This is a good overview on breeding Malawis. You will need a community tank of Malawi fish. Make sure you have males and females of each species to reduce the likelihood of hybrids. Malawis are promiscuous and don’t mate for life or have partners like other cichlids. Minimum aquarium is 4 foot long or 1.3 metres long. The ph should be above 8.0 and the water should be quite hard. A thin layer of sand on the tank floor and some flattish stones laid out to form breeding sites. Some species are cave breeders and need the stones arranged to provide shelter. The ideal breeding temperature is 80F which is 27C. Some times it is difficult to sex males and females because sub dominant males will take on female coloration to avoid being bullied by a dominant male and will even perform mock mating rituals to avoid bullying.
Breeding takes place by females being slightly plump and the males flirting with the females by doing a shimmy and some tail flick towards the female. Eventually, the female when ready will follow the male to his chosen spot. Then they will turn round and round head to tail with the fish pausing every half circle for the female to pick up eggs deposited and getting the eggs fertilised by the male’s milt. This is when the female tries to pick up the false eggs on the male’s anal fin. This process repeats many times until the female has exhausted her egg supply.
The female will then hold the eggs in her mouth for 21 days approximately, being a mouthbrooder. It is best not to disturb her for 5 days. After that it is best to gently move her to a partitioned section of the tank or a separate tank.
After the three weeks are up she will start to release the fry. This may take a couple of days. Some Malawis such as peacocks will re-take them to the mouth for safety but other Malawis such as yellow labs, just abandon the young amongst the rock. A few large pebbles with hiding places for the fry can be handy.
If the fish are not breeding then try live food such as earthworms or daphnia or mosquito larvae. Avoid tubifex or blood worms as these can cause Malawi bloat. Other things to try are doing 30% water changes and have one day a week fasts(no feeding)
Fry are quite large when born and can be fed on brine shrimp, daphnia and even good quality fish food.
With a lot of species of mbuna it is easy to tell which is male and female. Species such as saulosi the males and females are 2 different colours. The males are blue and stripey while the females are yellow. What a bonus in colour. You get 2 nice colours in 1 species of fish. When species such as saulosi or kenyi were first discovered it was thought that the male and female were 2 different species.