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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.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha The Giant Hap

Above Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha Male. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha FemaleHemitilapia oxyrhyncha is mouthbrooding cichlid found throughout Lake Malawi. This fish was first typed by Boulenger in 1902. Synonyms for this fish are Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus and Tilapia oxyrhynchus. Although this fish is rarely exported from the lake, lately (latter half of 2009) it has appeared on a few wholesalers lists.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha gets large and the common name "Giant Hap" is an apt one. Males get up to about 9 inches. Females stay quite a bit smaller, probably topping out at six inches.

Males can be very colorful with an overall blue sheen, and and red scale edges and anal fin. Green, yellow and orange speckles are found in the caudal fin. Males have feathery edges to the caudal and dorsal fins. The dorsal fin extends almost to the end of the tail.

Females (Right) have an tan-grey background with some large spots high up on the back.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is an aggressive hap. As expected, males will fight with males, but it is not unusual to see females jaw locking, too.

I do not recommend keeping Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha with Malawi Peacocks (Aulonocara species). My experience is that they will harass conspecifics.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is found throughout the lake, often closely associated with sandy-bottomed locations.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha are easy to care for, but a large tank at least six feet in length is recommended. They are fast swimmers which do not like to be crowded. Water conditions are identical for other Malawi cichlids . . . hard and 76 to 80F..


According to Fishbase, Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha "Inhabits sandy bottoms with swards of Vallisneria. Feeds by scraping epiphytic algae from the leaves, grasping a leaf in its mouth and working along it." Stomach content analysis included a lot of plant material. I suggest a balanced diet which includes lots of vegetable matter.

I fed a variety of foods such as Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, HBH Graze, HBH Soft and Moist Veggie and the occasional treat of frozen Bloodworms.


I obtained a group of two male and three female F0 (wild) Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford. Mike is often the first one in our club to get oddball Malawians. Fortunately, I had a trio of another oddball Malawian to trade to him (Mylochromis laterstriga) and soon the deal was done.

At the time, the dominant male was about six inches long. The males grew well, but it was a struggle to fatten up the females. To get the females in condition, I fed frozen bloodworms and a high-quality flake. I noticed the wild females rejected larger foods presented to them.

I held the fish for about six months before they bred for me. As an aside, I find the larger Malawian Haps do not reproduce nearly as often or as readily as Peacocks and Mbuna, and therefore are more challenging.

On December 20, 2009 I noticed a female holding before leaving for vacation.

Fortunately, when I returned a week later she was still holding like champ. On January 3, 2010, I netted out the female and stripped her of 28 large, 3/8 inch, golden-colored babies which still had a bit of an egg sack. By January 6, most of the egg sack had disappeared and the fry immediately were able to take baby brine shrimp.

Retail Price

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is not a fish you will find at the average pet shop. Colorful large males would be $50 to $75 US. Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is available in the hobby at the time of this writing. I found wild fish in the $30 to $40 range.

Report January 2010 by Rick Borstein.

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