Comprehensive Guide to Bumblebee Cichlid: Size, Care, Tank Mates, and Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

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Bumblebee Cichlid

Pseudotropheus crabro, better known as the Bumblebee Cichlid or Hornet Cichlid, is a tropical freshwater fish species with a colorful personality to match its striking appearance. Noted for their vibrant hues and distinctive patterns, they’ve captured the hearts of aquarium hobbyists across the globe.

In this guide, we will dive into the world of Bumblebee Cichlids, unearthing everything you need to know about these enchanting creatures, from understanding their origins and physical characteristics to gaining insights into their lifespan and what influences them.

As an aspiring or seasoned aquarist, you’ll uncover practical tips for providing the ideal care for these spectacular swimmers. Plus, you’ll learn about their dietary preferences, essential water conditions, and how to set up the perfect aquatic home for them.

We’ll also explore the dynamics of maintaining a harmonious tank environment by identifying suitable tank mates for your Bumblebee Cichlids and advising on those to avoid. The journey doesn’t stop there – we will navigate the intriguing process of breeding these beauties and touch upon essential health aspects to ensure your Hornet Cichlids thrive.

Prepare to embark on an aquatic adventure into the captivating world of Bumblebee Cichlids. By the end of this guide, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to create a thriving environment for these enchanting creatures. Let’s dive in!

Bumblebee Cichlid Stats
Lifespan10 years
Size5-6 inches
Minimum Tank Size50 gallons
Ease of CareEasy
Water Temperature76°F to 82°F (24-28°C)
Water Hardness10-18 dGH

Bumblebee Cichlid Species Summary

Bumblebee Cichlids hail from a giant body of water in Africa known as Lake Malawi. This lake is a celebrity in its own right as it hosts a vast array of fish species, more than any other lake on Earth.

The Bumblebee Cichlids enjoy the rocky sections of this lake, where they have ample nooks and crannies to explore and use as hideouts. Watching these fish zipping around their rocky territories is a real treat in a home aquarium setup!


Bumblebee Cichlids are pretty tough and can live for quite a while. In fact, these fish can stick around in your aquarium for up to 10 years with good care, and you’ll have lots of time to observe and enjoy their lively personalities!

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

The Bumblebee Cichlid is truly an eye-catching sight. Its body boasts a vibrant mix of yellow and black patterns, much like the buzzing insect it’s named after. This colorful display is sure to bring a splash of brightness to your aquarium.

Aside from that, Bumblebee cichlids possess other distinctive physical features. Take their fins, for instance. Unlike many other fish species, these cichlids possess small, short tails and dorsal fins, subtly marked with slight indentations. Yet, don’t let their small fin size fool you. Despite this, Bumblebee cichlids can attain an impressive length of up to six inches long.

Their heads are adorned with large, black eyes and a capacious mouth. While aesthetically pleasing, these features are not solely for show. Indeed, their sizable mouth plays an instrumental role in both their feeding habits and their intriguing breeding practices.

Bumblebee cichlids are renowned for their reproductive behavior – they are mouthbrooders. This fascinating practice entails the fish carrying their fertilized eggs and hatchlings in their mouth until they’re mature enough to venture out on their own. The mouth of the Bumblebee cichlid, thus, serves a dual purpose, being integral for both nourishment and nurturing their young.

Perhaps one of the most astonishing features of Bumblebee cichlids is their dual set of teeth. Indeed, they are blessed with two distinct sets, one in their mouth and another in their throat, known as a pharyngeal jaw. This secondary set of teeth functions like an internal food processor, breaking down tough food into easily digestible bits.

In the wild, these cichlids primarily feed on small crustaceans. Their pharyngeal jaw is nature’s masterstroke, enabling them to crush and consume the hard shells of their prey effortlessly. This feature amplifies their feeding efficiency, underscoring how Bumblebee cichlids are marvelously adapted to thrive in their environment.


Sporting robust bodies, male Bumblebee cichlids can reach an impressive nearly 6-inch length, while their female counterparts average slightly over 5 inches. Their larger size, coupled with their bold demeanor, can be a challenge for ill-prepared community tanks, transforming these fish into a potential hazard.

Bumblebee Cichlid Care

Hornet Cichlid

Renowned for their resilience yet aggressive nature, Bumblebee cichlids can pose a challenge to unseasoned aquarists.

However, with the correct knowledge of the species’ habits and behaviors, even beginners can successfully manage these hardy fish. When appropriately nurtured and fed a balanced diet, these striking fish, with their unique black and yellow patterns, bring vibrant life to freshwater aquariums.

While easy to care for, each species has its nuances, and the Bumblebee cichlid is no exception. Below, we will discuss the various elements that need to be considered when keeping these fish in captivity.

1. Optimum Tank Size

Due to their territorial nature, it is crucial to provide ample space for Bumblebee cichlids. The ideal tank size should start at 50 gallons for one fish, with an increase of 50 gallons for each additional Bumblebee cichlid you introduce.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

Bumblebee cichlids hail from Africa’s Lake Malawi, a tropical environment they prefer to have replicated in their tanks. The ideal water temperature for these cichlids ranges from 76 to 82°F (24 – 28°C) and a hardness of 10-18 dGH. If you plan to keep Bumblebee cichlids in a community tank, ensuring all species can thrive in the same temperature range is vital.

These fish prefer slightly acidic water, thriving best at a pH of 7.8 to 8.6. Adding crushed coral to the tank can help maintain these levels, but monitoring is essential to prevent the pH from rising too high, which could prove harmful to all tank inhabitants.

3. What To Put In Their Tank

Selecting the right substrate for your Bumblebee cichlids’ tank is paramount. The substrate should be fine and free of sharp edges to facilitate their digging activities and prevent accidents.

As for any Mbuna cichlid, their aquarium should feature numerous rocks to offer refuge, territorial markers, and ample swimming space. Also, ensure to properly arrange the rocks to form various-sized caves to provide territories and hiding spots for the fish.

Note: The most critical components of a Mbuna aquarium are rocks and caves, along with an easily excavated substrate. These elements provide territories for each fish and serve as hiding places during bouts of aggression. Encouraging algae growth is beneficial to the ecosystem and the fish, which feed on algae and biofilms present in the aquarium.

4. Common Bumblebee Cichlid Diseases: What To Look Out For

While Bumblebee cichlids are hardy fish and not prone to species-specific diseases, they may contract Ich, a common freshwater fish disease, which manifests as white spots across the fish’s body.

Other diseases to be aware of are swim bladder disease and Malawi bloat.

Swim bladder disease is a common issue that affects the fish’s buoyancy, causing them to stay at the water’s surface, typically resulting from overfeeding. On the other hand, Malawi bloat is a disease of the fish’s digestive system, commonly affecting kept African cichlid, forcing them to sink to the substrate.

Fortunately, most diseases and infections are treatable, and many pet stores carry disease-specific treatments. It’s also best to move sick fish to a hospital tank to prevent the spreading of the disease, and new fish should be quarantined for three weeks before being introduced to community tanks.

Note: Maintaining a clean aquarium is the best preventive measure against disease. Regular partial water changes, algae control, and a nutritious diet can significantly improve the health of your Bumblebee cichlids, ensuring a vibrant, healthy aquarium for you to enjoy.

Food & Diet

Bumblebee cichlids are omnivores, and when it comes to food, they have a diverse palate. In the wild, their diet primarily consists of insect larvae, small crustaceans, and fish eggs. However, captive-bred counterparts should be provided with a combination of plant-based food and fish flakes, and you’ll want to ensure that their diet is high in protein.

For convenience, dried fish food flakes and pellets serve as an excellent food source for Bumblebee cichlids. Treat them occasionally with live and frozen delicacies like mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and mysis shrimp. As for vegetables, you can offer them blanched spinach, romaine lettuce, cucumber, nori seaweed, and zucchini.

Regarding feeding routines, you’ll want to feed them 2-3 times a day. Also, you’ll want to avoid overfeeding by limiting their food to a quantity they can consume within a few minutes.

Note: Regarded as feeder fish, Bumblebee cichlids feed on parasites found in water bodies, contributing to maintaining a healthy aquatic environment. Therefore, it’s common to see a large catfish and a Bumblebee cichlid paired in an aquarium, where the cichlid helps keep the catfish parasite-free.

Behavior & Temperament

Bumblebee cichlids are known for their aggressive temperament and territorial nature, in which they can be quite ferocious in defending their portion of the tank, especially if they feel threatened.

Apart from their territorial and aggressive behavior, Bumblebee Cichlids are also quite active. They love to explore every inch of the tank, digging around for food and seeking out places to hide. And you’ll typically spot these cichlids navigating the middle and lower sections of the tank.

Note: Male cichlids are particularly aggressive and often engage in heated disputes with other males for breeding rights. So, you’ll want to segregate males to minimize confrontations, and a good rule of thumb is to keep a ratio of one male to three female Bumblebee cichlids.

Bumblebee Cichlid Ideal Tank Mates

Bumblebee Cichlid Tank Mates

Despite their aggressive nature, Bumblebee cichlids can coexist in community tanks. You just need to be selective when choosing tankmates. You’ll want to avoid any fish that are smaller than your Bumblebees, as they may become targets of aggression.

The best tankmates for these aggressive fish are other residents of Lake Malawi, such as:

  • Chipokae cichlid
  • Electric Yellow Lab
  • Golden Mbuna
  • Maingano cichlid
  • Peacock cichlid
  • White Tail Aceis

They make excellent companions due to their comparable care needs and aggression levels.

There are many non-Lake Malawi species that can make good Bumblebee cichlid tank mates as well. These include:

  • Bala Shark
  • Bristlenose Pleco
  • Fairy cichlid
  • Lemon cichlid
  • Silver Dollar
  • Zebra Pleco

Breeding Bumblebee Cichlids

Breeding Bumblebee cichlids in captivity is certainly achievable with the right environment and care. Starting with young Bumblebee cichlids and allowing them to naturally pair off as they mature is perhaps the easiest.

However, if you have adult male and female specimens, you can perform a larger-than-usual water change to trigger breeding. Also, ensuring a clean tank and providing the fish with a nutritionally rich diet can stimulate breeding.

The male engages the female in a courtship ritual that involves circling her. The onset of breeding is typically signaled by the male darkening significantly in color. He then proceeds to entice the female to a flat rock or a hole in his territory’s substrate. This is where fertilization takes place.

The female Bumblebee cichlid lays approximately 20 to 60 eggs, which she then collects in her mouth. The male, sporting an anal fin pattern that mimics the egg colors, tricks the female into trying to gather these ‘eggs,’ prompting the male to release sperm and fertilize the actual eggs.

Bumblebee cichlids are mouthbrooders, meaning the female fish will carry the eggs in her mouth, typically for up to 21 days, until they hatch. The offspring, or fry, carry the beautiful “bumblebee” pattern initially fed on Cyclopeeze but can transition to consuming brine shrimps, crushed flakes, daphnia, and powdered dry foods over time.

Note: During breeding, the male Bumblebee cichlid will relentlessly pursue the female until she is ready to spawn. This process can sometimes stress the female, causing her to consume her eggs. Therefore, it’s crucial to arrange the male’s territory in such a way that he can’t constantly see the female.

Spotting Gender Differences in Bumblebee Cichlids

Typically, males are larger and display blue markings, while females are smaller, sporting yellow hues. However, it’s important to note that males can adopt the color patterns of females, making it somewhat challenging to distinguish between the genders based solely on color. Therefore, careful observation of both size and the shape of the anal fin is crucial.

In addition to size and color, the presence of clearly pronounced egg spots can also aid in gender identification. Males usually display two to four noticeable egg spots, whereas females exhibit just one or two egg spots.


As we wrap up this guide, it’s clear that Bumblebee cichlids are more than just a decorative addition to your aquarium.

They are living beings with specific needs and behaviors that, when respected and catered for, lead to a healthier, more vibrant life for them. Nurturing Bumblebee cichlids may come with its challenges, but the joy and satisfaction they bring make it all worth the effort.

Immerse yourself in the rewarding journey of fishkeeping, using this comprehensive guide as your beacon, and witness the vibrant vitality of Bumblebee cichlids firsthand.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bumblebee Cichlids

Q1: What size do Bumblebee Cichlids reach when fully grown?

Male Bumblebee Cichlids can grow up to 6 inches, while females typically reach a size of just over 5 inches.

Q2. What species are the best tank mates for Bumblebee Cichlids?

Due to their aggressive nature, Bumblebee cichlids are best paired with fellow Lake Malawi residents such as Golden Mbuna, Maingano cichlid, Peacock cichlid, and White Tail Aceis, which have similar care needs and aggression levels.

Q3. How often should I feed my Bumblebee Cichlids?

Bumblebee Cichlids should be fed 2-3 times a day, with only the amount they can consume within a couple of minutes to prevent overfeeding.

Q4. What should be the size of the tank for Bumblebee Cichlids?

A 50-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for Bumblebee Cichlids. For every additional Bumblebee Cichlid, increase the tank size by 50 gallons.

Q5. How can I encourage my Bumblebee Cichlids to breed?

Maintaining a clean tank, feeding a highly nutritious diet, and performing a large water change can encourage breeding. Also, keep one male with multiple females in the tank, and ensure there is enough space to avoid overcrowding.

More Reading:

  • Peacock Cichlid Species Profile
  • Yellow Lab Cichlid Species Profile
  • Bumblebee Goby Species Profile