Can't Keep Labidochromis Chismulae Alive


New member
I can't keep Labidochromis Chismulae alive in an otherwise healthy aquarium (specs below). This is after 3 attempts involving stock from 3 different suppliers over the past 9 months. Most recently, I had a colony of 10 clown labs consisting of 2 males and 8 females ranging in size from 1.75-2” when I purchased them. They appeared to acclimate quickly; there was very little conspecific aggression (the males had established territories on opposite sides of the tank), and at least one female became pregnant. But, as the case was with previous attempts, they flourished for 2 months and then, over the course of 1-2 weeks, one-by-one began to hide, refuse food, become lethargic (I’m not sure about the order in which these events occurred), and ultimately die inside or around pieces of holey rock. I removed the deceased fish within one day. I couldn’t tell whether any of the remaining clown labs ingested part of them beforehand. Now, 2 of the 5 clown labs I have left are exhibiting these same behaviors, one of which appears to be breathing quickly.

It does not appear that the clown labs have transmitted a condition of any kind to my other fish (list below). In fact, all of my other fish are thriving.

There are no obvious incompatibility issues. The clown labs were/are not being harassed by their tank mates. My fish are not behaving aggressively between or within groups … not even the fuellebornis.

If we rule out issues with (1) water quality (parameters below; everyone else in the tank is doing fine), (2) supplier/stock/size (I would be somewhat surprised if all three suppliers sent me clown labs with underlying disease; clown labs were added to similarly sized fish), and (3) stress or injury due to aggression (I have a peaceful tank as mbuna go; I stocked it in terms of numbers and ratios with that goal in mind), what does that leave? What am I doing wrong?

One thing that comes to mind is diet. My understanding is that clown labs are carnivores; they eat mollusks and insects in the wild, but their diet can be supplemented with vegetable based protein in the aquarium environment. So, I have been feeding Hikari cichlid gold medium pellets and small sinking pellets along with spirulina flake twice daily for approx. 1 minute each time. None of the clown labs that died showed signs of bloat. In fact, they appeared to shrink in size overall. I thought they might be starving, but then logic kicked in … we all know that underfeeding is rarely the problem. So, today, I bought some daphnia, mysis shrimp, and a coral feeder (long turkey baster). My plan is to custom feed the remaining clown labs and hope those who are healthy remain healthy, and that the ones who appear ill might rebound.

After 18 years of keeping African cichlids, I still feel terrible about any fish that dies. I get it … at the first sign of trouble, remove fish to hospital tank and treat. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t do that. In this case, I suspect it wouldn’t necessarily provide a long term solution. I would very much appreciate any insights and suggestions. I have a real affinity for clown labs and want to keep them in my tank.

2 HOB filters and powerhead = 1,060 GPH, water changes of 15-20% every two weeks

Temp 78 F
pH 8.0
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate <5ppm
KH 240
GH 180
(I use Rift Lake Buffer Recipe - Cichlid Salt)

6 Acei
6 OB Feulleborni
6 Rusties
6 Yellow labs
(Each group has 2 males and 4 females; mostly older juveniles who grew up together and were introduced at the same time mixed with a few adults)

OB Guy

That's very strange that only the Labidochromis Chismulae are dying. I wonder if it could possibly be the Cichlid salt causing problems with them. Or possibly some aggression going on during the night when the lights are out. I know their diet is less vegetarian than other Mbuna, although they will eat a standard Mbuna veggie diet, it should be supplemented with frozen foods like Mysis, Daphnia and Brine Shrimp. Do any of them that are still alive have any kind of spots or show any signs of being sick other than not eating? Welcome to Cichlidaholcs.


New member
Thanks so much for your reply and for having me in the group. I'm going to back off the salt and see if it helps. Maybe the clown labs are particularly sensitive to that. Also I'll see what I find at night. Both great ideas and suggestions. Everyone ate the daphnia and shrimp but the two clown labs that are of concern :-( No other signs except for hiding and not eating. Cheers