Cichlids / Africa / Lake Tanganyika / Moorii

Moorii, Blunt-headed Cichlid
Tropheus moorii

Synonyms: Tropheus annectens
Physical description: A high-backed, laterally compressed cichlid with a fan-shaped caudal fin. The steep forehead gives way to a protruding upper lip and an undershot mouth. The color depends entirely on the geographic population from where the fish is found. The common or "original strain" has a dark olive to black body color with a yellow and/or red band that marks the mid-section of the fish. This band widens at the upper part and lower part of the body. Right above this marking, the section of the dorsal fin is red.
Size/Length: To 5.5" (14 cm)
Similar species: Tropheus duboisi
Habitat: Eastern Africa; lives at a depth of 6.5-10 feet (2-3 m) along the rocky shores of Lake Tanganyika.
S: bottom, middle
Aquarium: A tank measuring at least 48" (122 cm) with capacity of 75 gallons (285 L) is needed for a school of Tropheus . Use a set-up with rock formations that reach the surface of the water. Included should be many hiding places including caves, crevices, over-hangs, and tunnels. Use strong lighting to increase the growth of algae. A floating PVC pipe can serve as a retreat for harassed fish. Over-turned flower pots can also be used for shelter. Robust plants (Java Fern, Anubias, and Vallisneria ) can be used if live plants are desired.
Water chemistry: pH 7.3-9.2 (8.1), 8-22 dH (15), 77-82°F (25-28°C)
Social behavior: A territorial fish, intolerant of its own species. Experts have conflicting ideas of how this fish should be kept. One successful method is keeping a large number of fish in a large tank. Suggest keeping a group of fifteen to forty with an equal number of females to males. The large number of fish, and equal number of the sexes results in a fairly even distribution of aggressions. Do not introduce new Tropheus into an established school, as hierarchies have formed and new fish will no be accepted. Fish that are removed from the tank may not be reaccepted when returned to the tank. Perhaps the best method is to obtain a group of young fish and raise them to adulthood. Tropheus moorii is usually not aggressive towards fish of other genera, besides being a greedy eater. Not much information has been reported on combining T. moorii with other Tropheus species. However it is known that some morphs of T. moorii are more aggressive than others. Pairs form short-term monogamous bonds and matriarchal families during the spawning season.
Suggested companions: Julidochromis, Neolamprologus, Eretmodus, Synodontis, Lamprologus, Altolamprologus, Pseudotropheus .
FOOD: The most important aspect of Tropheus care is feeding. In Lake Tanganyika, T. moorii feeds on algae, containing crustaceans and aquatic insects, much like mbunas of Lake Malawi. In captivity, it may graze on algae and should be fed a high-fiber diet. T. moorii can be fed on such live foods as Brine Shrimp, Mysis, other crustaceans, aquatic insects, and black mosquito larvae. Its diet must include "green foods," including spirulina foods, flakes, lettuce, spinach, tablets, and even oatmeal. Avoid beef heart, Tubifex worms, and red mosquito larvae as these foods will quickly result in intestinal disorders.
Sexual differences: Almost indistinguishable; females may have darker colors and attain a larger size. The genital papilla of the male is slender and comes to a point.
Breeding techniques: Suggest using a Tropheus community tank with water having values between the perimeters mentioned above. The temperature should be 81-86°F (27-30°C). The fish, once established, may spawn frequently dropping 5-16 eggs in open water. The female quickly takes the eggs into her mouth. After collecting the eggs, she swims to the genital area of the male where the eggs are fertilized. The eggs are large, to 0.3" (0.8 cm) in diameter, and are incubated for a period of 3-4 weeks. The female continues to feed while caring the eggs, which may explain the loss of brood often experienced by some keepers. The fry emerge free-swimming and measuring up to 0.7" (1.8 cm). The female continues her care of the fry for a week further. The young are hardy and fast-growing when fed on a diet of Artemia nauplii, Cyclops nauplii, and fine dry foods.
Breeding potential: 7. The real trouble with breeding is keeping the adult Tropheus alive and in good health in order to spawn. Once one brood has come, more are to follow.
Remarks: Tropheus have a highly developed system of mouth-brooding. Only a small number of large-sized eggs are laid. In fertilization, no egg spots are used. The use of egg spots appears to be a primitive fertilization method. When the mother eats, while mouth-brooding the eggs, the fry can also feed. More than 50 color varieties have been reported. Many of these are named for their appearance (Firecracker Moorii, Flame Moori, Rainbow Moori) or their geographical population (Chipimbi, Cape Chaitika, Moba). These are the result of different geographical populations. How these come into existence is actually quite simple. Tropheus live in schools on rocky "reefs." When a group separates from the school, often a result from becoming too large, the group moves to its own area. The Tropheus interbreed and certain color strengths are brought out. This Tropheus group remains isolated from others as Tropheus will not swim in sandy areas. These sandy areas act as barriers between separate populations. Through this method, the different color morphs are formed. Recent studies have found that Tropheus possess twice as much genetic variation as the whole cichlid population of Lake Malawi! ( T.F.H., #444, p. 170). In aquaria Tropheus may become inflicted with an invisible illness which may lead to "bloat" and death. It is still unclear what causes this illness (most likely an unsuitable diet), although furan-based antibiotic seem to do the trick. Tropheus are very sensitive to changes in water chemistry, so perform water changes with care. Be sure to quarantine all new fish for a month before adding them to the tank. Try to obtain tank-bred Tropheus as these are easier to care for than wild caught specimen, and also less expensive.
Difficulty of care: 7. Tropheus moorii is an aggressive fish that is sensitive to life in captivity. The diet, water chemistry, tank set-up, and behavior all play important roles in keeping Tropheus. Perhaps the most difficult in the care of Tropheus is feeding the proper diet. Once this obstacle, and initial acclimation is overcome, Tropheus are tough fish.

By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com