Tropheus duboisi is a tough and rugged cichlid from Lake Tanganyika that, despite its quarrelsome behavior, is endearing to many hobbyists. Even though Tropheus species are hearty, keeping them is not without challenges. Hopefully, this article will help the beginner as well as the more advanced hobbyist properly and successfully care for them.
Tropheus duboisi is my favorite of the Tropheus complex. This fish starts out as a juvenile with a jet black body adorned with dozens of white spots that completely cover its flanks. As it matures, it loses its spots and develops a blue head with a vertical yellow band (or white if from Burundi). The Maswa variety are perhaps the most popular in the hobby because its yellow band is particularly wide. Males and females have identical coloration; however, there are a few subtle differences between sexes that may help you differentiate them.
For example, males tend to have a turned-up nose while females tend to have a greater slope and rounded nose. Males will also grow at a faster rate (generally) and display their adult colors sooner. Males' coloration is also often more bold than females' because they like to show it off when courting females. Adult males will also tend to have a deeper body, whereas females appear more slim and streamline. While these characteristics may help an experienced hobbyist, venting is the only sure way to determine gender with Tropheus.
T. duboisi is strictly herbivorous like all Tropheus species. They spend the majority of their time scraping algae from the rocks in both an aquarium as well as in the wild. Males are quite territorial and are aggressive in their attempts to coax females to spawn. They never seem to tire of this either - males want to spawn every minute of the day. This fish should never be kept in 1:1 ratios. One male to three or four females is an ideal ratio, but keep in mind that the "only correct way to keep this species in captivity is in a group of ten or more individuals." The most difficult challenge to breeding T. duboisi is bringing the females into spawning condition.
Once a female has spawned and is brooding her young, she should be removed so as to prevent undue harrassment by the dominant male in the tank. Incubation lasts anywhere from 24-28 days, and seems to be temperature dependent. Fry are robust and of a fairly large size. Mouthbrooding females usually do not fast during incubation and will in fact eat with their tank mates, although perhaps not as aggressively.
Due to the territorial nature of all Tropheus species, a colony should be established all at once. New individuals should never be added to an existing colony, as they disrupt the pecking order. A tank of no smaller than 75 gallons is recommended for a colony of duboisi because of their aggressive nature and because they should be kept in quantities of ten or more. Plenty of caves and other hiding places should be provided so as to give females sufficient room to hide. If you plan to keep more than one male in the same tank, you might consider going with a 125 gallon aquarium. Dithers, such as rainbow fish, help to reduce the aggression of males on females.
Eventhough Tropheus are much like their Malawi counterpart - the Mbuna - they are not as easy to keep and definitely not for the beginner. They are strict about having their water clean and have even been known to "bloat" on hobbyists who looked at them the wrong way. They require patience and a willingness to learn from one's mistakes, but when they are cared for properly, they have a personality that is sure to please. Romaine lettuce and spinach are highly recommended and one of these should be at least once daily. A green flake food (e.g., Spirulina-based) and the European Shrimp Mix are the only foods I'd recommend as the major constituent of their diet. Soft and easily digested foods, such as brine shrimp and insect larvae, should be avoided at all costs. □