Bumblebee Cichlid 101: Care, Size, Tank Mates, Breeding

bumblebee cichlid

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The Bumblebee Cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro) is one of the most attractive freshwater fish species, aptly named after its beautiful black and yellow striped appearance.  

For cichlid keepers, keeping these fish can be quite a challenging task. They can often act aggressively towards other fish and even members of the same species. That is why you need to learn all about their behavior before getting one home. 

On that note, this guide will provide you with plenty of information about taking care of a bumblebee cichlid. So, read on to learn more. 

Species Summary

hornet cichlid Care
Photo: Gayan De Silva

The Bumblebee cichlid, also known as the Hornet cichlid or the Bumblebee Mouthbrooder, is a freshwater fish species native to South Africa and commonly found around Lake Malawi. Its scientific name, Pseudotropheus Crabo, is derived from the European Hornet’s name, Vespa Crabo, as both fish species have large-sized bodies and similar patterns. 

This fish species is a member of a group of cichlids known as Mbuna, which consists of several species of cave-dwelling fish with very aggressive personalities. Another name for this species is the Pseudotropheus Chameleon since it can change its color depending upon its mood. 

Origin:South Africa
Common name:Bumblebee Cichlid, Hornet Cichlid
Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus crabro
Size:5.9 inches
Minimum Tank Size:50 gal
Temperature:78.0 to 82.0° F
Diseases: Malawi bloat
Care level:Intermediate

Social Behaviors

The Bumblebee Cichlid has a symbiotic relationship with the Kampango (Bagrus meridionalis), a large cave-dwelling catfish. Its brightly-colored appearance helps the cichlid get close to the catfish and pick the parasites from the latter’s body. However, during the spawning period of the Kampago’s eggs, these cichlids adopt a darker color, becoming almost black so that they can feed on the eggs.

Bumblebee cichlids can be housed in a species tank in a group of one male to six or more females for breeding purposes. It is best not to include more than one male in a fish tank as the males are overly aggressive. Having more than a single male will often lead to confrontation, and the dominant male will always kill his rivals. 

Are Bumblebee Cichlids Aggressive? 

In terms of compatibility with other species, the Bumblebee cichlid should not be placed in an aquarium that houses other fish species due to its aggressive nature. That is why community fish tanks are not suitable for this fish species.

That said, these cichlids will inevitably gain dominance over other species. However, it does well with other cichlids, even with those that have a similar temperament. Females also require protective hiding spots as the males can often harass them to death. 

Appearance (Popular Colors)

Photo: Brent M

The Bumblebee cichlid is an attractive fish species that intermediate and experienced cichlid-keepers can bring home. It has a robust body shape, and the adults have a yellow to orange-yellow color with black or blue stripes.

The females are gold with dark brown vertical stripes, while adult males have an almost black body with vertical blue bars or stripes. Interestingly, both the males and females can change color as required. The fry is brightly colored, and the color-changing ability comes with maturity.

Bumblebee African Cichlid Male vs. Female

The males of this species have more significant markings than the females and can also adopt the colors of the females. They also have two to four egg spots, while females have a rounded anal fin with one or two egg spots.

Distinguishing the male from the female, especially when the male mimics females, is not easy. On that note, only those with experience can spot which one in the group is a male.

How Big Do Bumblebee Catfish Get?

full grown Bumblebee cichlid has an average size of about four inches, but males can also reach up to six inches. The females are a bit smaller, maxing out at around five inches. 

How Long Do Bumblebee Cichlids Live?

Bumblebee Cichlids have a lifespan of about ten years, which makes them a good option for cichlid-keepers. However, this also depends upon several factors, such as the environment, food quality, and so on. 

Bumblebee Cichlid Care And Tank Setup

Like any other fish species, the Bumblebee cichlid requires proper care to thrive. Some key factors to keep in mind include:

Water Conditions

The Bumblebee cichlid does fine in freshwater and brackish water but requires good water movement and efficient filtration as they tend to get messy.

If you want to keep several males, try to create open spaces and territorial borders with decorations.

Though it is often recommended that you use a substrate of Aragonite or sand to help keep the water hard and alkaline, Cynotilapia afra feels safer and shows better over dark-colored bottoms.

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Water hardness: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

Tank Size

The size of the tank depends upon the number of fish you intend to keep. For a single fish, a 50-gallon tank is adequate. However, if you want to keep more, get a tank that can hold at least 100 gallons of water.


The most prevalent disease among Bumblebee Cichlids is the Malawi Bloat, which occurs if they do not get good-quality food. Poor quality and stale water without proper oxygenation can also lead to common diseases. Ich is one such problem that can result in albino fish, but it can be cured with copper-based medications. 

Tank Mates

Being an aggressive species, the Bumblebee Cichlid should not be kept with other fish species. That said, you can keep them with other aggressive cichlids or mixed Mbuna fishes. 

What Do Bumblebee Cichlids Eat?

Bumblebee Cichlids are omnivores that can survive on almost anything that is available. However, they prefer fish eggs, larvae, and parasites. In the home aquarium, they can be fed flakes, pellets, spirulina, and prepared cichlid food.

Bumblebee Cichlid Breeding

The Bumblebee Cichlid is a mouthbrooder that can be bred in captivity and requires a “harem.” In other words, there should be only one male for every five to six females in a tank. Also, after hatching, it is essential to remove sub-dominant males as the dominant male tends to kill them. 

Final Thoughts

Bumblebee Cichlids are not very difficult to care for; all you need to do is ensure good quality nutrition and a clean environment. Additionally, don’t forget that this fish species is aggressive, so picking suitable tank mates is of utmost importance. 

With these things in mind, you can take care of your bumblebee cichlids with ease. And if in doubt, don’t hesitate to go through our care guide once more. 

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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