Labidochromis Chismulae (Clown Lab)

Aquarium Livestock
22 Nov 11:04

Labidochromis Chismulae

Common names: Clown Lab – but this is very rarely used, most people use the scientific name as it avoids confusing with other ‘Labs’.

Scientific name: Labidochromis Chismulae

A lovely, small Mbuna Cichlid from Lake Malawi, these are criminally underrated and really should be in your Lake Malawi aquarium! Often overlooked in favour of L.sp Yellow and L. sp. Hongi, these have stunning colours (if not quite as vibrant as some Mbuna). They may be small but you can be sure that they have bags of personality.


Sexing: Females and Juveniles have a pearlish white base colour with a suggestion of bluey purple stripes peeking through. Males have the same base colour, but their stripes are a stronger colour. The intensity of the stripes can change according to the behaviour of the male. Males are also slightly larger.

Size: 8-10cm (Males slightly larger than females)

Where are they from? Clown Labs live in the rocky areas around Chismulae Island (hence the name). Their natural habitats are generally rocks and caves where they eat mostly invertebrates.

Aquarium size needed: Minimum 90cm x 30cm x 30cm.

Aquarium conditions: One of the smaller Mbuna species, they can be kept in fairly small tanks, although they still need to have enough space to behave naturally. Like all Mbuna they need hard, alkaline water conditions and ideally should be kept only with other Malawi Mbuna. *Not suitable for general mixed community tanks.

Diet: Their diet is less vegetarian than other Mbuna so, although they will eat a standard Mbuna veggie diet, it should be supplemented with frozen foods like: Mysis, Daphnia and Brine Shrimp.


Labidochromis Chismulae are egg-laying maternal mouthbrooders. Ideally you should keep a ratio of 1 male to 2 females. The Male will display to a female, she will lay the eggs, he will follow after her and fertilise them. The female will then pick them up in her mouth and incubate the eggs. The male has nothing further to do with the process.

It is important to provide enough secure places for the female so she can look after the babies with minimal harassment from the male.

The eggs hatch inside her mouth and she looks after them until they are too big for her mouth – this usually takes 20-30 days. The number of babies depends on the size and maturity of the parents, but is usually 5-30.

Final Comments/Key Points

  • Labidochromis Chismulae are a really special Mbuna and a great starter species.
  • Whilst they are a typical Mbuna they are smaller and more manageable than some.


Author & Photo credit - Parkers Manager Patrick Davies.