Tropheus moorii
Tropheus moorii


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Tropheus moorii - My Experiences

The Blunthead cichlid, Tropheus moorii, can be tricky to care for, but is kept by many devoted aquarists due to its striking beauty and interesting behaviors. These fishes are also quite easy to obtain from fish stores since they are not hard to catch in Lake Tangayika. Tropheus moorii comes in many different colours and colour patterns and there are currently over 40 known geographical variants of this species, such as Tropheus moorii ‘Ilangi’, Tropheus moorii ‘Mpulungu’ and Tropheus moorii ‘Murango’. All variants are native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa and Tropheus moorii can be found in all rocky regions of the lake.

Keeping Tropheus moorii

Tropheus moorii should ideally be kept in groups of at least 12 specimens to disperse aggressiveness. It is a highly hierarchical species and should therefore only be kept in colony proportions. Different aquarists have had very different experiences from this fish, but many report reaching good results when keeping two males and at least ten females.

Males are always highly territorial and each male must be able to claim a region of the aquarium. Clever aquarium decoration is therefore called for. The aquarium decoration should also provide plenty of hiding spots for all the fishes. Females are only territorial when kept in aquariums without any males present. Giving each male his own cave is a good idea, since he will often be satisfied with claiming only the cave.

All specimens must be introduced simultaneously to their new home; otherwise the first specimens will claim the entire aquarium and protect it fiercely from any new additions. Adding new Tropheus moorii to a functioning colony is like asking for problems, because they may not only pick at the new arrival – the new source of aggression can actually break up the entire pecking order which causes chaos and plenty of fighting.

Feeding Tropheus moorii

Just like all other Tropheus species, Tropheus moorii is a strict herbivore that will develop health problems if you give it food rich in protein in low in fibers. Tropheus moorii feeds by scarping algae from rocks and cliffs, and encouraging algae growth in the aquarium is the easiest way of keeping a Tropheus moorii happy and healthy.

Bright light is recommended in the aquarium, since Tropheus moorii needs large amounts of algae each day. Even a brightly lit aquarium can look quite algae free when occupied by a colony of Tropheus moorii, because they eat more algae than renowned algae eaters such as Plecos. In the wild, they prefer to stay around reefs, in shallow regions and in the upper parts of Lake Tanganyika where there is an abundance of light and prolific algae growth.

In captivity, natural algae growth is seldom enough to keep a colony of Tropheus moorii well feed. You should therefore supplement their diet with lettuce and green flakes. They love spirulina flakes. You can also give them pellets, as long as you pre-soak the pellets and only purchase pellets suitable for Tropheus moorii. Tropheus moorii should only be given food that is low in protein and high in fibres. Stay away from soft or slimy food, such as mosquito larvae, beef heart and brine shrimp. Prepared food with a high degree of wheat and fish meal must also be avoided. Tropheus moorii will appreciate occasional meaty treats, but should only be given Cyclops or Mysis. 

A lot of health problems in Tropheus moorii are caused by their diet. If you give your fish food that is too rich in protein, too high in fat, too low in fibres and too easily digested, your fish will develop irritated bowels. This will in turn increase the risk of disease, including bloat.

Sexing Tropheus moorii

Since male frequently engage in lip-locking, his lips will often look more off-white that the lips of the more docile female. Males also have more prominent upper lips than females. Another way of sexing Tropheus moorii is to look at the nose. Is the nose turned-up? Then you are probably looking at a male. Is the nose quite round and with a greater slope? Then the specimen is most likely a female.
Immature males will usually grow faster than immature females and start showing their adult coloration at a younger age. When mature, males tend to have a bolder and more vivid colouration and a deeper body. The body of a female Tropheus moorii is slimmer and more streamlined.

Breeding Tropheus moorii

Coaxing males into spawning in captivity is certainly not difficult and if provided with a large enough harem, the males can fertilize eggs every third day. When they want to spawn, they will act even more aggressive than normally. Courtship consists of the male diving in front of the female, shakings his body and shimmying until she decides that she wants to breed with him. He will then lead her to his claimed territory where the two fishes will assume the well-known “T-position”. After some circling and nudging, the female will release her eggs.

Tropheus moorii is a maternal mouth-brooder and the female will pick up the eggs as soon as they have been released. She will then prod the male's went with her mouth until he fertilizes the eggs inside her mouth.

The female Tropheus moorii will carry the eggs inside her mouth for 3-4 weeks. After 10-15 days of incubation, you should ideally move her to her own aquarium where she can not be harassed by the males. In a confined environment such as an aquarium, the stress she experiences from the harassment can cause her to spit out her eggs. A Tropheus moorii female can eat even when brooding and should therefore be given plenty of food in the separation aquarium. She must be given her own aquarium – do not attempt to house her with any other brooding Tropheus moorii female. Two brooding females in the same aquarium without any male present will only result in a lot of violence.

The eggs will hatch inside her mouth and the fry are quite large when released. You can start feeding them crushed green flake food. They are normally not big enough to eat lettuce until they are a few months old.

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Tropheus moorii