Male breeding coloration is an obvious and often diagnostic character for species identification
among mbuna, the rock-dwelling haplochromine fishes of Lake Malawi. Colour diversification has
figured prominently in most models of cichlid speciation, though considerations of colour
diversity have been limited. We describe coloration for common species of mbuna by digital
colour acquisition techniques and use these data to characterize coloration of the fauna.
The range of colour diversity in the mbuna is great; however, patterns of diversity appear
somewhat limited. A number of taxa are similar in coloration, and several areas of available
colour space are under-represented relative to random expectations. Colour diversification does
not appear to be phylogenetically constrained, at least within species complexes. However,
weakly significant associations between coloration and ecological characteristics exist. We
discuss our results in terms of potential forces acting to influence mbuna coloration, such
as phylogenetic or developmental constraints and natural or sexual selection.