Tropheus duboisi

Tropheus duboisi can best be kept in a species aquarium. They prefer hard water and are true schooling fish.

Tropheus duboisi ‘Maswa’

My 14 Tropheus duboisi ‘Maswa’ live in a 55 gallon tank simply decorated with lava rock and gravel. Two Whisper 2 power filters and a Hydrosponge IV try to keep up with the waste these herbivore cichlids produce. Once a week water changes of 40-50% direct from the tap seem to keep them happy. The water is 8.6 pH, about 250-300 ppm hardness and kept at 79F. I bought this group from Jeff Black as 1.5 inch juveniles in June of 1998. Actually, Jeff told me he thought they were ‘Maswa’ but he couldn’t be sure. I figured they had nice polka dots, and, let’s be frank, adult duboisi looks are an acquired taste. Whether the band is yellow, white, broad, or thin really doesn’t make them look that much better anyhow, except to your die-hard Tropheus freaks. However, almost everyone agrees that Tropheus duboisi young are especially pretty. The white dots on a black background seem to have a touch of fluorescence that makes the fish look like a salt water specimen.

After a week one died, but the rest adjusted to their new home just fine. They were fed a diet of spirulina flake twice daily. For the first year of their lives I would put a Romaine lettuce leaf in the tank every morning. The lettuce only lasted about an hour, after which these gluttons have completely stripped the leaf down to the veins. Tropheus are maniacal feeders. My guys swirl in a frenzied mass just under the surface of the water whenever I enter the room. Only after they are certain I am not going for the food jar do they settle back down. “Settling down” for them is a continual whirl of activity that seems to consist of eating algae off the rocks, chasing some tankmates and running away from others. After a year I stopped feeding them lettuce as they would make a mess either from them not eating tiny, free floating bits of lettuce, or in the “what-goes-in-must-come-out” category, the incredible amount of waste they were producing.

These T. duboisi were a lot less vicious than T. brichardi which I also keep. In fact, in over a year keeping them and having gone through a spawning cycle, I never saw even a split fin. They would chase each other and play dominance games, but their fighting didn’t result in any damage. Of course, they are still young and who knows what will happen when they get a little older and crankier. Somebody told me keeping Tropheus is a lot like managing a state prison. If you have the right balance of characters there’s an uneasy peace, but if fighting does break out, better call up the National Guard.

Until they reached spawning age, I went with a simple rock set up: Three piles of lava rock (Each pile had a base of three stones with one stone on top) with some separation between the piles. One big male adopted the left pile, another claimed the right and the rest were pinched in the middle. The big males would often shoot into the swirling group of fish in the middle, maybe to punish some affront from a lower ranked fish, but in general the males on either side didn’t pay much attention to each other, except to carefully avoid the other’s rock pile.

Two females began holding just after they developed a yellow band and lost their spot pattern (May, ’99). They were about 3 inches long. They held for 30 days and I let them release naturally into the tank. About a week before release I threw a lot of rubble (in the form of small stones and clay seedling pots) in the bottom of the tank for the little guys to hide, but the adults didn’t show much interest in them. Seven young duboisi eventually were released from the two moms, and after a week the 1.2 cm fry were darting up to the surface chomping on spirulina flakes almost half their size. I never bothered to feed them anything but crushed spirulina flake.

At this point they are kind of crowded in a 55 gal, so I’m moving them into a 75 gal. As to the mystery whether they are ‘Maswa’ or not, they are adults now, and are displaying a yellow band. I showed some pictures to Jeff awhile ago and he said he still thinks they’re ‘Maswa.’  If you look in Tepoot’s Cichlids: The Pictorial Guide, they are dead ringers for the ‘Maswa’ pictures in the book. However, on Jessica Miller’s Tropheus Basics website ( the wide dark yellow banded fish she has pictured don’t look like my guys. Well, whatever the heck they are, I still like them. I guess I’ll post a few pictures and get some opinions from some die-hard Tropheus freaks, which, I hate to admit, I’m rapidly becoming.


Mike Satkowski
First publication: Fincinnati, Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society:
Source: Aquarticles (no longer available)

Copyright images

Mike Satkowski

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