The Bumblebee will do best in a cichlid community aquarium. Provide numerous rocks and caves and a sandy bottom with plenty of places to set up territories. A laterite-based substrate is ideal for this system as it will help to maintain the necessary high pH and alkalinity.
The Bumblebee Mouthbrooder Pseudotropheus crabro is an attractive fish has definitely been named for its appearance. As a juvenile it has a striped yellow and black 'bumblebee' patterning. So today its commonly called the Bumblebee Mouthbrooder or Bumblebee Cichlid, but it is also known as the Hornet Cichlid.
The name 'hornet' as well as its scientific species name 'crabo' were derived from the European Hornet Vespa crabro, as both of these species are large sized and have a similar color patterning. Even before these two names though, and before it was scientifically described, it was called Pseudotropheus "chameleo" for its chameleon-like color changing ability.
This cichlid tends to change colors very rapidly, going from an almost totally black fish to a yellowish fish with bold black bars. They use this ability in their "pseudo-symbiotic" relationship with a large cave-dwelling catfish, the Kampango Bagrus meridionalis. In its gold and black barred coloring, the cichlid advertises its cleaning services and is safely allowed to pick parasites from the skin of the catfish. But on a darker note, when these catfish spawn the Bumblebee will turn almost black. Like a thief in the night, they sneakily eat the spawning catfish eggs. If it is seen, it will quickly revert back to the yellow and black color and resume its cleaning duties.
The fish is a member of a group of cichlids called Mbunas. There are 12 genera full of very active and aggressive personalities. The name Mbuna comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means "rockfish" or "rock-dwelling". This name aptly describes the environment these fish live in as opposed to being open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other "haps".
Bumblebee Cichlid's or Crabro Cichlids originate from Lake Malawi, where they are found in deeper waters live in caves or near large rocky formations. The Bumblebee Cichlid shares these caves with the Kampango Catfish, which is a large aggressive species. The two species have a partial symbiotic relationship in that the Bumblebee Cichlid will eat parasites off of the Kampango Catfish and in return the Kampango will not eat the Bumblebee Cichlid. In the dark watery caves, the Kampango Catfish uses the lighter gold and brown/black barred pattern of the Bumblebee Cichlid to identify it and not treat it as prey. However, the Bumblebee Cichlid can rapidly change their coloration to a very dark almost black coloration that they use to mimic the appearance of the Kampango in order to feed on their eggs during breeding season. After feeding on the Kampango eggs, the Bumblebee Cichlid is quick to adjust it's coloration and pattern back to the gold and brown striped pattern so they can remain safe inside the cave with the larger catfish. Bumblebee Cichlids must be aggressive in the wild in order to coexist in close quarters with other larger predators and steal eggs while doing it, so it is important to remember that they will also be very aggressive within the aquarium environment as well. The Bumblebee Cichlid makes a great addition to aggressive African Cichlid aquariums and larger community African Cichlid aquariums provided that the habitat is properly designed and large enough to provide the necessary territories for the fish being housed.
When considering a Bumblebee Cichlid for your African Cichlid aquarium, the most important aspect to consider is the aggressiveness of the species. They are easy to care for and do not have many specific needs when kept within an aquarium, but they are quite aggressive and will need to be housed with proper tank mates in a reasonably sized aquarium. It is critical to consider this when choosing tank mates as the Bumblebee Cichlid will quickly dominate less aggressive species, which could very well mean killing them. The best ways to mitigate this aggression is to keep them with other larger aggressive species, create aqua-scaping that provides a large variety of territories with plenty of caves, house them in large aquariums that will allow them to establish territory without taking over the entire aquarium and lastly, keeping them with many other aggressive species so that aggression is spread out amongst many fish. Bumblebee's will appreciate an aquarium setup that has a sandy substrate and plenty of large rocky caves. Quality biological, mechanical and chemical filtration along with partial water changes are critical to maintaining high water quality levels that mimic the water conditions of the Bumblebee Cichlids native rift lake home.
The omnivorous Bumblebee Cichlid is an aggressive feeder that in the wild scratches out an existence eating parasites, stealing and eating other fishes eggs and preying on a variety of meaty planktonic foods. When kept in an aquarium environment the Bumblebee will readily accept a large variety of meaty foods including: cichlid flake, pellet, sticks, frozen and freeze-dried foods, blood worms, tubifex worms and other similar meaty foods. Simply provide them some variety to their diet so that they receive balanced nutrition and the Bumblebee Cichlid will be more than satisfied with most any meaty fare.
Keep this cichlid in a group of one male to six or more females. Make sure to provide rock formations with multiple hiding places to ward off brutal aggression from the male. They can also be kept in a very large aquarium of mixed Mbuna with plenty of hiding places, but this cichlid male will be dominant. Success is dependent on the aquarists willingness to do frequent water changes, have sufficient numbers and hiding places, and provide appropriate tank mates.
The streams that flow into Lake Malawi have a high mineral content. This along with evaporation has resulted in alkaline water that is highly mineralized. Lake Malawi is known for its clarity and stability as far as pH and other water chemistries. It is easy to see why it is important to watch tank parameters with all Lake Malawi fish.
Rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water but are not found in brackish waters. Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness. This cichlid has some salt tolerance so can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
A 50 gallon tank will work for a single fish. A 100 gallons or more, and at least 5 feet in length, will be needed if housed with other compatible fish. The Bumblebee Cichlid will do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but needs good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration.
Provide a fine gravel or coarse substrate along with lots of rocks and bogwood with multiple hiding places for sub-dominant and brooding fish. The addition of crushed coral can help keep the pH up. A very slow acclimation to different pH levels can sometimes be achieved. Crushed coral or aragonite sands do tend to dissolves easier than salts. Keeping a higher pH however, means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes are a must for these fish. Some open space is appreciated as well. Hardy fast growing plants, such as Giant Vallisneria or Cryptocoryne species can also be included.
- Minimum Tank Size: 50 gal (189 L) - A single fish can be kept in a 50 gallon tank, but a group will need 100 gallons or more with a length of at least 5 feet.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: No
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
- Temperature: 78.0 to 82.0° F (25.6 to 27.8° C)
- Range ph: 8.0-14.0
- Hardness Range: 10 - 18 dGH
- Brackish: Sometimes - Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% - a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Water Region: Middle - These fish will swim in the middle and bottom areas of the aquarium.
For best results in spawning, the males should be kept with at least three females. The female will spawn on a flat rock and will take the unfertilized eggs into her mouth and will follow closely behind the male until he releases the sperm to fertilize the eggs. The female will tend to the eggs for approximately three weeks before releasing the fry. The fry can then be fed newly hatched brine shrimp, daphnia, or crushed flake food.
The Bumblebee Cichlid should be fed foods rich in vegetable matter such as flake, pellet, and leafy seaweeds. Their diet should also be supplemented with meaty plankton-rich foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms.