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Care and Maintenance of Petrochromis
by Leigh Kissane (ApexPredator)
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So you have decided you want to plunge into the dark side of cichlid keeping, eh? You think you have what it takes to house, care for and breed some of the nastiest, meanest and most demanding cichlids in Lake Tanganyika? Before you read any further I want you to pull out your wallet, yes blow the dust away where the money should be and look for the missing bills. This is pretty much how your wallet will always look once you jump into Petrochromis keeping.

Let me tell you why you want to keep these fish. They are magnificent animals who can be extremely aggressive, grow to large, often unmanageable sizes, require expensive housing equipment and go through more food than a full grown bulldog. These fish also have exceptional personalities, exhibit wonderful behavioral patterns and possess vibrant colors and patterns. Does that sound like a fun challenge to you? If so, read on. If not, please turn your focus upon another type of fish. It takes a lot to properly keep Petrochromis. So, are you up to the challenge?!

This article is meant to offer some general advice on the care and maintenance of Petrochromis. While not an all encompassing guide it is, nonetheless a general source learned through trial and error. I will list some of the most common questions I get regarding Petrochromis and attempt to answer them in a straightforward manner. Again, I caution the reader as these fish are not for everybody. A large investment of money and time is required to house them properly. Below, I have attempted to answer some of the more commonly asked questions I get on a daily basis:

1. How easy are Petrochromis to keep?
The simple answer is - not very. If you have been keeping cichlids for years then by all means jump into Petrochromis keeping, but arm yourself with knowledge before your fish arrive. If you are new to cichlid keeping, do not get Petrochromis. They are too much for the novice aquarist to handle. They are large fish that can become terribly aggressive if not kept correctly. If they are housed properly, their aggression can be managed with better results.

2. Are Petrochromis really as mean as everybody says?
Again the simple answer is - yes. That being said, if you can get a large group of them (12-30) their aggression will be minimal. If you do not have a large group or you have several males, you can quickly end up with one large male left in your tank. By quickly I mean in a matter of days or even hours! They are extremely aggressive towards conspecifics.

3. What size tank should I house Petrochromis in?
I recommend a six foot tank as a minimum length. The larger the tank the better. I have kept my groups in tanks ranging from 125 gallons up to 180 gallons. In the future I plan to keep my larger variants in a 300 gallon. My tanks also have enormous filtration systems. I try to filter 1000 gallons per hour, per tank, as these fish can create quite a mess.

4. How many Petrochromis should I keep?
I usually recommend group sizes ranging from 12-30 members. If you have a single variant tank then you will need as many as possible. If you plan to have two or three variants in the same tank you can lessen the numbers but you must leave the overall fish count high. Petrochromis need to be crowded, much like Tropheus. The more the merrier. If you can only get five or six fish, donít buy them; you will quickly end up with one fish. For a smaller group, say 12, you would want as many females as possible. A few males are still ok as they will pick on each other rather than the females. For a larger group, say 30, you can get away with more males. I have seen people have success with an even ratio of males to females. While that usually works fine in a large group, I cannot stress enough it will not work in a small group.

5. What Petrochromis species should I start with?
A lot of people approach me after they have seen some of my pictures online. They state how much they love the sp. "Longola", "Kasumbe Rainbow" or "Moshii". I certainly canít blame them, as they are my favorites as well. Often aquarists are disappointed when I recommend they initially try none of the aforementioned. For the novice Petrochromis keeper, I recommend only two species. The first is Petrochromis trewevasae. If you feel comfortable caring for trewevasae, then consider trying any of the famula variants. Famula can be quite aggressive, but not as much as some of the larger macrognathus variants. Some other Petrochromis keepers have had a lot of success keeping fascialotus as an introductory Petrochromis. While they have had great success, I have never attempted to do so. Still, their success indicates fascialotus may be yet another wonderful option for the starting Petrochromis aquarist.

A new Petrochromis keeper should stay away from the following: sp. "Longola", "Kasumbe", "Moshii", polydon, sp. "Giant", "Red", "Texas" and any other of the macrognathus variants. The trewevasae and famula top out around the 6 inch mark and are quite manageable. The larger species can easily exceed 10 inches, with many other them going over 12-14 inches. They are impressive fish to say the least and not for the faint of heart.

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