlids, this video shows you what Lake Malawi, Africa (their natural habitat) looks like:

As you can see, their natural habitat consists of sand, rocks, and plenty of open-swimming space. Nothing else. Therefore, you should design their aquarium as such.

• Substrate

When it comes to adding a sand substrate to your aquarium, it’s not uncommon to use pool filter sand. It’s practically the same product as aquarium sand, but usually comes at a cheaper cost. So pick yourself some up. After you’ve got some and before you start chucking it into your aquarium, you should clean it. Otherwise, the residue that is on it, or the particles that are in it, may make your aquarium cloudy.

After you have cleaned it, place enough sand into your aquarium to fill it 1.5 inches high all along the bottom. In some areas, however, place a little more sand to keep the substrate from being completely flat and looking unnatural. After you’ve placed the sand the way you like it, use your hand or a paint brush to smooth it out a little so it looks like it was naturally placed there.

• Hardscape

After you’ve added substrate to your aquarium, it’s time to add the hardscape. For Kenyi Cichlids, this means rocks. Just like the substrate, before you go placing any into your aquarium, you should clean them to remove any potential contaminants or anything that can cause your aquarium to become cloudy.

When your rocks are clean and ready to be placed into your aquarium. There are three rules you want to keep in mind when placing it:

Rule #1: Create plenty of caves, hiding place, or territories.

By providing many little secluded areas like this throughout your aquarium, you’re Kenyi Cichlids will have a reduced possibility of harming each other.

Rule #2: Whenever possible, place the rocks so that the caves open to the front of the aquarium.

This one’s pretty straight-forward. Following this rule just makes it easier for you to see your fish.

Rule #3: Leave plenty of open-swimming area.

Remember, you always want to mimic their natural habitat. And in Lake Malawi, there is tons of open space to swim about.

Maintaining Water Parameters

Water parameters are a very important to fish. If they are not stable or don’t mimic their natural environment, fish are bound to be stressed.

What makes fish keeping a difficult hobby is that fish from different areas of the world require their water to have different parameters. So when it comes to Kenyi Cichlids, the water in their aquarium needs to have:

  • Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
  • pH: 7.6-8.8
  • Ammonia: 0-0.02 mg/L (or pmm)
  • Nitrite: 0-0.02 mg/L (or pmm)
  • Nitrate 0-40 mg/L (or pmm)

Let’s go into a little more detail about each of these aspects.



Ammonia, Nitrite, & Nitrate

Feeding Your Kenyi Cichlids

Feeding your Kenyi Cichlids is probably going to be your favorite part about keeping them. It’s when you connect the most with them. Now, you have to watch out though, because feeding them an improper diet will surely cause them stress. To avoid any issues, we recommend:

And here are some other guidelines to follow:

1) Only purchase live foods from reputable dealers.

If you add live food to your aquarium that came from a contaminated source, your aquarium can become infected with the contaminant, potentially causing health issues for your fish.

2) Always thaw frozen foods prior to feedings.

There are two ways you can do this:

  • Fill a small cup with some aquarium water. Place the frozen food in the water and microwave until it melts. Then just pour the water into your aquarium.
  • Place the frozen food in a cup. Then leave it out in room temperature until it melts.

3) Always throw out un-used thawed food.

When you refreeze thawed food, harmful bacteria can grow on the food. Then when you add the re-frozen frozen food to your aquarium, the harmful bacteria gets ingested by your fish, causing health issues.

4) Always add food to your aquarium on the opposite side of the filter.

Adding food to the same side the filter intake is on may result in some of the food getting sucked up by the filter. This food will then get trapped in your filter media and begin decomposing. As it does so, it’ll release ammonia into the water, until you clean it, that is.

Preparing For Health Issues

Kenyi Cichlids are most commonly affected by Ich and Malawi Bloat. Educate yourself on both of them so you can quickly diagnose and treat them.

Selecting Tank Mates

Kenyi Cichlids can be kept solo or with other fish. If they are kept with other Kenyi Cichlids, it’s best to have a ratio of 1 male to at least 3 females. Maintaining this ratio will help minimize the male’s aggression towards the females. To put things simply, as the males seek a mate, they can be very aggressive to their female counterparts. All this abuse and chasing causes the females to become stressed. Adding at least 3 females to the aquarium allows the aggression of the males to be dispersed across several females instead of focused on just one.

In regards to keeping Kenyi Cichlids with other kinds of fish, ensure the species you keep with them with are compatible with them. To determine if they are, use this Compatibility Chart.

Adoption & Introducing Them

Now that you’ve read through this How to Keep Kenyi Cichlids section of The Kenyi Cichlid Resource, you are equip with the knowledge that it takes to successfully keep Kenyi Cichlids. Before you run out and adopt them though, there are two things you should be made aware of:

  1. They have a lifespan of 8-12 years.
  2. They can be sold under several common names, including: Kenyis, Kenyyis, Kennyi Cichlids, Gold Zebras, and Lombard’s Malawi Cichlids.

If after all of this, you’re up for the challenge of keeping Kenyi Cichlids, you actually have a few different options to go about adopting them. And, as you can expect, each option has it’s own pros and cons. So before you jump the gun and adopt one right away, review the pros and cons and decide which option is best for you. Here they are:

After you have adopted yours, the next step is introducing them to their new home. No matter where you adopt your fish, whether it be a contaminated source or not, you should always acclimate any new fish you get to a quarantine aquarium and treat them for 2 weeks before adding them to their regular aquarium. Otherwise, their regular aquarium may become infected and harm your fish. After you’re done treating them, then that’s when you acclimate them to their regular aquarium. And remember to acclimate them anytime you are transferring them between aquariums too. It just ensures they don’t go from one water with Parameters A into water with Parameters B in the blink of an eye, which could stress them.


How to Breed Kenyi Cichlids

After you have mastered the art of keeping Kenyi Cichlids, sometimes the idea of breeding them is enticing. It should go without saying, however, that we recommend you learn to keep Kenyi Cichlids before you try breeding them. But if you believe you are ready, there are a few things you need to know. And that’s exactly what this section of The Kenyi Cichlid Resource is for – to provide you with everything you need, need to know, and need to do to be successful at breeding them.

First, we’ll start with how Kenyi Cichlids reproduce. After that, we’ll look at how you can make it happen in your aquarium. Let’s begin.

Reproduction Process

Like a lot of other cichlids, Kenyi Cichlids reach sexual maturity around 4-6 months in age or 3 inches in length.

Typically, the reproduction process starts with the male clearing a flat stone or preparing a pit. After he has done so, he’ll act quite aggressively to the fish around him. To attract a mate, he’ll vibrate his entire body. If a female likes what she sees, she’ll follow the male back to the spawning site that he has prepared.

The male and female Kenyi Cichlids will vibrate their bodies beside each other and swim in circles. After a while, the female will lay about 10 eggs (this number will increase to around 30 when the female reaches maturity), the male will fertilize them, then she will pick the eggs up in her mouth. She will keep them in her mouth for 3-4 weeks. After that time, the fry will be free-swimming so the female will release them from her mouth. After they have been released, the fry won’t usually enter the female’s mouth again, unless there is danger near.

Our Recommended Breeding Technique

The way that we recommend breeding Kenyi Cichlids is quite simple. Keep a 1 male to 3 female ratio in a suitable aquarium environment and design the aquarium to feature many flat rocks. This makes it much easier for them to spawn.

When you notice that a female is holding eggs in her mouth, transfer her into an empty fry aquarium – a suitable aquarium environment, with the exception of the size being dropped to 20 gallons and a pre-filter sponge being added to the filter intake so that the small fry don’t get sucked up. Transferring the female like this serves two purposes. It ensures:

  1. The fry aren’t released into your breeding aquarium.
  2. The female isn’t abused.

During the time that the female is holding, try to feed her crushed flakes. If she eats them, feed her regularly. But if she doesn’t eat them, remove them from the aquarium.

When she releases the fry from her mouth, transfer her to a hospital aquarium for 1 week, or until she is looking healthy. Doing this serves two purposes. It ensures:

  • She doesn’t eat any of her fry.
  • She can have time to heal, strengthen, and if necessary, be treated, before being transferred back into the breeding aquarium.


Other Information About Kenyi Cichlids

Wild Distribution

In the wild, Kenyi Cichlids are only found in Lake Malawi, Africa. There, they typically spend most of their time 32 feet below the surface. Here’s a video to show you what it looks like:

Conservation Status

StatusYear PublishedDate AssessedAssessorSource
Vulnerable200601/31/06Kaembe, J.IUCN Red List

Taxonomic Status

The Taxonomic Status of Kenyi Cichlids was most recently published in 1977 by W. E. Burgess as:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Sub-Family: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Genus: Maylandia
Species: M. lombardoi