Bumblebee Cichlid – Care, Feeding, Tank Mates & Full Details!

The bumblebee cichlid, known in scientific circles as Pseudotropheus crabro, is a freshwater marvel of the cichlid family. Its lineage connects it to popular aquarium inhabitants such as angelfish and convict cichlids.

Their unique aesthetics, displaying a fascinating interplay of colors and distinctive yellow and black stripes, earn them their colloquial name.

However, these captivating creatures are not for the faint-hearted. They possess aggressive temperaments, often leading to territorial disputes in overcrowded aquariums.

These characteristics can challenge beginner aquarists seeking to integrate them into community tanks.

Bumblebee cichlids go by an assortment of names such as bumblebee mouthbrooders and hornet cichlids.

Overview of Bumblebee Cichlid

They are indigenous to Africa, specifically endemic to Lake Malawi – the only place in the world where these fish exist in their natural habitat.

Fortunately, their popularity in the fishkeeping trade has made them globally accessible, available at pet stores and online platforms.

The term ‘mbuna,’ which refers to African cichlids from Lake Malawi, sometimes creates confusion among buyers.

These cichlids are a common choice among fish enthusiasts, and you can easily find them for sale.

Prices hover around $10 per fish, but always ensure to observe their behavior and check for any signs of disease or injury before making a purchase.

A well-cared-for bumblebee cichlid can thrive for more than a decade in an appropriate aquarium setup.

Our aim is to guide you in providing the best care possible for your aquarium pets. In this article, we delve deep into the world of the bumblebee cichlid, a striking freshwater fish known for its vibrant appearance and unique behavior.

Quick Stats About Bumblebee Cichlid

Name  Bumblebee Cichlid
Scientific Name Pseudotropheus Crabro / Maylandia Crabro
Common Name Chameleon Cichlid or Hornet Cichlid.
Size An Average Size of Six Inches for Males and Five Inches for Females
Care Level Moderate
Minimum Tank Size 50 Gallons
Water Condition Freshwater but Can Tolerate Brackish Water
Tank Temperature  78 to 82 F
Diet  Omnivorous
Temperament Aggressive

Bumblebee Cichlid Appearance

One of the standout features of the bumblebee cichlid, named for its striking yellow and black striped pattern, is its captivating appearance.


This beautiful species sports a palette that mimics the buzzing insects we know so well. They display an array of colors, from sunny yellows to deep blacks, arranged in vertical stripes down their bodies, hence earning them their unique name.

The bumblebee cichlid’s body is predominantly yellow, including its head, body, and fins. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the color intensity can vary greatly due to a combination of genetic factors and environmental conditions.

Stressed or sick fish often present with paler colors, which will return to their vibrant state once the fish recovers.

Along with their distinct color pattern, these cichlids are also easily identifiable by their compact fins. Both their tail fins and dorsal fins are short and feature slight indentations.

Bumblebee cichlids can grow up to seven inches in length, making them a medium-sized addition to your aquarium.

One intriguing characteristic of bumblebee cichlids is their dual set of teeth—one in their mouth and a separate set in their throat (a pharyngeal jaw).

This unique adaptation helps them to break down hard-shelled food items, such as crustaceans, into smaller, digestible pieces.

Natural Habitat of Bumblebee Cichlid

Bumblebee cichlids, also known scientifically as Pseudotropheus crabro, originate from the deep, rocky regions of Lake Malawi in Africa.

This lake, one of the largest in Africa, is nestled between Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It’s notable for its astounding diversity of cichlids, commonly referred to as mbuna.

In their natural habitat, bumblebee cichlids utilize the rocky underwater terrain to establish territories, primarily within caves. If another fish dares to intrude, the cichlid will fiercely defend its home.

These territorial disputes often lead to vibrant displays of color and behavior, making these fish an engaging addition to any tank.

Origin and Distribution of Bumblebee Cichlid

Native to Lake Malawi, bumblebee cichlids are a testament to the lake’s rich biodiversity. This lake is the only place in the world where you can find wild populations of this species.

However, due to their popularity in the fishkeeping hobby, they’re now distributed worldwide and can be found in pet stores and online.

Bumblebee cichlids are also known as bumblebee mouthbrooders or hornet cichlids, adding to the confusion in pet stores.

Despite the variety of names, this species is loved for its unique colors and behavior, making it a sought-after addition to many aquariums.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Bumblebee Cichlid

In terms of size, bumblebee cichlids are relatively moderate, growing up to a length of seven inches. Their growth rate is influenced by a variety of factors, including diet, water conditions, and overall health.

With proper care and ideal conditions, these fish can live up to a decade, making them a long-term commitment for any aquarist.

Males and females are roughly the same size, but males are usually slightly larger and display more vibrant colors, especially when they are ready to breed.

It’s also important to mention that males have elongated dorsal and anal fins compared to their female counterparts.

The lifespan of a bumblebee cichlid largely depends on the quality of care it receives. In an optimal environment with high-quality food, regular tank maintenance, and a stress-free environment, these hardy fish can live up to 10 years.

This species is generally robust and can tolerate a range of water conditions, making them ideal for beginner and intermediate aquarists.

However, they still require a well-maintained tank to ensure a healthy and long life.

Bumblebee Cichlid Behavior and Temperament

Bumblebee cichlids are known for their feisty and territorial nature. These lively creatures are full of personality and bring dynamic interactions to your tank.

Not only do they showcase a spectrum of emotions, but they are also skilled swimmers, often seen zipping through the tank, exploring their environment.

Male bumblebee cichlids are notably more aggressive, especially during breeding periods when they are ready to protect their territory.

They’ll often display dominance, darken their colors, and engage in territorial disputes with other males. Females, on the other hand, are generally more peaceful, although they can also show signs of aggression when threatened.

Setting up the Perfect Bumblebee Cichlid Aquarium

Creating an ideal habitat for your bumblebee cichlid requires understanding their natural environment and replicating it as closely as possible in your aquarium.

Let’s take a look at the key factors to consider:

Tank Size

Bumblebee cichlids, while not the largest species, require ample space to swim and establish territories. For a single bumblebee cichlid, a 30-gallon tank is recommended.

If you plan to house a community, increase the tank size accordingly, adding about 10 gallons per additional fish.


In their native habitat, these cichlids dwell in rocky areas with sandy bottoms. Hence, it’s best to use fine, sandy substrates that mimic their natural environment.

Sand allows these fish to engage in their natural digging behavior without the risk of injury.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

To further mimic their natural environment, include plenty of rocks and caves in the tank.

These provide necessary hiding spots and territories for your cichlids, reducing territorial disputes and stress. Ensure the structures are securely placed to prevent accidental toppling.

Water Parameters

The water conditions in your tank should closely replicate the conditions of Lake Malawi.

Maintain a pH between 7.8 to 8.6, water hardness of 10-20 dGH, and a temperature range of 72-82°F (22-28°C).

Filtration and Aeration

Bumblebee cichlids prefer clean water with a moderate current. Therefore, a high-quality filter is essential to remove waste and toxins, while also creating water movement.

An air pump can also contribute to aeration and water circulation.


Standard aquarium lighting is sufficient for bumblebee cichlids. While they do not have specific lighting needs, a regular day-night cycle will help mimic a natural environment and maintain their internal biological clock.

Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for bumblebee cichlids is crucial due to their aggressive nature.

Ideal companions include other African cichlids of similar size and temperament. Avoid housing them with small, peaceful, or slow-moving species that may become targets of aggression.


Bumblebee cichlids are omnivores, and a varied diet will help ensure their health and vibrancy. High-quality cichlid pellets can serve as a staple diet, supplemented with occasional servings of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms.

Monitoring Health

Keeping an eye on the health of your bumblebee cichlids is essential. Signs of good health include active swimming, a good appetite, and bright coloration. Monitor for signs of illness like lethargy, loss of appetite, color fading, or unusual behavior.

Tank Maintenance of Bumblebee Cichlid

Maintaining your bumblebee cichlid tank is key to a healthy and thriving environment. Regular maintenance helps to keep the water clean, the fish healthy, and the environment as natural as possible.

Let’s explore some of the essential steps:

Regular Water Changes

Water changes are vital to ensure a healthy environment for your cichlids. By replacing a portion of the tank’s water, you help remove toxins and waste that build up over time.

A good rule of thumb is to change 10-20% of the tank water weekly. Always ensure the new water matches the temperature and pH of the tank to avoid stressing your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Keeping the tank and decorations clean is equally important. Algae can accumulate on tank walls and decorations, potentially leading to water quality issues.

Use a gentle scrubber to clean the interior walls of the tank and rinse decorations in tank water you’ve removed during a water change. Avoid using soap or chemicals as they can harm your fish.

Filter Maintenance

The filter is an essential part of your tank, working tirelessly to remove waste and toxins. It needs regular maintenance to function effectively.

Rinse the filter media in the removed tank water during water changes to remove debris. Replace media as per manufacturer’s instructions, but stagger changes to avoid losing beneficial bacteria.

Monitor Fish Health

Monitoring the health of your bumblebee cichlids is crucial. Regularly observe their behavior, swimming patterns, and physical appearance.

Watch for signs of stress or disease, such as changes in eating habits, color fading, spots or patches on the skin, or unusual swimming patterns. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, consult an aquatics expert or veterinarian for advice.

In conclusion, the care and keeping of bumblebee cichlids can be a rewarding experience. By understanding their natural habitat and behavior, you can create a thriving, engaging environment in your aquarium.

Regular tank maintenance, careful observation of fish health, and a balanced diet are key to ensuring your bumblebee cichlids live long, healthy lives.

Acclimating Bumblebee Cichlid

Acclimating your bumblebee cichlid to its new tank is a careful process. It’s not just about getting the fish in the water. It’s about helping them adjust to their new surroundings in a way that minimizes stress and promotes healthy behavior.

The process begins when you first bring your new cichlids home. Start by floating the bag with the fish in the tank for about 15-20 minutes. This helps equalize the temperature.

Next, begin to introduce a small amount of tank water into the bag every 10 minutes. This step allows your bumblebee cichlids to gradually acclimate to the water chemistry in their new home.

After an hour or so, you can safely net the fish out of the bag and release them into their new tank. Remember, never pour the water from the bag into your aquarium as it could contain harmful bacteria or parasites.

Bumblebee Cichlid Diet and Feeding

Bumblebee cichlids are omnivores, meaning they eat a mix of plant and animal matter. Their diet in the wild includes small fish, insects, and algae.

In captivity, you should aim to replicate this diet as closely as possible.

Here are some feeding tips to ensure your bumblebee cichlids receive proper nutrition:

  • Commercial Food: High-quality pellets or flakes specifically designed for cichlids should form the staple of their diet. These foods are nutritionally balanced and easy to digest.

  • Live or Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. These treats provide necessary proteins and help stimulate natural hunting behaviors.

  • Vegetables: Occasionally, offer blanched vegetables such as peas, spinach, or zucchini. These provide essential vitamins and fiber.

  • Feeding Schedule: Feed your bumblebee cichlids once or twice a day, giving them only as much as they can eat in a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and water quality issues.

  • Monitor Eating Habits: Pay attention to how much your fish are eating. Changes in appetite can be a sign of stress or illness. If you notice a fish that’s not eating, it’s time to investigate.

Bumblebee Cichlid Tank Mates

Choosing tank mates for your bumblebee cichlid requires careful consideration. As semi-aggressive fish, they may not get along with every species.

Here are some suitable companions and those you should avoid to ensure a harmonious tank environment:

Suitable Tank Mates:

  1. Other African Cichlids: Species from the same region, such as Yellow Lab Cichlids or Blue Dolphin Cichlids, can usually coexist peacefully with bumblebee cichlids.

  2. Catfish: Catfish, like the Synodontis species, are robust and can handle the bumblebee cichlid’s behavior.

  3. Plecostomus: These peaceful, hardy fish can be a great addition to a cichlid tank. They keep to themselves and help keep the tank clean.

  4. Cuckoo Catfish: Known for their ability to handle cichlids’ semi-aggressive nature.

  5. Loaches: Species like Clown Loach or YoYo Loach are also compatible.

Tank Mates to Avoid:

  1. Small or Peaceful Fish: Small fish like Neon Tetras or Guppies are likely to be bullied or seen as food.

  2. Slow-moving Fish: Species like Discus Fish or Angelfish can become easy targets due to their slow movement and peaceful nature.

  3. Bottom Dwellers: Some bottom dwellers like Shrimps may be harassed or eaten by bumblebee cichlids.

  4. Long-Finned Species: Fish with long fins, such as Bettas or Fancy Guppies, can be subject to nipping.

  5. Goldfish: Goldfish require different water parameters and are not suitable tank mates.

Breeding Bumblebee Cichlids and Caring for Fry

If you’re an enthusiast seeking a rewarding and fascinating experience, breeding bumblebee cichlids might be your calling.

However, it’s essential to understand that this endeavor requires a certain level of preparedness and commitment.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the process:

Prepare the Breeding Environment

Creating the right environment is crucial to encourage the breeding behavior in bumblebee cichlids. Begin by setting up a breeding tank equipped with plenty of hiding spots.

Use rocks, plants, and caves to mimic their natural habitat. This will provide the necessary cover for females to lay eggs and for the fry to hide post-hatching.

Boost the water temperature slightly to around 82°F (28°C), which is known to stimulate breeding.

However, ensure that the other water parameters remain stable.

Identify the Sexes

Distinguishing between the sexes is a crucial step.

Male bumblebee cichlids are generally larger, exhibit more vibrant colors, and have more pointed dorsal and anal fins compared to females.

Monitor for Spawning Behavior

Once a pair has bonded, the female will choose a spot, typically a flat rock or the tank floor, to lay her eggs.

The male will then fertilize these eggs. Keep an eye out for such behavior, indicating successful breeding.

Guarding the Eggs and Fry

Bumblebee cichlids are protective parents. Both the mother and father guard the eggs and the fry once they hatch.

They may show heightened aggression during this time to ward off potential threats.

Provide Appropriate Fry Care

Following the hatching of the eggs, which usually occurs within 3-5 days, the fry will remain immobile for a few days, feeding off their yolk sacs. Once they start swimming freely, they’re ready for their first meal.

You can begin by feeding them infusoria or finely ground flake food. As they grow, introduce them to baby brine shrimp, which will provide essential nutrients for healthy development.

Separate the Fry

Even though bumblebee cichlids guard their young, it’s still advisable to separate the fry to ensure their safety. You can do this by setting up a separate grow-out tank or by partitioning the main tank.

Breeding bumblebee cichlids is undoubtedly a unique experience, offering an intimate peek into their fascinating life cycle.

Though it might seem daunting initially, with patience, observation, and a bit of preparation, it can be an incredibly rewarding journey.

Signs of Stress in Bumblebee Cichlids

Spotting stress in your bumblebee cichlid is essential to maintain a healthy aquarium. Stress can stem from various factors, including poor water quality, inadequate diet, or inappropriate tank mates.

When stressed, these fish may exhibit several signs:

  • Change in Eating Habits: A bumblebee cichlid under stress might eat less or even stop eating altogether.

  • Change in Color: These fish might lose their vibrant colors, becoming paler when stressed.

  • Unusual Swimming Patterns: If you notice erratic swimming or frequent hiding, this could indicate stress.

  • Gasping at the Surface: This behavior often signals inadequate oxygen levels or poor water quality.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Bumblebee Cichlids

Bumblebee cichlids are relatively hardy, but they’re not immune to diseases.

Here are a few common health issues:

  • Ich: This is a common freshwater fish disease characterized by white spots on the fish’s body. Treatment usually involves raising the tank’s temperature and administering medication.

  • Fin Rot: Poor water conditions often cause this. The fins fray and lose color. Antibiotics can treat fin rot effectively.

  • Bloat: Overfeeding or feeding inappropriate diet can lead to this condition. Adjusting the diet and providing appropriate treatment can help.

Remember, the best way to prevent disease is by maintaining optimal water conditions and providing a balanced diet.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Keeping your aquarium healthy is not just about caring for your fish. It’s also about maintaining the entire ecosystem.

Here are some additional tips:

  • Test Water Regularly: Keep a close eye on your water parameters. Regular testing helps spot any issues before they become significant problems.

  • Clean Regularly: Regular cleaning prevents harmful waste buildup. This includes vacuuming the substrate and cleaning decorations.

  • Don’t Overfeed: Overfeeding can lead to water pollution and health issues in fish. Always feed what your fish can consume in a few minutes.

Should You Get a Bumblebee Cichlid for Your Aquarium?

Adding a bumblebee cichlid to your aquarium can be a delightful experience, given their vibrant colors and intriguing behavior.

However, they’re best suited for aquarists who understand their needs and can provide an appropriate environment. They thrive in a well-maintained aquarium with suitable tank mates.

If you enjoy the challenge of mimicking a specific habitat and are prepared for their territorial behavior, a bumblebee cichlid can make a fascinating addition to your freshwater tank. Remember, a healthy and happy bumblebee cichlid can provide you with years of aquatic enjoyment!

Conservation Status

Bumblebee cichlids are not currently listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, meaning their global population is generally stable. However, as always, it’s crucial for hobbyists to promote sustainable fishkeeping practices.

Ensure that you source your bumblebee cichlids from reputable suppliers who follow ethical breeding and trading practices

Availability & Pricing

Bumblebee cichlids are readily available in most pet stores and online fish retail outlets, thanks to their popularity among aquarists.

The price can vary depending on factors such as the fish’s size and age. However, you can generally expect to pay between $5 and $10 for a juvenile bumblebee cichlid. Before purchasing, make sure to verify the health and condition of the fish.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bumblebee Cichlids

1. How large do bumblebee cichlids grow?

Adult bumblebee cichlids typically reach 6 inches in length, although males can grow slightly larger than females.

2. What is the lifespan of a bumblebee cichlid?

With proper care, a bumblebee cichlid can live up to 10 years in captivity.

3. Are bumblebee cichlids aggressive?

Yes, bumblebee cichlids can be territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding times. Proper tank setup and careful selection of tank mates can help mitigate this behavior.

4. What do bumblebee cichlids eat?

They are omnivorous and thrive on a varied diet of high-quality pellets, flakes, live, and frozen foods.


Bumblebee cichlids are intriguing fish that can add a splash of color and vibrancy to your aquarium. While their territorial nature can be challenging, a well-structured environment and appropriate care can help them thrive.

From their unique appearance to their interesting behaviors, bumblebee cichlids can provide endless fascination for both novice and experienced aquarists.

Just remember, like all pets, they require commitment and understanding to ensure they live a healthy, happy life in your care.