Labeotropheus fuelleborni

Synonym: Labeotropheus curvirostris

Common Name: Fuelleborn's Cichlid

Habitat: is only found in Lake Malawi along rocky coasts

Size: 6-7 inches (up to 18cm)

Sex and colouration: Males have egg spots on the anal fins. Most males are blue with an orangish anal fin. Females come in many colours. However I have found that females also carry eggspots, so venting is useful in the OB morphs. OB is also known as Orange-Blotch. There are occasional males that sport the OB colouration; these males are known as marmalade cats. At some places in the lake the percentage of OB females reaches 50% (e.g. Mbenji Island)

Food: In the wild, fuelleborni feed on the algae covering the rocks. Their broad mouth under their nose allows the fish to feed off the rocks almost completely parallel to the rocks. The fish uses its nose as leverage to pull the algae off the rocks. The other interesting thing about their nose is the more often it's used and the harder the algae is to get off makes the nose grow larger. In the aquarium this fish seems to eat whatever it is offered and during the rest of the day is seen picking at objects in the tank.

Breeding: This fish is unusual amongst mbuna in that the eggs are fertilized outside of the females mouth. She lays a few eggs the male follows fertilizing the eggs and then the female collects the eggs on the next pass then laying a new batch to be fertilized. They are held for approximately 3 weeks. The fry return back to their mother for another week after that. Males are very aggressive and defend their territory especially against other male fuelleborni.

My Experiences: I first obtained a pair of marmalade cats (that's what they were labeled as) at an auction over a year ago in London. They were growing out in a 20 gallon tank. I had a problem with the nitrates in this tank and lost several fry. Only one of the fuelleborni made it. After a few months I went to Wet Thumb and bought 3 OB type fry. After waiting many months for them to grow out I finally seen one of them hold eggs. But it was not going to be. I watched in dismay as all the fuelleborni took turns carrying eggs. I had all girls. Now I had to try to find a male that was large enough to handle these girls as they were already past 4" long. I lost one of the fish to aggression in the 90g tank they were in. Eventually these fish were placed in a 200g tank. This tank has a sand substrate, with rocks, shells, and broken flower pots for cover. There are several Aquaclear 2000 filters running on the tank. The tank has no lighting but room lighting and sunlight on one side. I looked for months and finally found a nice blue male fuelleborni in an assorted African tank in London. I bought him and he turned out to be as big as my smallest female. The largest female immediately took a dislike to him. She took on a bluish sheen over her blotchy body when she chased him and acted extremely male. I know I had seen a tube descend from her. I had seen her carry eggs. I was very confused about the behaviour. Eventually the male felt a bit more comfortable about his surroundings and would go after the little female. Eventually the little female got quite plump and started showing signs of spawning behaviour. At this time the large female began displaying to her and chasing the blue male off. I figured that this would turn out badly because two females breeding would not give me fry. However after seeing her carry for more than 4 days got me thinking that maybe the large female was indeed a male and that's who fertilized the eggs. (However later I saw the large one breeding with the other large fuelleborni and they were both laying eggs and picking them up.) After 3 weeks I stripped the female and got 10 fry from her. The fry were very well developed already. After a few weeks some of the fry have a yellowish colour and some have a blue colour. Since all the females are OB type I knew the blue male had to have fertilized the eggs. I put the fry in with other fry approximately their size and fed them crushed flakes. They are growing well on this diet. I do find the adults to be aggressive amongst themselves but they have lots of room in the 200g tank to avoid each other.

© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Reading:

Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat - 2nd edition Ad Konings

Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids by Paul Loiselle

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Success with Cichlids from Lake Malawi & Tanganyika by Sabine Melke, U. Erich Friese

Baensch Aquarium Atlas vol. 2 by Dr. Rüdiger Riehl & Hans A. Baensch

Guide to Malawi Cichlids (Back to Nature) by Ad Konings

Enjoying Cichlids by Ad Konings (editor)

Offshore Cichlids of Lake Malawi by George F. Turner

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

 Back to Main Page