As the Fish of the Month for April, there will a bag of 5 x Pseudotropheus crabro around 4-5cm available at the PCS Meeting for auction. These are special lots to raise money for Stuart Grant Fund for Cichlid Preservation and have kindly been donated by one of our PCS Sponsors - Pet Magic.
The Bumblebee Mouthbrooder Pseudotropheus crabro is an attractive fish has definitely been named for its appearance. As a juvenile it has a striped yellow and black 'bumblebee' patterning. So today its commonly called the Bumblebee Mouthbrooder or Bumblebee Cichlid, but it is also known as the Hornet Cichlid.
The name 'hornet' as well as its scientific species name 'crabo' were derived from the European Hornet Vespa crabro, as both of these species are large sized and have a similar color patterning. Even before these two names though, and before it was scientifically described, it was called Pseudotropheus "chameleo" for its chameleon-like color changing ability.
This cichlid tends to change colors very rapidly, going from an almost totally black fish to a yellowish fish with bold black bars. They use this ability in their "pseudo-symbiotic" relationship with a large cave-dwelling catfish, the Kampango Bagrus meridionalis. In its gold and black barred coloring, the cichlid advertises its cleaning services and is safely allowed to pick parasites from the skin of the catfish. But on a darker note, when these catfish spawn the Bumblebee will turn almost black. Like a thief in the night, they sneakily eat the spawning catfish eggs. If it is seen, it will quickly revert back to the yellow and black color and resume its cleaning duties.
Common names: Bumblebee cichlid, Bumblebee Mouthbrooder, Hornet cichlid,
The male grows to a length of about 6" (15 cm) with the female being smaller at about 5" (12 cm).
Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Actinopterygii, Order: Perciformes, Family: Cichlidae, Genus: Pseudotropheus, Species: crabro
They are found in Lake Malawi, Africa at various sites in the Eccles Reef, West Reef, Chiyamwezi, Mbenji, Chinyankwazi, Maleri, Nkata Bay, and the Likoma and Chisumulu Islands.
They live in various habitats but prefer rocks or sand-rock substrates near large boulders, and the interior of large caves.
In the wild they feed on a different foods as they become available including benthic crustaceans, fry of other fish, fish eggs, and larvae. They have been seen picking the ectoparasite Argulus africanus from a large cave-dwelling species of catfish, the Kampango Bagrus meridionalis.
In the aquarium feed high quality flakes, pellets, spirulina, and prepared cichlid foods.
They do need more proteins than other Mbunas because of their natural diet, but they still need vegetable matter to provide fiber in their diet in order to keep their intestinal tract disease free. 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.
Do not over feed as this will result in water spoilage and even an early death. It is not wise to house this fish with other genus of cichlids that eat beef heart or other mammal meat, as these foods can cause intestinal infections and death. Of course, all fish benefit from added vitamins and supplements to their foods.
Feeding Frequency: Daily - Offer several small feedings a day, what they can eat in about 3 minutes or less, rather than a single large feeding.
A 189 litre tank will work for a single fish. A 380 Litre or more, and at least 5 feet in length, will be needed if housed with other compatible fish. The Bumblebee Cichlid will do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but needs good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration.
Provide a fine gravel or coarse substrate along with lots of rocks and bogwood with multiple hiding places for sub-dominant and brooding fish. The addition of crushed coral can help keep the pH up. A very slow acclimation to different pH levels can sometimes be achieved. Crushed coral or aragonite sands do 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. Some open space is appreciated as well. Hardy fast growing plants, such as Giant Vallisneria or Cryptocoryne species can also be included.
Weekly - Water changes of 20-40% weekly are suggested, depending on the bio load.
Malawi Cichlids will deteriorate under poor water conditions. These fish eat a lot and are messy, so an established filtration system along with water changes of 20 to 40% a week depending on bioload, is needed for their health. Malawi bloat is a typical disease especially if their dietary needs are not met with quality foods.
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.
Temperature: 78-82°F (25.6-27.8°C) pH: 8.0-9.6 dH range: 10 - 18
The Bumblebee Mouthbrooder is aggressive and is not considered to be a community fish. In fact, it should only be housed with other aggressive cichlids. These fish need to be kept in a group of one male to six or more females. This will help to spread out the male's aggression. Lots of cover is needed for the females as it is not uncommon for the male to harass them to death. They dominant male will kill any rivals, including subdominant males.
They can also be kept in a very large aquarium of mixed Mbuna with plenty of hiding places, but this cichlid male will be dominant. They are not quite as aggressive as the Kenyi Cichlid Maylandia lombardoi, but will not back down from a fight or be bullied. If overstocking is used as a form of aggression reduction, care should be taken to do several partial water changes a week or up to 40% a week.
Some recommend that they be kept in a species specific tank. This is due to their "cleaning" habits of removing parasites from catfish in the wild. They may sometimes remove the scales from other fish in the aquarium.
Males are larger and have blue markings while the females are smaller and have yellow markings. Males can take on the female coloring, so look at size as well as the anal fin. Males will have two to four clearly pronounced egg spots, females will have a rounded anal fin and only one or two egg spots.
The Bumblebee Cichlid has been bred in captivity. This cichlid is a mouthbrooder that needs a harem. They should be given a tank of at least 50 to75 gallons to breed in if kept by themselves, larger if kept with other fish. They are easy to sex, but if you start with a group of several very young juveniles you need to remove sub-dominant males as the dominant male will kill any rivals.
Doing a large water change induces the breeding response. The male will darken to an almost jet black color. He will shake and circle the female to get her to a flat rock in his territory, then the breeding begins. The female will lay between 20-60 eggs and then immediately take them into her mouth. The male will then flare out his anal fin which has an 'egg spot' patterning. The female mistakes the patterning for her own eggs and tries to take them in her mouth as well. This stimulates the male to discharge sperm (milt cloud) and the female inhales the cloud of 'milt', thus fertilizing the eggs.
In 17 to 21 days at about 82° F, the eggs are developed. Keep in mind that the male can be so relentless at harassing the female, that she may just eat her eggs. After the male has established a "home cave", it may help to form the rockwork in a way that he cannot see past his area so that the females can hide. If all else fails, removing her to an established smaller tank with the same water may prove more successful in getting the fry to live. Some strip the female at 18 days.
The fry grow very quickly if fed well. The fry are a "bumblebee" pattern and are very cute. The released fry can are good eaters and can initially be fed Cyclopeeze. In a short time, due to their rapid growth, you can change over to crushed flake food. They can also eat eat finely powdered dry foods and brine shrimp nauplii. The female will guard the young for a few days, even taking them into her mouth if there is a perceived threat. As long as you have plenty of hiding places, your young will have an easier time surviving until they are too big to eat. When the young become obviously male they will need to be removed as the dominant male will kill them.
*The Bumblebee Mouthbrooder is a fish with a 'chameleon' ability, it can quickly change color from being yellow with stripes to almost black!
The Bumblebee Mouthbrooder has a thick robust body shape. The males can grow to about 6 inches (15 cm) in length while the smaller female will reach about 5 inches (12 cm). Mbuna cichlids can live up to 10 years with proper care.
An adult dominant male is close to a black color with dark blue vertical bars. They will change to almost all black when breeding, with some males showing bright blue speckles on their flank area. Their fins are all dark blue. The female is gold with zig zaggish dark brown vertical bars that fade to gold in the belly area and one brown horizontal bar that runs all the way to the tail. The male can change from their blue/black coloring to all dark, or change to the females coloring when cleaning parasites from a large catfish in the wild. The female can go from her coloring to a black coloring.
All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have. That is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.