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Electric Yellow Cichlid

Yellow Lab, Lemon Drop Cichlid, Blue Streak Hap, Labido, Lemon Yellow Lab

Family: Cichlidae Electric Yellow Cichlid, Labidochromis caeruleus, Yellow Lab, Labido, Lemon Drop CichlidLabidochromis caeruleusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have a 50litre tank and am looking at these wonderful fish and was wondering: How many do I get? Do they go well with bristlenose catfish? How aggressive are... (more)  aiden

The bold striking colors of the Electric Yellow Cichlid have certainly helped it earn its name!

The Electric Yellow Cichlid Labidochromis caeruleus is one of the most popular African cichlids because of the beautiful yellow coloring. It is usually seen in its golden phase, thus its common names also include Yellow Lab Cichlid, Electric Yellow Lab, Yellow Labido, Lemon Yellow Lab, and Lemon drop Cichlid.

This strikingly yellow morph is only one variety of this fish however, there are actually about a dozen naturally occurring color morphs. As a group this species is known as the Blue Streak Hap as well as Labidochromis Yellow, Labidochromis White, Pearl Labidochromis, and Blue-White Labido. Blue morphs as well as white varieties are occasionally available to the hobbyist.

Blue Streak Haps are widespread throughout Lake Malawi, but the yellow variety is found only in the Nkhata Bay between the Islands of Charo and Mbowe. Author Marc Elieson gives a fascinating overview of the the discovery and introduction of this color morph to the hobby in his article entitled "Labidochromis caeruleus". He describes how this color morph was first found and collected by Stuart Grant and his divers around 1980. They were then bred in large quantities by Pierre Brichard in his fish facility in Burundi, Africa, located on Lake Tanganyika. Brichard began offering the offspring for sale in 1986, which caused a great deal of confusion because he initially called them "Labidochromis tanganicae". Fortunately has all been sorted out as they are not Tanganyika cichlids, but rather a xanthic variation of L. caeruleus.

These fish are members of the Mbuna group. Mbunas are small, dynamic rock-dwelling cichlids from Lake Malawi, Africa. There are 13 genera full of very active and aggressive personalities of Mbuna cichlids. The African word "mbuna" comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means "rockfish" or "rock-dwelling". This name aptly describes the environment these fish live in as opposed to the open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other "haps".

The Electric Yellow Labs are a most interesting African cichlid. They stand out with their brilliant coloration but also because they are one of the most peaceful of the Mbuna species. As an omnivore and being somewhat shy, they are very versatile and adaptable to all sorts of cichlid setups. They can live singly or in pairs. They are not territorial but they will be aggressive towards other fish that are similar in body shape or color. Other peaceful Mbunas as well as Peacock Cichlids, Featherfins, and Lamprologus species can make good tankmates.

These truly attractive fish are ideal for the beginning cichlid keeper. They can be maintained in an aquarium as small as 30 gallons, though 50 gallons or so is ideal, and they are generally easy to care for. They are most comfortable in an aquarium with lots of rocks and caves that provide hiding places for it to dart in and out of. They like a sandy bottom and if you provide plants they will not burrow or in any other way disturb them. They are very durable and less susceptible to Malawi Bloat, which is an affliction that many African cichlids are prone to if the herbivore aspect of their dietary needs are not closely managed.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care


Geographic Distribution
Labidochromis caeruleus
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Labidochromis
  • Species: caeruleus
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Electric Yellow Cichlid - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.2 inches (8.10 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Blue Streak Hap Labidochromis caeruleus was described by Fryer in 1956. They are endemic to the rocky shoreline of Lake Malawi, Africa. Their distribution within Lake Malawi is on the west coast between Ruarwe and Nkhata Bays and on the east coast from the waters of southern Tanzania to northern Mozambique. This distribution contributes to a diversity of color, mostly in variations of whites and yellows. Electric Yellow Cichlid has a much more restricted location. They are found only on the western side in Nkhata Bay between the Islands of Charo and Lion’s Cove.

This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Lease Concern (LC). It is endemic to Lake Malawi but is widespread with no recognized threats at present. Other common names it is known by are Labidochromis Yellow, Labidochromis White, Pearl Labidochromis, Blue-White Labido, Labido Cichlid, and Utaka (even though it is a Mbuna). The Electric Yellow Cichlid described here is also known as the Yellow Lab Cichlid, Electric Yellow Lab, Electric Yellow Labido, Lemon Yellow Lab, Yellow Labido Cichlid, Lemon drop Cichlid, and Yellow Prince.

This Mbuna cichlid occurs above rocky areas as well as in sections vegetated with Vallisneria aethiopica. They occur at the greatest depth of all the species in the Labidochromis genus, found at depths between 35 - 100 feet (10 - 30 m). They are rarely found at depths less this. The Electric Yellow Cichlid is generally found at a depth of 70 feet (20 m).

In the wild they live either singly or in pairs and are a mouthbrooder species that forms a matriarchal family. Depending on their individual habitats, they feed primarily on lithophile (stone loving) invertebrates, mollusks and snails, but also eat fish and insects.

  • Scientific Name: Labidochromis caeruleus
  • Social Grouping: Varies - In nature they are found either singly or in pairs.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern

Description

The body of the Labido Cichlid is stocky and rather elongated. This cichlid grows a bit over 3 inches (8.1 cm) in length in the wild, but can grow larger in the aquarium, up to a length of almost 4" (10 cm). Lake Malawi fish live an average of 6 to 10 years.

There are about a dozen color morphs found in this species, depending on where they originate from. The normal coloration is white with a vivid black stripe running along the dorsal fin just inset from the edge. Males grow a bit larger than females and during breeding time develop a bluish coloration.

Picture of a Electric Yellow Cichlid, Lemon Drop Cichlid, or Yellow Lab

The Electric Yellow Cichlid, as its name suggests, has a bright yellow body also with a black stripe on its dorsal as well as black on the anal fins, though it will often not show this vivid black striping until it is mature. This is the most popular in the hobby but there are other color variations, especially blue, that are occasionally available. Some of these varieties are:

  • Yellow with a blue dorsal
    The color morph is from Kakusa
  • Yellow with a whitish belly
    This is another color morph from Lion's Cove
  • White
    The white color morph is from Lundu Island
  • White with blue fins
    This is a color morph that is becoming very popular and is from Nkhata bay.
  • White with a dark blue stripe on the dorsal fin
    This is a color morph from Undu Point.
  • Size of fish - inches: 3.2 inches (8.10 cm) - These fish reach a length of about 3" (8.1 cm) in the wild, but can grow up to almost 4" (10 cm) in the aquarium.
  • Lifespan: 6 years - The average lifespan for this fish is about 6 to 10 years with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

They are are generally easy to care for and are excellent cichlids for the beginner. They are moderately aggressive so not a community tank specimen that can be kept with fish other than cichlids. The aquarists must be willing to do frequent water changes and provide appropriate tank mates. In the proper setup they will easily adapt to prepared foods, breed readily, and the juveniles are easy to raise as well.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Although its diet is primarily carnivorous in the wild, the Electric Yellow Cichlid is an omnivore. In the aquarium it is not picky about its fare and will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance provide them with both plant and animal foods in about equal proportions. They do need some vegetable matter to help prevent Malawi bloat, but they are not as susceptible to this disease as other African cichlids.

They will accept most prepared foods such as high quality flake foods, pellets, and freeze dried foods as well as natural proteins like brine shrimp and blood worms (either live or frozen). A carotene based food is also suggested to keep their colors bright, color enhancing commercial foods are readily available. Vary their diet and they will reward you with beautiful coloring. It is always better to feed them small amounts several times a day instead of one large feeding. This keeps the water quality higher for a longer period of time. Of course, all fish benefit from added vitamins and supplements to their foods.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Half of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Half of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Offer several small feedings a day, what they can eat in about 3 minutes or less, rather than a single large feeding.

Aquarium Care

Malawi Cichlids will deteriorate under poor water conditions. Have an established filtration system along with water changes of 10% to 20% a week depending on the bio load.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of 10-20% weekly are suggested, depending on the bio load.

Aquarium Setup


The streams that flow into Lake Malawi have a high mineral content. This along with evaporation has resulted in alkaline water that is highly mineralized. Lake Malawi is known for its clarity and stability as far as pH and other water chemistries. It is easy to see why it is important to watch tank parameters with all Lake Malawi fish.

Rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water but are not found in brackish waters. Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness. This cichlid has some salt tolerance so can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.

They can be maintained in a minimum 30 gallon aquarium, though 50 gallons or so is ideal. They do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but need good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration. They can tolerate any ph above neutral, but a ph level of 8 is best. A substrate of crushed coral or sand used for salt water tanks can help keep the pH up. Crushed coral or aragonite sands also tend to dissolves easier than salts. Keeping a higher pH however, means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes are a must for these fish. A very slow acclimation to different pH levels can sometimes be achieved.

They are most comfortable in an aquarium with lots of rocks and caves that provide hiding places to dart in and out of along with some open swimming space. They spend the day moving around the rocky inclines looking at the ceilings, cracks and crevices for small food tidbits. If you provide plants they will not burrow or in any other way disturb them.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) - A minimum of 30 gallons is the suggested, with 50 gallons being ideal.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 79.0° F (23.9 to 26.1° C)
  • Range ph: 7.2-8.8
  • Hardness Range: 10 - 20 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes - Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% - a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: All - These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Electric Yellow Cichlid is not considered to be a community fish. They are not a territorial cichlid and they are among the most peaceful Mbuna found on Lake Malawi. They are very versatile and adaptable to all sorts of cichlid setups. They can live singly or in pairs. They are not territorial but they will be aggressive towards other fish that are similar in body shape or color. Other peaceful Mbunas as well as Peacock Cichlids, Featherfins, and Lamprologus species can make good tankmates.

  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - As adults they can be kept singly or in pairs.
    • Peaceful fish (): Monitor
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male Labido Cichlid is slightly larger than the female. At breeding time they are more colorful and will develop a bluish color.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Electric Yellow Cichlids are egg layers. They are ovophile mouth brooders and form matriarchal families. This is one of the easiest mouthbrooders to breed. It is suggested to obtain 5-6 young fry and raise them together. Sexual maturity is reached at 6 months when they are about 1 1/2 " in length. Feed 2 times a day to condition them to breed.

Typical of Mbuna breeding, they like a like a flat tone or slate to inspire them to spawn. Depending on the size of the female, she will lay between about 10 to 30 eggs and then immediately take them into their mouths before they are fertilized. The male displays by flaring out his anal fin, which showcases the "egg spot patterning" on the fin. the female mistaken the eggs spots on the male's anal fin as her own eggs and tries to take them in her mouth as well. In doing so, she then stimulates the male to discharge sperm (milt cloud) and inhales of cloud of "milt" which then fertilize the eggs in her mouth.

Females are generally good "holders" and will refuse food for up to 4 weeks while holding the young. According to a report by Scheuermann (1974) in Das Aquarium 8, 439-441: the young leave the mouth of the mother after 25 days at 27-28° C (81-82° F) or after 40 days at 23-24° C (73-75° F).

The mother continues to care for the young for about a week after they leave her mouth. The released fry can eat finely powdered dry foods and brine shrimp nauplii. Provide plenty of hiding places so the young will have a easier time surviving until they are too big to eat. See the description of how these fish breed in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

The Electric Yellow Cichlids are very durable and less susceptible to Malawi Bloat, which is an affliction that many African cichlids are prone to if the herbivore aspect of their dietary needs are not closely managed. They are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and oxygenation. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment.

Although Malawi bloat is a typical disease for many African cichlids when their dietary needs do not include enough vegetable matter, but fortunately this cichlid is much less prone to it. As with most fish however, they are susceptible to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

Availability

The Electric Yellow Cichlid is readily available online and in pet stores and they are moderate in cost.

References

Author: David Brough CFS, Clarice Brough CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Electric Yellow Cichlid

aiden - 2014-09-10
I have a 50litre tank and am looking at these wonderful fish and was wondering: How many do I get? Do they go well with bristlenose catfish? How aggressive are they? what cheap fish do they go well with? Thanks everybody!! Sincerely Aiden

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-09-10
    Heya Aiden, if you add your aquarium where it says 'Enter a Freshwater Aquarium' (in the care parameters just below the intro) you will get the 'Fish Finder'. This cool tool let's you compare fish that are compatible and work with your tank.
  • Glenn - 2014-09-14
    For a 50 L, 2 or 3 breeding pairs would work great. I have a single one with 4 cherry barbs, an angelfish, a red fin shark, clown loach, and a bristle nose pleco. I have had no problems. They have a pretty mild temperament and are a very hardy and nice fish. I wouldn't get crabs ,shrimp etc though. They would get along well with the catfish, unless it is twice the size, and has a temperament. Tiger barbs are cheap and playful, especially in a school of 5 to 8. They are also very colorful, and have a perfect match for temperament with the cichlid.
Reply
cheri raye - 2008-10-08
Okay okay....so electric yellows are only peaceful with their own kind, and if anyone thought it would be okay to put any smaller tropicals into the tank....well you have found out it isn't a wise thing to do unless of course its for live food.
Amongst other cichlids they are territorial, but as a rule I have never had a problem as long as they are all of the cichlid family. Excluding convicts! I have 3 plecos and assorted electric blues and yellows, and silver dollars and the only time there is trouble is when they are hungry. Feeding daily will normally prevent them from being too aggressive. Since I wrote in 2004, I have had many many cichlids and many experiences, some not so wonderful, but most have been good.

  • Gary - 2010-02-21
    I have yellow labs in my four foot tank with 10 tiger barbs, 4 firemouths, 4 danios, 3 angelfish, 3 dwaf rainbows, and 2 golden loach. All get on ok but the tank is well planted and plenty of caves. The labs breed easy and have found fry all over the tank. Of course some do get to be food for the others but some make it to a size I can pass on to my mztes if they want some.
  • james peck - 2010-11-15
    I have a 55 gallon with 2 elec. yellows and 2 pink convicts and 2 green terrors. The electric yellows are fine with other fish that can hang with there attitude and can defend themselves. All my fish are aggressive but equal so there is no problems. Actually all my pairs have had fry. Most of the time they have their fry at the same time. It's kind of cool how they divide the tank. The only pair that tends to lose their fry are the yellows since they stop watching their young after a week.
Reply
Mark Bleeker - 2009-05-23
I have a 20 gallon tank with 4 adult "yellow labs" ( 2 males & 2 females ) 3 juvi's and 4 newly "born" babies. I have had some of these fish, or their offspring for over 12 years now. This tank always gets comments from first time visitors. I have the back glass painted black and rock stacked tall on 3/4 of the tank. the black background makes the yellow colors really "pop" under the flouresents. My fish are very happy and healthy. They are constantly "mating and breeding". most of the fry get eaten up in the first day or two after being released, but thats OK because I really don't have room for any more of them! Highly reccomended fish for beginners! I do so little to maintain this tank, it's ridiculous! The inside glass gets cleaned 2-3 times a weeks to keep it looking it's best, but other than that, I only clean the waterfall filter about every two months or so. VERY EASY AND REWARDING FISH!
I LOVE my "Yellow Labs"!

Reply
steve - 2008-09-18
Have 2 housed in a 55 gallon tank with 9 other african's, plus 2 lace catfish, and after only a month the two of them mated! The male dug a hole under a decorative hollowed out log, and the female sat in there for a few days, with the male chasing everybody else away who got close. Well, now she's swimming around with a bloated mouth, and he's back to his usual ways. Love the colors on this fish, and they're very personable. If I tap the glass, the male will come out of wherever he's hiding and come to the glass. We will be moving them to a 10 gallon breeder tank when the young are swimmming, then back after the young are old enough to handle themselves. Was told by the local petshop guys that they'll probably spawn every couple of months now.

Reply
Ron - 2005-12-10
Have 5 Yellow Labs recently transferred from 25 to a 33 gal. tank. I don't know why, but they seemed happier in the 25 gal tank - swimming into plants, harassing my 2 Corys and digging trenches in the gravel. The only occupant they (esp. the intensely coloured male) respected was my big kahuna of a Pleco. Perhaps, they are still adjusting to the new surroundings. I've arranged about 7 caves in their new home using Peridodite, Obsidian, and Sandstone, - and one hunk of Malaysian Driftwood. I hope I've not lowered the pH too much (by using the wood) since they LOVE HARD water. I'll try to add a few more snails for them to munch on. However, I still have to find a guideline to differentiate between the sexes, since the eggspot can reside on both Male AND Female...

Reply
graham - 2005-06-17
I am a real fish lover. i have all kinds but easily love my electric yellows the most. I have 3 large males and 2 small breeding females. i have them in a 5 foot tank and still they continue to fight. I guess its worth it when they started breeding. i now have over 60 electric yellows and still i find no end to the joy they give me.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-01-15
    Yeah, I love Electric Yellow Cichlids too! I had kept them for several years, and thoroughly enjoyed these active fellows... and they are so pretty!
  • alisha soulz - 2013-05-03
    my electric yellow got hurt very badly on its tail by the marbles of fish tank during water change its blood clotted in the tail kindly reply me soon what to do for that i love her i dont wana see her dead.
  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-03
    Generally the tail fin will grow back, as long as the damage isnt' too severe and into the caudal peduncle.
  • Patsy - 2013-10-12
    I am really sad. My Yellow Cichlid has died. He was so beautiful and up to a couple of days ago in fine form. He started racing up and down and around the front of the tank and was not eating as he usually came to me at feeding time. He shared the tank with another smaller female who he occasionally chased. She seems to be at the top of the tank behind the filter I think to hide from him sometimes. I will take the tank water in to be checked. Also I fed mostly Spirulina Meal sticks and sometimes flakes, What else should they have? He was so knowing and new me. I didn't think I could feel so sad about the loss of a fish, but I do. :-(
Reply

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