Labeotropheus Fuelleborni (Fuelleborni Cichlid)

Labeotropheus fuelleborni

Last updated on September 27th, 2022 at 11:00 am

Labeotropheus fuelleborni (or the Fuelleborni Cichlid), also known as the Blue Mbuna, can be identified by its striking blue coloration with black markings on its dorsal and tail fins. If you’re looking to add an attractive and relatively affordable species of fish to your freshwater aquarium, you may want to consider the Labeotropheus fuelleborni.

A cichlid from Lake Malawi, Labeotropheus fuelleborni, or the Fuelleborni Cichlid, is one of the most popular mbuna on the market today. This colorful and peaceful fish can make an excellent addition to your aquarium if you have the right tank conditions and tank mates.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni is a species of freshwater fish in the family Cichlidae and subfamily Pseudocrenilabrinae, from Lake Malawi in Africa. Its natural habitat is freshwater lakes and rivers.

Aquarists have long considered the Labeotropheus fuelleborni (commonly called the Blue Mbuna) to be one of the most beautiful and desirable cichlids in the market, but there are many other reasons why this fish should be part of your fish tank. Here’s everything you need to know about Labeotropheus fuelleborni care and keeping these stunning creatures in your own fish tank.

Origin and descriptions

Labeotropheus fuelleborni

The Labeotropheus fuelleborni, also known as Blue mbuna, is a species of freshwater fish in the family Cichlidae. They are endemic to Lake Malawi where they are native to rocky shorelines. The typical size for adult species is 12 inches (30 centimeters). They will readily interbreed with two other sympatric lake Malawi cichlids, Pseudotropheus demasoni and Protomelas spilonotus but currently, neither aquarium keeping nor scientific communities recognize any offshoot hybrids from these three as separate species.

The Blue Mbuna is a species of cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi. Labeotropheus fuelleborni is named after Otto H. Fuelleborn, an aquarium fish importer from Germany who imported many cichlids including those that were later described as Labeotropheus fuelleborni by Ege in 1950.

Species profile

The labeotropheus fuelleborni was first described by Werner in 1935. Labeotropheus are substrate spawners and are usually found on rocks or rubble.

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These cichlids can be kept with Mbuna from Lake Malawi but not with other types of African cichlids such as members of Haplochromis and Pseudotropheus. They eat algae, leaves, flakes, and invertebrates. They can be housed in either freshwater or brackish water aquariums. A minimum tank size of 50 gallons is suggested for these fish because they can reach up to 12 inches long.

Scientific Classification

Order: Perciformes

Family: Cichlidae

Genus: Labeotropheus

Species: L. fuelleborni

Common Names: Blue mbuna, Fuelleborni cichlid.


Labeotropheus fuelleborni is a rock-dwelling species native to Lake Malawi, Africa. They have been successfully bred in many parts of Europe. In general, they need a large tank with rocks or driftwood to create lots of nooks and crannies for hiding. The more hiding places you provide, however, the more territory they will claim.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni size

This species of fish can grow to a maximum length of 30 centimeters (12 inches)

Labeotropheus fuelleborni tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 55 gallons (208 liters)

Tank set up

The first thing to consider when setting up a Labeotropheus fuelleborni tank is what will provide you with enough cover to create a rock pile. Although they can be kept in community tanks with other mbuna, you need to make sure there are plenty of crevices for them to hide in when their territory is being threatened by other cichlids.

Other than that, your set ups need to have rocks that are big enough for them to dig into as well as an open swimming area. Due to their incredible digging ability, the substrate should consist of sand or fine gravel, because if you choose to use dirt, it’s only a matter of time before your aquarium turns into a mud pit!

Make sure all decor is anchored down securely so it doesn’t get moved out of place by these aggressive diggers; otherwise, your fish will destroy everything in its path.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni tank mates

The most important thing to remember about other tank mates for Labeotropheus fuelleborni is that they need to be significantly larger than it is. There are some fish that will work well with blue mbuna like Pseudotropheus demasoni, Pterochromis sp. as well as many different types of peacock cichlids.

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Other common tank mates are Cyprichromis leptosoma, Cyprichromis johannii, Julidochromis dickfeldi, and others from Lake Malawi. They will not get along with Mbuna like Pseudotropheus saulosi or Pseudotropheus heterorhabdus. Male Labeotropheus fuelleborni can be kept together if they reach similar sizes, but a larger male will always fight with a smaller male.


Labeotropheus fuelleborni

Neolamprologus fuelleborni prefer to breed in water with a pH of 8.0–8.4, a hardness of 12–20 °dGH, and a temperature range of 22–26°C (72–79°F). Like other species in their genus, they form monogamous pairs. When two fish pair off they will be extremely aggressive towards others.

Unlike many other mbuna that actively defend their territories, however, these cichlids are not quick to abandon them during courtship.  A male and female may court for as long as three months before spawning occurs. If one or both were previously mated, it may take longer for them to become interested again.

During breeding, males establish territory where females can lay eggs; he also guards her against other potential suitors by chasing away intruders. The female excavates a depression about 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) across on rocks at least 50 cm (20 in) below the water surface.

She then deposits 2-3 clutches of 400-600 eggs over several days during which she is guarded very closely by her mate who continues to drive away other would-be competitors. Pairs remain together for about 1–2 weeks after breeding.

Parents do not eat their brood but instead guard them until they reach 3-5 mm (0.12–0.20 in) when they disperse into open water and fend for themselves. This cichlid feeds voraciously on invertebrates including crustaceans, insects, and worms. In aquariums, it readily accepts live foods such as mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex worms.

Are Labeotropheus fuelleborni aggressive or peaceful?

Like other Mbuna cichlids, Labeotropheus fuelleborni are territorial and generally considered aggressive. This species is more prone to aggression if there are too many fish in a tank than due to territoriality. They should not be kept with peace-loving species such as Utakas and peacocks.

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Labeotropheus fuelleborni care

Labeotropheus fuelleborni

Labeotropheus fuelleborni (Fuelleborn’s mbuna cichlid) is one of a group of cichlids known as mbunas. These colorful, peaceful fish are great for beginners. They are very social and therefore need to be kept in groups of 4 or more when young, with 8 being optimal. If kept in smaller groups, they will bully other fish including each other until they have established pecking order.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni diet

These fish are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. In general, they prefer meatier foods; try supplementing their diet with sinking pellets or frozen meaty foods such as brine shrimp. Since they’re so aggressive, you don’t have to worry about whether your other fish will get enough to eat; as long as there’s food in front of them, they won’t pay any attention to what their tank mates are up to.

Water profile

Very soft to moderately hard, acidic pH 6.0–7.5 water is best for L. fuelleborni. The substrate should be composed of crushed coral or very fine sand and have a ratio of 2 parts sand to 1 part crushed coral, or 4 parts rubble to 1 part crushed coral.

Loose rock can also be used, but it should not exceed 30% of the total surface area, as these fish will often dig into it with their shovel-like snouts. A deep sand bed about 15 cm in depth is ideal for these fish as it mimics their natural habitat in Lake Malawi where they live among sunken logs and other objects in sands no deeper than 10 cm.

Labeotropheus fuelleborni lifespan

Labeotropheus fuelleborni

The average lifespan of Labeotropheus fuelleborni in their natural habitat is around 8 to 10 years. In captivity, however, they can live up to 12 years.

Parasites and diseases

Both Labeotropheus fuelleborni and other species of mbuna, particularly those in Lake Malawi, can be susceptible to a number of parasites. While usually not fatal, if parasites are present, it is generally a good idea to quarantine new fish for a few weeks before adding them to your main tank.

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Some common diseases include ich (coccidia), velvet disease, and hole-in-the-head disease. Ich tends to be hardy enough that treating with medicated food or salt isn’t necessary; just let nature run its course as you monitor how well your fish look and act.


Though Labeotropheus fuelleborni are not usually targeted by large predators, there have been some incidents where these fish were preyed upon by groupers, larger cichlids, or catfish. They are small for cichlids, but their bright colors make them attractive to larger fish. Although a predator is not likely in an aquarium setting, it’s best to take steps to minimize risk as much as possible.

Some common predators are  -Grouper fish such as Epinephelus striatus, Epinephelus coioides, Mycteroperca tigris, Plectropomus leopardus, Serranochromis multispinosus, Labroides dimidiatus, Synodus foetens, and Cichlids such as Julidochromis marlieri, Pseudotropheus crabro.

Do Labeotropheus fuelleborni make good pets?

Yes and no. They can make good pets if you are an experienced hobbyist. But Labeotropheus fuelleborni (Fuelleborni Cichlid) is not a good choice for beginner aquarium hobbyists. They are extremely aggressive and territorial. If you choose to keep them, it is important to plan your tank properly.

The fish should be housed with similar fish that are as large or larger than themselves. In addition, each male needs his own cave for breeding which limits how many males can comfortably inhabit a tank at once.