site logo

Main Index > Cichlid of the Month > Xenotilapia (Enantiopus) melanogenys
4 visitors online


Written by: Dan Colodney

Xenotilapia (Enantiopus) melanogenys

Xenotilapia (Enantiopus) melanogenys point map
Xenotilapia (Enantiopus) melanogenys point map



Enantiopus melanogenys
All photos courtesy of Alan Bliven from



Love African cichlids but tired of all that aggression, sexual ratios and rocks and caves and vegetarian diets? Tired of all that blue and yellow? Well have I got a Rift Lake cichlid for you. Enantiopus melanogenys is a terrific cichlid from Lake Tanganyika, loaded with personality and color and if properly housed, will greet you in front of the aquarium with excitement.

Enantiopus melanogenys

This is a sand-sifting cichlid of about 5-6 inches at maturity which is best housed in relatively shallow but long aquariums, very few rocks and lots of open sand floor consisting of smooth, finely particled coral sand. Never use gravel in a tank of Enantiopus. Consider a 55 gallon tank which provides 4 square feet of floor space, the minimum size, and as with any bottom dwelling species, bigger is always better.
As with all Tanganyikan cichlids, water should be hard and alkaline. Temperature 78-81°F, pH 8.5-9.4, GH 240-320 ppm and KH 180-240 ppm.

There are few to no tankmates that Enantiopus will appreciate the company of .. they cannot tolerate the constant bickering over space which is typical of other Tanganyikan rock dwelling species. I've read accounts of successfully maintaining Enantiopus with mid-water swimmers such as Tanganyikan killies (Lamprichthys tanganicanus) and Paracyprichromis species but have no personal experience in this regard.

Enantiopus melanogenys

Enantiopus melanogenys is a schooling fish and is best maintained in large groups of 8-10. I maintained a group of 10 in a 75 gallon tank. They tend towards shy and skittish in fewer numbers. You don't have to worry about sexual ratios with this species; Several males can be housed together as part of a breeding group (Lek) and males never harrass females whether they are in breeding form or not. This is one happy and easily satisfied little fish.

Feeding this species couldn't be easier. Just think "omnivore" and "lots" and your Enantiopus will be a happy camper. This is not a fussy feeder and I've never met a food they wouldn't eat .. with gusto. They have an amazing appetite for a relatively small fish.

Enantiopus melanogenys

Enantiopus are not difficult fish to raise and breed, providing you pay attention to their age. These fish begin to spawn around one year of age and finish spawning around 3 years of age. Older than that and they are "over the hill". As with most Rift Lake cichlids, Enantiopus melanogenys is a maternal mouthbrooder. Spawning in the aquarium begins when the males construct their "nests"; a round indentation in the sand that is continually being cleaned and tended to by the male. Males display almost constantly to each other and to females with fins erect, gills flared, and outstanding colors of vivid and irridescent greens, yellows and purples. When a female enters a male’s territory, the male 'lays down' in his nest, clamps his fins, and extends his buccal cavity mimicking a female holding eggs. The remainder of the spawning process is very similar to many other mouthbrooding cichlids. When a female deposits an egg or two, the male will circle around and fertilize it before the female circles back around to pick it up. Broods consist of 15-25 fry which are released about 28 days post-spawning. No extended brood care is practiced by either of the adults and other adults in the tank will eat the fry given any opportunity. Thus, if you want to raise the fry they should not be left in the aquarium longer than about 2 days.

Enantiopus melanogenys

Enantiopus melanogenys

Not an easy cichlid to find and when you do it's certainly not among the least expensive to purchase, but Enantiopus melanogenys is worth the effort. It's one of the most interesting African cichlids i've ever kept. The spawning 'ritual' is a show to behold in person.

*According to Dr. Tetsumi Takahashi the member(s) of this this genus have to be assigned to Xenotilapia. See: Takahashi T., 2003; Systematics of Xenotilapia Boulenger, 1899 (Perciformes: Cichlidae) from Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Ichthyological Research (2003) 50: 36-47.


Your comments:






Privacy Policy | Contact Badman's Tropical Fish
Copyright © 1997-2009
All rights reserved. Reproduction of any portion of this website's content is forbidden without written permission.