Cichlid Room Companion

Petrochromis trewavasae, The Velcro closing syndrome

By , 1996. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

(This article was originally published in "Ciklidbladet", the journal of the NCS, Nordiska CiklidSallskapet (Nordik Cichlid Association) It is here reproduced with the permission of author Ulf Bergstrom and CiklidBladet editor Roger Haggstrom).

Of all the cichlids that fascinate me, I think that the family of "thick-lips" is the most interesting. To this "family" I count ALL cichlids that millions of years evolution has provided with this magnificent attribute. Everything from the Lobochilotes labiatus to Cheilochromis euchilus is proper.

In recent time I have had the pleasure to become acquainted with another nice and clearly qualified species: Petrochromis trewavasae. The appearance of the male reminds me of a front view of a knocked out boxer. But lately I have started to wonder what is going on. The male thrives in my aquarium. He bangs his head in the wall all the time. The female, on the other hand, worry's me. At a number of occasions she has got stuck in herself.

The whole thing looks endlessly comic, but it must be a hell on earth Many days can go by without anything happening, but suddenly she is stuck. The routine is always the same. You have to lift up 550 pounds of stone, wet the parquet floor and use bad language over the way these little creatures escapes from the net. Then you have to take a firm grip on the fish and, with a pair of tweezers, rip the lips apart. Often the lips are firm and thorough glued together and hard to separate!

Now I have been forced to clip off some of the teeth at a part of the females lips, but probably they grows up again, because the problem always comes back.

The ultimate event happened when I got my first successful spawning from this fish. After what I thought was many, many weeks, I thought that the female should have released her young ones. But, Oh no! She was properly stuck! So, it was time for the procedure mentioned above and the pair of tweezers. From the females mouth there came a gush of fry, eleven of them, all well-shaped and not longer than 0.5 inch.

Since I am a "armchair-aquarist" I cultivate "biological", i.e. no fry-aquariums in my apartment, so I released the fry in the big aquarium after I had frighten the other habitants into their caves.

I can conclude that the puberty of these cichlids obviously occurs instantly. In the same spirit as their adult parents they started to terrorise each other. As there are few caves in my aquarium and with a situation that can be compared to the state of affairs in the inner city of Stockholm, i.e. biggest-goes-first, there were only a few of them left after some time. The other vagrants became quickly victims for the hunters of the night.

If you have any tips about the Velcro closing syndrome, I would be very grateful.


Bergstrom, Ulf. (Sep 18, 1996). "Petrochromis trewavasae, The Velcro closing syndrome". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Sep 27, 2023, from: