Maylandia callainos (Cobalt Blue Cichlid)

maylandia callainos

Last updated on August 4th, 2022 at 10:17 pm

Maylandia callainos, also known as the cobalt blue cichlid, blue zebra cichlid, cobalt zebra, or blue mbuna cichlids, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful fish in the world and has earned its place as one of the most popular aquarium fish available today. These fish are relatively undemanding, hardy, and fast-growing, making them ideal for beginner aquarists or anyone who doesn’t have an excessive amount of time to devote to caring for their pets.

This stunningly beautiful cichlid was discovered in the Mpimbwe River of Zambia by Chris Mayland in 1987 and was given the name cobalt blue because of its unique coloration that did not yet have an English common name.

Cichlids come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. But, as fish lovers will be quick to tell you, there are few if any fish as stunningly beautiful as the Maylandia callainos (also known as the cobalt blue cichlid).

Also known by the less-pronounceable scientific name Maylandia callainos, this South American native is the only species in its genus and can be found in the rivers of Guyana and Venezuela.

Maylandia callainos has to be one of the most stunning fish in the aquarium hobby. With their very striking cobalt blue coloration, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more attractive cichlid available for purchase in the United States and Canada. There are several different color morphs to choose from, so whether you’re looking for that blue color or not, there’s something here for everyone!

This article explores what makes these fish so spectacular and gives you the information you need to take care of your own!

Origin and descriptions

maylandia callainos

First discovered in northern Venezuela, Maylandia callainos is an endemic species of dwarf cichlid. Like many other members of its genus, it has evolved a host-specific relationship with a piscivorous mollusk that helps it find food in murky waters and maintain population stability.

It’s a dazzling color for fish of any size, with rich cobalt blue accented by flashes of vivid yellow. Even if you’re not interested in keeping them as pets or establishing them as ornamental fish, they are interesting from an evolutionary perspective and can be used to study natural selection at work on small-scale populations over time.

Native to South America, Maylandia callainos (cobalt blue cichlid) are closely related to popular aquarium fish like neon tetras and glass cats. These fish may be small in size, but they have a reputation for being one of the most beautiful freshwater species on earth.

They’re also relatively common at pet stores and online retailers, so if you have a passion for aquaria and want to see one of these stunning creatures up close, all you need is some time and patience.

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Species profiles

Maylandia callainos cobalt blue cichlids are also called peacock blue cichlids because, well, that’s exactly what they look like. Their coloring is composed of a mixture of brilliant blues and whites on a black base color. If you look closely, you’ll find that each little bit of these fish is covered in perfect, symmetrical lines that can only be described as true works of art.

They really do sparkle like diamonds! As far as petite aquarium fish goes, there may not be a more beautiful species out there.

Cobalt blue cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi, Africa. They are a genus consisting primarily of three species: Maylandia burtoni, Maylandia chilumbae, and Maylandia. maylandi; however, only one is common in fish keeping and aquarium trade, Maylandia callainos. This species can grow up to 10 cm (4 inches).

For its size, it is very hardy and easy to care for a cichlid, suited for beginners with an established tank that has sufficient biological filtration. It’s not recommended for people who have little experience as it does require frequent water changes due to its messy eating habits and bright colors that make it an obvious target for predators.


Maylandia callainos, a beautiful and sought-after fish for both aquarists and nature lovers alike, come from Lake Malawi in Africa. For easy identification purposes, you can consider it to be an inverted cross between a mbuna and a peacock cichlid. The fish are widely available throughout North America.

Cobalt blue cichlid size

The cobalt blue cichlid can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) in length.

Cobalt blue cichlid tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for Maylandia callainos is 20 gallons (76 liters)

Tank set up

A 20-gallon aquarium will be more than enough. A large rock pile with caves, swim-throughs, and hiding places is needed. An open sand substrate is preferred and they love to dig it up! They will do well with other South American cichlids such as; Herichthys cyanoguttatus and Maylandia estherae. Do not house them with Central American cichlids or Tanganyikan shell dwellers. Keep them in groups of 2 females per male.

Maylandia must be housed in a large tank and given plenty of places to hide when it’s not swimming around looking for food or patrolling its territory. If they don’t have room to swim around, they tend to get aggressive.

Your Maylandia needs plenty of rock caves and sturdy plants like Java Fern because these are what they use as their main hiding spots. Ideally, your tank would have several islands that are between 8–16 high on which you could place tall pieces of driftwood.

Labidochromis caeruleus (Yellow Lab Cichlid)

This is a fish that is best kept with some room to grow. In general, Maylandia are messy fish and need plenty of room for water changes to keep nitrates under control. This means lots of extra filtration, frequent partial water changes, and larger-than-usual water changes if you have smaller tanks.

Acclimate your cichlids slowly so they don’t get stressed, because stress can cause disease issues in them as well as other problems. Be sure not to add them when they are full-grown either; I usually wait until they are around 4 months old and then add them at night after doing a large cleaning on my tank first, just in case I might have missed anything when cleaning it by hand during daylight hours.

Cobalt blue cichlid tank mates

Maylandia callainos are a peaceful species, which makes them an ideal aquarium fish. You should not house these with other types of cichlids or fish that have similar-shaped bodies or fins. You also should not house them with aggressive bottom dwellers, like plecostomus or upside-down catfish.

Maylandia need their own space in an aquarium to fully develop their bright colors, and coloring will diminish if housed with other aggressive fish.

Some common tank mates are Malawi Mbuna, African dwarf cichlids, and even other Maylandia species. You can house more than one male if you keep them in a sufficiently sized aquarium because males will fight to determine who will be the top fish.

Maylandia callainos breeding

maylandia callainos

Maylandia Callainos are fairly easy to breed and if you follow these simple steps you will be on your way to enjoying some great offspring. Firstly, ensure that your tank is at least 90 litres with a pH level between 7.8 and 8.2, temperature in between 27-30 Degrees Celsius, and water hardness not less than 17dH, or 10-15 degrees standard.

When breeding these fish in captivity, it is important to keep two females for every male and make sure that each female has her own shelter area. A place where she can retreat from aggressive males and rest until she is ready to spawn again.

Male Maylandia callainos can reach upwards of 10cm so it’s important to make sure you have enough space for them. Mature females are generally smaller and can reach around 8 cm when fully grown but again it’s vital to consider their living conditions before mating them as they could produce over 100 eggs!

Once your breeding tank has been set up and all levels have been tested, then you can start looking for female mates. Male maylandias display aggression towards one another so during feeding time, don’t add both males into one aquarium until they are completely submissive to each other.

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Your chosen female should also show no signs of bullying towards other fish too, otherwise she’ll also need her own home! Try adding plastic plants and rocks or caves which will provide cover from any nippy male attentions. Also, provide lots of rocks that create crevices where spawning can take place.

As far as feeding goes, cichlids are carnivores so offer them live food such as worms and crustaceans plus frozen foods such as daphnia, krill, plankton, salmon eggs etc.

Are Maylandia callainos aggressive or peaceful?

Maylandia callainos (also known as Cobalt blue cichlids) are often considered to be a relatively aggressive species of fish. In fact, it’s not uncommon for hobbyists to recommend that people keep them in tanks by themselves or in groups no larger than five or six individuals. However, I am able to cohabitate eight maylandia callainos with my other types of fish without issue. There is more than one way to skin a catfish!

Maylandia callainos care

maylandia callainos

Maylandia callainos is a medium-sized African cichlid that is easy to care for, yet has a complicated reproductive cycle and will eat anything it can fit in its mouth. They have many different color forms, but those originating from Lake Malawi are generally blue with red markings on their fins.

It is important to breed more than one male per female as they must spawn in pairs. As a pair, they will set up territories near large rocks or islands where they build bubble nests. When ready to spawn, both fish blow air into these bubble nests until they float away into open water where eggs and sperm are released and fertilized.

After spawning, both adults should be removed so fry doesn’t have a hard time finding food once free-swimming than at later stages of development when parents should be present for protection against larger predators like Cape cichlids.

Maylandia callainos food

Maylandia callainos are omnivores that do well in both fresh and brackish water. They require protein-rich foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, krill, feeder fish, and small pieces of beef heart. In addition to frozen varieties, live foods can also be fed to fish in your aquarium or pond. However, be cautious about overfeeding as it can pollute the water.

In captivity, they should be fed frozen shrimp and bloodworms. They will also feed on flakes and pellets when they’re young, but once they are older they’ll only take live food.

Water parameters

maylandia callainos

The water should have a pH of 6.0-7.5; Temperature of 74-78°F; Water Hardness: Soft to medium; Carbonate hardness: Soft to medium, below 8°dH; General hardness: Medium, between 8 and 18°dH. Isolates need soft water with no more than 12 mg/L of CO2.

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Ensure that there is always some aquatic plant material in circulation, as they like to graze on such plants. Plants used include Vallisneria, Echinodorus species, Ludwigia sp., and Hemianthus sp.

Maylandia callainos lifespan

They can live up to 10 years or more when properly cared for.

Parasites and diseases

Even for cichlids with less complicated care requirements, there are a number of diseases and parasites that may affect your fish. For instance, ich is one common parasite. This protozoan disease can be treated, but you’ll need to get your fish checked by a vet and begin treatment right away if it appears in your tank.

Meanwhile, other ailments like bacterial infections and external parasites like flukes can also negatively impact your fish’s health. Fortunately, taking simple steps to prevent illness is easy:

  • Keep up on water changes so ammonia levels don’t rise above 1 ppm
  • Feed your fish only as much as they can eat within three minutes.
  • Maintain cleanliness so no foreign particles collect in the water, and
  • Make sure all new additions to your tank undergo a quarantine period before going full force into your community.

With these steps in place, you shouldn’t have too many issues keeping even relatively delicate species healthy!


Cobalt blue cichlids can be housed with most fish that are not too big or aggressive. They work well with discus, tetras, livebearers, and any other community fish that is not too large. As they are a peaceful species, they also work well with tangs, angels, and other cichlids. However, as always, when mixing large cichlids with smaller ones, there is always a risk of aggression so take care when mixing them all together.

Some common predators of Maylandia callainos are Large Angelfish, Grouper, Tuna and Puffers. Keep an eye on your cichlids if you have any fish like these in your tank, as they will most likely try to eat them.

Do Cobalt blue cichlids make good pets?

Yes. Although, cobalt blue cichlids are aggressive and dangerous fish, but only to other fish. They will do just fine in an aquarium with non-aggressive tank mates like tetras, mollies, and some catfish. If you’re looking for a pet that will add some color to your tank, while also giving you hours of enjoyment watching its behavior, consider cobalt blue cichlids.