Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Aug 11, 2021

Tropheus Duboisi care guide

Image credits: Tropheus duboisi by Manfred Werner under CC license

In my experience, Tropheus Duboisi cichlids were among the hardest cichlids to raise due to their extremely sassy personality and complex breeding needs. But if you get a few things right, it can be a very satisfying experience. 

These cichlids go through a unique color transformation as they grow. A young cichlid looks like a completely different species compared to an adult! 

The tropheus species were first introduced to mainstream fishkeeping in the mid-1970s and are still one of the best-selling cichlids to this day. 

Let’s have a quick look at the general overview before diving into the details. 

Tropheus Duboisi Introduction 

Name Tropheus Duboisi 
Origin Lake Tanganyika
Care Level Moderate
Temperament Aggressive 
Temperature 72-82°F 
General Hardness 10-20 dGH
pH Level 7.8-9.0
Reef Compatibility No
Plant-safe No
Maximum Size5 inches
Minimum Tank Size 75 gallons

Tropheus Duboisi cichlids are natives of the rocky coastal waters of Northern Lake Tanganyika in Africa. They’re listed as threatened and vulnerable species in the IUCN red list since they have only been found in four specific parts of the lake. 

There are quite a few variations of tropheus duboisi cichlids based on their distribution and appearance. For instance, there are several variants of the mid-section stripe depending on where the fish is collected from. 

Tropheus_dubois
Credits: Tropheus duboisi by Alexander Langer under CC license

Tropheus Duboisi Bemba

Also known as Wide Band Duboisi, this subspecies is found in a small area just over 1.2 miles long around the Cape Muene, where the now-extinct village Bemba was. 

Tropheus Duboisi Karilani 

This subspecies is known as Narrow Band Duboisi or simply Karilani cichlid and are found around the Karilani Island in Tanzania. 

Tropheus Duboisi Maswa 

Known as Wide Yellow Band or Broad Band Duboisi, this subspecies is native to the Malagarasi River delta. However, the full range is yet to be ascertained. 

Tropheus Duboisi Kigoma

This subspecies is the biggest group, inhabiting an area around 62 miles (100km) along the coastline between Burundi and Tanzania. 

How Long Do Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids Live? 

Tropheus Duboisi cichlids live for around 5-8 years normally. However, with proper care and a nutritious diet, they’re known to live for more than a decade.

Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Appearance 

Credits: 珍珠蝴蝶 Tropheus duboisi (Marlier, 1959) under CC license

As juveniles, tropheus duboisi cichlids sport black color with bluish or white polka dots that run vertically. As adults, they alter their looks entirely – developing a bluish head and an almost dark body and fins with a contrasting band in the middle.

The size and hue of these bands vary among the subspecies. 

Tropheus Duboisi BembaWide and white mid-section band 
Tropheus Duboisi KarilaniNarrow and white mid-section band
Tropheus Duboisi MaswaBroad and yellow mid-section band
Tropheus Duboisi KigomaModerately broad and white mid-section band 

The spots that cover the body when juveniles will slowly fade away and form irregular patterns as they mature. 

These cichlids have a stocky body shape with a big head compared to their body which grows increasingly narrower as it approaches the tail. Also, the caudal fin is shaped like a fan. 

Like most cichlids, they have one nostril on each side. To ‘smell’ the water, they suck in water and expel it after sampling. They also have a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in the throat besides regular teeth. 

Tropheus Duboisi Size 

Tropheus duboisi cichlids can reach a maximum size of 5 inches. But the approximate purchase size is 1.5-2.5 inches.

Sexual Dimorphism In Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids

In trohepus dubioisi cichlids, males and females look pretty similar – thus, it can be hard to determine the sex. However, there are a few subtle differences. For example, males are usually larger in size and have a more upturned nose. Males also have bigger lips and deeper colors than females. 

But the only surefire way of determining the sex is by examining the genital papillae. 

The genital papillae are rounded in females and pointed in males. So if you’re going to examine them, make sure to be gentle and patient with them. 

Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Temperament 

Tropheus duboisi cichlids are notorious for their temperament and for all the right reasons. These fish are highly territorial and aggressive and thus should be housed in a large group of 12 or more. 

While they’re known to peacefully cohabitate with other species, they will 100% squabble with tankmates of their own species. These fish do not school in nature – thus don’t have a knack for social interactions. In the aquarium, they will continuously fight among themselves until a pecking order is formed. 

These fish are quite active and will swim around a lot in the tank. 

Don’t ever add a new individual to an already established colony. The poor fish will be bullied to death in 99% of the cases. 

Suitable Tank Mates For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Some suitable tank mates are: 

  • Tanganyikan Goby cichlid 
  • Sardine cichlid 
  • Julidochromis species 
  • Eretmodus species 

Tanganicodus species Tropheus duboisi cichlids are best kept in a species-specific tank. They should be kept in large numbers to pacify their aggression. You’ll at least need to keep 12 in a tank, consisting of a single male. A higher number of females in the tank will help to deviate the male’s aggression. 

Since these fish have a sassy personality, don’t pair them with docile and shy fish. They will be bullied relentlessly. 

Suppose you want to add other species to a tropheus duboisi tank. In that case, you can add other African herbivore, rock-dwelling cichlids, and Synodontis catfish species.

You can also add dither fish to deviate the male’s aggression from the females and promote natural social behavior in the tank. Some popular dither fish options for African cichlids are dwarf gouramis, tetras, and rainbow fish. 

Irrespective of whoever you add, just make sure there’s plenty of space and hideouts for everyone. 

If you intend to raise tropheus duboisi fry, don’t place them in the same tank as plecostomus, as these fish will eat the fry at night. 

Water Parameters For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Temperature 72-82°F 
General Hardness 10-20 dGH
pH Level 7.8-9.0
Reef Compatibility No
Plant-safe No
Specific Gravity Less than 1.0002
Water Movement Moderate 
Nitrate Less than 25 ppm
Water Region All 
Minimum Tank Size 75 gallons
Lighting Moderate 

These fish are active swimmers that need good water movement alongside a sturdy filtration system. The water chemistry in Lake Tanganyika is very stable. Hence, these fish don’t do very well with unstable parameters or frequent water changes. 

Similarly, the lake’s also very rich in oxygen. So you will need to keep the bubbler at all times, even if it’s a well-planted tank. 

These fish produce a good amount of bioload. So, make sure that you’re not overstocking or overfeeding. And make a habit to regularly check the nitrate, ph, and nitrites levels. 

Here’s a link to a reliable and easy-to-use master kit from API that monitors the 5 most vital water parameters. 

As for water changes, conduct 15% twice a week or 30% once a week based on the stocking numbers. The water needs to be maintained with small, regular changes instead of irregular, big ones. 

Although African rift lake cichlids are not found in brackish water, they need hard alkaline water. As a result, these cichlids have a good salt tolerance – but make sure the salinity is less than 10% of a regular saltwater tank. 

To increase the water’s carbonate hardness, you can use salt as a buffering agent. But regular salt won’t work. So here’s a link to Cichlid Lake Salt by Seachem:

This salt mix has been formulated with the emulation of the natural rift lake environment in mind. It contains all physiologically essential elements like magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium. 

As an alternative method to raise the water hardness, you can also use the chemical filtration method. With this, the water passes through layers of coral sand or crushed coral.

Lake Tanganyika cichlids need iodine to regulate their thyroid function, boosting their growth and development. Thus, it’s essential to make sure the water has an optimum salinity level. For this, you could use iodized salt tablets. 

But also make sure you’re not overdosing with salt tablets. This could lead to bloating – to which they are very prone. 

Tank Size For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Tropheus Duboisi cichlids are active swimmers, territorial, and quite aggressive. Therefore, a minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended for a school of 10 cichlids. If you have a group of 15-20 cichlids with 20 males, you’ll at least need a 120-gallon tank. 

Substrate For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Tropheus duboisi cichlids do best in sandy or very small-sized gravel substrate. You can also add several rock piles and rocks formed into caves. 

These fish are herbivores – so they will eat up your plants here and there, but having plants encourages fry’s survival rate. You could add some hardy species like sword plants, java fern, and anubias.

You can place these plants in the back or middle. 

Our Pick Of Top Equipment For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Duboisi cichlids are somewhat high-maintenance fish that we only recommend for experienced fishkeepers. Owing to their active and aggressive nature, they need huge tanks. Also, since they reside in the deep waters of Lake Tanganyika, they are used to very stable water parameters. 

Thus, we strongly recommend not to pinch pennies when it comes to buying equipment for these fish. 

Here’s a list of our handpicked equipment based on our own personal review and thorough online research:

SC Aquariums 150-Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium 

Features: 

  • 150 gallons 
  • Built-in overflow box
  • Sleek, minimalistic design 

Dimensions: 60 x 24 x 24 inches

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

Features:

  • For tanks up to 200 gallons 
  • Works at 350 GPH 
  • 5 large capacity media baskets 
  • 360-degrees rotating valves

Hygger 500W Submersible Aquarium Heater 

Features: 

  • External color LED digital temperature controller 
  • Fastest 5 seconds warming 
  • Titanium steel material 
  • Intelligent thermostat 
  • Rapid heating 
  • Anti-dry protection 

Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid’s Diet 

Technically, duboisi cichlids are omnivores, but their diet mainly consists of herbivorous food. As a result, they’re prominent aufwuch feeders. Aufwuch means the stringy algae that grow and attaches to rocks. 

In captivity, the most common food choice is spirulina-based pellets or flakes. You can also give spinach or lettuce once a day. However, make sure to give romaine lettuce since it’s more nutritious than others in the lot. 

Remember, their diet should contain low protein value since their digestive tracts aren’t well equipped to process high-protein food. So give vegetarian food rich in fiber and vitamins instead. 

Here’s a list of food you can give tropheus duboisi cichlids:

  • Blanched vegetables 
  • Dried seaweed 
  • Vegetable-based flake and pellet
  • Spirulina flakes 
  • Cyclops 
  • Mysis 

You can also occasionally give small live foods, but their intake should strictly only be limited to occasional treats. 

If you are giving pellets, make sure to soak them beforehand to avoid the air released from the pellet getting trapped in their belly. And don’t play up with their diet routine too much – if you need to, make sure to do it slowly over a period. 

Food to avoid for tropheus duboisi cichlids: 

  • Mosquito larvae
  • Beef heart 
  • Tubifex 
  • Brine shrimp 

As for feeding frequency, give 3 small portions once a day as opposed to one big meal. They have very long intestinal tracts that don’t do well when overfed – it’ll cause bloating. Likewise, feeding smaller portions also helps with maintaining the water quality for a longer period. 

Like all fish, tropheus duboisi cichlids also do well with an intake of vitamins and minerals. 

Here’s our pick of commercial food for African rift cichlids: Dainichi Cichlid Food – Veggie Deluxe

What I like best about this food is that it doesn’t contain any filler – so, no complications with digestion. This veggie mix is also coated with special nutrients after the cooking phase – making it a nutrient-dense option for your cichlids. 

Breeding Tropheus Duboisi Cichlids 

Credits: Tropheus duboisi by Dr David Midgley under CC license

Breeding tropheus duboisi cichlids is difficult but not impossible. It’s partly because they take considerably longer than other cichlids to reach sexual maturity and partly because they have complex social hierarchies. To increase the chance of spawning, you need to house a harem of 10-12 juveniles with one dominant male or 15-20 juveniles with two dominant males

Adult tropheus duboisi cichlids are quite expensive. Thus, we recommend buying them as juveniles. Likewise, wild cichlids are more temperamental and high-maintenance. So, it’s wise to breed captive-born cichlids. That being said, breeding wild specimen with captive-bred fish will yield a better lineage. 

When raising cichlids to obtain the desired sex ratio, there will be one or two fallen soldiers – especially sub-dominant males. Therefore, if you want to raise more than 2 males, you should provide at least 2 feet of territory and a rock pile for each male. 

If there are multiple males but just one rock pile, only the dominant male will mate with the females.

Females are comparatively harder to bring into breeding conditions. But, on the other hand, males are almost always ready and coaxing the female whether she’s producing eggs or not. 

The female usually spawns in open water over the rocks. The female will either scoop up the eggs into her mouth before they fall on the substrate or allow them to fall in between the rocks before picking them up. 

She will then nuzzle the male’s vent, prompting him to immediately release milt into her mouth and fertilize the eggs. 

At a time, a female will hold around 5-15 eggs for around 4 weeks. You can quickly identify the holding female by looking at her distended mouth. She will usually stop eating during this period. 

It may be necessary to transport female to a new tank to prevent bullying and harassment when holding eggs. However, removing her for too long from the main tank will interfere with the group’s pecking order, and she will once again be bullied after the comeback. 

If you plan to keep her in the same tank as others, one successful breeder on a forum suggested hanging 4-5 inches pieces of PVC pipe from the tank’s edge with monofilament to protect the brooding female.

If you transfer her to another tank, turn off the lights and cover the tank with a blanket for a couple of hours when she’s reintroduced to the main tank. 

A female will either gobble up or spit out the eggs if she’s overly stressed. So, if you’re going to transfer her or strip the eggs, make sure to channel the utmost delicacy. 

How To Strip Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Eggs?

Some owners prefer stripping the eggs and artificially incubating them at around the 2-week stage. To do so, first, turn off the tank’s light for around an hour. Then, take out some water in a container. Next, net the holding fish gently and transfer her to the container. 

You have to be very gentle with the handling since the cichlid can swallow or spit the eggs midway if she’s too stressed. Hold her with your left hand, open the mouth using fingers on your right hand, and slowly rock her so she spits the eggs. 

Once all the eggs are transferred to the container, put the matriarch back in her tank. As for the eggs, put them in the tumbler until they hatch and are free-swimming. 

How To Care For Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Fry? 

Once the eggs hatch, the fry rely on the yolk sac attached to their body for nutrition. These sacs are quite nutrient-dense, especially rich in protein that aids their development. After they’re free swimming, feed them crushed up spirulina flakes, baby brine shrimp, powdered dry food, and brine shrimp nauplii. 

Adult tropheus duboisi aren’t known to practice infanticide – meaning they’re not really known to eat up their own fry. But it’s best to add a lot of hiding places to increase the survival rate of fry. 

If they’re left together with the mother, she’ll continue caring for them for some time. She’ll scoop them inside her mouth if there’s danger nearby. 

Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Diseases 

Since tropheus duboisi cichlids feed on an herbivore diet for most parts, they don’t fare well if fed a protein-rich diet – causing digestive complications. They’re also susceptible to illness and infections if the water is stale and has low oxygen concentration. 

Tropheus Duboisi cichlids are very prone to African bloat. It’s caused when the protozoan parasites that live within the cichlid’s digestive tract proliferate. The number one cause behind this is stress. Excess salt in the water and excess protein in the diet could also cause this. 

Metronidazole is considered to be the most effective treatment against cichlid bloat. If you’re interested to know more about how to cure and prevent it, here’s a link to our in-depth article. 

Another common disease they’re predisposed to is ich. You can treat it easily at home by raising the water’s temperature to 86°F (30°C) for around three days. If ich still doesn’t go away, you should start treating it with copper-based fish medication. Make sure to remove water conditioners before starting the treatment. 

And also, adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines strictly since excess copper can quickly lead to toxicity. 

And lastly, like most fish, they’re susceptible to skin flukes, parasitic infections, fungal infections, and bacterial infections. The key measures you can take to prevent these conditions are maintaining optimum water parameters at all times and feeding a well-rounded diet. 

Conclusion: Tropheus Duboisi Cichlid Care Guide 

Tropheus duboisi cichlids can be quite challenging to raise at first – but if you’re willing to put in the extra bit of hard work, it can be a super rewarding experience. 

You can easily buy them online or offline. But we recommend buying them at a physical store and carefully examining for any sign of illness or injury – they’re especially prone to spinal defects. 

For the best success rate, buy around 12-15 fish. Make sure there are only one or two males and a rock cave for each one of them. Good luck! 

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.