Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis Caeruleus): Care Guide


Common Name(s)Yellow Lab Cichlid
Scientific NameLabidochromis Caeruleus
OriginLake Malawi
Temperature72-82°F (22-28°C)
Size4 inches
Minimum Tank Size40-50 gallons
Food & DietCarnivorous Diet
Lifespan6-10 years
Water pH7.2-8.8
Tank MatesConvict Cichlid, Pleco, Peacock Cichlid, Tiger Oscar, and other Labidochromis
BreedingMouthbrooder
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Malawi bloat, Ich, and Hole in the Head Disease
Yellow Lab Cichlid
Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis Caeruleus)

Yellow Lab Cichlid Facts

  • The Yellow Lab Cichlid is one of the most peaceful and docile of the Mbuna species.
  • They are very versatile and adaptable to all types of cichlid setups.
  • They are aggressive to fish that have a similar colour, shape and build as them – don’t let them look in the mirror!
  • They are listed on the IUCN Red List as Lease Concern (LC).

The Yellow Lab Cichlid, or in scientific terms the Labidochromis Caeruleus, is a freshwater fish that has the uniqueness to rival any fish in the saltwater world. With its primary colour being bright yellow, blue, or albino yellow.

The Yellow Lab Cichlid is not only an eye-catcher but also the perfect fish for a beginner. They are semi-aggressive, and unlike community-type fishes, they are not territorial. They are a great addition to your tank if it needs a pop of colour or another thing to brag about.  

Yellow Lab Cichlid Appearance

Native to the waters of Lake Malawi, the southernmost lake in the East African Rift System and the ninth-largest lake in the world. Yellow Lab Cichlids thrive in larger bodies of water and nestle their homes within deeper, rockier waters or in quieter, silo areas.

Interestingly, despite their name, most of the population of Yellow Lab Cichlid is not yellow. They can develop a variety of morphs depending on which coast of Lake Malawi they originate in, with the most common colour morph being blue. 

Varieties of colour depending on the area:

  • Kakusa- yellow body and a blue dorsal fin.
  • Lion’s Cove- yellow body with a white stomach.
  • Nkhata Bay- White body with blue fins.
  • Lundu Island- White
  • Undu Point- White body with a blue dorsal fin.

The average size of the Yellow Lab Cichlid in the wild is 3.2 inches, with the ability to grow up to 4 inches in well-maintained aquariums and tanks.

Differentiating between male and female Yellow Lab Cichlids can be hard. Both sexes look similar, though males have faint grey vertical shapes on their sides whereas females do not. Unlike males, female ventral and anal fins are pale yellow and do not have an egg spot. 

Unlike other freshwater fish, the Yellow Lab Cichlid has a long lifespan, ranging between 6 to 10 years depending on the quality of care. So, if you are planning to get one, keep in mind that you must stay committed for years. 

Yellow Lab Cichlid Care

The perfect tank for the Yellow Lab Cichlid must resemble their native home. The bigger, the better. An ideal tank should be at least 40 to 50 gallons, but do not be afraid to go higher. Yellow Lab Cichlids are semi-aggressive so they need their space, the illusion of more space can be created by adding line-of-sight blocks to prevent them from seeing the end of the tank.

Line-of-sight blocks include plenty of rocks, real or plastic plants or intentional hiding cracks and spaces. Since the Yellow Lab Cichlid is more aggressive than your community-type fish, line-of-sight blocks also help avoid aggressive behaviours, the more objects in their line-of-sight make it harder for them to pinpoint a target. 

Rocks and plastic plants also give more depth to the aquarium, giving Yellow Labs the freedom and space to explore their surroundings.

Since Lake Malawi is rich in minerals, your tank should be too. Therefore, the pH of the water needs to be between 7.2 and 8.8 (alkaline water). The Yellow Lab Cichlid’s natural habitat is tropical, so tank temperature should be maintained between 22 and 28 Celsius. Water hardness must be maintained between 10 and 20 dGH.

Aquarium lighting is important but often overlooked and sometimes confusing. The type of aquarium light needed for any size of the fish tank depends on your habitat within the tank. In Lake Malawi, the light is diffused by plant and rock formations. To mimic this, you will need to use a medium to low lighting effect in your tank. 

The Yellow Lab Cichlid also needs frequent water changes to keep it healthy. The recommended water change size is 10% to 20% bi-weekly to ensure the tank stays clean.

The Yellow Lab Cichlid are extremely sensitive to poor water and aquarium conditions; therefore, you should not take proper pH levels, tank size and water maintenance with a grain of salt. 

Food & Diet

Naturally, the Yellow Lab Cichlid is carnivorous, though in aquariums It is best to feed them an omnivorous diet. They are versatile in what they can eat, meaning they can easily eat fresh and live foods as well as high-quality flake foods. Their recommended diet is an equally balanced 50/50 proportion of plants and animals. 

If they eat too much protein in one feeding, they are likely to contract Malawi bloat, a common disease amongst Yellow Labs, so be sure to measure your proteins and plants equally!

Some recommended foods are high-quality flake food, dried shrimp, mysids, and bloodworms. For meaty protein foods such as shrimp or bloodworms, it’s best to have them dried or already dead to eliminate the potential of any fish getting hurt (Shrimp and bloodworms can potentially injure Yellow Lab Cichlids).

Supplements and vitamins should also be part of their diet. Supplements such as Carotene food help keep them healthy and mobile. In terms of feeding times, it’s essential to feed them several small portions throughout the day rather than one or two large feedings. Having a single large feeding during the day increases the chance of fighting among the fish as the fish are all hungry.

Some healthy flake food options for Yellow Labs include:

  • Fluval Bug Bites Cichlid Formula
  • Omega One Super Color Sinking Cichlid Pellets
  • Zoo Med Spirulina 
  • Repashy Soilent Green
  • Hikari Cichlid Biogold
  • Northfin Veggie Formula
  • New Life Spectrum Cichlid

Also, with semi-aggressive fish such as Yellow Lab Cichlid, it is best to keep an eye on them when they are eating to avoid any unnecessary fights over food.

Yellow Lab Cichlid Care Guide (The Best Beginner African Cichlid)

Yellow Lab Cichlid Tank Mates

The Yellow Lab Cichlid are very versatile and adaptable to species of mbuna. Pseudotropheus acei, Gephyrochromis, Iodotropheus and other Labidochromis are a terrific addition to the aquarium. 

Yellow Lab Cichlids can dwell singly or in pairs. Unlike community fish they are not territorial, however, they can be aggressive towards fish that have a similar physique or colour. 

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates for Yellow Lab Cichlid:

  • Convict Cichlid
  • Pleco
  • Peacock Cichlid
  • Tiger Oscar
  • other Labidochromis 

Examples of Incompatible Tank Mates for Yellow Lab Cichlid:

  • Shrimps
  • Crabs
  • Snails
  • Angelfish
  • Blue Acara
  • Tiger Barbs
  • Tetras

Remember quality over quantity: make sure you are being conscious of the space you have in your tank. Don’t make any more additions to your aquarium if there isn’t enough room!

Breeding Yellow Lab Cichlid

The Yellow Lab Cichlid’s breeding process is extremely easy with no human intervention. Once they are 6 months old and about 1.5 inches in length, they are ready to begin reproducing. The best sex ratio for the Yellow Lab Cichlid is at least two females for every male. 

Once the fish are at reproductive age, the male will start digging a pit in the sand or will find a flat surface then break out some “dance” moves as a method to lure the females towards him. Then the reproduction process begins. 

The Yellow Lab is a mouthbrooder fish. Meaning the female incubates her eggs in her mouth until they hatch in three weeks. Once the eggs are fertilized and in the female’s mouth, she will eat nothing for 25 to 40 days (about 1 and a half months). When the eggs hatch, the fry can be fed baby shrimp until they are big enough for grounded flake food.

Make sure the fry has plenty of hiding spots in the tank so they can survive easily without the threat of being eaten by any other fish that may be in your aquarium. 

After the fry is born, it is recommended to put the female in her recovery tank for several weeks. A separate tank will allow the female fish to recover and regain her strength before she starts breeding again.

Yellow Lab Cichlid Disease

Malawi bloat

Malawi bloat is the most common disease that affects Yellow Lab Cichlids. The condition is caused by a dietary deficiency in vegetable proteins and fibres. As stated earlier, Yellow Labs need a diet consisting of equal parts of vegetables and meats.

Bloating is a common symptom for fish suffering from Malawi bloat disease, in more serious cases they may develop skin sores. If you notice bloating, don’t panic.

Luckily, treating the condition is easy. Change 30% of the water and treat with Metronidazole (stops growth of parasites and bacteria) and Clout. If you follow the treatment plan and your fish are still suffering, I would consider calling a local pet shop or veterinarian for help. 

Ich

Ich is a quite common skin infection caused by the protozoan parasite, Ichthyophthirius. The parasite is common in aquariums, but only attacks weaker targets. The reason fish can be weak and unhealthy is primarily due to an unhealthy diet or incorrect diet. That is why It is important to research your fish’s diets thoroughly before experimenting with new supplements and foods.

Ich, or in other words, white spot disease, is a rash that consists of tiny white dots all over the fish’s body. Unlike Malawi bloat disease, treating white spot disease can become quite costly. It is recommended to increase the temperature of your tank to 30 Celsius for three days, along with treating the tank with medication that you will find at pet stores. If you follow the treatment plan and your fish are still suffering, I would consider calling a local pet shop or veterinarian for help. 

Hole in the Head Disease

Hole in the head disease is caused by the Hexamita Flagellate parasite. Though this disease is not as common as the ones previously mentioned, preventative measures should still be followed up regularly. 

This parasite primarily inhabits the fish’s gut, eventually spreading to the abdominal cavity, kidneys, gallbladder, and spleen. As the condition progresses the fish will develop lesions along the lateral line and head. Once it reaches that point the outlook for the fish is bleak.

Unlike the others, stress is a primary cause of this condition, as is poor water quality, overcrowding and an unhealthy diet.

Remove all fish that have contracted the disease out of the aquarium and into a separate one to try to control the spread. Treat the water with antibiotic metronidazole and hope for the best. If you follow the treatment plan and your fish are still suffering, I would consider calling a local pet shop or veterinarian for help. 

Yellow Lab Cichlids for Sale

With their beautiful colours, calm demeanour and affordable prices, Yellow Lab Cichlids are quite common beginner fishes and can be found at many pets store chains as well as independently owned stores. Yellow Lab Cichlids, like all semi-aggressive/calm fish, is a great r fish for beginner hobbyists and experienced hobbyists alike.

Before you purchase you want to make sure that you have all the materials needed for proper care. A reasonably sized tank (40 gallons), pH tester, rocks and plants, and the right food should be purchased before buying your fish. You want to make the transition into a tank as stress-free as possible, and that means being prepared. 

As Yellow Lab Cichlids are common pets, you are sure to find some at your local PetSmart, Pet Valu, or other pet store or fish supplier near you. 

The average price of a Yellow Lab Cichlid is $8 USD, whereas the average price of an Albino Yellow Lab Cichlid is a few dollars more at $10 USD, though prices may vary at different locations.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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