The cichlids of Lake Malawi are popular aquarium inhabitants because they not only differ in stunning “outfits” but also are characterized by high intelligence and complex forms of behavior, which is a pleasure to watch. Labidochromis is the most peace-loving group, it is from it that it is recommended to begin your acquaintance with the amazing world of Malawians.

Common namesCichlid, Labidochromis, lemon drop,
Natural range
are found only in the African lake Malawi (Nyasa)
Sizeadults range from 9 - 14 cm
Tank size100 L or 22 gallons
Life span6 - 10 years
24-28 ° C. or 75-79°F
pH 7.4-8.4
GH 8-20
Colormain yellow, blue orange, white... sometimes has stripes
Foodalgae, small invertebrates
Breedingincentive for reproduction is an increase in temperature to 27 C
Temperamentpeace-loving fish
at the age of 6-8 months
Eggsnot highly fertile, 25 fry in one brood, 3mm eggs, collects eggs in the oral cavity

General information

Labidochromis (Labidochromis sp.) Is a genus of ray-finned fish from the Cichlid family. Currently, 18 described species belong to it.

They are endemic to the African lake of Malawi and belong to the Mbuna group – these are cichlids that feed mainly on algal fouling (and various invertebrates inhabiting them) on coastal cliffs. The mouthpart of the fish is ideally suited for scraping lower plants: it is small in size with small elongated conical teeth, bent in the opposite direction, which resembles tweezers in shape. Thanks to these teeth, labidochromis can extract algae even from the smallest recesses in the rocks. This is reflected in the name of the genus, derived from the Greek word “labidos” – forceps.

The fish are undemanding to the conditions and relatively peaceful, and also easily bred, therefore they are recommended to everyone who first decided to try themselves in the content of Malawian cichlids.


The body shape of labidochromis is typical of most Malawian cichlids. It is streamlined, elongated in length, and slightly flattened from the sides. The fish are rather stocky, the average size of an adult is 10 cm.

The dorsal fin is long and pointed, especially in mature males, may have black stripes. Anal fin oval with bright orange spots.

The color of the body depends on the particular species and can be either monophonic (Labidochromis yellow) or with stripes (Labidochromis hongi). Some species have geographical morphs that live in different areas of the lake and are distinguished by color.

Life expectancy in the aquarium is 6-10 years.


Labidochromis are found only in the African lake Malawi (Nyasa). Most fish gravitate to the rocky coast near Tanzania because there it is most convenient for them to find food – algal fouling. They are kept at depths of 10 to 30 m.

Types of labidochromis

Labidochromis yellow (Labidochromis caeruleus)

One of the most popular Malawian cichlids, due to its attractive color and calm disposition. The fish got its name for the bright lemon color of the body. On the dorsal fin, there is a contrasting black stripe, the anal and abdominal fins are almost black. The fish is considered a dwarf cichlid, body size does not exceed 10 cm.

Labidochromis caeruleus Yellow
For the maintenance of several individuals, an aquarium of 120 liters with a large number of stones and grottos is suitable. It is considered the most peaceful representative of the Mbuna group since it is not territorial and goes well with the most proportionate cichlids. Aggression is usually shown only to fish with a similar color or during spawning.

Fish are easily bred even in common aquariums. Caviar is carried in the oral cavity.

Labidochromis hongi (Labidochromis sp. “Hongi”)

A relatively rare cichlid in aquariums, however, it is gaining more and more popularity due to its attractive color. The species is young and not yet scientifically described; it got its name from the village where it was first caught.

It lives in the north-eastern part of Lake Malawi, between the island of Lundo and the large city of Liuli. Lifestyle and nutrition are similar to other members of the Mbuna group.

Males are colored blue or white-blue, and the frontal part of the head, dorsal fin range from yellow to orange. Females and juveniles are much more modestly colored – brown with an orange dorsal fin. The size of adults varies from 9 to 14 cm. For keeping a pair of fish, an aquarium of at least 100 liters is required.

Reproduction is easy, the eggs are incubated in the mouth.

There is a color morph, the color of the occiput and dorsal fin of which varies from orange to red. This form is often called “Kimpuma” or “Kimpuma red.” Distinguishing two varieties from each other, unfortunately, is quite problematic.

Care and maintenance

Professionals contain labidochromis in pairs or groups of males and 3-4 females. The minimum volume of the aquarium is 100 liters. It must be covered to prevent pets from jumping out.

It is better to design an aquarium in a style reminiscent of the natural biotope of labidochromis. Sand or marble chips are laid at the bottom, which will alkalize the water. Next, you need to establish a group of stones with an uneven surface, creating natural shelters, or artificial grottoes. But do not forget to leave the fish and free space for swimming. It will be useful to plant Vallisneria in the aquarium, it will not only improve the quality of water but will also serve as an additional source of nutrition.

Labidochromis prefer clean, oxygenated water, so the installation of a suitable filter (preferably external) and a compressor are required. Also, the fish are thermophilic, because the water in the African lake Malawi warms up quite well, so the temperature regulator will not be out of place.

The optimal water parameters for the content are: T = 24-28 ° C, pH = 7.4-8.4, GH = 8-20.

Once a week, it is necessary to replace 20% of the water in the aquarium with fresh.


Labidochromis are cichlids with a very mild character. They rarely show aggression to neighbors in the aquarium, even during spawning. If you keep the fish in groups, then they generally may not notice the existence of other inhabitants and turn all their attention to their relatives. Labidochromes are not very fond of only fish that are similar in color to them, this point must be taken into account when selecting roommates.

Both commensurate cichlids (pseudotropheus, Melanochromis, etc.) and some smaller species, such as Rainbowfish, Red-tailed black shark, and Bristlenose catfishes, get along well with labidochromis. If the volume of the aquarium allows, then it is possible to plant Synodontis or Pterygoplichthys in the fish.

It is not recommended to keep labidochromis with very small and veil species of fish in order to avoid eating and nibbling fins.

Labidochromis feeding

The natural diet of labidochromis consists of algae, which they scrape from the rocks with their teeth. Various invertebrates living on algae are also eaten. Therefore, proper nutrition for labidochromis should include both food of plant origin (mainly) and animal.

Most types of labidochromis are bright and colorful fish. To enhance the color of the fish and make them even more attractive, use feeds with natural carotenoids – Tetra Cichlid Color or Tetra Rubin.

Alternatively, Tetra Phyll or TetraMin are suitable – these are universal and complete food for all types of tropical fish. They are made from more than 40 selected components of plant and animal origin.

And, of course, do not forget to pamper your pets with delicious natural goodies from the Tetra FreshDelica series. Bloodworms or artemia in nutritious jelly perfectly diversifies the diet of your fish.

Labidochromis is recommended to be fed 2-3 times a day, in small portions (which will be completely eaten within 2-3 minutes), and avoid overeating.


Breeding labidochromis at home usually does not cause any difficulties. Fish perfectly breed even in common aquariums, often without outside interference.

Sexual dimorphism is poorly expressed, so you can probably distinguish between a male and a female after pair formation. Puberty in fish occurs at the age of 6-8 months. The incentive for reproduction is an increase in temperature. The male prepares a place for spawning and lures the female, which lays eggs. After fertilization, as in many representatives of the Mbuna group, the female labidochromis collect eggs in the oral cavity, where it develops. This process lasts about 3 weeks, during which the female does not eat at all. This evolutionary mechanism allows us to increase the chances of fry to survive in nature.

Labidochromis are not highly fertile; more than 25 fry are rarely found in one brood. Caviar is relatively large – up to 3 mm in diameter. During spawning and gestation, it is desirable to maintain the temperature at 27 ° C. Fish hatched from eggs are large enough to be able to immediately take dry food for fry, for example, TetraMin Baby. It is important that the aquarium has a large number of shelters in which the kids can hide when they feel threatened by other fish.