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Fish of the Month
Issue: May 2006

Labidochromis caeruleus

(FRYER 1956)


Brian Kinney/Shutterstock

Common Names: Yellow lab, blue streak hap, lemon drop cichlid, electric yellow

Type Locality: Nkata Bay, Lake Malawi

Range: Northwest coast of Lake Malawi in Africa

Taxonomic Troubles: This is the original description. At one time, Pierre Brichard exported captive-bred specimens from Africa with the puzzling name Labidochromis tanganicae, but the confusion was soon cleared up.

Size: 13 cm TL (5 inches), smaller in the wild.

Preferred Water Chemistry: Hard, basic water about 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) is perfect for this native to Lake Malawi

Difficulty: This is one of the easiest mbuna to keep due to its omnivory and its relatively peaceful nature.

Tank Setup: This fish needs plenty of room and plenty of rocks to provide hiding spots. They can be kept not only with other mbuna but also with peacocks and other less aggressive Africans.

Feeding: An opportunistic omnivore whose natuyral diet is largely invertebrates. Not only does this fish not require an all-algae diet, it will not do well on one. Some meat-based foods are essential for proper growth and breeding.

Breeding: Kept in groups of one male to several females, they will spawn readily, and females holding eggs can be moved to a nursery tank and removed once they release the fry. Broods are typically small, 10 to 20, and they are carried for about a month. The fry are easily raised.

Description: Although the species was named for its light blue morph ("caerleus" means "sky blue"), this cichlid is popular in its bright yellow form.  Intense yellow is highlighted by blue iridescences, and in many specimens by a heavy black bar on the fins, especially the dorsal.  Although many people think the black dorsal edge is a male trait, it is also found on females, and you cannot reliably sex these fish by coloration.  A dominant male, however, will usually have more black.

Notes: Although not very common in the lake, this yellow cichlid is immensely popular in the hobby and has been since its introduction in the 1980s. It is a welcome relief from the dozens of species that are difficult to maintain without them slaughtering each other, and from the black and blue color schemes of so many mbuna. Of course, solid yellow fish are uncommon in any segment of the aquarium hobby, and they are very popular wherever they are found. While this fish is excellent for many cichlid community tanks, it truly shines in a species tank. With large piles of red lava rock as background, these lemon jewels make a gorgeous setup. In addition, when kept without more aggressive tankmates, this sometimes retiring cichlid provides a dynamic display. Intraspecific aggression rarely gets out of hand, and in a large aquarium you can usually keep more than one breeding male. Despite the fact that most of these fish are thought to be descended from a single pair surreptitiously taked from Lake Malawi, most aquarium strains are quite sound. You will occasionally find a strain that is poorly colored or otherwise inferior, but most are beautiful, robust fish. They are an excellent choice for someone's first foray into the world of African Rift Lake cichlids, and they are readily available--both from retailers and from hobbyist breeders.

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