Tropheus sp. black from Kiriza, Congo. Photo by Ad Konings.
At the June 1998 general meeting of the Milwaukee Aquarium Society the presentation by the guest speaker was on the species Tropheus. The presentation peaked my interest in the species. The fact that I needed to breed a 20 point species for the Milwaukee Aquarium Society's Breeders Award Program made obtaining a group of Tropheus a must. Since I went to the 1998 American Cichlid Association convention in St. Louis, obtaining a quality group of Tropheus was not very difficult. I purchased a group of 6 Tropheus sp. "Black" Kiriza, which were between 1 and 2 inches in length.
Tropheus sp. "Black" Kiriza has also been known in the hobby as Tropheus sp. aff. moori, Tropheus sp. Kaiser II, and the Emperor Moorii. The name Kiriza refers to a small village in the Congo. The village of Kiriza is located on the Ubwari Peninsula, which is on the northwest coast of Lake Tanganyika. The adult male grows to approximately 4.5 inches with the female being slightly smaller. The body is basically black with a ½ inch yellow band on the flanks.
The 6 Tropheus I purchased are housed in a 55-gallon aquarium along with 5 Cyprichromis leptosoma "Samazi". As luck would have it my group of Tropheus consists of 3 males and 3 females. I do not find bare bottom tanks aesthetically pleasing so a substrate consisting of red flint gravel and an equal part of crushed coral were the first thing I added to the tank. Large rock formations were arranged at the opposite ends of the tank. 6 pieces of PVC pipe 2 inches in diameter and 6 inches long were placed in the middle of the tank. The 2 largest males claimed the rock formations as their territory. The last male and 2 females were left with the middle of the tank. The third female spent most of her day hiding behind a Hydro IV sponge filter, which was located in the corner of the tank. The Tropheus and Cyprichromis provided for an active but peaceful tank. Occasionally the male Tropheus were observed fighting with the lips of the combatants locking, but no injuries resulted.
Caring for the group of Tropheus has proven to be relatively simple. Water changes of approximately 50% are carried out once every 2 weeks. Filtration consisted of an Eheim® canister filter and a Hydro IV spongeTM filter. The water is kept at 80 degrees. I have been feeding my group spiriluna and OSI Cichlid flake. Frozen brine shrimp and Tropheus shrimp mix are fed once a week. The main ingredients in the Tropheus Shrimp Mix are shrimp, peas and spiriluna powder. The complete recipe can be found on the Internet at the Cichlid Room Companion web site. When it comes to feeding Tropheus opinions are numerous and varied. Some Tropheus keepers seem to think that feeding brine shrimp or any other kind of animal protein is the ultimate sin of Tropheus keeping. They are afraid that the animal protein will cause bloat the most dreaded disease this species can be infected with. This has not been my experience in the short time I have been keeping Tropheus.
During the first year things were pretty uneventful. The Tropheus matured into healthy and very colorful adults. Fortunately illnesses were not a problem. In June of 1999 the first spawn occurred. For 11 days the female held a mouthful of eggs. On the 12th day disaster struck. While feeding the Tropheus I noticed that the female that was suppose to be holding eggs was feeding and had obviously disposed of her eggs. All 3 females carried on this routine on regular bases. Each spawn ended with the female disposing of the eggs. Watching this happen time after time made me feel like dumping this group at the next available auction. Somehow I was able to resist this temptation and was reward in December 1999.
After feeding my Tropheus I watch for a short time hoping to find a female holding eggs. Well this time while watching the fish feed I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Much to my surprise I found 2 small fry feeding. The fry did not appear to be threatened by the adults. Since I was too lazy to tear the tank apart for 2 fry they stayed with the adults until the next water change. During this time the adults never harassed the fry. I felt quite comfortable knowing they would still be around at the next feeding. When the fry were removed they were placed in a five-gallon tank filled with water from the adult tank. They were fed baby brine shrimp and finely crushed flake food.
On January 3, 2000 I noticed a female was holding again. After 17 days I decided to remove the fry from the female. Much to my surprise 7 fully developed fry were removed from the female. Stripping the fry from the female proved to be more difficult than any of the mouthbrooders that I have stripped. I don't know if it was the location of the mouth or the strong jaws of the Tropheus. Although I thought I had removed all the fry several days later I saw 2 more fry swimming in the tank. This group of 9 fry is now housed in a 15-gallon tank.
Breeding Tropheus did not prove to be too difficult. One thing that I have learned is that patience is truly a virtue. After raising the fish for 12 months I was finally reward with spawns. It took another 5 months for them to successfully raise a brood. As I stated earlier after watching numerous spawns disappear I was ready to dump my group of Tropheus. Thanks to my laziness this never happened. It sure takes a lot of work to catch and bag 6 fish properly. Being that I am the ultimate Procrastinator (a fact which can be verified by my wife) it has taken me 6 weeks to write this article. During this time I have had 2 more spawns and the third female is holding. Good things happen to those who are patient enough to let nature take it's course.