Nimbochromis polystigma

Nimbochromis polystigma is one of five species of the Nimbochromis genus of Lake Malawi, in the Great Rift Valley system of Africa.


Occurring throughout the lake, Nimbochromis polystigma is a piscivorous fish, often preying upon juvenile cichlids. The local name for the fish is Kaligono, meaning ‘sleeper’ in the chiCheŵa language. It shares this name with other Nimbochromis species due to their hunting technique which involves lying motionless on the bottom, sometimes on its side as if feigning death. Eventually small fish approach to investigate then the Nimbochromis pounces on the prey. When hunting this way their color will fade, apparently as the whiter color attracts more small cichlids. They will also sometimes launch ambush attacks on small fish from the cover of vegetation, with their coloration acting as disruptive camouflage.

Like most Lake Malawi cichlids, Nimbochromis polystigma is a mouthbrooder, with the female carrying her young in her mouth for two to three weeks before being released.

In the aquarium

Nimbochromis polystigma is a relatively peaceful specimen, as long as its cohabitants are not small enough to be considered prey. It’s an enthusiastic feeder, and will eat all of the usual foods given to cichlids, and has the rather endearing habit of leaping from the water to try to get at food or fingers.

In aquaria it can grow to 12 in (30cm), and requires a large aquarium – at least 300 liters – and can be kept with other haplochromines and most mbuna. It is best to have some rocks for them to hide in when threatened, but they also need room to swim.

Photo by Mike Kean