How Do Yellow Lab Cichlids Breed? (Experts Answer)

How do Yellow Lab Cichlids Breed? Yellow Lab Cichlids are non-pair forming maternal mouthbrooders. This means the female will suck the eggs into her mouth where the male will fertilize them. The female will then hold the eggs in her mouth whilst they develop into free-swimming baby fish. She can hold the eggs and babies in her mouth for up to 3 weeks.

Like so many aquarists, Yellow Lab Cichlids were the first African Cichlids I kept. I set up a 75 gallon (285 liters) aquarium a few years ago, and from that moment on, never looked back. I have now kept more than 50 varieties of African Cichlid.

Yellow Lab Cichlids (Labidochromis caeruleus), which are also known as lemon yellow labs, the electric yellow or yellow prince cichlid, originate from Lake Malawi, Africa. Yellow Lab Cichlids are often the ‘gateway’ fish into the world of African Cichlids.



What Is A Mouthbrooder?

Mouthbrooding, also known as oral incubation and buccal incubation, is a method of fish reproduction whereby the male (in paternal-mouthbrooding) or female (in maternal-mouthbrooding) take the fertilized eggs into their mouths and hold them safely until the fish are free swimming babies.

Holding the fertilized eggs in the mouth gives the fish an advantage over those which lay or scatter their eggs. Almost every fish in a river or lake will eat fish eggs given the chance.

This evolutionary adaptation means more Yellow Lab Cichlid babies will survive compared to other fish which may just scatter their eggs.



How Do You Sex Yellow Lab Cichlids?

Sexing even mature Yellow Lab Cichlids can be tricky. You can use the ‘egg spot’ method, whereby a mature male will have an egg spot close to his vent. Unfortunately, this isn’t a sure-fire way to sex them as not all males have egg spots.

Next, look at the color. The males tend to be a deeper shade of yellow. Males may also have black on their belly, on their chin, and outlining their fins.

Female Yellow Labs do tend to be shorter and paler in color than males. Their bellies may be lighter in color and may even be white. They may not have black outlining their fins and they should never have a black chin.

I did have a strain of Yellow Labs in my fish room where the males had very black chins and were easily distinguishable from the females, but unfortunately, I sold them, which I now regret.

A final, and probably guaranteed way to sex Yellow Lab Cichlids is to observe their behavior. If you have a fish that is refusing to eat and has an extended throat, it is almost certainly a female holding a brood of babies in her mouth.

What Is The Best Male To Female Ratio For Yellow Lab Cichlids?

An ideal male-to-female ratio for Yellow Lab Cichlids would be 1 male to 3 or 4 females. If your aquarium is too male-heavy, the males will constantly battle one another for the right to breed with the females.

The problem with getting the male to female ratio right is that it can be very difficult to sex young Yellow Labs. If you hope to have a tank with 3 mature males and 10 females, you might need to start off with 20 or 25 fish, then grow them up until you can sex them.

Getting the sex ratio correct is not an exact science and requires a little bit of luck.



How Should A Yellow Lab Breeding Tank Be Set Up?

If you hope to successfully breed your Yellow Lab Cichlids, you need to start off by setting your aquarium up correctly. You will need to set your aquarium up with plenty of small hiding places so that when the female releases the baby fish she has been keeping safe in her mouth, they have plenty of places to hide.

I have had great success in the past having most of the aquarium floor covered in large stones, and then a good pile or two elsewhere in the aquarium. The idea is to create as many nooks and crannies as possible.

Take the time to make sure all your rocks are stable and use silicone sealant to hold them in place if you need to.

As an alternative, you can have a separate aquarium on standby. When you notice a female Yellow Lab Cichlid is ‘holding’ eggs, move her to the separate aquarium. She can stay in that aquarium until she decides it is time to ‘spit’ her fry.

An advantage of having a separate tank for your female is, she can now stay in this tank for a couple of days before being reintroduced to the main tank. The female won’t have eaten for 3 or 4 weeks. She will appreciate a couple of days of peace and it will give you an opportunity to feed her 5 or 6 times a day to help rebuild her strength.

An often overlooked aspect of setting up a Yellow Lab Cichlid breeding aquarium is to make sure no fry can get sucked into the filter. The intake strainer on a canister or hang-on-back filter is great for stopping adult fish from getting sucked in, but the fry will slip straight through.

Placing an intake sponge over the strainer will solve the problem, and provide you some extra filtration as a bonus.

How Many Babies Do Yellow Lab Cichlids Have?

Small Yellow Lab Cichlids may only produce 3 or 4 fry in a single brood. Larger females may produce 15 to 20 fry. Much will depend on the age and size of the female. Her breeding experience may also come into play as an inexperienced female may swallow some of the eggs or the developing fry.

How Do You Know If Your Female Yellow Lab Has Eggs In Her Mouth?

When a female Yellow Lab Cichlid is holding eggs or fry in her mouth, you will notice her behavior changes. The first sign she is holding eggs is that she will not eat. Female Yellow Lab Cichlids will go 3 to 4 weeks without eating whilst they are holding eggs.

Another sign your female Yellow Lab is holding eggs is that she will become shy. She will probably try to hide away from the other fish. A fish’s mouth is its first line of defense. If another fish is aggressive towards her, she will be unable to defend herself whilst holding eggs.

As time passes it will be more obvious your female Yellow Lab is holding eggs because, as the fry grow larger, her throat will expand to give them enough space. A female Yellow Lab holding a brood of well-developed fry will have a distinct ‘bulge’ in her throat.

Can You Manually Remove The Eggs Or Fry From The Female Yellow Lab Cichlids Mouth?

It is possible to remove the eggs or fry from the mouth of a female Yellow Lab. This practice is known as stripping. Stripping a female of eggs is something that should be taught in person by an experienced fish keeper and is beyond the scope of an article like this one.

In Conclusion

Yellow Lab Cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders, meaning after spawning the female Yellow Lab will hold the eggs and then the developing fry in her mouth until they are free-swimming and able to fend for themselves.

Breeding Yellow Lab Cichlids is a fascinating part of the hobby. Yellow Labs are not especially difficult to breed, providing you set your aquarium up properly and with the correct ratio of male to female fish.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
Editor

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