The Labidochromis sp. "Mbamba",
or "Yellow Top Mbamba", is found
in and around Mbamba Bay in Lake
Malawi, particularly in the southern
area of the bay. Although the males
of this species are spectacularly
coloured, in my experience they
are less popular than other species
of Labidochromis, most notably
the Lab. caeruleus, "Hongi",
This species of Labidochromis
tends to be much more aggressive
and active then Labidochromis
caeruleus (yellow labs), and
have been described as similar in
temperament to M. estherae
(Red Zebra's). This being said,
Lab. sp. "Mbamba"
are usually less aggressive then
most mbuna, and tend to reserve
that aggression to their own kind.
However, the aggression usually
only extends to chasing the intruder
away from the dominant male's territory,
as opposed to constant harassment.
Males tend to start colouring up
at two months, and exert dominance
early on. The males of this species
show black vertical bars overlapping
a bluish background on the body.
The dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins
are black, with the dorsal and anal
fins completed with a yellow stripe
on the outer edge. The anal and
pelvic fins may be finished with
a whitish stripe, and the bluish
body usually melts into a yellow
tail. This produces a spectacular
display when breeding or exerting
Female "Mbambas" are actually quite
drab in appearance compared to the
males. Their body can take on a
pink/brownish colour, and lack the
blue seen in the male. They do sport
faint stripes and the fins take
on the yellowish hue, similar to
that of the male's fins.
Adults range in size 3 - 4", and
females are generally a little smaller
in length. This species should be
kept in a tank of at least 55 gallons
to accommodate its territorial nature.
pH levels should be kept steady
between 7.5 and 8.5, complete with
a water temperature of 75 to 82°F.
Labidochromis sp. "Mbamba"
are found down to a depth of 15
metres in the lake. This species
feeds on algae, crustaceans, insects,
and other forms of smaller aquatic
life that it finds in the bio-cover.
In the aquarium, it should be fed
a mixed diet including; flakes rich
in spirulina, regular flake food,
brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, cyclops
and cichlid pellets. I find that
mine enjoy the occasional treat
of fresh greens and vegetables along
with their normal food.
I have found that "Mbamba's" are
quite easy to breed. The male can
get fairly aggressive trying to
entice the female, so plenty of
rockwork with caves for hiding places
should be available to escape his
advances, both before and after
breeding. The female will generally
hold for approximately 28 days.
Females generally have spawns of
6-35 fry, depending on the age and
size of the female. Fry are usually
free swimming at 14 days with egg
sacs visible, and after a couple
of days hugging the bottom, they
start to move around more freely.
Immediately after being stripped
they react to your movement, and
seek out dark places to hide. One
word of warning: if you use a darker
sand like I do, they blend in incredibly
well, even though they have their
stripes. As the fry become older,
the stripes on the males become
darker, and they will start to show
dominance at two months. Some males
are very apparent, simply due to
their territorial attitude towards
the other fry. Fry will also begin
to colour up from two to three months
old, and the males should be exhibiting
fairly nice colour by four months.
These "Yellow Top Mbamba"
juveniles will become sexually active
starting at 8 months.
All in all, the "Yellow Top
Mbamba" is a fairly peaceful
fish that can be kept with most
other mbuna. It is a nice addition
to the Labidochromis family
with its unique colouration. If
you enjoy keeping Labs, but are
looking for something a little different
than the regular yellow Lab, or
slightly more aggressive, the Labidochromis
sp. "Mbamba" may be a
good choice for you. □