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Electric Yellow Cichlid Care | Labidochromis caeruleus

Looking to set up an aquarium to keep one or multiple of the endless colorful African cichlid species? Consider one of the classics of this branch of the aquarium hobby: the striking Labidochromis caeruleus, better known as the electric yellow cichlid.

Its small size and relatively peaceful nature make the electric yellow cichlid one of the best Lake Malawi cichlid species for beginners. Sound good? Keep reading for everything you need to know about this neon number!

Name (common, scientific)Electric yellow cichlid, yellow lab, Labidochromus caeruleus
Minimum tank size40 gallons (long)
Minimum group size1M 2F
Temperature75-82 °F
Difficulty levelIntermediate

Electric yellow cichlid description & natural habitat


If you’re looking for an addition to your African cichlid tank that will really catch the eye, the electric yellow cichlid is exactly what you need. It lends its appropriate common name from the yellow color morph that naturally occurs in parts of Lake Malawi (other colorations in this species include white and blue with black stripes).

Electric yellow cichlids grow to a size of around 4”, making them one of the smaller African cichlid species. They’re notoriously difficult to sex as there is no overly sexual dimorphism, but males are generally slightly more intensely colored. Unlike the females, their pelvic and anal fins feature some black coloration.

Natural habitat

As briefly mentioned above, the electric yellow cichlid is naturally found in Lake Malawi. Also known as Lake Nyasa, this massive lake is one of the African Great Lakes. It was created due to its location on the East African Rift, a place where the Earth’s tectonic plates are actively (though very slowly!) moving about.

Lake Malawi is a totally unique place, characterized by alkaline waters and a mind-boggling variety of cichlid fish (some sources suggest up to 1,000 different species). Labidochromis caeruleus is a member of a subgroup of these that’s referred to as the mbunas, an unofficial category that includes loads of other popular Lake Malawi cichlids.

Now, today’s subject is found throughout the central western and eastern shallows of the lake, where it inhabits rocky zones. Although it mainly occurs in coastal waters, it does stay a bit deeper than most other Labidochromis, at around 25 meters depth. However, the particular naturally occurring color morph we’re discussing today – electric yellow – is apparently only found in a specific spot called Lion’s Cove.

The IUCN considers Labidochromis caeruleus to be a species of Least Concern, stating it’s widespread in its natural habitat. Yay!

Electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus) aquarium


Because these cichlids stay relatively small, an aquarium of 40 gallons (long) will suffice for a simple set-up. The tank should ideally be decorated in Lake Malawi style, with a light sandy substrate and plenty of rocks and caves.

Plants are an option; some of the locations in the lake where electric yellow cichlids can be found are characterized by their dense fields of Vallisneria.

The water should be hard and basic with a pH around 8 and hardness level between 15 and 20 °H.


Because this species is known to be relatively peaceful, you’ve got some options when it comes to tankmates, mbuna or otherwise. The most popular option are Synodontis catfish, which hail from similar h

Quick, sturdy schooling fish that don’t mind hard water, notably rainbowfish, are known to work well with electric yellows. They’re not biotope-correct, but definitely a beautiful addition with their stunning colors!

When it comes to other cichlids, the best choices are species that are also relatively peaceful. Peacock cichlids, blue dolphin cichlids and zebra cichlids are among your possible options.

Keep in mind that the males of this species are known to display some territorial behavior, especially during spawning time. They will also chase females rather relentlessly, so be sure to keep your electric yellows in a harem that contains more females than males to disperse any aggression.

Close-up of electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus), a popular aquarium fish.

Electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus) diet

In its natural habitat, the electric yellow cichlid feeds on small invertebrates like crustaceans and snails. In the aquarium it will accept pretty much any food it can find, though it’s a good idea to use a commercial food designed especially for Rift lake cichlids as a staple. According to scientific research, the species needs at least 35% dietary protein for the best growth.

You can supplement with plenty frozen or live food, as well as the occasional serving greens like fresh blanched vegetables and algae tablets.

Did you know? A 2014 study found that feeding foods rich in carotenoids can help ensure nice, bright coloration in electric yellow cichlids.

Maleknejad, Sudagar, Mazandarani & Hosseini

Breeding Electric yellow cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Interested in breeding your electric yellow cichlids? It’s not the easiest task, but it can be done. These fish are mouthbrooders, meaning the female will carry the eggs in her mouth until they hatch.

As we’ve mentioned before, the males of this species can be rather overly enthusiastic during breeding time, often pursuing potential mates until the point of exhaustion. If you’re looking to breed your electric yellows, be sure to keep plenty of females to each male to lessen stress.

Include lots of caves in the aquarium decor and maybe consider going a size larger with the tank than you usually would, in order to allow each cichlid to find a spot to retreat to if need be.


A Rift lake biotope filled with colorful species like the electric yellow cichlid is a spectacular sight to see. Unfortunately it does come with its particular challenges, especially in regard to choosing the right tankmates to avoid sparking World War 3 in your aquarium.

Not sure how to go about setting up your African cichlid aquarium? We can actually do it for you – we’ll even maintain it! Simply contact us here with your ideas and we’ll get back to you to see how we can make your dream tank a reality.

Sources & further reading

Ergün, S., Güroy, D., Tekeşoğlu, H., Güroy, B., Çelik, İ., Tekinay, A. A., & Bulut, M. (2010). Optimum dietary protein level for blue streak hap, Labidochromis caeruleus. Turkish Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 10(1).

Maleknejad, R., Sudagar, M., Mazandarani, M., & Hosseini, S. A. (2014). Effect of different live foods source (Culex larvae, Chironomus larvae and Artemia) on pigmentation of electric yellow fish (Labidochromis caeruleus). International Journal of Advanced Biological and Biomedical Research, 2(12), 2884-2890.

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

2 thoughts on “Electric Yellow Cichlid Care | Labidochromis caeruleus”

  1. Great write-up on Electric Yellow Cichlids. I love your engaging style of writing! I currently have two Electric Yellow Cichlids in a 30 gallon tank. These two have 5 African Cichlid tank mates. Unfortunately, I am finding that I may have done a grave disservice to my beautiful Electric Yellows. I have been a cichlid lover since I was in my teens and working in pet shops. It was then that I became so enamored by the cichlid fish species. However, that was over 40 years ago and I have only recently gotten back involved keep aquariums at home. Back then (in the olden days), Cichlids were much harder to get and very expensive. I was “fishless” for about 30 years before I once again started to keep aquarium(s). I began with a 30 gallon “Tetra Tank.” It wasn’t long before I realized that I needed another tank. The biggest stimulant to this decision was that I began to see there were many more Cichlid varieties to choose from and, they no longer cost an arm and a leg! So, I got another 30 gallon tank for Cichlids. I have always been a particular fan of the African Cichlids. Mainly because they are prettier😁. I have been keeping these 3+ pairs for about 2 years now. For Christmas, my hubby got me a 55 gallon. I have been trying to figure out what type of fish I would like to put in the 55. I have learned so much since renewing my interest in aquarium fish! I think I have finally narrowed it down. I love my Electric Yellows so much but I have a pari of “Electric Blue’s” that seem to really have it out for the pair of Electric Yellows. I have decided to move the Electric Yellows into the 55 once I have it ready. Any suggestions on tank mates who will allow the two Electric Yellows to swim freely, instead of always have to hide themselves? The tough part is that when a fish is labeled “aggressive,” like most African Cichlids, one needs to know the “level” of aggression in comparison with other potential tank mates.
    Thank you for any help or suggestions.

    • Thanks, that’s a lovely compliment. This care guide was recently updated and I’m glad you liked it. And thanks for sharing! Congrats on the big tank, it should be doable to keep it peaceful. The peacock cichlids mentioned in this post are generally considered good options. You could also look into Synodontis catfish, some of which hail from similar habitat. They’re bottom dwellers, can hold their own, and are more nocturnal. Although they’re not really familiar with the concept of personal space, most aquarists report no problems.

      Hope that helps, good luck! 🙂


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