Enantiopus Melanogenys Stats InfographicThe enantiopus melanogenys is a cichlid species described in 1898 by George Albert Boulenger, a Belgian-British ichthyologist. This species can have slight variations in color, but the differences are not prominent.

There are several things you must know about this beginner-friendly fish before you decide on taking them home.

Read on to learn more about how to take care of these stunning cichlids.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Stats

Category Rating
Synonyms Xenotilapia melanogenys

Ectodus melanogenys

Enantiopus melonogenys

Family Cichlidae
Genus Xenotilapia
Care Level Easy
Temperament Non-aggressive
Compatibility Similar peaceful cichlids
Average Size 12 – 15 centimeters (5 – 6 inches)
Color & Patterns (Male) silver, black dots, blue and yellow stripes (Female), silver
Diet Carnivore
Tank Size 60 gallons for 8 – 10 fish
Tank Setup Good lighting

Minimal decorations

Fine substrate

pH 7.6 – 8.6
Temperature 76° to 82° Fahrenheit

Where Can They Be Found?

The enantiopus melanogenys is indigenous to one of Africa’s great lakes, Lake Tanganyika. You can find them in large shoals in deeper waters. These species migrate to shallower areas when breeding season begins

Appearance: Do Males Look Different?

When it is time to mate, the mature males come in color, while the females remain plain silver. The bright yellow underside of the males’ heads also turns black during the breeding period. In Greek, “melas” means black, and “genys” means lower jaw.

They also have a yellow-striped dorsal fin with oblique, electric blue stripes, and so forth. During courtship, the male would cast a shimmering glow on its body that could either have a bluish, greenish, or purplish hue.

The enantiopus melanogenys species are elongated and laterally compressed. An adult can reach 15 centimeters (6 inches) in the wild and can grow slightly bigger while in captivity. Regardless, females tend to remain smaller, about 12 centimeters (5 inches).

These slender fish have a relatively large head and a long snout. Their forked tails have yellow stripes. Black spots may also appear on their fins and bodies, but the number varies a lot. Their pelvic fins are short at the front and long at the back, supporting them while they are on the ground.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Care: Food & Habitat

The enantiopus melanogenys is an excellent choice for novice aquarists. These fish are good-natured. While they might need a large tank, it is low-maintenance.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Diet

This African cichlid is carnivorous. In the wild, the enantiopus melanogenys sifts through the sand for anything edible, including copepods and mussels, among others.

While these fish will eagerly take flakes, you do not want the commercialized fish feed to be their staple diet.

Here are recommendations to keep your cichlids healthy and thriving:

  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Krill
  • Live brown worms
  • Tubifex worms

A varied diet supplying sufficient protein is the best should you wish for the females to be in proper breeding condition.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Tank Requirements

1. Tank Capacity and Length

For a school of 8 to 10, consider getting a 60-gallon capacity aquarium with a length of at least 5 feet. If you can get a larger tank, the better. It is always wise to get the biggest tank possible, especially if you consider adding more fish in the future.

2. Substrate

The enantiopus melanogenys hails from the sandy shoreline of Lake Tanganyika. You may want to use sand substrate since these fish love to lounge on the sand.

While you can use standard aquarium sand, the following are better options:

  • Aragonite sand: This substrate provides a higher pH, which these cichlids require. The fine, subtle texture is likewise suitable for digging and sifting through the sand during mating.
  • Crushed corals: The porous nature of this substrate makes a fantastic biological filter for your aquarium while it buffers the pH at the same time.
  • Onyx: This is a cichlid-exclusive substrate that will buffer the water pH and provide appropriate minerals that your fish need daily. The contrasting dark color of this substrate will also make the enantiopus melanogenys stand out.

Moreover, you will want to keep the sand bed 2 inches deep or less. Anything deeper may cause the bottommost layer to foul quickly.

3. Plants and Decor

Consider placing Vallisneria in one corner to provide maternal mouthbrooders shelter. Other than that, keep decorations to a minimum. Whatever ornaments you have, you will want to place them on the sides. Males demand plenty of floor space when the breeding period sets in.

Moreover, avoid items that could potentially injure your enantiopus melanogenys. These fish are sensitive to sudden movements and changes in their surroundings. When feeling threatened, they would immediately dart to deeper waters, which is impossible in an aquarium.

4. Acidity, Temperature, and Lighting

Good lighting is imperative for this breed. During the breeding season, the males would compete for the brightest spot. Furthermore, these fish do best at temperatures between 76° to 82° Fahrenheit. The pH should be maintained between 7.6 to 8.6. Water should be hard and alkaline.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Tank Mates

The enantiopus melanogenys is a peaceful species. Albeit skittish, these fish are fine living with other non-aggressive fish if the tank is spacious enough.

The following are the best tank mates for the Xenotilapia melanogenys:

  • Fairy cichlids (previously Lamprologus brichardi)
  • Featherfin cichlids
  • Featherfin catfish
  • Yellowhead tricolor cichlids
  • Shell-dwelling cichlids
  • Large non-aggressive cichlids

What’s more interesting is that these little buggers can live harmoniously together throughout their entire lifespan.

Enantiopus Melanogenys Breeding

The enantiopus melanogenys species are notable for their elaborate courtship rituals. If you wish to breed them, you will want to buy a young fish group because their reproductive phase only lasts only three years or less.

If the school’s juvenile members are at about the same age, they will reach their reproductive maturity simultaneously. Consequently, their offspring will mature at about the same age, as well.

How Do Males Build Nests?

As mentioned earlier, the males would compete for the brightest spot in their habitat, followed by excavating a depression on the sand bed with a diameter of approximately 50 centimeters.

According to experts, the spawning site would have a slight variation depending on which locality the males were collected. For instance, males from Burundi would dig nests with a pit in the center, and those from Zambia would construct a saucer-like nest without a pit.

When the nests are ready, the males would lie on their sides and use their sparkling colors to seduce females. The nests are situated right next to each other, forming an excellent breeding arena. Males are not hostile towards each other, although they might sometimes chase rivals away.

As soon as a female enters a nest, the male would circle her with all its fins erect. He would also push the female to encourage her to do the same. Eventually, the female would join the dance and lay her eggs. The male will then drop its sperm on them, and the female would scoop up the fertilized eggs with its mouth.

How Do You Care for the Maternal Mouthbrooders and Fry?

A maternal mouthbrooder incubates 10 to 25 eggs within four weeks. The females would not eat and continue to hold their young inside their mouths until they hatch. The females must have a place to hide during this period.

Otherwise, they could get stressed and spit out the immature fry. To prevent fry predation, consider transferring the females to smaller confinement before they release the fry.

Breeders would often strip the fry from their mother’s mouth at two weeks and raise them. But if you are inexperienced, you should wait for the mothers to set their young free. From then on, you can feed the fry brine shrimp or newly hatched artemia.


Lake Tanganyika is home to a plethora of beautiful fish species, including the enantiopus melanogenys. The females have luminous silver bodies, while the males are akin to sparkling gems in their full-breeding color.

Now, let us reflect on what you have learned in this article:

  • Tank mates of enantiopus melanogenysThese fish will eat just about anything you offer them, but they prefer large amounts of protein-rich food.
  • A horizontal aquarium is the best choice for the enantiopus melanogenys, as the males need ample surface area during courtship.
  • These cichlids prefer higher pH, dH, and temperatures.
  • The active spawning for enantiopus melanogenys species is usually three years or less.
  • These fish appreciate plenty of open space, but you should put plants in one corner to give maternal mouthbrooders a place to retreat.
  • You will need to separate the mother and its fry a few days before their release to prevent them from getting eaten by other fish.
  • Interestingly, the fry that grows up together will remain in the same shoal for the rest of their lives.

Finally, you are better equipped with the knowledge of taking care of the enantiopus melanogenys than you were a few minutes ago.

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