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Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia callainos)

Welcome to the fascinating world of the Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid, a remarkable species in the aquarium community. This article delves into the various aspects of the Cobalt Blue Zebra, offering insights for both beginners and seasoned aquarists. From its distinctive profile to its care requirements, we cover everything you need to know about this stunning fish.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Cichlid Facts

Scientific Name Maylandia callainos
Common Name Cobalt Blue Zebra, cobalt blue mbuna
Natural Habitat Lake Malawi, Africa
Adult Size Up to 5 inches (12.7 cm)
Life Span Approximately 10 years
Color Varying shades of blue
Diet Algae, vegetable matter, occasional brine shrimp or bloodworms
Water Temperature 75-82°F (24-28°C)
pH Level 7.8 – 8.6
Behavior Social, but territorial during breeding
Compatibility Best with other Malawi cichlids

Cobalt Blue Zebra Profile

The Cobalt Blue Zebra, scientifically known as Metriaclima callainos, is a popular freshwater fish native to Lake Malawi in Africa. Renowned for their vibrant blue coloration, these cichlids play a fascinating role in the aquatic ecosystem. They typically grow up to 5 inches in length and have a lifespan of about 10 years in well-maintained aquariums.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Cobalt Blue Zebra is its deep blue hue, which varies from light sky blue to rich royal blue. This coloration is more pronounced in males, especially during breeding season. The intensity of their color can also be an indicator of health and mood.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Habitat

The Blue Zebra Cichlid is native to the rocky shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. This species thrives in clear, alkaline waters with a pH range of 7.8 to 8.6. The lake’s unique environment, characterized by numerous rocky outcrops and caves, provides an ideal habitat for these cichlids. They utilize these structures for shelter, breeding, and establishing territories. The consistent temperature of Lake Malawi, typically between 75-82°F (24-28°C), also plays a crucial role in their well-being and lifestyle.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Aquarium Setup

Tank Size and Specifications

  • Minimum Tank Size: A minimum of 50 gallons is necessary to provide ample space for these active fish. Larger tanks are preferable for housing multiple specimens and ensuring a harmonious environment.
  • Tank Shape: A rectangular tank is ideal, allowing more swimming space and effective distribution of water parameters.

Habitat Setup

  • Rocky Environment: These cichlids thrive in a rocky environment. Include plenty of rocks and caves to mimic their natural habitat. This setup encourages natural behaviors and provides hiding places, reducing stress in the fish.
  • Substrate: A fine, sandy substrate is recommended, replicating the lakebed of their natural habitat.
  • Plants: While not essential, hardy plants can be included. Ensure they are anchored well, as Cobalt Blue Zebras may uproot them.

Water Conditions

  • Temperature: Maintain water temperature between 75-82°F. Consistent temperature is key to keeping these fish healthy.
  • pH Level: A pH level ranging from 7.8 to 8.6 is ideal, matching the alkaline conditions of their natural lake environment.

Water Hardness: Aim for moderate to high water hardness, as it simulates the conditions of their natural habitat.

Filtration and Water Movement

  • Filtration System: A robust filtration system is crucial to handle the bioload and keep the water clean. Canister filters are often recommended for larger tanks.
  • Water Movement: Moderate water movement is beneficial, simulating the mild currents of Lake Malawi.

Lighting and Decoration

  • Lighting: Standard aquarium lighting is sufficient. These fish do not require specialized lighting.
  • Decoration Tips: Avoid sharp decorations that could injure the fish. Smooth rocks and cave formations are best.

Maintenance and Health Care

  • Regular Maintenance: Weekly water changes (about 20-30%) are recommended to maintain water quality.
  • Health Monitoring: Regularly check for signs of stress or illness, such as changes in color, appetite, or behavior.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Breeding

Breeding Cobalt Blue Zebras can be a rewarding experience. They are mouthbrooders, meaning the females carry the fertilized eggs in their mouths until they hatch. The breeding tank should have hiding spots and a slightly higher temperature to encourage spawning.

Breeding Environment

Successfully breeding Cobalt Blue Zebras requires creating an optimal environment that closely resembles their natural habitat. A dedicated breeding tank is recommended, preferably at least 50 gallons in size to provide enough space for courtship and spawning. The tank should include plenty of rock formations and caves to mimic the rocky shores of Lake Malawi, offering hiding places and territorial boundaries. The water temperature in the breeding tank should be slightly warmer, around 78-82°F (25.5-27.8°C), with a pH level maintained between 7.8 and 8.5.

Spawning Process

During the breeding process, the male Cobalt Zebra Cichlid displays more vibrant colors and becomes more territorial. He selects a spot, usually in a cave or crevice, and entices the female to lay her eggs there. After the female lays her eggs, she quickly collects them in her mouth. The male then displays egg spots on his anal fin, which the female mistakes for her eggs. As she tries to collect these spots, the male releases sperm, fertilizing the eggs in her mouth. This mouthbrooding process lasts for about three weeks, after which the female releases the fully-formed fry into the tank.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Diet & Feeding

A balanced diet is crucial for the health of Blue Zebra Cichlids. They primarily feed on algae in the wild, so a diet rich in vegetable matter is recommended. Spirulina-based flakes and pellets make an ideal diet. Avoid feeding them live worms or brine shrimp as they can be harmful to their health.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Compatibility

When it comes to tank mates, Cobalt Blue Zebras do best with other Malawi cichlids like Auratus, Kenyi, Orange Bloch, Red Zebra and Johannii. Avoid housing them with aggressive species or much smaller fish. They are territorial, especially during breeding, so providing ample space and hiding places is essential for maintaining harmony in the tank.

Cobalt Blue Zebra Care

Caring for Cobalt Zebras requires maintaining water conditions similar to their natural Lake Malawi habitat. These cichlids prefer a rocky aquarium setup with ample hiding spots. A diet rich in vegetable matter supports their health. Regular water changes and monitoring for aggressive behavior, especially during breeding, are crucial for maintaining a harmonious and healthy aquarium environment for these vibrant fish.


The Cobalt Blue Zebra is not just a visually stunning fish but also an interesting species to care for. By understanding their needs and behavior, aquarists can enjoy the vibrant presence of these cichlids in their home aquariums. Remember, a well-maintained environment is key to the health and happiness of your Cobalt Blue mbuna.