Pseudotropheus crabro

Pseudotropheus crabro is the chameleon of Lake Malawi. They can change color very quickly. From yellow/black like a bee to deep black.

Pseudotropheus crabro

Pseudotropheus crabro was described in 1982 by Ribbink and Lewis. The name Pseudotropheus can be broken down into two parts. Pseudo means “false” and Tropheus is another cichlid species. So they resemble Tropheus. The word Tropheus is also a reference by Boulenger to the breeding behaviour in which the female incubates the eggs. Tropheus comes from the Greek Trophos which means “to feed” or “to cherish”. The species name crabro means “Wasp” and refers to the black/yellow colour pattern of the Pseudotropheus crabro.

Synonyms: Pseudotropheus chameleo, Melanochromis crabro, Maylandia crabro


Pseudotropheus crabro grows to about 10-12 centimetres in the wild. However, in the aquarium, they can reach a length of 20 centimetres. This is the size of the males. The females grow to about 17 centimetres. They are originally yellow in colour with brown stripes. What is special about these fish is that they can change colour quickly. They then turn dark brown.


Occurs almost throughout Lake Malawi.

The Aquarium

Because Pseudotropheus crabro grow so large, a large aquarium of at least 1.50 meters is required. The aquarium should be set up with rocks to create caves. Use sand on the bottom. If you want to use plants, that is possible with Pseudotropheus crabro, they just ignore them. It is recommended to change the water regularly.

It is best to keep them in a harem, so with one male together with several females.

Water parameters

Temperature: 24-26 degrees Celsius.
PH: 8
GH: 12-16


These fish have a big appetite. They like to eat live food and frozen food. Examples include white mosquito larvae, daphnia, krill, cyclops, shrimp and mussels. In addition to live food, dry food is also well accepted. These are, for example, cichlid sticks and spirulina. A fat earthworm will be eaten in no time!

In the wild, they are “cleaner fish” for the catfish Bagrus meridionalis. This catfish occurs in almost the entire lake. During the day, they rest in virtually any available burrows large enough to accommodate this catfish. During their sleep they are hardly disturbed, even divers can often touch the catfish without running away. A fish louse is common in the lake: Argulus africanus. This fish louse settles on the skin of the Bagrus meridionalis, among other things. Over time, a symbiosis has developed in which the Pseudotropheus crabro removes the fish louse from the Bagrus meridionalis.

The bright yellow/brown striped colour helps to be identified by Bagrus meridionalis. The crabro is actually completely ignored by the catfish. The symbiosis also has a somewhat darker edge. When the catfish lay eggs, Pseudotropheus crabro can change its colour to completely dark. Not recognizable to the catfish, the crabro steals and eats the eggs of the catfish. The colour change ensures that the symbiosis remains intact so that he can continue to feed on the fish lice later on.


The Bumblebee Cichlid is a calm cichlid that is barely territorial. They do chase other fish out of their territory but not in an overly aggressive way.

Breeding Pseudotropheus crabro

Breeding Pseudotropheus crabro is quite easy. Spawning takes place out of sight of the owner and other cichlids behind the rocks. The colour of the male changes to completely dark, just like when stealing eggs. 20 to 60 eggs are laid and fertilized. Then the female takes the eggs in her mouth. After about three weeks, the mother releases the young from her mouth and they can be raised with, for example, brine shrimp, rearing food or finely crushed dry food.



Kevin – Coby

Copyright images

Additional information






Maylandia crabro, Melanochromis crabro, Pseudotropheus chameleo

First described by

Anthony James Gerrit Van Lier Ribbink, Digby S. C. Lewis


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