Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid: The Complete Care Guide

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

General Description

The Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid, also known as Cobalt Zebra, is a stunning fish. The electric blue colours of the Blue Zebra Cichlid set it apart from other cichlids and will brighten up any cichlid tank.

The additional names are Cobalt Blue Zebra, or Cobalt Blue Mbuna, Pearl Zebra Former, Cobalt Blue Cichlid or Zebra Malawi Cichlid.

Mbuna means rock fish, which describes the species’ preferred habitat.

Originally, they were placed in the Metriaclima genus, but this was changed later.

Their additional scientific names are Maylandia callainos, Pseudotropheus callainos and Metriaclima callainos.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid belong to the Cichlidae family.

They are a freshwater African cichlid species native to Lake Malawi, which also produces popular aquarium species such as Peacock Cichlids.

For the beginner aquarist, these species are not the best choice. While their basic needs are simple, having some experience is beneficial in order to better deal with their protective natures.

The blues-colored Zebra Cichlids are widely available, so it is easy to find cichlids in any cichlid-pet store.

Before you buy adult individuals, make sure you check for symptoms of disease.

Each fish in a healthy tank could potentially live for 10 years.


Brief Summary

Scientific names: Maylandia callainos, Pseudotropheus callainos and Metriaclima callainos.

Common Names: Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid, Cobalt Blue Mbuna, Pearl Zebra Former, Cobalt Blue Cichlid or Zebra Malawi Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae

Species: African Cichlid

Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa

Care Level: Intermediate

Temperament: Aggressive

Colour: Males are fluorescent blue. Females are grayish blue

Duration of life: Up to 10 years

Diet: Herbivore. Flake food & small pellets. Algae Flakes. Frozen: Brine Shrimp, Mysis, Pacifica plankton, bloodworms

Tank Size: minimum 50 gallons

Tank Set-Up: Freshwater with rocky caves

Water Temperature: 75 to 82 F°/ 24 – 28°C

pH: 7.6 to 8.2

Breed Type: Mouth brooder

Adult Size: Up to 5 inches/12.7 cm

Compatibility: Fellow Mbunas from Lake Malawi like Pseudotropheus demasoni,, Labidochromis caeruleusMelanochromis johanni and Synodontis catfish


Region of Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid come from the rocky shores of Lake Malawi, Africa. They mainly come from a location called the Nkhata Bay region.

Malawi is one of the great rift lakes of Africa. It was formed as a result of the continent of Africa being torn apart. It’s one of Africa’s most famous lakes that is well-known for its diverse and endemic cichlid population, as well as for its distinctive water chemistry, among other things. The majority of African cichlids kept in aquariums today are from Lake Malawi.

The Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid s are an endemic species of Lake Malawi, where they locate in large numbers in the northern and northern-eastern regions of the lake. Their best place to live in are around rock caves and crevices along the shoreline, where they locate in and around rocky formations. This is why they’re called “Mbuna,” which means “rockfish.”

Read Related Topic: Sulfur Head Peacock Cichlid


Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid s are a territorial and aggressive species of fish. Once they have established themselves in the tank, they will claim a territory in the vicinity of caves and crevices and defend it. Males engage in lengthy, physically demanding battles from time to time. During spawning season, they become especially aggressive.

They spend the majority of their time in the tank’s lower levels, where they are hiding among the rocks and returning on a regular basis to their home territory.


Cobalt Blue Zebra Appearance

Despite the fact that Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid bears the name “zebra,” this species shows little evidence of banding.  Males have a soft fluorescent blue ground colour that covers their entire body without vertical bars.

Pearl Zebra, Red Zebra, and Orange Blotch are some of the other colour variations.

A fully grown adult can grow to be up to 5 inches tall. The body is covered in spiny fins, the most prominent of which is a long dorsal fin that stretches from just behind the head to the tail. On the anal fin, there are approximately 5 egg-spots that become important during breeding.

A large black eye and a large open mouth can be seen on their heads.

Females are typically smaller and have a duller complexion. They have a lighter gray/blue colour scheme.


Cobalt Blue Cichlids Tank Conditions

The mineral content of Lake Malawi is very high. Anyone considering adding Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid to their aquarium should make every effort to create an environment that is as close to their natural environment as possible.

Water Conditions

The water temperature should be between 72°F and 83°F/22 and 28°C, and the pH should be between 7.8 and 8.6. Lighting that is standard will work well.

The pH of most tap water will require the addition of some sort of alkaline buffer additive to keep it stable. The presence of coral or aragonite sand in an aquarium will aid in the maintenance of a high pH.

It is necessary to agitate the surface of the water in order to properly recreate their natural habitat. This can be accomplished through the use of a filter outlet or an air/water pump.


Maintaining an mbuna tank requires clean water and a balanced pH. In order to maintain quality, some recommend for the use of underground filters in conjunction with external filters and bio-wheels. However, some experience has shown that underground filters are not suitable for mbunas. Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid construct nests by picking up rocks in their mouths and moving them, so underground filters in an mbuna tank would not work.

Tank Environment

Build up a layer of sand, crushed coral, or a combination of the two on the bottom of the tank.

The aquarium should be well-decorated with rocks, and there should be plenty of caves for the fish to hide. You will need to create a variety of rock formations that will serve as separate territories for different species of fish to live in. However, make sure to leave some open swimming spaces.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

Tank Plants

If desired, artificial plants can be added to the arrangement. Because of the high pH of the water and the fact that many Malawian cichlids enjoy eating vegetable matter, most live aquarium plants do not fare well in an aquarium with Malawian cichlids.

Adding live plants is also an option, but they must be hardy species that can withstand high pH levels and any abuse from your fish in order to be successful. Mbunas are fond of plants, but they are prone to uprooting them because they are constantly rearranging their substrate.

The Aquarium Size

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid can grow to be 5 inches long, which means they occupy a significant amount of space. However, they require this additional space in order to establish their territorial boundaries.

The water requirement for each Mbuna is at least 5 gallons, and Mbunas thrive in groups of 10 to 15 other Mbunas that are roughly the same size as themselves.

It is recommended that mbunas be grouped together in groups of more than ten, as this will help to spread out aggressive behaviour.

It is necessary to have a 50-gallon/close to 200 L aquarium or larger (75 – 100 gallons/close to 300-400 L).

See Related Article: 15 gallon fish tank


Feeding & Nutrition

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid s natural diet consists of algae that they scrape off the surfaces of rocks. Also, in a wild they feed on plankton that is found in the water column.

In order to simulate their primarily herbivorous diet in captivity, it is necessary to feed them food that is primarily vegetable derived on a regular basis.

They are willing to accept the majority of commercial foods. Using dried foods, such as herbivorous quality flakes and pellets, is the best choice, as is the addition of spirulina supplements. However, they have a low nutritional value, so incorporate some other foods into their diet as well.

Spinach, lettuce, and broccoli are examples of such vegetables. These can be cut into small pieces.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid s would also benefit from regular treats such as carrots, peas, and zucchini.

Give them a portion of food that they can finish in under two minutes. This should be done at least twice a day.

Live worms or brine shrimp should not be fed to them because they can cause bloating and death in the fish.


Care of Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid

Once your tank is ready, day-to-day maintenance is simple. The issues arise when trying to reduce aggression while designing a tank.

If you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll only need to feed them on a regular basis and keep the tank clean. Maintain low algae levels and perform regular partial water changes.

Each week, use a water testing kit to detect changes in water conditions before they become problematic.

Although diseases are uncommon, Malawi Bloat is one to be aware of. Swollen abdomen, loss of appetite, and rapid breathing are all symptoms of this condition, which will eventually lead to liver and kidney failure.

Malawi Bloat is more common in areas with poor water quality. If you catch the problem early enough, there are effective treatments available.



The Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid is compatible with Mbunas such as the Auratus, Johanni, Kenyi, Lemon Yellow, Orange Blotch, Pindani, Red Zebra and Synodontis Catfish.

Lake Malawi tanks design are popular among aquarists, but the Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid is too aggressive for Haplochromis and Peacock Cichlids to coexist in the same tank with it.

Because of the aggressive nature of Blue Zebra Cichlids, tank mates should be of similar size and have the ability to defend themselves against other fish.

While it is possible to keep Blue Zebra Cichlids in a group, the males will become aggressive towards one another.

You can avoid it when keeping one male with two or three females, which will keep aggression to a bare minimum.

Another method is to “overcrowd” the tank so that males are unable to establish territories in their new environment. This, on the other hand, will result in less favourable conditions for your fish.

The tank will have to be very large if you want to keep multiple males, each with his own territory to defend.

Cobalt Blue Cichlid Size


Cobalt Blue Zebra Breeding

When kept in captivity, breeding can take place. The aquarium must be clean, and the parameters must be at their optimal levels.

Hobbyists interested in breeding Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid should keep a single male specimen with three to four females in a 40-to-50-gallon aquarium devoted entirely to breeding.

It is easy to tell the difference between a male and female. Male have significantly more vibrantly colour. One or two flat stones and open areas of substrate is necessary in a proper breeding aquarium setup so that the fish can use them as spawning grounds.

It is during the breeding season that the male will display extremely strong colours and will select an appropriate breeding location from which to attempt to persuade one of the ladies into joining him and mating with him.  In addition to displaying spectacular colour, the male will aggressively court the females by pursuing them around the tank with great intensity.

The presence of a group of females in the tank is essential because of the aggressive courting behaviour of the males. This ensures that the males’ overtures are distributed evenly throughout the group and do not overwhelm a single female.

Cobalt Blue Zebra CichlidMouth Brooder

A Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid female will lay her eggs in the nesting site that the male has prepared once she has been successfully courted by the male. In this stage, the female will scoop up the eggs and place them in her mouth. The male, who has egg-shaped spots on his tail fins, will swim in front of the female and deposit his sperm while the female and the eggs are next to his tail fin.

In order for her to release the free-swimming fry, the female will carry the eggs in her mouth for approximately one month. It is critical that the female is free from stress during this period. She will not be feeding and will be somewhat weak as a result of the lack of food and the fry she will be carrying. If she is under stress, she may spit out the brood too soon or even eat the young fry.

It is for this reason remove the other breeding fish from the aquarium in order to prevent the brooding mother from getting stress excessively. However, once the female has released the fry from her mouth, return her to the main group of fish in order to ensure that she does not lose her position in the hierarchy of the group.

More to read: Water Sprite Plant



Are Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid s the right choice for your aquarium?

Aquarists who have previously kept fish will most likely be able to provide adequate care for these fish.

Their requirements are straightforward, but their aggressiveness can be overwhelming for beginners who aren’t confident in their ability to deal with it.

Two of the most important things to consider are whether your tank is large enough and whether your tank mates are suitable.

These fish will make excellent additions to your aquarium if you are certain that none of these issues will be a problem for your setup.

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