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Labidochromis chisumulae

Labidochromis chisumulae

Above Labidochromis chisumulae, Male. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Labidochromis chisumulae is a mouthbrooding Malawian cichlid first typed by Lewis in 1982.

Males are pearly white with dark, navy blue markings on the top part of the body extending from the head halfway through the dorsal fin. Depending on mood, males may exhibit a pronounced blue sheen throughout the body, especially when breeding.

Females are a pearly white to tan-white, with faint stripes on the flanks.

Males get up to about 3 to 3.5". Females are a tad smaller, topping out at 3".


As the name suggests, this fish is found in the rocky habitat near Chisumulu Island in Lake Malawi.


Labidochromis chisumulae presents no major problems. Neutral to hard water conditions are fine. I kept mine at pH 7.4, 78F in hard Chicago water.

This fish is moderately aggressive. Males will sometimes pick on females, so provide adequate hiding spots.


Labidochromis chisumulae are good eaters. I fed a variety of prepared foods including HBH Graze, Dainichi Veggie FX, New Life Spectrum and Tetra Cichlid Flakes. In the wild, reports indicate that this species picks invertebrates from the biocover. Like other Mbuna, I recommend feeding food containing vegetable matter.


My son 14-year-old Sam obtained four juveniles in November, 2006. Sam wanted to know if I wanted them after he spawned them. That's the confidence of youth talking . . .

I had never heard of Labidochromis chisumulae and told him I wasn't interested.

To be perfectly honest, the white-ish looking fish did not impress me and this is what I shared with him. Sam told me I didn't know what I was talking about— not the first time I've heard that from him! Sam said he not only would breed Labidochromis chisumulae, but show me that they were great looking fish.

Not surprisingly, Sam was right. After all, he's bred about 50 species of cichlids and he's only fourteen!

As the fish developed, the male turned out to be an outstanding looking fish. Seriously, Labidochromis chisumulae is one of the best looking Mbuna I've seen! I was happy to be proven wrong and Sam was nice enough to give his "old man" his group after successfully spawning them.

Humbled, but happy about it, I placed the group in a 40-gallon breeder along three Neolamprologus mustax and six Thorachromis callochromis. In short order, two females were holding.

I stripped one female of about fifteen fry at 12 days. The fry are about the same size as other Mbuna fry and are tan-white in color.

At this point, the fry were at the "heads and tails" stage. I placed them in a small, 2-gallon container with a heater and small sponge filter. Five days later they were completely free-swimming and were eating live baby brine shrimp.

After a week, I moved the fry to a 10-gallon grow out tank. At one month, the fry are about 1/2" long and eating flake food.

Retail Price

For adult Labidochromis chisumulae, expect to pay about $15-20 per fish. Juveniles would go for about $10-12. Labidochromis chisumulae is seldom available in pet shops, but can be found on several wholesaler's lists.

Report March 2006 by Rick Borstein. Additional report on Sam Borstein's website.

Labidochromis caeruleus

Labdiochromis caereuleus

Labidochromis caeruleus "Lions Cove" Male. Photo by Rick Borstein


Labidochromis caeruleus is a very popular cichlid! The "lemon yellow" variety, shown above, has secured a place in the cichlid hobby because of its bright yellow color. Labidochromis caeruleus is a maternal mouthbrooder.

Most hobbyists will refer to this fish using a common name such as Lemon Yellow or Yellow Lab

Confusingly to some beginner cichlid keepers, is  available in other color forms. The blue-white form is the most often found in the lake, but there is also a Labidochromis caeruleus "Lundo" which is very attractive.

This fish is attractive, easy to keep and easy to breed. Compared to many mbuna species, it is not very aggressive. These positive traits all add up to a great fish!

Unlike most Malawian cichlids, both the males and the females are very attractive. The dominant male in the group will generally be a brighter yellow and have a glossier, darker and more prominently-black edged dorsal fin.


Labidochromis caeruleus is endemic to Lake Malawi (Africa) and is found in two distinct biotopes; rocky shorelines and in Valisneria (plant) beds. They are found at depths of 6 to 120 feet. In the wild, they have been observed feeding on a variety of invertebrates and snails.


Labidochromis caeruleus likes hard alkaline water around 76-82 degrees, although they will tolerate slightly higher or lower temperatures. I have kept and bred them in Chicago water with no problems at all. Regular partial water changes are essential to the well-being of the fish. Keeping them with other moderately aggressive Malawian cichlids presents no problems. Recommended tank size for five adults would be a 30 gallon-long tank or larger.



You can feed Labidochromis caeruleus just about anything. A good quality flake food and cichlid pellets occasionally supplemented by frozen foods will work well. Include a good vegetable flake such as HBH Graze.


Labidochromis caeruleus is one of the easiest mouthbrooders to breed. I recommend that you purchase five or six juvenile fish and raise them up. They will breed at six months of age or about 1-1/2 inches in length.

Breeding occurs in the typical mbuna fashion, so provide a piece of slate or other smooth surface for the "act". After breeding, I remove the female to a well-planted "maternity" tank.

Females are generally good "holders" and will refuse food for up to four weeks. Because going for food for so long can critically weaken the female, I generally strip the eggs from the fish. At two weeks, the babies will be at the "heads and tails" stage. After three weeks, the babies are nearly fully formed. My preference is to strip 12–14 days and bubble them in a commerical egg tumbler.

Small females will produce 10 to 15 babies. Larger, fully-grown females will have 25 to 30.

January 2004 Update:  Lately we have seen some crossing back from the yellow variety to the blue/white variety in the hobby. We have regularly seen two yellow individuals when mated to produce a mix of yellow and blue/white fry. It should be noted that virtually all the fish in the hobby are descended from just a few individuals imported in the mid-1990's. This fish is apparently very rare in the wild. Fortunately, we have just started to see new yellow individuals imported from the wild. These wild fish should be used to strenghten the current yellow fish in the hobby.

Retail Price

Fry Up to 5$. Adults $10 to $15. You can find the yellow variety of Labidochromis caeruleus almost anywhere. It is very common, but no less fun and attractive to keep. The plainer blue-white variety is rather hard to find. If you ask around a GCCA meeting, you'll undoubtedly find someone who has some to sell or trade with you.

Report December 1999 by Rick Borstein. Updated January 2004 and August 2011.


Iodotropheus sprengerae

Iodotropheus sprengerae The Rusty Cichlid

Above Iodotropheus sprengerae, 4" Male by Sam Borstein.


Iodotropheus sprengerae was first described in 1972 by Oliver and Loiselle. It is considered one of the classic fish in the hobby. Out of the enire Iodotropheus genus, the Rusty Cichlid (common name) is the only one that is generally available in the hobby.

Although the word "Rusty" does not seem like it would depict a colorful fish, adult males have a beautiful purple and rust sheen. Sexing Rusty Cichlids can be difficult. Males are larger than females, have more pronounced eggspots than females, and more of a purple hue. A male Rusty will top out at about 4 inches. Female get up to about 3-3.5 inches.


Iodotropheus sprengerae is associated with rocks and is found at Boadzulu and Chinyankwazi Islands in Lake Malawi, Africa.


Rusty Cichlids are very hardy and easy to keep. Like all Malawian cichlids, it likes hard water. A temperature of 76 to 80F is optimal.

Iodotropheus sprengerae is very peaceful for an mbuna. A group of 6 to 8 adults could easily be kept in a 40 gallon breeder, with very few issues. This fish can also be kept with some of the more peaceful Malawians with no problem. The only time I observed aggression in this fish was during spawning, but even then, it was very minimal.


Iodotropheus sprengerae is an herbivore, but will do okay if fed some food higher in protein. Keep the fish on a fiber-rich diet. I fed mine HBH graze, Dianichi Veggie deluxe, Spectrum, and baby brine shrimp.


Rusty Cichlids are supposedly easy to breed. I know many people who had no problem breeding these fish. I, sadly, am not one of those people.

My story with Rusty Cichlids goes back to the November 2005 Ohio Cichlid Association (OCA) Extravaganza.

When I saw Iodotropheus sprengerae available at the OCA convention, I knew I had to buy them. There were not any in stores near me that were for sale— this once popular fish seemed to disappear. I bought eight Rusty juvies so that I would get at least one of each sex. . . a good habit to practice if you want to breed fish.

The fish were small, but within four months started breeding. The first spawns were not fertile, but I was not surprised because the fish were young. After about eight spawns, I was getting angry.

I watched these fish spawn. They would hold for three days, and then drop. I eventually tried stripping the fish and the eggs would go bad within 24 hours.

One day while viewing the "Rusty Tank", I noticed that none were eating. All eight of my Rusty cichlids were holding, which is not right. This fish is not a bi-parental mouth brooder! Unable to obtain a male Rusty, I had to sell the group.

Chapter Two began in September, 2006 at a GCCA Cichlid Classic convention. I purchased a bag of six full grown Iodotropheus sprengerae. It took me a while to get the fish a permanent home, as they bounced from tank to tank. I finally settled the group in my 58 with some West Africans. Everything in the tank was fine except the Rusty Cichlids would not breed.

Four months went by and still nothing, and by that point they should have spawned. This time I had all males! At this point, I was extremely ticked off and, due to my low patience level, these fish were about to get the boot.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. On the eve of the night the fish were to be shipped out to a friend Texas, they spawned. Only one of the six fish was a female.

Rusty Cichlids are good holders. Mine held for eighteen days before I stripped her of free-swimming fry.

Be careful when raising these fish as feeding too much baby brine tends to give these fry digestive issues.

Retail Price

For juvie Rusty cichlids, you are looking at about 3 to 4 dollars each. Adults will probably run you 8-10 dollars each at a pet shop.


In the mid-late 1990's this fish was very popular, but now are kind of difficult to find. Occasionally they will pop up in a pet shop or an auction or swap meet.

Report September 2007 by Sam Borstein.

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