Previously grouped under the genus Pseudotropheus, Tropheops is now considered to be a separate genus by Konings and others. Members of Tropheops can generally be determined based on "the small, ventrally placed mouth with lower jaw shorter than upper, and the steep sloping snout (ethmo-vomerine block)".Tropheops typically feed off the filamentous algae with jerking twists of the body. Some types maintain 'algal gardens'.
T. sp. "red cheek" has been collected often from the waved-washed rocky shores of Likoma and Chizumulu Island. It is usually found in the upper 3 to 5 meters of this generally clean but turbulent zone. It is sometimes seen in the hobby as "Macrophthalmus Red Cheek" or "Big Eye". In the local language this Mbuna is called 'M'kokafodya' which means 'glowing fire' or 'live coal'. In the wild, the males stake out a territory over a large rock (1-2 meter) and guard it "with great zeal". Red Cheeks are not known to maintain algal gardens in their territories.
I first received a group last Fall. After a series of population adjustments, I ended up with 1 dominant male and 2 females. The male is approx. 4-1/2", the females are 4". The group is housed in a 40BR with 1m/3f groups of Pundamilia neyererei "Python Island" and Mbipia lutea and 2 BN's. The male Red Cheek is the dominant fish in this tank. He is a relatively benevolent dictator. Both males of the other 2 species are fully colored up and well tolerated. He pretty well just ignores the females of these other groups.
The same cannot be said for his own harem, however. He likes black leather, whips and chains and is a very aggressive 'spawner'. I usually remove the holding female to an isolation tank for the duration of her term so she can have a break from his attentions and mend torn fins. The females are quite robust and heal quickly. They usually spawn again within 3 weeks of their return to the tank. They are very good mothers and will protect their fry for an unusually long period after the fry's initial release. One mother was still taking the fry in every night for 10 days. Typical batch size is around 20. The fry are a little larger than most Mbuna fry and are all minnow-silvery at first. Size variations and coloring can began to be seen in as little as 3 weeks. They grow quickly on a diet of daphnia and crushed flake and are aggressive feeders. They quickly recognize me holding a flake can and rise to the surface expectantly. The adults have fared well on a mixed diet of flake, pellets and fresh foods. Because of their tank mates, I have used foods more geared towards omnivores which they have eagerly accepted and have experienced no ill effects.
Red Cheeks are a very rewarding species to keep. Much like a Ps. salousi, the blue males (with the yellow 'cheeks') and the orangey-yellow females allow for a nice mix of color within the species group. They are an undemanding and attractive species that can be mixed with any Mbuna and with many Victorians, as I have done. I feel that having the Red Cheek male as the dominant fish has blocked either of the Victorian species males from becoming hyper-dominant and destructive. I highly recommend this species, and other Tropheops species, to all cichlid enthusiasts.
All quotes from Ad Konings, Malawi Cichlids (3rd edition.)
Originally published in The Lateral Line, the official publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club.