Tropheus is a small genus within the cichlid family. All Tropheus species hail from Lake Tanganyika, one of the African Rift Valley Lakes, and live nowhere else except in aquariums. This fish can be found in most parts of the lake, from Burundi in the North to Zambia in the South. Breeding Tropheus in captivity is far from impossible if you start out with well kept specimens that are happy and healthy.
Tropheus in the aquarium
Many aquarists adore Tropheus cichlids since they are very beautiful and display interesting behaviors. Believing that Tropheus is almost impossible to keep is unfortunately quite common among aquarists, since Tropheus has gained a reputation of being hard keep alive and extremely vicious. The truth is that if you are prepared to do some reading about the species you are interested in keeping and following the guidelines, Tropheus is not a hard fish to keep. The problem is that many aquarists assume that all cichlids from Lake Tanganyika need more or less the same care, environment, and diet when the truth is that each species come with its own particular needs and preferences.
The genus Tropheus contains five recognized species.
There is also a subspecies of Tropheus moorii named Tropheus moorii kasabae.
Even within the same species, Tropheus fish display a high degree of heterogeneity. Each fish has adapted to its particular part of the lake and can be quite dissimilar to members of the same species who live only a few hundred meters away. When referring to Tropheus specimens, aquarists will therefore normally add and extra word to their name to avoid confusion. This is why you can stumble over names such as Tropheus moorii ‘Ilangi’ or Tropheus moorii ‘mpulungu’. The word behind the species name will tell you from which part of the lake that particular specimen or its ancestors hail.
The typical Tropheus habitat consists of rocky shores with plenty of boulders and crevices. Tropheus fish seldom dive deeper than 3 meters since the uppermost part of the lake is where you can find the richest algae growth. The further down you go, the less sunlight will be able to penetrate, and this results in poor algae growth. Tropheus duboisi is howeve a notable exception, since this species live 15-20 meters down in Lake Tanganyika.
All Tropheus species are algae eaters and will not do well if your give them flake food designed for omnivore fish species. In the wild, Tropheus species will occasionally ingest small crustaceans, aquatic insects and similar when they graze the stones, but the vast majority of their diet is always made up by algae. You should therefore provide them with the same diet in captivity by encouraging natural algae growth in the aquarium and complement with spirulina based flake food. You can give then occasional treats in the form of meaty live food, but never more than what they could find in the wild. Their intestines are not adapted to food rich in protein and/or fat and low in fibers, and a lot of common health problems in Tropheus aquarium fish is in fact caused by improper diets. What you can give your fish in addition to flake food is leafy vegetables, such as lettuce and spinach. Most Tropheus species are extremely fond of romaine lettuce.
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