How to Care for Bumblebee Cichlids?

Bumblebee Cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro / Maylandia crabro) is commonly referred to as Chameleon Cichlid or Hornet Cichlid. The fish is native to deep water caves found in Lake Malawi, Africa.

It is also one of the fish species known as Mbuna. Scientifically, this fish was described as Pseudotropheus due to its color-changing ability like chameleons.

In the past, the genus Pseudotropheus was commonly used to refer to varieties of Mbuna species inhabiting Lake Malawi.

But further revisions have led to the split of this genus into three different sub-genera: Pseudotropheus Tropheops, Pseudotropheus Pseudotropheus, and Pseudotropheus Maylandia. At the moment the Bumblebee Cichlid is placed under the genus Pseudotropheus.

On average, the Bumblebee Cichlid grows up to six inches in length. And can live for more than 10 years in captivity if the tank water conditions and other vital parameters are favorable.

Bumblebee Cichlid Appearance

You can distinguish Bumblebee Cichlids from other Mbuna species by looking at its physical attributes. The fish is characterized by a thick, robust body shape for both males and females. Males grow to about six inches and are larger than females

A mature dominant male Psedotropheus Crabro has dark blue vertical bars against its black body. But he can change to look entirely black, especially during the mating season.

Some males can display bright blue speckles along their front area. But the fins are usually dark blue in color for some males.

A female, however, has a blend of gold and zig-zag dark brown vertical bars on her body. This color mixture sometimes fades to gold around the belly region. You can also see a brown horizontal bar running all the way to her tail.

Male Bumblebee Cichlids can change their color from blue-black to all dark. In some cases, they can transform themselves to look like females when removing parasites from the catfish in the wild. But the females can change from their usual coloring to black at certain times.

Just like other cichlids, the Bumblebee Cichlids have a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in their throat. They also have spiny rays at their anal, pectoral, pelvic, and pectoral fins.

They use these spiny rays to keep away potential predators. They have a single nostril on either side as opposed to other fish species which have two sets.

Bumblebee Cichlid Natural Habitat

In the wild, Bumblebee Cichlids occupy various habitats. But they prefer rocky or sad-rock substrates next to large boulders. They tend to spend most of their time inside large caves within their natural habitat. That is why they are endemic to the deep rocky natural habitat of Lake Malawi, Africa.

So when preparing their dwelling place in the tank, make sure to replicate a habitat similar to what they are used to in the wild. Provide some rocks, caves, and other places to hide while setting up their tank.

A sandy bottom or substrate with several aquatic plants will also make their new home habitable and lively. Most importantly, you can add a laterite-based substrate to help maintain high pH levels and alkalinity.

Bumblebee Cichlid Fish Tank Requirements

Bumblebee is a great aquarium fish for both the experienced and intermediate hobbyists. The fish is large in size, territorial, and extremely aggressive. This means that it requires a relatively large tank as well as appropriate water parameters to enjoy its stay in captivity.

– Tank Size

The most ideal tank size for the Bumblebee Cichlids is a 50-gallon aquarium for just one fish. But if you want to raise more than one fish, then you should consider going for at least a 100-gallon tank.

This tank should be 5 ft in length if you are going to house them with other tank mates. Make sure to aquascape the environment to mimic the rocky reef effect where cichlids thrive in their natural habitat.

– Decoration

Remember that the tank should be at least 5 ft long and adequately aquascaped. The aquascaping must replicate the Bumblebee Cichlid’s natural habitat to make them feel at home.

So ensure that you include plenty of caves and other similar features that will help your fish explore its surrounding.

Use ocean rocks to construct sturdy structures that stretch from the tank bottom to the water surface. The structures must be built to create as many crevices as possible. The construction needs to keep the rocks or other structures stable.

Aquatic plants such as Cryptocoryne and Giant Vallisneria are a good choice for this fish species. These plants are hardy and fast-growing, which means they will provide cover to your fish throughout.

– Substrate

Any substrate is suitable for your Bumblebee Cichlid. But a course or fine gravel can still do better. A laterite substrate is also an excellent option for all types of cichlids including the Pseudotropheus crabro.

The substrate will play a vital role in maintaining the required pH levels in the tank water. Sometimes whitish coral sand, regular decorative gravels, and black freshwater sand can be used as a substrate in the Bumblebee Cichlid aquariums.

You may also add Aragonite to the substrate to help maintain water hardness throughout.

Bumblebee Cichlid Water Conditions

Most cichlids deteriorate when subjected to poor water conditions. This includes the Bumblebee Cichlids. The fish eat a lot of food and can be messy and affect water quality in the tank.

An established and efficient filtration system combined with frequent water changes can keep the environment within the tank clean.

So you should consider changing 20 to 40 % tank water weekly depending on bioload. Such changes will ensure that your fish remains healthy throughout while in captivity.

Besides the frequent changing of water, you should also take into account other water parameters. These include water temperature, pH levels, and water hardness.

With the temperature, Bumblebee Cichlids prefer 78.0 to 82 ℉ to survive in their habitat. The same temperature range can still work in their favor while in captivity.

They also live comfortably in alkaline water that’s highly mineralized. That said, make sure to watch the tank parameters in relation to their natural habitat such as L. Malawi.

In this regard, the best pH levels for them should range from 8.0 all through to 14.0.

Apart from that Bumblebee Cichlids are tolerant of salty water conditions. You can add some salt to the tank to act as a buffering agent in order to increase carbonate hardness in water.

It is because this fish species can comfortably live in a slightly brackish water environment.

The salinity of about 10% (of the normal saltwater tank) and a specific gravity of at least 1.0002 are recommended as well. Don’t forget to maintain a water hardness range of between 10 and 18 dGH as part of tank water parameters.

Bumblebee Cichlid Diet and Feeding

Bumblebee Cichlid feeds mainly on insect larvae and parasites in the wild. It is likely that this fish would benefit more from eating protein-rich foods compared to other Mbuna species.

Provide them with high-quality flake foods, and some granular foods. Meaty frozen foods like the mysis shrimp, mosquito larvae, and spirulina-enriched brine shrimp can also help them achieve their dietary needs.

For a balanced diet, feed them on some vegetable matter including blanched spinach, cucumber, and romaine lettuce among others.

It is important to give them small amounts of food several times a day rather than one large feeding at one time. This helps to keep tank water quality higher for quite some time.

Do not provide them with too much food because it will lead to food wastage and water spoilage. To some extent, overfeeding them can cause an early death, which should not be the case for your pet fish.

Bumblebee Cichlid Tank Mates

Most cichlids considered rock-dwellers are extremely aggressive. They should be kept under “ controlled over-crowding” conditions to discourage territorial disputes that may end up in fatality. Additional filtration is also required to help cope with cases of heavy bioload.

Since Bumblebee Cichlid is an aggressive and territorial fish, it is recommended to place one male fish in a harem with several female fish. Avoid keeping only one female and a male cichlid fish in the same tank as it may lead to continual harassment and eventual death.

On the other hand, you should keep this species alongside other cichlids in the same tank. But avoid fish that have the same color pattern as the Bumblebee Cichlids.

Bumblebee Cichlid Breeding

During the spawning period, the male’s coloration intensifies. His aggression levels heighten in a bid to safeguard his territory.

He also chooses a suitable site for spawning before enticing a potential female into breeding with him.

Both the male and female end up in a circling dance several times until the female lays eggs. The male will then fertilize them before the female comes to pick them up.

The eggs are incubated for a period of 10-15 days after which they hatch into young fry. The female holds her fry for a few days before releasing them.


Bumblebee Cichlids are native to L. Malawi in Rift Africa just like most other cichlids known so far. Their ideal tank conditions should be almost similar to their natural habitat.

Parameters such as temperature, pH, and water hardness should be just right for their survival.

African Cichlids   Updated: September 16, 2021
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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