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Care and Maintenance of Petrochromis
by Leigh Kissane (ApexPredator)

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6. How should I decorate my Petrochromis tank?

There is no really easy answer for this. I have experimented with several setups and witnessed some setups from several other aquarists. A good initial setup is to place one large rock on the far side of your tank. Place a lot of additional rocks, with several nooks and hiding places on the opposite side. Your dominant male should claim the large rock as his breeding area and leave the rest of the fish alone. Others have had success placing a large amount or rockwork throughout the tank. This offers more hiding places but I find the dominant male tries to claim the whole tank this way. Ultimately you will have to experiment to see what works best for your fish.

7. What other fish can I keep with my Petrochromis?

Well more Petrochromis, of course! Seriously though, as long as you already have a large group of Petrochromis you can house them with pretty much any other Malawi or Tanganyikan fish you want. Experience has shown me they get along with just about any other fish you can imagine. They pretty much ignore their tank mates and focus upon conspecifics. They only exception to this was frontosa. For some reason my Petrochromis do not like frontosa and will kill them if housed together. I do not pretend to understand why; I merely take precaution and keep them apart.

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8. How hard are Petrochromis to breed?

Petrochromis breeding is similar to Tropheus breeding. If you can get your Tropheus to breed you should be able to get your Petrochromis to do the same. It is of utmost importance to have as many females as you can in your Petrochromis group. An extra male or two wont hurt, as the dominant male will be aggressive to the extra males rather than your females. As a word of caution, a holding female should never be removed from the main tank for more than an hour. With other fish you can allow the female to hold her eggs in an isolation tank by herself. The problem is the Petrochromis group will not allow her to rejoin when reintroduced. They will kill her. In my experience, stripping the female of eggs and then immediately placing her back in the main tank has never been a problem.

9. What should I feed my Petrochromis?

I get this question a lot and there is no hard and fast rule. In the past I have fed my Petrochromis spirulina flakes, Dainichi veggie pellets, and New Life Spectrum pellets. They have thrived on all three. I recommend a spirulina based diet as Petrochromis have a very large intestinal tract. Science supports the fact fish with larger tracts have a more vegetarian based diet. Some protein is recommended. I often throw in some frozen brine shrimp or mysis shrimp as a treat. I usually keep the protein treats to a once per week regimen. Additionally I do not feed my Petrochromis on Sundays. I like to let them fast. I have no hard facts showing this is beneficial in any way but anecdotal evidence seems to agree on a fast period assisting in clearing the intestines.

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10. How should I care for my Petrochromis upon arrival?

It is a sad fact some Petrochromis do not travel and acclimate well. I often receive Petrochromis that refuse to eat and slowly waste away. I do not understand why this happens, but it does. The best thing to do is feed a variety of food in the hope to stimulate their hunger. This works with mixed results. This only seems to happen with newly imported wild caught specimens. Ask your supplier to ensure they are eating properly prior to shipping them to you. Petrochromis are voracious eaters so take the time to watch your new arrivals.

You should always have a hospital tank on stand by. I also recommend you have some egg crate material available to create aquarium dividers. I often use egg crate to separate my extra males while keeping them in the same tank. Even then they try to eat through the egg crate to get to each other.

I hope you find this general guide helpful. I try to encourage most people to jump into Petrochromis, as they really are a wonderful fish. As much as I encourage people though, caution is needed. These fish are not for everybody and they can be demanding. At a minimum you should be able to observe your fish each day. This allows you to see if any are being harassed and afford you time to remove any fish to rehabilitate them.

As a final thought do not be afraid to try a new challenge. Just be prepared for an empty wallet as these fish and the equipment needed to properly house them are not cheap. A single large group of these fish can easily top $1000. Couple that cost with the price of a large tank and capable filtration systems and you can quickly run into the price range of a salt water reef setup. Petrochromis are a wonderful, and sometimes frustrating, experience but it is one that I am glad I chose to get myself into. There is nothing quite as satisfying as managing to keep and breed a fish that others state cannot be successfully kept by the home aquarist.
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