Duboisi Cichlid (Tropheus duboisi): Ultimate Care Guide

Common NameDuboisi Cichlid
Scientific NameTropheus duboisi
Water Temperature72-82° F
Water PH7.8-9.0
Maximum Size5 inches
Minimum Tank Size50 gallons
Tank MatesTanganyikan Cichlids, Malawian Cichlids
Duboisi Cichlid (Tropheus duboisi)
Duboisi Cichlid (Tropheus duboisi)

The Duboisi Cichlid, commonly known as the White Spotted Cichlid, is a species of African Cichlid. Within Africa, they are endemic to Lake Tanganyika. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, these fish are classified as “vulnerable”. They have only been found in four northern regions of the lake.

The White Spotted Cichlid first gained popularity among fish keepers in the 1970s. Today, they are among the most popular Cichlids on the market. The Duboisi Cichlid’s naturally aggressive demeanor and complex breeding requirements can make their care and keep demanding. 

However, their unique physical transformation and spunky personality make them an exciting and rewarding addition to your aquarium. It is recommended that prospective buyers be moderately experienced in fishkeeping before purchasing the Duboisi Cichlid.

Duboisi Cichlid Appearance

One of the trademark characteristics of the White Spotted Cichlid is that it undergoes a dramatic physical transformation with age. Juvenile fish appear jet black with many small white spots. As they age, these spots fade entirely, and their heads develop a blueish tint. They will also grow a thick yellow band that sits just behind the pectoral fin. The Duboisi Cichlid can grow up to five inches in length.

Duboisi Cichlid Care

Duboisi Cichlids require at least a 50-gallon tank to comfortably procreate and thrive. However, a 75-gallon tank is considered to be more optimal. The Cichlid’s environment should simulate that of the rocky coastal waters in their native African home.

A sandy or aragonite substrate should line the bottom of the tank to help maintain PH levels between 7.8 and 9.0. The aquarium should also incorporate some rocks and loose driftwood. Water should always be kept between 72° and 82 °F.  These fish prefer an intermediate water hardness level between 10-15 dGH. Regular water changes are essential.

Duboisi Cichlids have a naturally aggressive temperament. For this reason, keeping these fish in a species-specific aquarium is best. They should be housed in large groups of 6 or more. In some circumstances, they can thrive in the company of smaller and semi-aggressive Tanganyikan Cichlid or Malawi Cichlid.

Food & Diet

Tropheus duboisi are formally classified as omnivores, but they should be fed proteins very sparingly. In their natural habitat, they feed off aufwuchs: string-like algae containing nutritious micro-organisms.

In captivity, the White Spotted Cichlid should be offered a variety of vegetation daily. Blanched spinach, lettuce, nori, and spirulina flakes are all great options. This diet can also be supplemented with a vegetable-based flake or pellet food. Be careful not to overfeed your Cichlids, as it may cause digestive complications that can lead to bloating.

Lifespan & Breeding

The Duboisi Cichlid is unique in its reproductive nature. They are a slow-growing species, and it can take them several years to reach full sexual maturity.  Indications that these Cichlids are of reproductive age include males presenting larger than females and slightly more upturned noses. Females may also be slightly lighter in color and grow at a slower rate. To improve the odds of successful spawning, it is recommended that 5 to 6 females be kept with one male. This ratio will not only maximize breeding potential but also help to subdue male aggression.

Tropheus duboisi are known as mouthbrooders. This means that the female will release her unfertilized eggs into the water. After male fertilization occurs, she will gather the eggs into her mouth, and the eggs will remain there while they incubate for up to 28 days.

Upon hatching, the female will permit the fry to exit and re-enter her mouth as a protective mechanism. However, once they grow big enough, she will terminate this behavior and let them swim freely. Fry should be fed finely crushed fish food for the first few months of life until they become interested in other vegetation like lettuce and seaweed.

In captivity, Tropheus duboisi typically lives 5-8 years. With excellent care and optimal tank conditions, it is possible that they may live several years longer.


Like many freshwater fish in captivity, Cichlids are particularly vulnerable to disease. Being well-informed and vigilant about your aquarium’s water quality can help reduce the risk of your fish becoming ill. Below are some of the most common causes of illness for the Tropheus duboisi.

Swim Bladder Disease

The swim bladder is an abdominal sac that allows fish to regulate buoyancy. If your Cichlid suffers from Swim Bladder Disease, it will have trouble submerging itself. Swim Bladder Disease can be caused by a physical injury, a secondary disease like cancer, or, most commonly, a poor diet. Treating this disease requires you to successfully diagnose and treat the underlying ailment. If your Cichlid suffers from poor nutrition, it helps diversify its diet and offers foods high in fiber, like spinach or peas. High-fiber foods will relieve constipation and help improve their digestive health.

Malawi Bloat

Malawi Bloat is most common among African Cichlids. Symptoms can include rapid breathing, decreased appetite, off-color feces, abdomen swelling, and idling at the bottom of the tank. Left untreated, this illness can cause serious liver or kidney damage. Once your fish’s organs are impacted, Malawi Bloat often turns fatal. The cause of this illness is a highly disputed subject. Some experts attribute it to being stress-related. If your Cichlid is exhibiting symptoms of Malawi Bloat, it is recommended that you change the water in the aquarium and treat the tank with Metronidazole. Be sure to remove the activated carbon from your tank’s filter before performing any kind of water treatment


Tuberculosis is highly contagious and often fatal for Cichlids. Symptoms include lethargy, loss of appetite, sunken stomach, white blotches appearing on the body, and frayed fins. Tuberculosis can be transmitted from human contact with open wounds or sores. If you believe that one of your fish has contracted Tuberculosis, then you should place all other fish in another tank and treat the water with melafix. Be sure to disinfect the original tank before returning the cichlids to their home.

Cotton Wool Disease

A fungal infection causes cotton Wool Disease. The main indicator is fuzzy white growths appearing near the scales, fins, or head. Cotton Wool Disease can be prevented by being observant and removing any excess food or debris that can accumulate in the tank. Cotton Wool Disease can be treated with antifungal medication or a salt bath.


Hexamita is commonly referred to as a “hole in the head” disease because a major symptom includes depression of the fish’s head. Other symptoms are loss of appetite and weight loss. It is possible that some Cichlids may develop lesions on their lateral line too. These lesions can grow over time and, if left untreated, will become full-blown infections. To treat suspected Hexamita, first, improve the water quality, and then treat the tank with antibiotics to remove pesky parasites.

Ich (White Spot Disease)

Ich is an easily identifiable disease caused by a parasite called Ichthyophthirius Multifiliis. This protozoan causes small white dots to appear on the fills, body or fins of your Cichlid. Other symptoms may be less obvious. These can include clamped fins, respiratory trouble, appetite loss, or the tendency to rub against objects in the tank. This disease is highly infectious, so treating all organisms in the tank is important. Treatment options include a salt bath, increasing water temperatures, or increasing tank potassium levels.

Gill Flukes

Gill Flukes are caused by a parasitic worm infiltrating the fish’s gill membranes. The subsequent infection causes a buildup of slime and irritation around the gills. They can appear red in color. This irritation causes respiratory issues for the Cichlid. You should take action if you see your fish gasping for air near the surface of the water or rubbing its body on objects in the tank. Treatments include adding aquarium salt to the water and slightly increasing your tank’s temperature.

Tropheus Duboisi Maswa

Duboisi Cichlid Types

Below are several different types of the Duboisi Cichlid:

Tropheus Duboisi Bemba

This is also known as the Wide Band Duboisi. They can be found in a 1-mile area around Cape Muene.

Tropheus Duboisi Karilani

This sub-species is known as the Narrow Band Duboisi or Karilani Cichlid. They are found around Karilani Island in Tanzania.

Tropheus Duboisi Maswa

These are also known as the Wide Yellow Band or Broad Band Duboisi. They are endemic to the Malagarasi River delta.

Tropheus Duboisi Kigoma

This is the most common subspecies. They have been found in a 100 km area along the coastline stretching from Tanzania and Burundi.

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