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Mixing Tropheus: Which Fish Can I Put Together?
by John N. Davidson

What Tropheus can I put together is a question we all have asked. The most common issue relates to mixing different types of Tropheus in one tank to make sure they dont interbreed, to make sure one group does not overpower the other and to make sure there are not too many fish in a tank.

We all want our tanks to feature the most beautiful fish. There are a number of beautiful Tropheus. So what can I do to make sure I have a beautiful tank and dont create problems?

First of all, please let me say that the enclosed is not a scientific article. I am relating my personal experience along with the experiences I have gathered from other Tropheus keepers.

One of the first things to realize is that by mixing Tropheus, you possibly will get mixed results out of all of the fish. A single group will have a dominant fish, or two, and the colors of most, if not all of the fish in the group will come through well. When you mix groups of fish you can run into the problem that none of them exhibit great colors or only one of the groups exhibits excellent color. In a perfect world we all have enough tanks to place one group in each tank and get the maximum effect from each group. I would have to move out of my house to achieve that effect or at least add on another house to get there.

Tropheus break down into the following types:

  • Annectens: The most common is the Polli or Lyretail.
  • Duboisi: There are basically three different duboisi. The most popular is the Maswa, or yellow band. There is also the Karilani, which is a narrow white band duboisi and the Kigoma which is a wide white band duboisi.
  • Brichardi: Examples of brichardi are; Mpimbwe, Kipili, Ulwile and Ujiji. The fry tend to have stripes and the adults do not. Fry tend to look very different from the adults.
  • Sp. Black: Examples are: Bemba, Kiriza, Bulu Point, Ikola and Karamba. The adults tend to be black with a vertical stripe or bar, such as Ikola, Kiriza, Bemba or black with spots, such as Bulu Point or Karamba. These fish mostly come from the northern part of the lake.
  • Moorii: Examples of moorii are: Chaitika; Red Rainbows (Kambwimba and others), Ilangi, Mpulungu, Murago, Linangu, Kala and Lufubu. As small fry these fish are virtually indistinguishable. Adults tend to either have stripes or are of the Rainbow variety with many colors, usually a yellow, orange or red included. These fish mostly come from the southern part of the lake.
  • Sp. Red: Examples of sp. Red are; Chimba, Kachese, Chisanse and Moliro. Adults generally do not have stripes, but a red or dark red background with varying redness in the fins. These fish tend to come from the southwestern part of the lake.

Generally, you can combine any two or more of the above different types without running a great risk of interbreeding. (Please remember that virtually any fish will interbreed under the right circumstances.) By mixing fish of different types you reduce the risk of interbreeding, but you can never eliminate it. Should you mix fish in the same group, you do run a greater risk of interbreeding. Therefore, mixing moorii and duboisi is okay. As is, mixing sp. Black with brichardi, or mixing duboisi with moorii. Mixing Mpulungu and Ilangi (both moorii) is not a real good idea. You can refer to the literature on Tropheus to get a better idea of which fish fall into what type. This way you can better determine what fish you can put together.

The sp. Red is a fairly new designation, and I am sure there will be more designations in the future as well. It has not been my practice to mix sp. Red with moorii, as I have feared interbreeding. It would appear to me, from what research I have done, that mixing the groups will probably not cause the same interbreeding as mixing two groups of moorii.

Tropheus tend to develop social hierarchies. There will almost always be a male in a tank that becomes the dominant male, usually staking out his territory at one end. (In rare cases a female will do this.) In a large enough tank, you will end up with two or males becoming dominant and the remainder of the fish usually stay in the middle of the tank.

When you mix two or more types of Tropheus, you end up having a dominant male from one of the groups. What that means is that one of the groups will likely breed more frequently than the others. You really cant put two groups together and expect them both to breed with the same frequency. One group will end up on top of the breeding.

The sp. Black and brichardi seem to come out on top in the breeding area when mixed with moorii. Part of this may be due to the moorii type possibly being a little more difficult to breed. moorii will still breed when mixed with another type, it just seems they are slightly overshadowed b the other types. Duboisi dont seem to pay attention to anyone else in the tank, so they make a real good choice to mix with other Tropheus. Mixing sp. Black and brichardi does not seem to have as much impact on breeding as other combinations.

I have mixed different types of Tropheus with success. There is nothing wrong at all with it. The feeding habits of each type are basically the same. Aggression between the different types is uncommon. Most Tropheus aggression is between their own type.

Finally, please remember that this is not scientific; I am only passing along what has worked for me and for others I have spoken with. I dont guarantee any of the ideas in this article will work, but they have for others and me. We are not scientists and this is not a perfect world, so we cant always get it right. These fish are living beings so they will do funny things occasionally.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my ideas. Happy Tropheus keeping!
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