Cichlid Room Companion

Confessions of a Tropheus addict

By , 1996. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

I won't pretend to be an expert on Tropheus (I've lost my share to bloat) but these are some basic things to keep in mind when keeping these Tanganyikans. First, they prefer to live in large colonies of similar species and morph, the larger the better. They quickly set up a rank in the group, with the top dog having free roam of the tank. Many skeptics will say they've kept these fish (and other naturally shoaling fish) alone or in pairs sucessfully, but to really recreate their natural environment and keep them happy, it's best to keep them in groups of at least 6 fish, preferably 1 male with as many females as you can fit in the tank safely. Ideally, the tank will be at least 55 US gallons. Again, smaller tanks are possible but then you risk overcrowding. Only keep one species and/or morph in the tank, unless it is large enough tank to hold two large groups and the two species or morphs are very different in appearance (there was a thread on USENET a while back about the dangers of cross-breeding). A safe mix would be something like T. duboisi and a T. moori morph. It's not unreasonable to have groups of 12 or more (unless someone else tries to balance your check book :)

Provide lots of rockwork, and use as much lighting as possible to encourage algae growth on the rocks, since these fish are grazers that spend all their time picking at algae. Also, because they are grazers, they do not handle large amounts of food at one feeding well, so multiple smaller feedings throughout the day will simulate natural conditions more closely. They are strictly vegetarians (or at least their system is, they will eat anything you give them) and giving them too much (if any) animal-derived protein like brine shrimp, fish meal, etc. can cause intestinal disorders that can lead to bloat and death. It's best to get young, tank-raised fish and get them eating Spirulina flakes only from the start. It's best not to toy with this aspect as bloat can set on very quickly with improper foods.

Provide pH levels of 8.0+ and hardness 12dH+. Use crushed coral either as a substrate or in a filter to buffer the carbonate hardness. Check your local water supply chemistry and if necessary, add some salts (SeaChem makes Lake Salts or marine mixes can work) to maintain lake-similar quality. Tropheus are very sensitive to poor water quality (which refers both to unclean water AND improper water chemistry) and may bloat in response. As with all cichlids, the rule is to overfiltrate. Other than that, treat them well :)

Make all efforts to keep them in a species tank (no other fish) as they can be very agressive and active swimmers, and their diet needs are very hard to match with other fish that require higher protein levels. Eretmodus and other goby species are a possibility for tankmates since they have similar requirements. T. duboisi seems to be a good choice for a fishkeeper's "first tropheus" since they are readily available (and thus not as extravagantly priced) and are somewhat hardier than their moorii cousins.


Sung, Devin. (May 27, 1996). "Confessions of a Tropheus addict". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on May 24, 2024, from: