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Tropheus duboisi "maswa" variety. Photo by Rick Borstein
Tropheus are from Lake Tanganyika and are divided into 6 species. T. annectens, T. sp. "black", T. brichardi, T. duboisi, T. sp. "kaiser" and T. moorii. Tropheus duboisi has 3 sub-species, the "Maswa", the "Karilani Island" and the "Kigoma". Tropheus duboisi was one of the first Tropheus first brought into the United States. They are one of the most misunderstood fish out of the Rift Lakes. Over the years, they have gotten a bad rap.
When you mention Tropheus to a group of people, undoubtedly someone will mention how hard they are to keep and even harder to breed. Neither is true, they just have different requirements than most other African Cichlids. Don’t fall into that trap and you’ll do fine. They are a medium-sized fish with males and females reaching a size of 4 to 5 inches.
Tropheus duboisi are from several sites in Lake Tanganyika, hence the sub-species names listed above. They range from about 15 feet of water to medium depth (about 50 feet). They are cave and rock dwellers by nature.
Tropheus duboisi likes hard alkaline water around 76-82 degrees, although they will tolerate slightly higher or lower temperatures. Some salt may be added but they do fine without. Although Tropheus duboisi likes a rocky habitat and caves, care should be taken to exclude, yes exclude them, to insure successful breeding. Tropheus duboisi are the least aggressive of all the Tropheus species but are still pretty nasty fish. They don’t do well in community tanks.
They do best when kept in large groups. A minimum group size of 12 to 18 fish is best— the larger the group, the better. If you have an established colony, don’t add fish. You will offset the balance of the tank and death will occur.
Extreme care should be taken when feeding Tropheus duboisi . Tropheus duboisi should be kept on an almost 100% vegetable diet. If given a diet with large amounts of protein, they certainly will have problems, ranging from bloat to death. Tropheus have an extraordinarily short intestinal tract and cannot handle digesting proteins. Any good quality flake food made from vegetable matter is fine. Spirulina is an excellent food for Tropheus.
I know some breeders who feed fry with baby brine but most do not. Even the fry readily adjust to flake food (pulverized between your fingers). GCCA's publication, 1999-001 January Issue (875.51 kB) had a homemade recipe used by Joe Domkowski, a local Tropheus breeder. Joe feeds this as a treat and does not recommend using this food as a steady diet. These special diet requirements will limit your success with Tropheus as a community fish.
Comment from Rick Borstein: I have had good results feeding HBH Graze and Dainichi Veggie Deluxe.
Tropheus duboisi are harem spawners. A perfect breeding colony would be about 8 males and 20 or so females in a 125 gallon tank. To achieve this ratio, you have to start with about 4 dozen young. As they get older, pull out dominant males until this ratio is attained. A bare tank is recommended because Tropheus duboisi are very territorial and with no domain to rule over, less fighting will occur. 4–5 inch long pieces of 1" inch PVC pipe hung from the tank edge with monofilament can give extra protection for brooding females. As aggressive as Tropheus duboisi are, they are great parents and won’t usually eat their young. If you would like to observe cichlid behavior, leave the fry in with the adults. If not, strip females and tumble eggs.
There are many location varieties of Tropheus duboisi and price and availability may vary greatly.
Fry $10 to $20.
Adults $20 to 40.
If you plan on obtaining Tropheus duboisi fry, remember several things. They are not good as community fish, they require a special diet, they do best in large groups and bring a thick wallet. You want to try breeding them?
My suggestion: Buy several dozen fry, raise them up and soon you will have your own breeding colony. If buying adults, I recommend buying colonies only. If you add new adults to an existing colony you will have major problems. If you have established a good rapport with a local dealer, maybe he will be willing to give you a substantial break off of retail if obtaining fry in quantities.
Report November 1999 by Jim Stigliano