Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Labidochromis caeruleus, Malawi Cichlids-Electric yellow

Labidochromis caeruleus, Malawi cichlids-Electric yellow

Electric Yellow Cichlid this fish is from Lake Malawi are territorial by nature, and
their aquarium should be aquascaped with plenty of rocks to provide caves and ample hiding places for female electric yellow lab.

Most of the fish contained in this category are mouth brooders and are relatively easy to breed. Appropriate levels of salt and trace elements should be added to the aquarium to promote proper health.

The naturally occurring yellow morph of L. caeruleus is popular with aquarium hobbyists.

Wikipedia Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Kingdom:       Animalia
Phylum:           Chordata
Class:             Actinopterygii
Order:             Perciformes
Family:            Cichlidae
Genus:            Labidochromis
Species:         L. caeruleus
Binomial name
Labidochromis caeruleus
Fryer, 1956

Lake Malawian Cichlid-Yellow Lab
Labidochromis caeruleus is a species of cichlid fish that is endemic to the central western coastal region of Lake Malawi in East Africa. It is also known as lemon yellow lab, the blue streak hap, the electric yellow or yellow prince, depending on the colors morph. A naturally occurring yellow-colored variant from Nkhata Bay is one of the most popular cichlids amongst aquarium hobbyists.

This species is a maternal mouthbrooder, meaning the eggs are carried, hatch, and develop in the mother’s mouth (buccal cavity), for about 28 days.

These fish are ovophiles and the male will excavate a pit in the sand within his territory, in which the female lays the eggs; the female then takes these eggs into her mouth for fertilization.

Electric yellows inhabit water with a pH between 7.8 and 8.9 and an ideal temperature range of 23–26 °C (73.4–78.8 °F).

Aquarium care

Electric yellows are peaceful compared to most other African cichlids. Despite this, like all cichlids from Lake Malawi, they are best kept in specialist cichlid aquariums with other Mbuna.

As with most cichlids, electric yellows should not be kept with freshwater community aquarium species such as Zebra Danios or Neon Tetras, they may nip the finnage of other species, and are not recommended for freshwater community aquariums because of the differences in the natural habitats between cichlids and other fish species. In an aquarium setting, their natural habitat of rocks and caves should be emulated.

Their diet should consist mostly of prepared cichlid pellets or flakes, supplemented with foods like krill, brine shrimp, and Spirulina flakes. Restrain from feeding these cichlids feeder goldfish, as they are likely carrying diseases that will cause harm to your cichlids

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallon
Care Level: Easy
Tank Conditions: 72-82°F; pH 7.8-8.5;
KH 10-15
Max. Size In Aquarium: Up to 5"
Color Form: Yellow
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: Farm Raised, Thailand
Family: Cichlidae

The Electric Yellow African Cichlid is also known as the Yellow Lab or Electric Yellow Lab and gets its rather unusual name as a result of its brilliant yellow coloration, setting it apart from other cichlids.

Electric yellow

Considered a new species and referred to commercially as Labidochromis caeruleus or (Labidochromis tanganicae}, this cichlid lives in the waters of Lake Malawi between the islands of Charo and Mbowe. First displayed at Burundi in the early 1980's and exported from there, the Electric Yellow was mistakenly believed to come from Lake Tanganyika.

Small immature Electric Yellows will often not show the vivid black striping on the fins until they mature and age. This cichlid is a peaceful and shy cichlid when compared to the temperament of other African Cichlids.

Electric Yellow Cichlids would be considered semi-aggressive in standard fresh water aquarium. The aquarium should include a sandy bottom, robust plants, caves, and rocks.
The female Electric Yellow lays her eggs on the surface of rocks and then scoops them into her mouth where they brood for 18 days to 28 days before being released.

The Electric Yellow Lab needs both meaty foods and greens such as brine shrimp, blood worms, and quality flake or pellet food containing vegetable matter.
Approximate purchase size: will be small: 1" to 1-1/2" or medium: 2" to 3".

L. caeruleus is understandably one of the more popular Cichlids in the hobby, always being in demand. This is due to its bright yellow coloring and its more docile temperament.

This latter attribute makes this African Cichlid a compatible tank mate for virtually hundreds of other Lake Malawian Cichlids. Dearest to the hearts of many cichlidophiles, this mbuna gets housed with peacocks, feather fins, lamprologus, and of course other mbuna. Its omnivorous diet also makes it a versatile addition to just about any setup.

The "Electric Yellow" morph is just one of almost a dozen different morphologies seen in this species through out the lake. Labidochromis caeruleus ''Electric yellow'' female these other morphs go unnoticed, ignored, or forgotten by most hobbyists because of the omnipresent availability of the "Electric Yellow".

This color variant, while more rare in the lake, enjoys a distribution in the hobby that would easily out number the wild population by probably several hundred-fold. In fact, the "Electric Yellow" that is so popular today was only recently discovered (about 15 years ago). The discovery and subsequent public offering of this mbuna constitutes a very colorful tale.

L. caeruleusn
L. caeruleus was first identified in 1956 by G. Fryer. He described this fish as normally being white, with a black stripe through the dorsal fin, which would become a pale blue cast in breeding males (probably the morph from Nkhata Bay, Malawi).

Believe it or not, this species was named caeruleus (meaning "blue" in Latin) for this very reason. It wasn't until around 1980 that this xanthic color variant was discovered by Stuart Grant and his divers. Grant et. al supposedly discovered a small colony of "Electric Yellows" at Lion's Cove, Malawi.

Labidochromis caeruleus ''Electric yellow'' male Stuart Grant only collected a few specimens, but refused to mass-collect and export them because of the population's small numbers, fearing that they would be pushed into extinction.

Then two Swedish collectors paying a visit to Stuart Grant noticed these beautiful, bright yellow mbuna in his tanks and requested that he collect and export some for them. The story is that when he declined, these two Swedes bribed some of his divers, who knew right where they were located. They then returned to Sweden with two yellow labs, unbeknownst to Grant

From what I have read, these two yellow labs were then given as a gift to Pierre Brichard, who was very impressed by them. This is where the story gets really interesting: Brichard then took them back to his fishing operation in Burundi, along Lake Tanganyika (of all places!) and bred some 20,000 fish, all related to that pair.

Quite amazing, and he did this in less than six years time. Then, in 1986 he made them available to the public, selling them for a hefty price from what I hear. Brichard ended up making a good dollar off that pair, while Stuart Grant on Lake Malawi, who found the fish in the first place, was left holding the bag.

The story of the yellow lab doesn't end here, my friends. When Brichard put his yellow labs on the market in 1986, he called them "Labidochromis tanganicae", which caused immense confusion among hobbyists; was this a Tanganyikan Labidocrhomis species, or had Brichard collected this "new" Labidochromis from Malawi and raised it in his ponds on Lake Tanganyika?  Eventually the issue was settled, but it did cause quite a commotion. And to think, that most yellow labs in the hobby all descended from that single, illicit pair.

Stuart did capture 22 fish later on but had a bit of a spill and only a few were left. These were given to Gary Kratchovil in San Antonio, TX. You'll see him offer F1 stock from time to time. Labidochromis caeruleus ''Electric yellow'' male, a couple of years ago, a friend of a friend bought some F1 yellow labs that had been pond-raised in Africa. Surprisingly, they were no better in quality than other good yellow labs that we have seen!

There are plenty of bad strains out there - some with lots of black on the body and face. There is a morph with a whitish belly that is not as attractive. Don't be mislead into thinking that is a man-made strain. This is a naturally occurring morph that comes from Lion's Cove, along side the yellow lab we all know.

Electric yellow-yellow lab
I mention this because I have heard a lot of people bag on yellow labs and breeders, suggesting that they have been over-bred. True, there are many breeders out there that are not patient or careful and put up for sale anything that hatches. BUT, a fish can be bred for hundreds of generations and still retain is beauty and fitness, as demonstrated by Pierre Brichard.

In fact, some of the most spectacular fish you will ever see - you know, the ones that win all the shows - have been line bred. The best looking progeny from each generation are pulled out and then bred to each other. Sometimes, the best genes aren't those that come from the lake (F0), but from a carefully maintained line. This isn't unethical, in my opinion.

These people are simply selecting the more desirable traits and retaining them. If you find this reprehensible, next time you see a black-barred yellow lab next to a clean one, ask yourself which you'd rather own, or purchase for that matter.

Labidochromis caeruleus ''Electric yellow'' male before concluding, let me say a few words about this fish's behavior in both the wild as well as captivity. L. caeruleus is an omnivore, feeding primarily upon insects, snails, and mollusks; however, in the aquarium, this fish can be fed a wide assortment of foods.

I personally recommend a good Spirulina based flake food with occasional frozen food supplements, or alternatively, The European Shrimp Mix; these insectivores wander through their rocky biotope, never lingering at any particular spot, and it seems they are tolerated in the territories of most other species.

L. caeruleus prefer dark caves, but they are always careful to inspect the ceiling for prey. Likewise, in the aquarium, rock work, and particularly honeycomb limestone (aka holey rock), is appreciated.

L. caeruleus
Notice in the picture above how this female is hiding from the male, anxious to induce her to spawn with him. The hole is too small for him, but not for her! This provides her an opportunity to escape his aggressive entreaties when she is not interested or ready to spawn and as already mentioned, L. caeruleus has a very wide distribution in the lake, with the yellow morph occurring between Charo and Lions Cove on the Malawi side of the lake, at a depth of 20 meters.

Broods usually number between 15 and 20 fry; with incubation periods lasting typically 28 days. Males tend to have much more black on their pelvic and anal fins, and are usually 1/3 larger than females at adulthood. The second picture in this article is of a female and the rest are of a male. For more distinguishing photographs, look here.

Kasembe (2005). Labidochromis caeruleus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
“Labidochromis caeruleus". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved June 22, 2005.
Labidochromis caeruleus on FishBase.

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Deanna Balestra said...

The electric yellow is a great little fish to have in your highly decorated tanks with lots of little places to hid. Their bright colors pop out as they dart around the tank or peek from their hiding spaces. This is one of our favorites and thank you for writing such a great article about them. I will be bookmarking and referring back to this material about their feeding and tips on decorating the tank.

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