African Bumblebee Cichlid (Pseudotropheus Crabro)

bumblebee cichlid

African bumblebee cichlid, also known as Pseudotropheus crabro, bee cichlid, firebelly cichlid, fire belly cichlid, or crabro, are popular freshwater aquarium fish from the Great Lakes of Africa, especially Lake Malawi in East Africa. The common name originates from their yellow and black markings that resemble those of a bumblebee.

The species originates from Lake Malawi in Eastern Africa but has been introduced to many other areas, including China and Taiwan. It belongs to the Cichlidae family of fishes and was discovered in 1932 by Henry Winge, who named it Nannacara crabro after the Greek word crabro, meaning buzzing insect, because of its tendency to make buzzing sounds when disturbed.

Pseudotropheus crabro is an African species of freshwater fish in the Cichlidae family, subfamily Pseudocrenilabrinae, tribe Pseudocrenilabrini, and genus Pseudotropheus, which includes about 50 species of cichlids from Lake Malawi and its feeder rivers in east Africa. The African bumblebee cichlid grows to about 5 inches in length and has an elongated torpedo-shaped body that ends with a rounded terminal snout.

It was first described by Regan in 1913 and named after its coloration, which looks similar to that of a bumblebee.

The African bumblebee cichlid reaches up to 5 inches (13 cm) in length and can live up to 6 years if cared for properly in an aquarium environment. Their natural habitat consists of rocky and sandy areas with caves or holes they can use as a refuge from predators such as the tigerfish.

Origin and descriptions

bumblebee cichlid

The African bumblebee cichlid is a member of Pseudotropheus crabro, a genus of cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. One subspecies, Pseudotropheus crabro lombardoi was declared extinct in 2007. The name African bumblebee cichlid originates from its resemblance to bee species that live on land and in water due to their striped and spotted coloring.

Like all members of its genus, Pseudotropheus crabro is omnivorous, eating both plants and animal matter depending on availability; algae make up most of its diet in nature. In captivity, it will eat flake food, sinking pellets, frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp (don’t offer too many or they may go off feed), spirulina flakes, or live foods such as brine shrimp or daphnia. It will also scavenge meaty foods at times.

Species profile

Pseudotropheus crabro, commonly known as African bumblebee cichlid, is a freshwater fish in the genus Pseudotropheus. It was previously grouped with Nannacara anomala but later reclassified. The type of locality for Pseudotropheus crabro is southern Malawi and it has also been reported from southeastern Zambia.

This species can be found on rocky shores of rivers and streams with thickets of shoreline vegetation in areas where water temperature ranges between 21-26°C. Feeding studies have shown that adult fishes feed on invertebrates while juveniles mainly prey on small zooplankton.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the Bumblebee cichlid is Pseudotropheus crabro.

African bumblebee cichlid habitat

African bumblebee cichlids are generally found in Lake Malawi and its nearby rivers. They prefer hard water with lots of dissolved minerals, such as carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulfates. When choosing a home for your cichlid fish, you should take care to choose a water conditioner that also contains minerals. This will help simulate their natural habitat.

Bumblebee cichlid size

This fish species can grow up to 6.3 inches (16 cm) in length.

Bumblebee cichlid tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 50 gallons for a single fish, and 70 gallons for a pair or while breeding.

Tank set up

African bumblebee cichlids are beautiful fish and a popular choice for most aquarists. Their aggressive temperament also makes them a good option for new hobbyists. These fish prefer a large aquarium of at least 50 gallons with plenty of hiding spots. Because they are social animals, they like to live in small schools and therefore should be kept in groups of five or more; however, they can be combined with other fish as long as they have ample space between them.

The tank should contain lots of rocks and plants for cover so that these fish feel safe when sleeping at night. A sand bottom is not recommended since these fish are skilled diggers who may damage your substrate attempting to build their burrows. An ideal water temperature is around 24 degrees Celsius, but will likely tolerate 18-26 degrees Celsius depending on available shelter and heater placement within your tank.

They require an air pump and airstone to create a current through your tank, although you’ll want to make sure these items cannot come into contact with any other inhabitants due to their potential lethality.

As far as diet goes, African bumblebee cichlids are omnivorous and eat both meaty foods (like bloodworms) and vegetable matter (like zucchini). To keep up with their active lifestyle, you’ll need to feed them several times per day!

African bumblebee cichlid tank mates

African bumblebee cichlids must be kept with other peaceful African cichlids. They do not do well with any other type of fish, especially ones that are more aggressive. They can be kept with larger and slower fish as long as they are compatible and don’t bother each other too much. Some examples include clownfish, damselfish, and tangs.

Other common tank mates are rainbow fish and puffers. These fish must be relatively peaceful and are a good choice for bumblebee cichlids with less aggressive personalities.

Bumblebee cichlid breeding

bumblebee cichlid

This cichlid is widely kept in freshwater aquariums. It is easy to breed, but they do not tolerate crowding. The females will become territorial and may kill other females’ fry, so it is best to provide each female with her own small cave or cave-like formation of rocks. If given too many caves, however, they may hide all day in one and never come out to eat, thus becoming emaciated.

Males are usually less aggressive than females, but when defending a territory, males can be extremely aggressive towards each other. Breeding is fairly simple; water chemistry should be soft and acidic; live foods such as Daphnia should be fed at least twice a week to ensure proper health in both adults and offspring.

They also benefit from periodic feedings of spirulina algae wafers during spawning; these contain algal pigments that tint their coloration an even redder hue which stimulates them into breeding conditions. Adults will set up territories and begin a courtship. A female who has chosen a male may show interest by swimming close to him and puffing her gill covers while he nips at her gill flaps; if she wishes to spawn, she releases eggs while he releases milt to fertilize them.

More pairs form once a suitable location for laying eggs is found. Eggs are laid on flat surfaces and guarded by both parents who aerate them with vigorous fanning motions of their pectoral fins.

Once hatched, young grow quickly on brine shrimp nauplii, in 6 months they have reached half their adult size, and in 2 months they reach 80% of it.

Are Bumblebee cichlid aggressive or peaceful?

African bumblebee cichlids are territorial and aggressive fish and will defend their territory against other African cichlids, especially of different species. Because they are territorial, male African cichlids need to be kept in a ratio of two females for every male. The females’ preference for a territory limits how many there can be at one time and prevents them from attacking each other because only one female would fit into each territory.

Bumblebee cichlid care

bumblebee cichlid

African bumblebee cichlids need a large aquarium of at least 50 gallons that is heavily planted with decors such as rockwork, driftwood, and mangroves. These fish are aggressive, so only one male per tank should be kept. They’re also schooling fish and require several females to make a school.

Schooling is necessary for these fish because they all share in cleaning algae off rocks and other decorations in their environment. This helps reduce excess algae growth and keeps their environment healthy.

Bumblebee cichlid food

Feeding is easy—they readily accept flake food or pellets—but it’s important to supplement any dry foods with frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms once a week because they usually have more nutrients and are easier for them to digest than frozen food, especially if you have just introduced them into your home aquarium after getting them from an exotic pet store or breeder.

If you choose to feed it frozen food, it must be thawed out first; otherwise, it could kill your fish!

Water parameters

bumblebee cichlid

African bumblebee cichlids do best in a water temperature of 80 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and a pH level between 7.8 and 8.4. Both values can be determined using aquarium test kits. Bumblebee cichlids thrive in soft or slightly hard water conditions with a 5 to 15 degree dH range (130 to 400 ppm), but they can also tolerate harder water with fewer minerals, as long as it’s kept clean. Water changes should be performed regularly to keep nitrate levels low; around 10 percent per week is ideal.

Bumblebee cichlid lifespan

African bumblebee cichlids are considered medium-length lived fish with a lifespan of 5-10 years. They can live longer than 10 years, but only if they’re kept in good care and properly fed.

Parasites and diseases

African bumblebee cichlids are susceptible to many types of parasites, especially flukes and nematodes. They can also suffer from a condition known as head and lateral line erosion (HLLE), which is caused by bacteria. African bumblebee cichlids should be kept in quarantine for at least two weeks before being introduced into your other fish tanks.

The tank they are quarantined in should be treated with copper or nitrifying bacteria. It’s also important to regularly change their water; both ammonia and nitrites are dangerous for bumblebee cichlids because these compounds will trigger HLLE. Water hardness should be maintained between 10-30 dH, although it’s ideal if it ranges between 15-25 dH.


Cichlids, catfish, and large barbs are the main threat to Pseudotropheus crabro. They will eat eggs and young fish. If they manage to reach the adult size, they become too big for most of their natural predators and generally live in schools; if one is attacked by a predator then it is likely that many of its schoolmates will be eaten too.

Do Bumblebee cichlid make good pets?

Yes. The African bumblebee cichlid is a relatively easy species to keep in captivity. Since these fish are aggressive and territorial, they’re best kept in a species only tank, but providing them with rocks or driftwood for shelter will allow them to become more calm.

Make sure to stock their tank with lots of live plants for cover. As long as you create an environment that mimics their natural habitat, they’ll be quite content to call your aquarium a home.