Tropheops microstoma

Tropheops microstoma grows somewhat larger in the aquarium (14cm) than in the wild (12cm). The males are blue with black vertical stripes.

Tropheops microstoma

Tropheops microstoma was described by Trewavas in 1935. The genus name Tropheops is derived from the Tropheus genus from Lake Tanganyika. Tropheus is combined with the ancient Greek ‘ops’ which means eye. In this combination it means something like ‘looks like Tropheus’. The species name microstoma can be broken down into two words. Micro means ‘small’ and ‘stoma’ means ‘mouth’, a reference to the much smaller mouth of this species compared to that of Tropheops tropheops.


In the wild, Tropheops microstoma males reach a total length of about 12 centimeters. Because we provide more and stronger food in the aquarium, they can grow to about 14 centimeters in captivity. The females remain somewhat smaller at 10 centimeters.

Adult males color blue with dark blue to black vertical stripes. Four of them are very clearly visible. The dorsal and caudal fins are edged with a yellow border. The male has a number of egg spots on the anal fin.

The males are territorial and defend their territory against other Tropheops microstoma males.

As mentioned, the females remain somewhat smaller. Their color scheme is a somewhat dull silver/gray with slightly darker light brown stripes on top.


This species only occurs in Lake Malawi. They prefer calm waters in sheltered bays. They occur in the bays of Monkey Bai, Mpunguti, around Domwe Island and Otter Point.

They inhabit the transition zone from sand to rocks. Both above surfaces with and without sediment. They are most common at depths of 5 to 25 meters.


In the wild, Tropheops microstoma feeds mainly on algae. With their strong jaws they grab the algae strands (aufwuchs) that grow on the rocks of Lake Malawi. They shake their bodies and heads to tear the algae loose from the substrate. Small invertebrates also live among the algae strands. When researching this species, they found small amounts of invertebrates in the stomach contents.

In the aquarium you can feed them mainly with algae food such as spirulina flakes. Feeding sparingly with some artemia, mysis or small amounts of finely chopped shrimp is possible.

The Aquarium

The aquarium for Tropheops microstoma should be at least 150 centimeters long to accommodate one male with several females. The males have a territory and can only be kept together in much larger aquariums.

Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. Use rocks and create cracks, crevices and caves. The male makes his territory here. The females use the hiding places to isolate themselves and escape the attention of the man.

Water parameters

The water in the aquarium may have a temperature between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. Preferably keep the pH between 7.5 and 8.5.

Breeding Tropheops microstoma

No special breeding aquarium is required for breeding Tropheops microstoma. They can reproduce in an aquarium with other species present.

The male chooses a place where he wants to spawn. He tries to lure the females to this place. He does this by showing his most beautiful colors. He swims in front of the female and shows his flank with trembling movements.

When the female comes along to spawn, they circle around each other. The female lays an egg, turns around and takes the egg in her mouth. Meanwhile, the male circles with her. He rubs his anal fin, with egg spots, on the substrate. The woman thinks they are eggs and tries to pick them up. The male releases some sperm and fertilizes the eggs.

After spawning, the female retreats between the rocks. She hatches the eggs in her mouth. You can see from the female’s throat that it has become much larger. This contains first the eggs and then the young fish.

After about 4 days the eggs hatch in her mouth. However, she is not yet releasing the young fish. They live on their egg yolk sac until about 21 days after spawning. After this period, the fry are released and left to fend for themselves.

The young fish grow quickly and are sexually mature after about 8 to 12 months.

Raising more young Tropheops microstoma

Unfortunately, not many young fish survive in a mixed aquarium. The other fish see the newly released fry as food. If you want to raise more young, you will need a separate rearing aquarium.

To do this, set up an aquarium with the same water values as the main aquarium. Place some sand and a few rocks at the bottom for a female to take shelter in between. Catch the female when she has been incubating for about 18 days.

Place the female with the young fish in her mouth in this rearing aquarium. After the female releases the young, she does not eat them immediately. You have plenty of time to catch the female and place her back in the main aquarium.

You can feed the young Tropheops microstoma with crushed spirulina flakes and other fine flake food.


John de Lange

Copyright images

Pete Barnes

Additional information






Pseudotropheus microstoma, Pseudotropheus tropheops microstoma

First described by

Ethelwynn Trewavas




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