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Labidochromis chisumulae
by Ryan Bartal (aka RyanB)

Nature Organism Fish Adaptation Fin

Labidochromis 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.

Labidochromis chisumulae 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 standard mouth 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 sized haplochromines.

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.
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