chisumulae is an attractive
little mbuna that should be kept
by everyone at least once. It is
often overshadowed by its more popular
and well known cousin the “electric
yellow” Labidochromis caeruleus.
This is a shame because this Rift
Lake jewel is one of the few Malawi
mbuna that can be successfully maintained
in smaller aquaria.
is found in the sediment-rich rocky
habitat around Chizumulu Island.
Lone individuals can be seen “picking”
amongst the rocks and caves in search
of small insects and other invertebrates.
This mode of feeding is identical
to that of Labidochromis caeruleus,
and as such both are classified
as insectivores. It is important
to note that not all mbuna are vegetarians
as is commonly believed.
L. chisumulae will reach
an adult size of 3 - 4” with
the males being the larger of the
two sexes. Females and juveniles
have a beautiful iridescent white
base colouration with a hint of
bluish-purple stripes concentrated
towards the head. Adult males will
have very intense barring beginning
at the eyes and continuing about
two-thirds of the way down the body.
The dorsal fin is almost black and
blends into the barring, which changes
from black to more of a purple colouration
towards the belly. Similarly, the
first stripe extends through the
eye to the base of the cheek. The
intensity of colouration depends
entirely on mood and the individual’s
social standing in the aquarium.
Accommodating the needs of L.
chisumulae needs is quite easy
to do. It is a good cichlid for
beginners as it can live in aquariums
as small as 30 gallons, although
a larger tank would be preferred.
Decorating the aquarium with some
rocks and making sure there are
a few small caves will help to bring
out natural behaviours and allow
for subdominant fish to seek shelter
from any aggression. A sex ratio
of one male to two females (or more)
is preferred so that no female will
be singled out by any overly amorous
males. Breeding is easily accomplished
in the aquarium and follows the
brooding sequence. Depending
on several factors, including age
and size, a female will typically
release 5-20 fry after 18-28 days.
Any of the commonly prepared dry
foods supplemented with live or
frozen foods, such as Mysis shrimp,
Daphnia or brine shrimp, make for
an excellent diet. Although some
plant matter is consumed incidentally
in the wild, it should be stressed
that this fish is not a vegetarian.
Some spirulina flakes in the diet
will be beneficial for both health
and colouration. L. chisumulae
is a more mild-mannered mbuna which
should not be kept with very large
or very aggressive fish. Most small
to medium sized mbuna will make
for suitable tankmates. Temperament,
size and diet also allow for L.
chisumulae to be successfully
kept with peacocks (Aulonocara
spp.) and other small to medium
In conclusion Labidochromis
chisumulae is a highly attractive
and very versatile fish that deserves
more attention than it has heretofore
received. It has the qualities that
many people with limited space desire
and I hope that everyone attempts
to keep this fish at least once.