When we want to keep Tropheus in the aquarium, we should aim to imitate the conditions of our tank as close as possible to the conditions in the wild, in order for the fish to flourish and demonstrate behavior as natural as possible.
In the wild, mature Tropheus does not belong to a colony/group. Males hold territory at the reef within a radius of 30 cm up to 1 meter and guard it boldly. Fertile female wandering between territories, and choose the most attractive male to spawn with. Mouth-brooding females find shelter at the rocky reef for 3-4 weeks and continue on guarding the fry for additional several days after becoming free-swimming. During the incubation period the females feed on the Biofilm layer (Auw fuchs) found on rocks. The young juveniles hide among the rocks for a long period of time, there they are also feeds on the Biofilm layer.
However, some of these conditions are impossible to implement and some of them are very difficult to implement in the aquarium. We cannot artificially raise the Biofilm layer on the rocks, therefore mouth-brooding females and juveniles will find it very difficult to find food naturally. Juveniles need to feed constantly to grow normally and rapidly, daily feeding with adult food will not provide an appropriate response to their nutritional needs. Mouth-brooding females at the aquarium weakened faster in comparison to the mouth-brooding females in the wild and this can affect the ability of proper brooding. It’s also hard to provide a massive rocky habitat since the hobbyist will need to obtain a very large dimensions tank and maintaining it will be difficult. The solution is to put together a convenient to operate rocky habitat with a number of territories: territory for each male and a larger territory to hide at for mouth-brooding females, physically weak females (after brooding) and juveniles. The colony ratio is also very important and depends on the dimensions of the tank: 2 males and a minimum of 8 females in the aquarium with the smallest dimensions possible (1m long, 0.5m depth, 0.5m height). The larger the tank’s dimensions are it is possible and desirable to incorporate a greater number of Tropheus and enlarge the rocky habitat in accordance with. The reason for this male:female ratio is to reduce the male’s aggression that guards their territory enviously and eager to spawn with the females at any time.
In order to avoid weakening females, many hobbyists use to “strip” mouth-brooding females to extract the larvae to continue incubate it. If done properly, this action allows the female to recover quickly, resume feeding properly and copes with the colony aggression towards her more easily. It is important to take notice that during the mouth-brooding period, aggressiveness shown towards the female is high .The female has minimal ability to hide from the other Tropheus in the colony in comparison to conditions in the wild.
The Tropheus diet is very specific. In the wild, it scrapes algae from rocks continuously throughout the day. Tropheus has Long, thin intestines which adapted to digest the difficult dissolution algae. Among these algae are microscopic invertebrates that are easy to digest and is an integral part of the fish diet. It is impossible to grow this algae layer in the aquarium, therefore it is recommended to supply adult Tropheus quality vegetarian food with low amount of fat and medium amount of protein.
Other chemical conditions that should be provided to Tropheus: water temperature 24-26 degrees Celsius, pH 7.8-9.0.