If you are looking for a pretty fish with a striking appearance and an interesting personality, you might want to consider the bumblebee cichlid. This fish is named after its black and yellow stripes that resemble a bumblebee, but it can also change its color depending on its mood and environment. The bumblebee cichlid is a type of cichlid that belongs to the mbuna group, meaning “rock-dwelling” in the local language of Lake Malawi, where this fish originates. The bumblebee cichlid lives in deeper waters near large rocky formations, where it feeds on algae, parasites, and small invertebrates.
The bumblebee cichlid is not a beginner-friendly fish, as it has some special requirements and challenges that need to be met. It is also known for its aggressive temperament and territorial behavior, which can make it difficult to keep with other fish. However, suppose you are an experienced aquarist who can provide the proper care and tank setup for this fish. In that case, you will be rewarded with a fascinating and beautiful addition to your aquarium.
|Bumblebee Cichlid, Hornet Cichlid, Crabro Cichlid, Chameleon Cichlid|
|Lake Malawi, Africa|
|Up to 10 years|
Minimum Tank Size
Appearance (Popular Colors)
The bumblebee cichlid has a robust and elongated body with a slightly pointed head and mouth. It has large eyes and anal fins that are rounded at the end. The most distinctive feature of this fish is its coloration, which consists of alternating black and yellow stripes that run along its body from head to tail. The yellow color can vary from pale to bright depending on the fish’s mood and surroundings. The black color can also change to brown or dark blue in some cases. If that isn’t enough, this species can turn almost jet black from head to tail when aggressive, which is where the nickname Chameleon Cichlid comes from.
Bumblebee African Cichlid Male vs. Female
The bumblebee cichlid is a sexually dimorphic species, which means that males and females have different physical characteristics. The males are usually larger and more colorful than the females, with brighter yellow hues and more prominent black stripes. The males also have egg spots on their anal fins, which are small dots that resemble eggs. The females are smaller and duller than the males, with paler yellow hues and less defined black stripes. The females do not have egg spots on their anal fins.
How Big Do Bumblebee Catfish Get?
The bumblebee cichlid can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length in captivity, but it can reach up to 8 inches (20 cm) in the wild. The males are usually bigger than the females by about an inch or two.
How Long Do Bumblebee Cichlids Live?
The bumblebee cichlid has a lifespan of about 10 years in captivity if given proper care and optimal conditions. However, some factors can affect their longevity, such as stress, disease, diet, water quality, tank size, tank mates, etc.
The bumblebee cichlid is an incredibly fascinating fish with many unique features and behaviors that make it stand out from other fish. Here are some interesting facts about this fish that you may not know:
- The bumblebee cichlid can change its color depending on its mood and environment. It can turn from yellow to dark brown or black when it is stressed, angry, or breeding. It can also change its color to blend in with its surroundings or to mimic other fish species.
- The bumblebee cichlid has a strange, sometimes symbiotic relationship with a large Bagrid Catfish called the Kampango (Bagrus meridionalis). The bumblebee cichlid acts as a cleaner fish, picking parasites from the catfish’s body. However, when the catfish spawns, the bumblebee cichlid turns jet black, darts in, and eats its eggs. Not very symbiotic, in my opinion, and probably a large reason why the Kampango is listed as critically endangered. But if this doesn’t make for an interesting fact, I don’t know what would!
- The bumblebee cichlid has two sets of teeth: one in its mouth and one in its throat (a pharyngeal jaw). This helps it to crush hard-shelled foods such as crustaceans into smaller pieces. It also helps it to defend itself from predators or rivals.
- Bumblebee cichlids are mouthbrooders, which means that the female carries the eggs and fry in her mouth until they are ready to swim on their own. She can hold up to 60 eggs or fry in her mouth at a time. She does not eat anything during this period and only spits out her offspring occasionally to aerate them.
- The bumblebee cichlid is also known as the hornet cichlid, the bumblebee mouthbrooder, or the pseudotropheus chameleon. Its scientific name is Pseudotropheus crabro, which means “false feeder hornet” in Latin. It is named after the European hornet (Vespa crabro), which has a similar appearance and behavior.
Bumblebee Cichlid Care And Tank Setup
The bumblebee cichlid is not easy to keep in a home aquarium, as it requires specific water parameters, tank size, decorations, filtration, lighting, etc. It also needs regular maintenance and monitoring to ensure its health and well-being. Here are some of the essential aspects of caring for a bumblebee cichlid:
The bumblebee cichlid needs water conditions that mimic its natural habitat in Lake Malawi. The water should be hard and alkaline, with a pH range of 8.0 to 8.5 and a hardness range of 10 to 18 dGH. The water temperature should be between 78°F and 82°F (25°C and 28°C). You should also add some salt to the water to replicate the lake’s mineral content. You can use aquarium salt or marine salt at a dosage of 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.
You should also perform regular water changes to keep the water quality high and prevent the buildup of ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and other toxins that can harm your fish. You should change about 25% of the water every week or 50% every two weeks using a gravel vacuum or siphon hose.
You should also regularly test the water parameters using a liquid test kit or test strips to ensure they are within the ideal range for your fish. You should also use a thermometer to monitor the water temperature and adjust it using a heater or cooler if needed.
The bumblebee cichlid is a large and active fish that needs plenty of space to swim and explore. It also needs enough room to establish its own territory and avoid conflicts with other fish. Therefore, you should provide a minimum tank size of 50 gallons (190 liters) for one male and six females or a group of six fish of mixed sexes.
However, if you want to keep more than one male or add other tank mates to your aquarium, you will need a larger tank size of at least 75 gallons (285 liters) or more, depending on the number and size of your fish.
You should also make sure that your tank has a tight-fitting lid or cover to prevent your fish from jumping out of the water.
The bumblebee cichlid is susceptible to some common diseases that affect freshwater fish, such as ich (white spot disease), fin rot (bacterial infection), fungal infection (cotton-like growths), etc. These diseases are usually caused by poor water quality stress, injury, overfeeding, overcrowding, etc.
To prevent these diseases from affecting your fish, you should maintain good water quality, provide adequate space, feed them properly, quarantine new fish, etc.
One of the most serious diseases that can affect your bumblebee cichlid is Malawi bloat, which is a digestive disorder that causes swelling, loss of appetite, lethargy, etc. This disease is usually fatal if not treated early. The exact cause of this disease is unknown, but some possible factors are overfeeding, poor diet, stress, parasites, etc.
To prevent Malawi bloat from affecting your cichlid, feeding them a balanced diet containing plant- and animal-based foods is believed to help. You should also avoid feeding them foods that are high in fat or protein, such as beef heart, tubifex worms, etc. You should also avoid feeding them too much or too often.
To treat Malawi bloat, you should stop feeding your fish for several days until they recover. You should also increase the water temperature slightly to stimulate their metabolism. You should also use metronidazole or clout medications to treat bacterial or parasitic infections.
The bumblebee cichlid is not a good candidate for community tanks, as it can be very aggressive towards other fish, especially those with similar colors or patterns. It can also bully smaller or weaker fish or eat them if they fit in its mouth.
Therefore, you should only keep your bumblebee cichlid with other compatible species that can tolerate its aggression and coexist peacefully. Some of the best tank mates for your bumblebee cichlid are:
- Other mbuna cichlids such as yellow labs ( Labidochromis caeruleus ), red zebra ( Maylandia estherae ), blue dolphin ( Cyrtocara moorii ), etc.
- Other African cichlids such as peacock cichlids ( Aulonocara spp.), haplochromis cichlids ( Haplochromis spp.), etc.
- Other large and robust fish such as catfish ( Synodontis spp.), plecos ( Hypostomus spp.), loaches ( Botia spp.), etc.
You should avoid keeping your bumblebee cichlid with:
- Small or timid fish such as tetras ( Characidae ), rasboras ( Rasbora ), guppies ( Poecilia reticulata ), etc.
- Long-finned or brightly-colored fish such as angelfish ( Pterophyllum ), gouramis ( Trichogaster ), bettas ( Betta splendens ), etc.
- Invertebrates such as shrimp, snails, crabs, etc.. as can be seen as food by your bumblebee cichlid.
What Do Bumblebee Cichlids Eat?
The bumblebee cichlid is an omnivorous fish that can eat a variety of foods in captivity. However, you should provide a balanced diet containing plant- and animal-based foods to meet their nutritional needs and prevent health problems.
Plant-based foods should comprise about 70% of their diet, as they help maintain their digestive system and prevent Malawi bloat. You can feed them high-quality cichlid flakes or pellets that are rich in vegetable matter, such as spirulina, algae, or seaweed. You can also supplement their diet with fresh or dried vegetables, such as lettuce, spinach, zucchini, cucumber, etc.
Animal-based foods should comprise about 30% of their diet, providing them with protein and other essential nutrients. You can feed them live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, blackworms, mosquito larvae, etc. You can also feed them occasional treats of small fish, such as guppies or minnows.
Depending on its size and activity level, you should feed your bumblebee cichlid once or twice a day. You should only feed them as much as they can eat in a few minutes and remove any uneaten food from the tank. You should also vary their diet regularly to prevent boredom and enhance their colors.
Bumblebee Cichlid Breeding
The bumblebee cichlid is a mouthbrooder, which means that the female carries the eggs and fry in her mouth until they are ready to swim on their own. Breeding these fish can be a rewarding experience for aquarists who want to observe their fascinating behavior and raise their own offspring.
However, breeding these fish can also be challenging, as they require specific conditions and care to trigger spawning and ensure the survival of the fry. Here are some steps you need to follow to breed your bumblebee cichlid successfully:
Prepare the Breeding Environment
The first step to breeding your bumblebee cichlid is to prepare a suitable breeding environment for them. You will need a separate tank of at least 20 gallons (76 liters) that is dedicated for breeding purposes only. You will also need to replicate the water parameters of their natural habitat, such as pH, hardness, temperature, etc.
You will also need to provide plenty of hiding places and spawning sites for your fish. You can use rocks, caves, driftwood, plants, etc., to create a natural-looking environment that mimics their habitat in Lake Malawi. You should also add some sand or gravel substrate to the bottom of the tank.
You should also make sure that the tank is well-filtered and well-oxygenated. You can use a sponge or hang-on-back filter with a gentle flow rate. You should also use an air pump or an airstone to provide adequate aeration for your fish.
You should also make sure that the tank is well-lit with moderate lighting. You can use LED lights or fluorescent lights that mimic the natural daylight cycle. You should also avoid using strong or bright lights that can stress your fish.
Identify the Sexes
The next step to breeding your bumblebee cichlid is to identify the sexes of your fish and select a compatible pair for breeding. As we mentioned earlier, males and females have different physical characteristics that can help you distinguish them.
The males are larger and more colorful than the females, with brighter yellow hues and more prominent black stripes. The males also have egg spots on their anal fins, which are small dots that resemble eggs. The females are smaller and duller than the males, with paler yellow hues and less defined black stripes. The females do not have egg spots on their anal fins.
You should select a healthy and mature pair of fish that are at least 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length and have no signs of disease or injury. You should also select a pair that has a good temperament and compatibility with each other. You can observe their behavior and see if they show any signs of attraction or courtship toward each other.
You should introduce the pair into the breeding tank and let them acclimate to their new environment for a few days before attempting to spawn them.
Monitor for Spawning Behavior
The third step to breeding your bumblebee cichlid is to monitor for spawning behavior and signs of fertilization. Spawning usually occurs in the early morning or evening hours when the lighting is dim.
The male will start by displaying his colors and performing a mating dance around the female. He will also chase away any other fish that come near them. The female will respond by following him around and showing interest in him.
The male will then lead the female to a chosen spawning site, such as a cave or a rock crevice. He will then deposit his sperm on the substrate or on his egg spots. The female will then pick up his sperm with her mouth and fertilize her eggs internally.
The female will then spit out her eggs on the substrate or on his egg spots again. The male will then fertilize them again with his sperm. This process will repeat several times until all her eggs are fertilized.
The female will then collect all her eggs in her mouth and start brooding them until they hatch. She will not eat anything during this period and will only spit out her eggs occasionally to aerate them.
Guarding the Eggs and Fry
The fourth step to breeding your bumblebee cichlid is to guard the eggs and fry from predators and other threats. The female will be solely responsible for protecting her offspring while they are in her mouth.
She will hide in secluded places away from other fish and avoid any disturbances or stressors. She will also defend her territory fiercely from any intruders that come near her.
The male will not play any role in caring for the eggs or fry after fertilization. He will resume his normal behavior and may even become aggressive towards the female or other fish again.
The eggs’ incubation period usually lasts about 3 weeks until they hatch into fry. The fry will then stay in their mother’s mouth for another 2 weeks until they are ready to swim on their own.
Provide Appropriate Fry Care
The final step to breeding your bumblebee cichlid is to provide appropriate care for the fry after they leave their mother’s mouth. The fry will be very small and vulnerable at this stage, so you need to ensure their safety and survival.
You should separate the fry from their parents and other fish as soon as possible after they are released from their mother’s mouth. You can use a net or a siphon hose to catch them gently and transfer them to another tank or a nursery tank.
You should provide similar water conditions for the fry as you did for their parents, such as pH, hardness, temperature, etc. You should also provide adequate filtration and aeration for them using a sponge filter or an air pump.
You should feed your fry several times daily with small foods they can easily swallow and digest. You can use crushed flakes or pellets, micro worms, baby brine shrimp, etc . as food sources for your fry.
You should also perform frequent water changes to keep the water quality high and prevent any diseases or infections from affecting your fry. You should change about 10 % of the water every day using aged water that matches the temperature and parameters of the tank.
You should also monitor your fry’s growth and development closely. You should watch out for any signs of illness, injury, deformity, etc.. among your fry. You should also observe their behavior and see if they show any signs of aggression or stress.
You should keep your fry separate from their parents and other fish until they are big enough to fend for themselves. This usually takes about 3 months until they reach about 2 inches (5 cm) in length. You can then introduce them back into the main tank or rehome them if you have too many.
The bumblebee cichlid is an amazing fish that can bring color, life, and excitement to your aquarium. But they are not the easiest fish to keep, as they require specific care and are known for their aggressive temperament, which can make it hard to get along with other fish or have a community tank.
Therefore, you should only get this fish if you are an experienced aquarist who can provide it with proper care. But doing so will reward you with a beautiful, fascinating, and wildly interesting aquarium.
More Freshwater Fish
If you’re interested in learning about similar freshwater fish, check out:
Or, browse our freshwater fish guides!
Are bumblebee cichlids rare?
Bumblebee cichlids are not rare in the aquarium trade, as they are widely available at pet stores and online platforms. However, they are endemic to Lake Malawi in Africa, which means they are only found naturally in that lake. They are also considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List due to habitat loss and overfishing.
How much is a bumblebee cichlid?
The price of a bumblebee cichlid can vary depending on the fish’s size, quality, and source. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $20 for a bumblebee cichlid. However, some specimens can be more expensive if they are rare, large, or have exceptional colors. You should always check the health and behavior of the fish before buying it.