Animal-World > Aquarium Tropical Fish > Cichlids > White Spotted Cichlid

White Spotted Cichlid

Dwarf Tanganyikan Cichlid ~ (Blue-Faced) Duboisi Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae White Spotted Cichlid, pictured is a Tropheus duboisi "Maswa"Tropheus duboisi "Maswa"Tropheus duboisiPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Frank Schneidewind
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Hi .....I'm so sad,we are going to have to go and trade our large white spotted cichlid ,he/ she has tormented 4 of our other gorgeous cichlids to he finally killed... (more)  Jim and Sandy

   This fish is first a fanciful spotted youth, but soon the White Spotted Cichlid will turn into a striking blue-faced adult with a bold contrasting band wrapped around its mid section!

   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.

White Spotted Cichlid, pictured is a Tropheus duboisi "Maswa"
Juvenile White Spotted Cichlid

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.

For more Information on keeping freshwater fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Tropheus duboisi
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Tropheus
  • Species: duboisi
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Distribution:    The White Spotted Cichlid was described by Marlier in 1959. These fish are endemic to Lake Tanganyika, Africa. They are found in the northern part of the lake over rocky areas feeding on algae and microorganisms, and like caves as retreats. They are closely related to Blunthead Cichlid Tropheus moorii but are found at a greater depth and have a different behavior. Unlike other Tropheus species they do not tend to stay in groups but rather swim singly or in pairs at depths between 9 to 49 feet (3 - 15 m).

Status:    This species is listed on the IUCN Red List with the status of 'VU', meaning 'Vulnerable'.

Description:    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.

Size - Weight:   The White Spotted Cichlid grows to a length of about 4 1/2" (12 cm).

Care and feeding:    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.

Dr. Jungle says..."What's up with African Bloat or 'Malawi Bloat'?"
The Tropheus species are very susceptible to African Bloat, also called Malawi Bloat.
There seems to be no explainable rationale as to its cause. Though It is not certain what this disease is, it is generally believed to be caused by a protozoal parasite complicated by bacterial infection.

   The first sign of 'bloat' is loss of appetite which is then followed by swelling of the abdomen, labored breathing, listlessness, reclusiveness, possible red striations on the body, and stringy white feces. A fish that is not eating must be treated immediately or it can quickly become incurable and die.
   The most common cause of this disease is stress and the first sign if illness is not eating. Stress can be caused by such things as transport, netting, poor water quality, insufficient diet, over feeding, and a lack of hiding places. Other causes, that are easily remedied, are an improper diet and adding too much salt to the water.
   Prevention is of utmost importance, and It is possibly to cure a fish if treated right away.

   Following are some techniques aquarists use:

  • Any new specimens you obtain can have bloat or will often soon develop it. When you first acquire them try to provide them with the same food that the dealer was feeding, and then wean them onto a good vegetable based diet; Spirulina flake and pellet.
  • Some will soak the food in dissolved metronidazol and feed them that for the first few days when first obtained. Seachem makes a metronidazol that can be bound to food when used with their Focus product.
  • A good vegetable based diet is important.
  • A healthy group of fish will eat with gusto. But even though they can be very active feeders it is important to not overfeed them. Keep an eye on them, and if one is not eating with vigor some aquarists will then treat the tank with Clout.
  • One author says that they will segregate an ailing fish the second they see signs of not eating, and then will do water changes every day for 5 days in the main aquarium.
  • Metronidazol is considered the most reliable cure and some use Clout as another cure, but do not use them together.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom:    These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.

Acceptable Water Conditions:    Hardness: 10 - 12 dH
   Ph: 8.5 - 9.0 (they can be adjusted closer to neutral if done slowly)
   Temp: 76 - 82° F (24 - 28° C)

Lake Tanganyika is the second to largest lake in the world, thus contributing to a low fluctuation in Ph and temperature. Several things all Lake Tanganyika cichlids need are:

  1. Stable temperatures kept within acceptable limits.
  2. Lots of oxygen to survive. Lake Tanganyika is a very oxygen rich lake. Bubblers need to be going day and night, even if there are plants.
  3. Avoid overfeeding and overstocking.
  4. Do a 10-15% water change weekly.
  5. Regularly check nitrates (no more than 25 ppm), Ph (less than 7 is not tolerated), total hardness and carbonate hardness.

Social Behaviors:    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.

Sexual Differences:    The sex of the White Spotted Cichlid is bit difficult to determine. Males tend to be a little larger than females, but that is not always reliable. The males should have a deeper body and a more upturned nose. The females do not grow as fast as the males and their coloring is less bold.

Breeding/Reproduction:    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. See more information on breeding cichlids in Breeding Freshwater Fish.

Availability:    The White Spotted Cichlid is sometimes available online or in fish stores, and run between $10.00 - $20.00 USD for fry and $20.00 - $40.00 USD for adults. They can be special ordered if you are willing to wait. Make sure you examine them for spinal defects before purchase.
   For the best success buy 12 to 15 fry and let them grow up together. If buying adults only buy an established group. Get 10 or more adults for a 75 gallon tank with one1 male in the group, or 15 to 20 for a 125 gallon with two males in a group. Adding adults from different colonies will result in death due to stress.

Author: Carrie McBirney
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on White Spotted Cichlid

Jim and Sandy - 2014-07-27
Hi .....I'm so sad,we are going to have to go and trade our large white spotted cichlid ,he/ she has tormented 4 of our other gorgeous cichlids to he finally killed them....I just love him,but we can't go on losing our other ones because of the 1 ....we find him extremely aggressive . :(

  • Anonymous - 2014-07-27
    I know how you feel. When I first started getting cichlids I put a Dempsey in with some other community type fish. DOH! I guess I was being optimistic but of course it didn't work out. Now I only keep Dempseys singly or in breeding pairs. That first experience though was not pleasant, especially since the fish store guy kind told me how naive I was.
becky - 2010-09-15
I have 2 white spotted cichlids and its really weird, one minute they're like a white on half there body and the spots are gone. Then the next day they have there spots back? How the heck does that work? Hope someone can answer that.....thanks