Pearl of Likoma Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: December 17, 2022

The Pearl of Likoma is an absolutely stunning freshwater fish that is endemic to Lake Malawi.

This fish is prized for its unique coloration and patterning, and is a must-have for any cichlid enthusiast.

However, due to their rarity and delicate nature, they are not a beginner-friendly fish.

In this guide, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about Pearl of Likoma care. From tank size and diet, to the best tank mates and how to breed them.

Species overview

The Pearl of Likoma (scientific name: Enantiopus kilesa) is a type of cichlid that’s found in Lake Malawi, specifically around Likoma Island.

They are a rock-dwelling cichlid that prefers to live in areas with plenty of hiding places. This could be in the form of caves, rocks, or even sunken ships!

In the wild, these fish are known to be quite peaceful and will usually only become aggressive when it’s breeding season. However, they have been known to be a bit more aggressive in the aquarium setting.

The Pearl of Likoma is one of the more popular cichlids from Lake Malawi. This is likely due to their unique coloration and the fact that they’re not as aggressive as some of the other cichlids from the same area.


Pearl of Likoma

The Pearl of Likoma is a very unique freshwater fish that is sure to stand out in your aquarium. These fish have a very elongated and compressed body shape that is almost eel-like.

They are a very pale silver color with a few dark spots that are randomly distributed on their body. The spots are more concentrated on their dorsal half and get lighter towards their belly.

The fins on this fish are also very unique. The dorsal fin is very tall and starts about two-thirds of the way back on the body. It extends almost to the end of the tail and has a very distinct shape.

The anal fin is much shorter and starts a little bit closer to the head. It’s also thinner and not as tall as the dorsal fin.

The caudal fin is very thin and stringy. It’s hard to see at times because it blends in with the body so well.

The Pearl of Likoma is a very unique freshwater fish that is sure to stand out in your aquarium.


There is no set lifespan for the Pearl of Likoma. In the wild, these fish generally only live for a few years. But in captivity, they can live much longer – up to 10 years or more.

As with any fish, the lifespan of the Pearl of Likoma will be greatly impacted by the level of care they receive. Things like water quality, diet, and stress can all shorten their lifespan.


The Pearl of Likoma is a small cichlid that only reaches about 3.5 inches in length when fully grown.


Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for a single Pearl of Likoma is 75 gallons. If you want to keep more than one fish, you should add at least another 55 gallons for each fish.

Water Parameters

The Pearl of Likoma is a freshwater fish that is found in only one place in the world, Likoma Island in Lake Malawi.

This species is very peaceful and can be kept with other similar sized Malawi cichlids. They are not known to be aggressive unless they are spawning.

The Pearl of Likoma is a substrate spawner and will lay their eggs on the sand or gravel at the bottom of the tank.

The male will then guard the eggs until they hatch and the fry are free swimming.

  • Water Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH Levels: 7.8-8.6
  • Water Hardness: 10-15 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 4-8 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

When it comes to setting up the inside of an aquarium for a Pearl of Likoma, you can be as creative as you want. There aren’t any specific things that this species NEEDS to have, which gives you plenty of options.

We recommend some of the standard decorations that you find in a lot of freshwater tanks. There are a ton of great plants you can include (like hornwort or water wisteria). You can even throw in some floating aquarium plants too!

Rocks, driftwood, and caves are all suitable as well. It’s important to avoid going overboard with this since these fish like some room to swim.

Also, if you’re keeping your Pearl of Likoma in a smaller tank then it’s going to be difficult to include a lot of this stuff anyway.

A classic gravel substrate is always a good choice, but you can do with something soft and sandy if needed too (use other species you keep as a guide with this).

Common Diseases

The Pearl of Likoma is a pretty hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get sick. The most common illness that affects this species is ich.

This is a pretty widespread disease that can affect a lot of different fish. The most obvious symptom is the presence of white spots on the body, fish, and gills of your fish.

If you think your fish might have ich, the best thing to do is to consult your vet and begin treatment immediately. The sooner you act, the higher the chance is that your fish will recover.

Of course, the best way to keep the risk of disease low is by simply keeping the tank in great shape. Not providing clean, high-quality water conditions will significantly increase the chance of your Pearl of Likoma getting sick.

Behavior & Temperament

The Pearl of Likoma is a peaceful fish that doesn’t bother other tank mates. It’s content to stick to itself, which is good news if you’re looking for a low-maintenance fish.

This cichlid is also not too demanding when it comes to food. It’s an omnivore, so it’ll eat just about anything you give it. Flake food, pellets, live food, frozen food… you name it, the Pearl of Likoma will probably eat it.

The only time you might have a problem with this fish is if you don’t have enough hiding places in your tank. This fish likes to have a lot of places to hide, so make sure you provide it with plenty of rocks, plants, and other decorations. Otherwise, it might start to stress out.

When it comes to breeding, the Pearl of Likoma is pretty easy to care for. The female will lay her eggs in a cave or some other hidden spot. Then, the male will guard the eggs until they hatch. After that, the fry are on their own.

Tank Mates

The Pearl of Likoma is a peaceful and social cichlid. This means that it does well in a community tank with other fish species.

The ideal tank mates are other cichlids that occupy different parts of the water column. This way, everyone has their own space and there’s little competition for food or territory.

Other good Pearl of Likoma tank mates include:


The Pearl of Likoma is a mouthbrooding cichlid, which means that the female will carry the eggs and fry in her mouth until they are ready to be released.

The best way to trigger spawning is by raising the water temperature to around 84 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also add some rocks or driftwood to the tank to give the fish places to hide.

When the female is ready to spawn, she will lay her eggs on a flat surface. The male will then fertilize them. Once that’s done, the female will pick them up in her mouth and hold them there until they hatch.

This process takes around 21 days.

Once the fry are released, they will be free-swimming and able to feed on their own. You can give them live foods or crushed-up flakes.


The Pearl of Likoma is an absolutely stunning fish that is sure to add some beauty and grace to your tank.

They’re not the easiest fish to care for, but with a little bit of knowledge and effort, you can be successful.

We hope this guide has been helpful and that you feel more prepared to take on the challenge of keeping a Pearl of Likoma.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re always happy to help!