Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Tropheus moorii

Blunthead cichlid

Tropheus mooriiTropheus moorii
Photos by Andy Rapson


Tropheus: Greek, tropaion = defeat, a memorial of a fighting war, trophy; because of their specialized teeth were such an obvious feeding adaptation.

General Notes:

Keep one or two males with a dozen or more females. Having more males will lead to severe fighting possibly to the death even in very large aquaria. Quite often compatible colonies come up for sale but these will be very expensive. The best way to obtain a group is to buy a large number of young fish and remove excess males as necessary until the desired group is achieved. It is extremely important that all the fish are introduced to the tank at the same time because established groups are unlikely to accept newcomers to their group. To prevent hybridisation it is important that the different regional morphs are not mixed in the same aquaria. All Tropheus are very demanding about water quality, Lake Tanganyika is huge by any standards and conditions are very stable. As a result the fish which live there have lost the adaptability which is common among river fish which face changing conditions on a daily basis.


Tropheus are herbivores, a diet which is high in protein could lead to bloat which can prove fatal. Their teeth are adapted to scrape algae from rocks. Use bright lighting to encourage algal growth so that the fish can behave naturally. Supplement the algae with sliced cucumber, blanched spinach, lettuce, nori, processed peas and supplement this with Spirulina flake, algae wafers and no more than once per week live or frozen blood worms, daphnia, cyclops or similar.


Other Tanganyikan fish may be tolerated if the aquarium is large enough but T. moorii will squabble among themselves even within a compatible group. T. moorii is a herbivore and a diet high in protein will be harmful to them so fish which require a meaty diet shouldn't be kept with T. moorii.


There is no reliable way to sex these fish through viewing them unless they are about to spawn and you can see the genital papillae, the females is broad and blunt and the males is pointed and narrow.


T. moorii are mouthbrooders if well maintained they will spawn without any intervention. Males will choose a temporary spawning territory and any female ready to spawn will respond to the males display. The brood will normally be relatively small with just 5 - 15 eggs. The female will carry these eggs for the next 28 days during which time she won't eat. After 28 days the fry will be released at quite an advanced stage. The fry are large enough to accept newly hatched brine shrimps and finely crushed flake food. One of the major difficulties in raising the brood is that if the female is left in with the main group then most of the fry will be eaten, on the other hand if the female is removed to her own tank there may be a difficulty with her reintroduction to the group. If there is a lot of rockwork and lots of nooks and crannies the survival of the fry is more likely. The fry can be raised artificially having been stripped from the female but it is my belief that fry reared in this way make worse parents themselves as a result.

Wild status

The wild population of T.moorii is widespread throughout Lake Tanganyika and is not under any immediate threat across the entire range. Some regional varieties are under threat from the aquarium trade due to over collection.

Additional information

T. moorii are endemic to Lake Tanganyika they are widespread throughout the entire lake with many regional morphs. Eventually some of these morphs may be classified as completely separate species.

Information at a glance

pH: 8 - 9
dGH: 9 - 19
Temperature: 24 - 26°C (76 - 78°F)
Diet: Herbivore
Size: 14.5cm (5.7in)
Min tank size: 225 litres
Difficulty level: Very difficult
Aquarium type: Species
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Tropheus moorii

Origin: Africa: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika.

Habitat: T. moorii lives in the littoral zone on rocky shores


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Tropheus
Species: T. moorii Boulenger, 1898

Other common names:

Synonyms: Tropheus moorii moorii