How Many Yellow Lab Cichlids In A 40 Gallon Aquarium?

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How many Yellow Lab Cichlids can you keep in a 40-gallon aquarium? You can successfully keep 6 or 7 adult Yellow Lab Cichlids in a 40-gallon aquarium. If you are stocking with juvenile fish, start off with 10 juveniles, looking to adjust down to 6 or 7 once the Yellow Lab Cichlids becoming sexually mature.

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. They are one of the easiest of the African Cichlids to keep and often the fish the first time African Cichlid keepers starts with. 

For clarification, this article assumes we are discussing a 40-gallon aquarium that is 48” (122cm) long by 12” (30cm) wide. This aquarium is commonly called a ‘40 Long’. A ‘40 Breeder’ which is just 36” (91cm) long is a little too short for a Yellow Lab Cichlid tank.

How To Set Up A 40 Gallon Aquarium For Yellow Lab Cichlids

When setting up your 40-gallon aquarium for Yellow Lab Cichlids there are some fundamental basics you need to get right if your tank is to succeed.

Firstly, Yellow Lab Cichlids prefer a substrate that is either sand or crushed coral. Yellow Lab Cichlids do like to dig when looking for food and sand allows them to root around. If your pH is low, using crushed coral will help raise the pH. Once your substrate is in, adding plenty of rocks is the next order of the day.

Rocks in a Yellow Lab Cichlid serve multiple purposes. Firstly, when arranged correctly, a good pile of rocks will provide lots of caves and small hiding places. These caves are perfect for when one fish wants to get away from the others due either to bullying or because it is feeling unwell or injured.

The caves and hiding places also provide spaces where any fry can hang out, away from the hungry jaws of the adults. The fry will be able to spend the first few weeks and possibly months darting in and out of the spaces between the rocks, keeping them safe until they are large enough to swim freely in the aquarium.

Rocks, when piled high enough, also provide ‘line of sight’ blocks. Having line of sight blocks allows fish to get out of the eye line of other fish. When it comes to fish aggression, out of sight is out of mind. If an aggressor can’t see the other fish, it usually won’t bother going looking for it.

Lighting is not critical for a Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium. Essentially, as long as the light is bright enough to make your Yellow Lab Cichlids look good, it will probably be ok. Very few plants will survive in a Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium because the Yellow Labs will eat them, so don’t worry too much about lighting for plants.

Water circulation is important in a Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium. Yellow Labs tend to be heavy eaters, and we generally keep our African Cichlid tanks overstocked. As such, there is the tendency for uneaten food and general fish waste to accumulate behind rocks and in crevices, etc.

Ensuring good water circulation in the aquarium will help reduce this problem. I like to use a powerhead or circulation fan.

What Filtration Should A 40 Gallon Yellow Lab Aquarium Have?

As mentioned above, the fact we normally overstock our Yellow Lab Cichlid aquariums to help quell the aggression, coupled with the fact we feed them a lot of food because they are highly active, means our Yellow Lab Cichlid aquariums normally need more filtration than a general community tank of the same size might need.

I usually work on the theory of having twice as much filtration for a Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium as I might have if I was just keeping normal community fish. This might mean running 2 Fluval 206 canister filters on a 40-gallon aquarium instead of 1.

Alternatively, running 1 filter that is rated for an 80 or maybe 100-gallon aquarium on your 40-gallon tank will have the desired effect.

It is possible to run a 40 gallon Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium on sponge filters or internal filters, but in my experience, the amount of servicing they require just isn’t worth the hassle.

What Water Parameters Do Yellow Lab Cichlids Need?

Yellow Lab Cichlids like their water to be pristine. Ammonia and Nitrite should never have a chance to get above 0 and Nitrate should ideally be kept below 40ppm. Regular large water changes will be required with most setups to keep the nitrate levels so low.

The pH of a Yellow Lab Cichlid aquarium should be between 7.5 and 8.4 and their water should be ‘hard’, meaning there are a lot of dissolved minerals in the water. If your own tap water is naturally soft, using crushed coral as a substrate, or adding some to an external canister filter will help raise the hardness and pH.

The aquarium water should be kept between 77°F and 84°F (25°C and 28°C).

What Ratio Male To Female Yellow Lab Cichlids Should I Have In A 40 Gallon Aquarium?

The ideal ratio of male to female Yellow Lab Cichlids in a 40-gallon aquarium would be 1 male for every 3 or 4 females. As mentioned above, this is why you might start with 10 juvenile Yellow Labs for your 40-gallon aquarium, which you then look to reduce down to just 6 or 7 fish with the right ratio once you can sex your Yellow Labs.

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 Yellow Labs 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. 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.

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 each and has an extended throat, it is almost certainly a female holding a brood of babies in her mouth.

What Other Fish Can Go In A 40 Gallon Aquarium With Yellow Lab Cichlids?

If you intend to have 6 or 7 mature Yellow Lab Cichlids in your 40-gallon aquarium, there won’t be much space for any other fish. The possible exceptions would be if you wanted to add a Bristlenose Pleco to hopefully keep some of the algae at bay, or a synodontis catfish such as Synodontis multipunctatus.

In Conclusion

The answer to ‘How many Yellow Lab Cichlids in a 40-gallon aquarium’ is 6 or 7 mature fish. Yellow Lab Cichlids are placid for an African Cichlid but still relatively aggressive. As such, keeping too few will lead to that aggression spilling over into dead fish.

Keeping 6 or 7 mature fish (2 males and 5 females for example) together in 40 gallons will give you just enough Yellow Labs to keep the aggression down, without having so many they can’t move without bumping into one another.

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

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