Labidochromis chisumulae (Clown Lab Cichlid)

Labidochromis chisumulae

A freshwater fish, the Labidochromis chisumulae, also known as Clown Lab Cichlid, is a species of cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi in Africa and commonly kept as an aquarium fish.

The Clown Lab Cichlid may seem to have the longest name in the cichlid family, but it’s also one of the most colorful and vibrantly patterned fish available in the aquarium hobby today. It comes from Lake Malawi in East Africa and was described by German naturalist Hans Günther in 1939.

Labidochromis chisumulae has become one of the most popular cichlids in the aquarium trade due to its attractive coloration and its interesting behavior towards other fishes.

Let’s learn everything you need to know about this striking fish and how to care for it successfully at home.

Origin and description

Labidochromis chisumulae is a freshwater fish that originates from Lake Malawi in Africa. It has an elongated body with a white or black stripe running along its side and a black stripe on its dorsal fin.

They are popular among both novice and experienced aquarists for their hardiness and ease of care. They prefer tanks with rocks and caves to hide behind but can be kept without these additions if provided with plenty of plants like Java moss or Anubias barteri var. nana to keep them feeling safe.

Species profile

Labidochromis chisumulae

Labidochromis chisumulae are a species of fish known as the Clown Lab Cichlids. The specific name is derived from the Swahili word chisuma, meaning to splash, and labido, meaning laughing. These cichlids get their name because they have been observed making what appear to be clown-like movements while swimming.

Labidochromis chisumulae habitat

They are found in Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe, and the Shire River in Africa. It is believed that clown labs live around Chismulae Island (hence the name). often called labidochromis chisumulae chizumulu island. Rocks and caves are their natural habitats, where they feed primarily on invertebrates.

Nimbochromis Livingstonii (Livingston's Cichlid)

Labidochromis chisumulae size and weight

Labidochromis chisumulae can grow to be 5 inches (12.7 cm) in length and weigh up to 3 oz (85 g).

Labidochromis chisumulae tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for this fish is 30 gallons (114 liters).

Tank mates

In the wild, Labidochromis chisumulae live in large schools and are often found with other species of African cichlids, especially members of the genera Tilapia and Oreochromis.

They should not be housed with aggressive species such as most catfish or pufferfish. Other fish that have similar water requirements and won’t nip at their fins would make good tankmates.

Also, OB Feulleborni, Acei, Rusties, and Yellow labs will make good tank mates.


Labidochromis chisumulae

Labidochromis Chismulae is an egg-laying maternal mouthbrooder. The ideal ratio is to keep one male and two females. The male will usually display to a female, who will lay the eggs, and the male will fertilize them as soon as they have been laid. Afterwards, the female picks up the eggs in her mouth and incubates them. Males have no further involvement in the process.

It is imperative that the female has access to enough secure spaces so that she can care for the babies without being harassed by the male.
In general, it takes 20 to 30 days for the eggs to hatch inside her mouth. In most cases, 5 to 30 babies are born depending on the parents’ sizes and maturity.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Labidochromis chisumulae is a peaceful fish species, when compared to other cichlids, that will show aggression to conspecifics but not to other types of fish. But during spawning, males will become aggressive and territorial.

Labidochromis chisumulae care information

Labidochromis chisumulae

The Clown Lab Cichlid is one of the most popular types of African cichlids. They’re fairly easy to care for and are found in a variety of colors and patterns. The tank should be large with a sandy substrate, rocks, live plants, and open areas to swim. These fish grow quite large so they need room to swim, but the bigger tank will also provide more water volume and oxygen levels.

Labidochromis freibergi (Freibergi Cichlid)

Labidochromis chisumulae diet

Since their diet is less vegetarian than other Mbuna, they will also eat frozen foods such as Mysis, Daphnia, and Brine Shrimp in addition to a standard Mbuna veggie diet.

Tank requirements

A 30 gallon tank is sufficient for a single clown cichlid. The tank should be at least two feet deep and have a sandy substrate, with rocks, caves, and plants to create hiding spots. Aquatic plants are an excellent choice for the setup as they will provide plenty of oxygen for the fish.

Clown cichlids love digging in the sand, so make sure there are no sharp objects on which they could cut their mouths. Provide clean water by replacing about one-third of the water each week.

In addition to the filter that comes with most tanks, purchase a small air stone to keep dissolved oxygen levels high. Avoid overcrowding your tank.


While some experts believe that the average lifespan of a labidochromis chisumulae is between 5 and 10 years, others say that they could live as long as 12 to 15 years. It all depends on how well the fish is cared for, what type it is, and how old it was when it was introduced to the tank.

Parasites and diseases

The Clown Lab has a few parasites and diseases that can affect it. One is called ich, also known as white spot disease. Ich is a protozoan parasite that causes fish to scratch against objects in the tank, usually glass tanks. The scratching leaves small white spots on the body of the fish and aquarium plants.

Another parasite is called labyrinth or hole-in-the-head disease. It attacks the fish’s head and other organs, causing damage to their fins and scales. Hole-in-the-head disease can be fatal to fishes that do not receive proper treatment. Fish afflicted with this parasite will have trouble breathing and often cannot swim properly due to lesions on the head.

Ice Blue Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima greshakei)

A third type of disease is Anchor worm infestation which manifests itself when long strings dangle from around the fish’s mouth, giving them an anchor appearance. Anchor worms are larvae found in open wounds of fishes’ skin, mouth and anus areas.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

Labidochromis chisumulae is a small, peaceful fish that is native to Africa. It can be preyed on by larger predatory fish, as well as other cichlids. A potential predator of the Labidochromis chisumulae is the Apistogramma borellii, which has been known to attack and consume them. This species was once found in Lake Malawi but has now been listed as endangered due to overfishing and pollution in the lake.

Do they make good pets?

Yes! Labidochromis chisumulae, more commonly referred to as the Clown Lab Cichlid, make good pets. They are easy to care for and can be kept in a community tank. They do best with plenty of rocks and live plants to provide them with hiding spots. It is best not to keep two males in the same tank since they will fight. If you want a fish that does well in a community tank then this is the fish for you!