Hobbyists are often inspired to obtain these fish because of their striking appearance when young, but as adults they are also very attractive. Watching the White Spotted Cichlid change from its juvenile to adult coloring is really awesome, with the adult looking like a totally different fish. The juveniles are very attractive with a black body covered with white to bluish spots. The adults have a bluish head, an overall dark slate to almost black body and fins, and a bold contrasting band around their middle. There are several variations of the mid section stripe depending on where the fish is collected. It can be narrow, broad, or wide and can be yellow or white in color.
The Tropheus species became a big hit when first introduced in Germany in the mid 1970's and then into the United States, and are still very popular today. They are rather expensive fish, and initial attempts to keep them often met with difficulty until aquarists became familiar with their rather specific, though uncomplicated needs. They can be afflicted with the occurrence of 'bloat', and there seems to be no explainable rational as to its cause. The White Spotted Cichlid was one of the first Tropheus to be introduced into the United States.
The personality of the White Spotted Cichlid is a definite plus, they are very active and have individual behaviors. Tropheus have a really interesting social structure that is built upon a colony of consistent tank mates. Having an extremely aggressive nature, they are best kept in a species specific tank in groups of at least 10. The White Spotted Cichlid is said to be less aggressive than their cousins, but this can vary depending on the personalities of individual fish. Do not add a new fish to an already established colony as this will cause an upset and death. They may also be kept in a larger aquarium with other herbivorous rock dwelling African cichlids along with some Synodontis catfish species. Do not keep them with slow moving fish or carnivores. Dither fish can help distract the males aggression on females when breeding. The larger the tank and the more hiding places you have (except when breeding), will help with aggression.
The White Spotted Cichlid is a bit easier to care for than its cousins. This hearty cichlid can be easy to moderate to keep as long as attention is paid to its diet and mandatory water changes are done, and difficult if they are neglected. Provide a sandy substrate, strong lighting to encourage algae growth, and several rock piles along with rocks formed into caves. Truly a rewarding fish for the aquarist who is willing to provide the necessary care.
The White Spotted Cichlid is a stocky fish that seems to have a larger head in proportion to their body, and the body narrows as it forms the tail. Adults have a blue to blue-gray head, an overall dark slate to almost black body and fins, and a bold contrasting band around their middle. As juveniles, they are so adorable, being all black with white to bluish polka dots that seem to run in vertical rows.
The change from juvenile to adult coloring is really awesome. As they get older the black fades and the band that wraps them starts to appear as a faded out yellow or white. Gradually the spots on their body disappear and their head starts to turn blue, though still having some spots. The spots on the body start to form into irregular stripes, then they also fade to a solid color once they are mature.
There are four geographic variations of the Tropheus duboisi, each with a slightly different mid section band encircling the body;
- Tropheus duboisi "Karilani" - Narrow Band Duboisi: This variety is from Karilani Island, Tanzania and has a narrow white mid-section band.
- Tropheus duboisi "Kigoma": This variety is from Kigoma, Tanzania and has a broad white mid-section band, but not as wide as on the variety from Bemba.
- Tropheus duboisi "Maswa" - Broad Band Duboisi: This variety is from Cape Kabogo, Tanzania and has a broad yellow mid-section band..
- Tropheus duboisi "Bemba" - Wide Band Duboisi : This variety is from Bemba, Congo and has a wide white mid-section band.
All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.
The White Spotted Cichlid is an omnivore. In the wild they feed on algae scraped from the rocks along with microorganisms. In the aquarium they need to be fed a spirulina based flake and pellet. If you use pellet, hold it underwater for a few moments before the fish eat it, that may prevent air released from the pellet from getting trapped in the belly. They should have spinach or romaine at least once a day. Only include foods that are high in fiber. Avoid soft or slimy foods as well as Tubifex, brine shrimp, beef heart, and mosquito larvae.
Feed proteins sparingly and avoid housing them with fish that need protein. Some aquarists say protein may cause bloat though others report no problems with it. Some have fed their fish frozen brine and plankton will no ill effects, while according to one author brine shrimp and insect larvae should be avoided. Stick with the same varieties of food and if you do switch, do it a little at a time, again because this may cause bloat. Rick Borstein, a writer on care of many cichlid fish, suggests HBH Graze and Dainichi Veggie Deluxe brand foods for the Tropheus. The ratios of vegetable matter in these products are good.
They have a long intestinal tract and should not be over fed, as overfeeding may contribute to bloat. Feed 3 times a day with small pinches of food instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods. (See information about African Bloat in the table below.)
As the Tropeus cichlids are very aggressive a minimum 4 foot, 75 gallon tank is suggested for an established adult group of 10 or more, with one male in the group. Two 2 males in a group of 15 to 20 will need 125 gallons or more. Provide a sandy substrate, strong lighting to encourage algae growth, and several rock piles along with rocks formed into caves. They do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but need good water movement for good oxygenation along with very strong and efficient filtration. For freshwater an optional practice is to add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt per 11 gallons of water. This is considered to be a simple and natural remedy for wounds, minor fungal infections and film over the eyes of fish in transit. Be very careful to not add too much salt as this may cause bloat. Using a marine salt (used for salt water fish) will add some trace elements.
Do water changes regularly, this is very important. Water changes of 15% twice a week or 30% weekly, depending on stocking numbers and removing uneaten food will help prevent disease. The Lake Tanganyika cichlids cannot handle large water changes very well unless the new water chemistry closely matches the water they are in. If a large water change is needed, changing 15% every couple of days should bring water back to normal. This inability to tolerate large water changes is due to Lake Tanganyika being very deep and the water tends to stay stable.
These fish are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and has low oxygenation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Water changes, not overfeeding, providing adequate hiding places, and observation along with feeding your fish the proper foods will keep them in optimum health. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels.
The White Spotted Cichlid is an aggressive cichlid. This fish does not always "play will with others" and it is best kept in a species specific tank. They are said to be less aggressive than their cousins, but this can vary depending on the personalities of individual fish. They need to be kept in groups (community) of at least 10 or more, with one male in the group. Two 2 males in a group of 15 to 20 will need a larger tank. Many females are needed to spread the aggression of the male. Do not add a new fish to an already established colony as this will cause an upset and death.
They may also be kept in a larger aquarium with other herbivorous rock dwelling African cichlids, some Sardine Cichlids Cyprichromis leptosoma which are known to have a calming affect on aggressive cichlids, and Upside-Down Catfish Synodontis species. Do not keep with slow moving fish or carnivores. Tropheus are voracious eaters and will eat anything that enters the tank. They will rarely let food get to the bottom. Providing more food and in an attempt to feed the non-tropheus tank mates can cause them to overeat and can lead to bloat.
Adding dither fish like Rainbowfish will help distract the males aggression on females. The larger the tank and the more hiding places you have (except when breeding), will help with aggression. If breeding them do not house with plecostomus as these fish will eat the fry at night.
The White Spotted Cichlid has been bred in captivity. Get a group of 10 to 12 juveniles for a 75 gallon tank or 15 to 20 juveniles for a 125 gallon, and a harem should form. Do not add new individuals to an existing colony. If obtaining a grouping already raised together, get one male and 9 or more females or two males in a larger colony. A large numbers of females is needed for the best success. This keeps the aggression of the males divided and you are less likely to lose females. Females can be hard to bring into breeding condition. The male will always be ready to spawn and are constantly trying to coax the females to spawn whether they are ready or not.
The female takes fertilized eggs into her mouth. She will carry them in her mouth, and when release will be healthy, large fry ready to feed. Because they are pretty big when they are born they can be fed crushed spirulina flake. The female will eat during the time she is holding the fry in her mouth, but with smaller bits consumed by the larger fry as she eats.
Removing the female may be necessary while she is carrying to prevent her from being harassed by the male. If keeping her in the same tank, one successful breeder suggests hanging 4 - 5" pieces of PVC pipe from the edge of the tank with monofilament to give the brooding females protection. The adults in the community leave the fry alone if there are plenty of places to hide, but if you have other types of fish in the tank you may choose to remove the fry.
Breeding a wild caught specimen with captive bred fish helps to keep the lines healthier, though wild caught fish tend to be hard to find these days.
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