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Tropheus Cichlids

Tropheus is a genus of cichlids from lake Tanganyika. They are very beautiful and interesting to watch fish. These fish get about 6". Some of the most common Tropheus species are T. duboisi and T. moorii. There are several geographic variants of each species.

To keep Tropheus moorii you must be very dedicated and do your home work on them. On many levels keeping Tropheus can be just as difficult as keeping salt water reef tanks. You must keep water conditions at the very best and keep stress levels to a minimum and curb aggression as well. You must also give them the proper diet, when their diet is not proper they will bloat up. This article is to give you some advice and rules for keeping Tropheus moorii successfully.

Tropheus Feeding Requirements

Tropheus Moorii Bemba, photo by L. MehlTropheus moorii need to have the proper diet. With an improper diet they will get bloat, which will almost definitely result in the death of them. They are herbivorous and can be extremely sensitive to food high in animal protein. In the wild they are algae grazers. They can handle small amounts of protein. After all in the wild they consume micro organisms and small crustaceans that are in the algae when they are eating the algae.

Spirulina flakes are a good staple diet for them along with some frozen algae pellet. Try to make sure you get flakes with spirulina as the main ingredient, as many foods labeled spirulina have fish meal as the main ingredient. The flakes that contain spirulina or other algae as the main ingredient are often the most expensive but are very well worth it. Foods high in protein will cause bloat. They can also eat some spinach and peas occasionally.

Tropheus Water Requirements 

Tropheus moorii are very sensitive to water quality. Being from a lake that has been unchanged for nearly 20 million years, it is no surprise they are sensitive to changes or deterioration in water chemistry. They do need a pH between 8.5to9.4 GH and KH are not as critical as pH as long as it is kept at hard levels. They like a temperature of 78 to 80°F / 25 to 27°C.

Tropheus Moorii IlangiTropheus moorii are very sensitive to nitrogenous waste also. Ammonia or nitrite will almost certainly kill them. They are very sensitive to build up of nitrates also. Nitrates should be kept at a minimum. Under 15 ppm is best.

Keep oxygen levels high. All Tanganyikan tanks should have high O2 levels, but with Tropheus it's detrimental to their health. You should keep oxygen levels by with lots of surface agitation with strong filtration and power heads or air stones.

Small frequent water changes are a must for these guys. Weekly 20-25% water changes should be done religiously. Be careful as to make sure the new water you are putting in at a water change is of the same pH and hardness of that in the tank to avoid shock.

Keeping a colony of Tropheus moorii 

Tropheus Moorii Mpulungu colonyWhen keeping a colony of Tropheus moorii you should never keep less than 15 individuals. This is to curb the aggression. It spreads the aggression out so aggression is not focused on one individual fish.

Tank Size 

The minimum tank size for a colony of Tropheus moorii is a 55-75 gallons / 210-280 litres. Even in a tank this size you should not keep less than 15 fish. I prefer larger tanks of 125 gallons / 475 litres or larger for Tropheus personally. Although a 55-75 gallon Tropheus tank can be succesfully done due to the level of over crowding necessary for a 55-75 gallon tank the fish can have a lot of distraction and interruption of breeding. Its not uncommon in a tank that size for another male to barge in and interrupt a court ship ritual between another male and a female. Fry are still produced in a set up of this size but not as many as a larger tank. In a 125 gallon you can keep a colony of 30 adults.

Steps to getting the proper sex ratio 

The sex ratio is one of the most important things for these fish. Luckily with Tropheus they will do end of fixing the ratio but we still have to do some work too.

It is very difficult to sex Tropheus without venting them. And almost always the Tropheus at the local fish store are too young to sex.

An established colony of Tropheus moorii do not take well to new Tropheus being added to their tank. This will often lead to death of the new fish and sometimes established fish also. This is why: When buying a group of young Tropheus moorii you should buy more fish than you can fit when they are adults. This is because you cannot sex them you will be likely to have too many males when you first get them. Not because there are more males than females but because a colony should have very little males compared to females. You should buy about 30% more fish than your tank can hold when adults. And as they grow weed out the males.

Here's where the fish will assist you a bit in weeding out excess males. The extra males are usually the ones hanging out at the top corner of the tank in submission. These fish should be removed at once so they are not killed.

Tropheus tankMaking territories 

Rock piles make good territories for Tropheus moorii. However it should not be one continuous rock pile as this will result in one male becoming hyperdominant and claiming all the rocks. I find it better to have the rock piles broken up, this way each male know where his territory ends. You shoult try to have as many rock piles as there are males, but even better more piles than there are males.

Keeping Single Tropheus in the Tanganyikan Community 

Tropheus can be kept singularly in a mixed cichlid community as well. But when you keep Tropheus with other fish you should always feed the tank according to whats best for the Tropheus, because Tropheus will quickly bloat up with an improper diet and cannot handle protein as well as most other fish. All the fish in the tank should be converted to a Tropheus friendly diet for the sake of Tropheus.

Tropheus Moorii MuragoThis is why it is best to go with Herbivorous or omnivorous tankmates. Carnivores do not mix well with Tropheus for dietary reasons. Another thing to keep in mind when adding tank mates for a Tropheus is their temperament. Tropheus are one of the most territorial cichlids of Lake Tanganyika and Tankmates should be able to hold their own or atleast be able to stay out the the Tropheus's path. Remember the Tropheus needs are your main concern, the diet, water chemistry, and furniture should be whats ideal for Tropheus, the rest of the fish must adapt to the Tropheus's needs.

Here are some species that are compatible and are a good choice for beginners with Tropheus:

Julidochromis spp.:
Julies graze on algae a bit like Tropheus do. Not as much as Tropheus do but they are very durable fish and can do with less protein diet that Tropheus need. They are also pretty tough and can hold their own with Tropheus. You should get a bonded pair or a group of juveniles to put with Tropheus. The Julidochromis species do not mix well together so only put one species with your Tropheus. Any species will do.
Goby Cichlids (Eretmodus, Spathodus, Tanganicodus spp.):
Goby cichlids are a good tank mate for Tropheus. They both have the same diet. But if you are a beginner go with captive bred gobies, as the wild caught goby cichlids are even more sensitive than Tropheus. Like Julies you should not keep more than one goby species in the same tank. They do best in pairs or as a large group of at least 8. In small groups there is lots of aggression. They do best in large tanks just like Tropheus do. They scoot along the bottom so they are ignored by Tropheus.
Synodontis Petricola Dwarf:
This is the smallest and the most peaceful of the Rift lake Synodontis species. And they tolerate the herbivorous diet of Tropheus better than any other Syno. They do best in groups of 6 to 8. When kept singularly or in a pair they hide a lot. The best Syno for a Tropheus tank in my opinion.

Topheus Moorii IlangiWhen keeping Tropheus singularly in a mixed cichlid community it does give you a chance to keep several species, but you wont get the real Tropheus experience as you would with a colony of Tropheus. You don't get to see their interactions and breeding. It is a whole different feel keeping a single Tropheus than it is to have a large colony of 15 to 30 of them. Tropheus are very fun and interesting to keep and breed in the colony situation.

Mixing Tropheus Species 

When mixing Tropheus you shouldn't put different variants of the same species together as this will result in interbreeding. Interbreeding is unlikely when mixing two different species.

When keeping one colony you will have one or two dominant males, and the colors of most of the fish in the colony, if not all the fish in the colony will have brilliant colors. You may have a problem when you have 2 different colonies of 2 different species in the same tank. Only one colony will be dominant and show their full colors while the other species colony will show less attractive subordinate colors. Sometimes neither colony will show their full colors.

Also when one species's colony is dominant over the other one they will breed more often then the subordinate colony. You will get much more fry from the dominant species in the tank. They will chase and interact amongst conspecifics and interact less with the other Tropheus species. Tropheus aggression is more a conspecific thing than with other species.

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