Bumblebee Cichlid- Ultimate Care Guide

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The Bumblebee Cichlid, also known as the Hornet Cichlid or Bumblebee Mouthbrooder, is a captivating freshwater fish species commonly found around Lake Malawi.

Known scientifically as Pseudotropheus Crabo, this striking fish is named after the European Hornet, Vespa Crabo, due to its large body size and similar patterns.

As a member of the Mbuna group, Bumblebee Cichlids are highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts for their vibrant colors and intriguing behaviors.

Discover the fascinating world of Bumblebee Cichlids and learn how to successfully care for them in your home aquarium.

Species Overview

The Bumblebee Cichlid is a vibrant freshwater fish belonging to the cichlid family.

It’s scientifically known as Pseudotropheus crabro and is endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa.

This striking species is easily recognizable by its vivid yellow and black stripes, closely resembling the color pattern of a bumblebee.

As a unique quality, Bumblebee Cichlids possess the ability to change color rapidly, allowing them to adapt to different environments or situations.

This chameleon-like trait sets them apart from other cichlids and makes them a fascinating addition to a home aquarium.

In the wild, these fish inhabit the rocky areas of Lake Malawi, where they thrive in the strong currents and ample hiding spots.

As a result, they are particularly adept at navigating complex environments and are quite versatile in adapting to various water conditions.

They are also known for their territorial nature, particularly during breeding season, and require a carefully planned tank set-up to ensure they coexist with other tank mates.

Habitat and Distribution

The habitat of Bumblebee Cichlids is mainly in Lake Malawi in Africa, specifically in the rocky regions where there are lots of caves and crevices.

They can be found at depths of 20 to 40 meters, where they naturally prey on small invertebrates and algae.

Their distribution is limited to Lake Malawi, one of the African Great Lakes.

This unique lake is home to hundreds of different cichlid species, which make up a remarkable portion of the lake’s diverse ecosystem, and Bumblebee Cichlids are an integral part of this thriving community.

As rocky dwellers, Bumblebee Cichlids have adapted to their environment by developing a strong, robust body and specialized teeth that enable them to scrape algae off rocks.

They also have a highly territorial nature, which helps them defend their chosen area within their habitat.

Although these fish are endemic to Lake Malawi, their colorful patterns and interesting behaviors have made them popular in the aquarium trade.

As a result, Bumblebee Cichlids can now be found in home aquariums worldwide, where they can thrive if provided with the appropriate water conditions and tank setup.


The Bumblebee Cichlid is easily recognizable, thanks to its distinct coloration.

Its deep yellow base color, which covers their entire body, including the fins, makes it resemble a bumblebee.

Along with the yellow hue, these fish display black or brown stripes running down their bodies, further emphasizing their namesake resemblance.

Juvenile Bumblebee Cichlids are usually more intensely colored than their older counterparts.

As the fish matures, their stripes become darker and more prominent, and recently dominant mature males may exhibit an almost entirely black coloration.

This drastic change in color is a sign that the male is reaching breeding age and seeking to establish dominance within the aquarium.

Bumblebee Cichlids have a robust, thick body in both males and females. 

In terms of size, Bumblebee Cichlids can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length, making them a medium-sized fish suitable for moderately sized home aquariums. 

They also have a lifespan of around 10 years.

Tank Requirements & Care

The Bumblebee Cichlid thrives in a well-maintained tank that replicates its natural habitat.

A minimum tank size of 50 gallons is recommended for the Bumblebee Cichlid, but a larger tank is better if housing multiple cichlids or tank mates.

Regular water changes and filtration systems are crucial in maintaining the water quality for these fish.

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Water hardness: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

When it comes to tank decor, Bumblebee Cichlids enjoy seeking refuge in hiding spots like caves and crevices.

Providing various decorations such as rocks, driftwood, and plants will give them the opportunity to explore and establish territories.

They will also enjoy a sandy substrate.

Tank Mates

The Bumblebee Cichlid is an aggressive fish and as such should rather be kept in a species only tank with 1 male and 6 females.

This group will need at least a 100 gallon tank.

These fish are not good community fish.

You can try and keep them with other aggressive African cichlids but have a backup plan in case you need to step in and separate them.

Some fish keepers have managed to keep Yellow Labs, Maingano Cichlids and Yellow Tail Acei with Bumblebee Cichlids so you can give them a try.

Bumblebee Cichlid Care


Bumblebee Cichlids are omnivores in their natural habitat, meaning that their diet consists of both plant and animal matter.

In captivity, they require a balanced diet to ensure proper growth and overall health.

High-quality, commercially prepared cichlid pellets can serve as a basis for their diet.

However, to maintain their vibrant colors and boost their immune system, you should also include live or frozen foods, such as:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Bloodworms

In addition to protein-filled foods, incorporating vegetable matter in their diet is also recommended.

Chopped spinach, spirulina, and blanched peas are excellent choices for Bumblebee Cichlids.

Feed them small amounts of food twice a day.

Avoid overfeeding to prevent water quality issues, as leftover food can quickly decay and pollute the tank.

Common Health Issues

Bumblebee Cichlids are generally hardy fish, but they can still be susceptible to various health issues.

One of the most common problems they might face is the development of white spots, or ich, which is caused by a parasitic infection.

Another prevalent disease specific to African Cichlids, including the Bumblebee Cichlid, is Malawi bloat.

This ailment is often related to poor diet and can be fatal if not treated in a timely manner.

Swim bladder problems are also observed in Bumblebee Cichlids occasionally.

These problems typically manifest as difficulty in swimming or floating at an odd angle.

Proper diet and tank maintenance can help to minimize the risk of this condition.

To ensure the health of Bumblebee Cichlids, it is important to maintain appropriate water conditions, tank setup, diet, and monitoring for any signs of illness.

Early detection and treatment of health issues can significantly improve the chances of a full recovery.


The Bumblebee Cichlid, also known as the Hornet Cichlid, is a mouthbrooding species.

This means that the female will carry the fertilized eggs and fry in her mouth until they are ready to be released.

The breeding process begins with the male displaying dramatic courtship behavior, which includes flaring his fins and performing acrobatic maneuvers to attract the female.

The male will typically change to an almost black color.

Once the female shows interest, the male will guide her to a flat surface or spawning area, where the female will lay her eggs.

The female will lay around 20-60 eggs at a time, depending on her size and age.

Afterward, the male will fertilize the eggs, and the female will promptly collect them in her mouth.

During the incubation period, the female might not eat at all or eat very little, as she is focused on protecting her eggs.

The incubation period typically lasts between 21-30 days, after which the female will release the fry into the tank.

It is essential to provide hiding spots for the fry, such as dense plants or rock formations, to reduce predation by other tank inhabitants.

While raising the fry, offer them freshly hatched brine shrimp or crushed flakes.

The fry will grow rapidly, and within a few months, they will reach sexual maturity and be able to breed themselves.


Why do bumblebee cichlids turn black?

They turn black when they are ready to breed and also when they are feeling very aggressive.

How big can bumblebee cichlids get?

They can get as big as 6 inches.

Do bumblebee cichlids have teeth?

These fish have two sets of teeth. One set is in the mouth and the other set is in the throat.

Can bumblebee cichlid live with Oscars?

No, they cannot live with Oscars.

Is a Bumblebee Cichlid a Mbuna?

Yes, these cichlids are classified as Mbuna

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of BetterFishkeeping.com. She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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