Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba”

23. January 2023

At first sight one could think Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba” (the species is not yet scientifically described) is a typical mbuna of Lake Malawi: blue ground color, zebra stripes. But in reality Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba” is quite different. It is not a mbuna in the real sense, which are known to be algae/Aufwuchs eaters and aggressively defend their relatively large territories, because algae growth is sparse there, but a small animal picker. This can also be seen by their single pointed, forward facing teeth, which are not at all suitable for scraping off algae/Aufwuchs. L. sp. “Mbamba” thus specifically picks up small food particles. It is considered one of the most peaceful Malawi cichlids, but this should always be seen relatively. Disheveled fins can also be found in this species from time to time.

In any case Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba” is a very shy fish. And he is very exciting to watch, because he changes his colors all the time. This is how these fish communicate. In neutral dress they are light blue, the vertical stripes rather indistinct, the fins nice yellow. Strongly disturbed they become dark blue. And the boss in the ring turns black in the head area, the vertical stripes stand out intensely. Females are very light blue, going into brownish. Males that are low in the rank order turn the same color as females. One can spend hours watching a troop of perhaps 15 or 20 specimens and studying their communication!

So far this species is only known from Mbamba Bay in Tanzania, hence the name, where the species exists in four known populations. In the aquarium the usual rules of Malawi cichlid care apply: as large as possible, well-structured aquariums (i.e. many rocks, caves, hiding places), clean water, temperatures around 24-28°C, pH not below 7.5. As far as nutrition is concerned, these fish are less sensitive to the “normal” ornamental fish diet, which for many growth-eating Mbunas is nevertheless too nutrient-rich, which is why they grow significantly larger in the aquarium than in nature. A good brand flake food and frozen food in the form of small crustaceans (Artemia, Daphnia, Cyclops) ensure healthy, colorful Labidochromis.

For our customers: the animals have code 541402 on our stocklist. Please note that we supply exclusively to wholesalers.

Text & photos: Frank Schäfer