Breeding Tropheus

Equipment Needed

  • Tropheus in a tanganyika tank
    Tropheus in a tanganyika tank

    5ft-6ft tank or bigger

  • 2ft grow out tank
  • Large group of young tropheus 15 or more fish (min. 11)
  • Tanganyika salt mixture
  • External power filter
  • Sponge filters
  • ph and hardness testing kit
  • Powerhead or wavemakers
  • Shallow layer of coral sand on the tank floor (Calcium carbonate sand)
  • Many rocks
  • Mardel’s ‘clout’ medicine

General information and description of Tropheus

tropheus Blue faced duboisi
tropheus Blue faced duboisi

Tropheus species are one of the most popular fish from lake Tanganyika. They are more water sensitive than Malawi cichlids because the ph and hardness of lake Tanganyika is higher, with a ph around 9.0. Tapwater is not close enough to this. So unless your tapwater is particularly hard with a high ph then your fish are likely to get ill and die in the long run. To get hardiness from your fish you need to add Tanganyika salts or a home made mix that mimics the salts of lake Tanganyika.

They are a very active fish swimming to and fro all over the aquarium. They do occasionally pause and become territorial but squabbles are quickly over with as they then continue to actively swim around the aquarium. The males are more territorial than the females. Each male will defend its patch of rocks. A rocky patch is one separated by a sandy area around it keeping it separate from other rocky patches. To reduce aggression then have large open spaces and only a few hideouts.

Young tropheus are black with white or pale blue spots all over the body and look like the night sky. When they become adult they develop the different colours that are associated with the different species. Orange bands, yellow bands, white bands and red bands across the midriff being very common.

Bulu point tropheus breeding
Bulu point tropheus breeding

There are several tropheus species, all of them maternal mouthbrooders. Tropheus moori, Tropheus duboisi, tropheus annectens, tropheus brichardi, tropheus kasabae and tropheus polli are the six species presently recognised. The first two species are the most popular and readily available species. Also there are many sub variants of each species with different colourings depending on which part of the lake they come from.

Most tropheus can be found in relatively shallow waters of less than 3 metres depth in rocky areas. They will spend all their lives in and amongst the rocky area they were born in. Only very rarely will a tropheus leave its rocky area to cross a sandy patch to find a new rocky area.

Keep the aquarium at a constant temperature of 26C. The ph should be about 9.0ph and the hardness level GH 16-KH 14. Make sure that there is a source of iodine salt in any mix you use for buffering the hardness. Or you could add a drop of iodine once a month to the water.

Feeding Tropheus

In the wild tropheus graze on algae and any organisms the find in the algae. So they must be fed with food that resembles this as close as possible.

Tropheus have a voracious appetite because they need to eat a lot of vegetable matter to get sufficient nutrition. However, in the aquarium when fed with a prepared fish food, they can become overfed. Most fish foods have a high calorie and protein content that is bad for their digestion. Only feed tropheus, foods that are high in vegetable matter such as spirulina. Spirulina flakes and spinach are ideal foods. Spirulina with kelp is also a good staple food for them.

Supplement with some clean live foods such as adult brine shrimp and daphnia. Like Malawis, tropheus should be fed once a day to avoid bloat.

Tropheus are notorious for getting bloat and ill. Illnesses are caused by improper water conditions, dirty water conditions and poor feeding. To help maintain good water have a filter that can turn the water over 10 times per hours. For example in a 200 liter tank you should have a filter running at 2000 liters per hour. When the water and feeding is right then tropheus are a hardy fish and will breed readily without your help. Tropheus Duboisi seems to be the hardiest of the tropheus species. So buy these if you are new to Tanganyika cichlids.

Check the feeding of your tropheus everyday. If your tropheus stop eating or eat less. Or even just one of them goes off its food then treat immediately with clout at the recommended does.

Preparation for breeding tropheus

Tropheus bemba breeding on a rock
Tropheus bemba breeding on a rock

Just keep up with water changes 25% of the water twice a week. Very shallow. Provide some flat rocks around the aquarium. Make sure these rocks are not too high because tropheus will breed on high rocks and if the eggs drop off the rock and fall too far the female will not find them.

Many breeders recommend a breed ratio of 2 males to 13 females to reduce the aggression against the females. However, it is better to have a more equal number of males to females. Males fighting with each other will keep the males too busy to be over aggressive with the females.

Add or increase feeding of adult brine shrimp and daphnia to their vegetarian diet. Avoid dirty foods such as tubifex and daphnia.

Tropheus breeding behaviour

There are no egg spots on the male, but the female still knows where to collect sperm from. They rotate like their malawi cousins. They usually spawn on a rock and lean outwards as they turn. The female will present her vent to the male and flutter her dorsal fin to attract the male. The male mouths at the female’s vent to stimulate her. The female will then drop a large egg while she is leaning on her side. Then she quickly turns and picks up the single egg. Then the male will present his vent and he will flutter his dorsal fin to attract the female. The female will mouth at the male’s vent stimulating him to release milt to fertilise the egg in her mouth.

The female will lay between 6 and 15 eggs at a spawning, one at a time. If she is stripped then she will breed again more quickly than if she is allowed to hold them full term.
Note that the male and female’s breeding behaviour is almost exactly the same, except that the female will pickup and hold her eggs in her buccal cavity. They produce larger and fewer eggs than typical Malawis. In fact as fish eggs go they are huge and orangey pink in colour.The breeding behaviour overall is more advanced than the comparable Malawi cichlid.

Raising the tropheus fry

tropheus fry
tropheus fry

Eggs are very large. The mother releases them after 4 to 5 weeks depending on the temperature. The female should be kept with in the main aquarium for as long as possible.
Some breeders allow the eggs to hatch but remove the fry and tumble them. Tumbling involves putting the young in a container with a moderate fine mist of bubbles to gently keep them clear of debris. Other breeders will remove the eggs from the female and tumble these. Tumbling tropheus eggs is more difficult because of the larger size. Too slow an airflow and the eggs will be on the floor attracting dirt and getting infected. Too fast and the eggs, being larger, will hit things and get damaged. Tumbling is recommended for the more advanced aquarist because it increases the number of live young that are produced as long as you get it right. Note the eggs hatch after 3-4 days.

After about 4 weeks remove her by catching her in a plastic receptacle. Herd her gently into it and then lift her out while she is in the water in the container. Place her in the grow out tank. Add a couple of mature sponge filters to the grow out tank.

After a week or so she will release the fry. Then catch her and put her back in the main tank. The fry are very large when born. As long as the water quality is good and there is a good circulation of water with good filtration then they will be quite hardy.

Feed the young tropheus with baby brine shrimp and spirulina flakes for the first month. They will grow quickly. When they are about two months they can then be transferred to the adult tank.

Do not let the fry grow too large before adding to the adult tank as they will not get accepted without fights and possible deaths. Or just sell them on when they are about 2 inches or bigger.


Leave a Comment