Enigmatochromis lucanusi breedingEnigmatochromis lucanusi is a species of cichlid that originated in coastal Guinea, Africa. They are found only in the Foto River.

It is a small savannah river near the bauxite mining town of Fria in north Conakry of Guinea. They’re the only fish under their genus.

The etymology of this cichlid’s scientific name comes from the word Enigma. It refers to how this fish holds intermediate characters between the genuses Pelvicachromis and Parananochromis. It possesses similarities with the pigmentation of the former one but the anatomy of the second one.


Scientific name Enigmatochromis lucanusi
pH 5.8 – 7.0
Hardness 0 (soft)
Carbonate hardness 0
Diet type Omnivore
Temperature 75.2 – 84.2 F (24 – 29C)
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Size Around 2 inches

Background and look

Anton Lamboj, a Canadian reporter, collector, and aquarist, defined this cichlid species in 2009. The genus name lucanusi honors the name of Lamboj’s friend Oliver Lucanus. In 2004, he was the one who collected information on where to look for this species of fish and help Lamboj with it.Enigmatochromis lucanusi diet

They can easily be distinguished from all other chromidotilapia genera because of their unique combination of characters, especially through their morphological characters and coloration patterns. For example, they have 12 circum-peduncular scales and three tubular infraorbital bones alongside the lacrimal bone.

– Size

As they are called dwarf cichlids, you can imagine how they will be smaller than your average cichlid. Usually, they stay around the size of 2 inches, which is around 4.5 centimeters. However, there are also many that grow more than that.

The maximum reported size of an Enigmatochromis lucanusi is four inches. However, around three inches is also pretty common. It has been noticed that the lucanusi fish that grow in the wild have a larger size than the ones who were raised in aquariums. There are usually various factors that play into it.

– Coloration and body

Enigmatochromis lucanusi is one of the prettiest fish you will ever keep. For both sexes, the body is a pale brown to a grayish brown. Upon maturing, the males have a nice yellow throat and chest. On the other hand, the females will turn a gorgeous dark purple color with a bright iridescent teal-colored dorsal fin.

You will notice dark scaleless spots on the outer edge of their opercle and a light blue margin on their posterior edge. Their lips are differently colored. The upper one is brownish to a brownish-yellow shade, while the lower one is greyish to greyish brown.

You might notice dark longitudinal stripes on their sides, around the height of the lower lateral line. It is most visible in males and rarely and weakly in females, which is primarily due to stress. The stress can arise either from the small tank size, lack of food, or a disease.

However, it’s mostly visible during their breeding time and also when they are guarding individuals. It is common in many other cave breeders of the chromidotilapia lineage, for example, Pelvicachromis, Congochromis, and Parananochromis.

As for the females, they can differ from other Enigmatochromis species. There might be a prominent dark and longitudinal stripe on your female lucanusi, which is very typical for females but rare for males. You might notice it in the first two to four weeks of guarding fry after the eggs hatch.

The upper edge of their eye will be a beautiful golden-yellow color. Their lachrymal is bluish, with reddish horizontal stripes from the mouth to the edge of the preopercular. Overall, they are a beautiful kind of fish, and they will look great in your aquarium.

– Lifespan

If you have dwarf cichlids of other genera, you might think that your Enigmatochromis lucanusi will easily live up to 8 to 10 years. Unfortunately, these fish are an exception. Their lifespan is very short, usually ranging between two to three years.

Of course, there are exceptions within the exceptions, and some might live longer, but it’s very rare. Even if you feed them well and keep them healthy, they will most likely not live up to any more than four years maximum. If the water’s temperature is warmer than they prefer, the lifespan may become shorter though they will grow faster.

Care for Enigmatochromis Lucanusi

It is moderately difficult to take care of an Enigmatochromis lucanusi. Make sure to keep the water temperature at a moderately cold level, between the ranges of 72 F to 82 F. If you want them to breed, keeping it below 76 F is the best. Higher temperatures will require fewer aquarium stockings, but the lifespan may reduce.

– Diet

These dwarf cichlids are omnivores like most other cichlids. So you can give them the exact same diet as you might give a cichlid from another genus. They specialize in eating one type of food, but some of these specialized feeders are flexible and opportunistic.

These freshwater fish will gobble up anything from plants to small fish. Shrimps are a favorite of cichlids, meaning you can give them that too. Giving them a varied diet is a good idea if you want them to maintain a bright coloration.

And of course, other fish food like flakes, cichlid pellets, or green foods will also work. You can give them meaty foods like prawns, mussels, and cockles occasionally. Worms are also okay. As they are benthopelagic, benthic detritus is their natural diet.

Tank Mates for Enigmatochromis Lucanusi

A mated pair of these dwarf cichlids will need a tank size of at least 20 gallons since most only grow up to two inches. However, they might grow bigger, so a larger tank is good if you want to stay on the safe size. So about 30 gallons should be better. However, if you’re putting a lot of lucanusi fish in a single 30-gallon tank, it might lead to them feeling irritable. They will feel cramped.

In that case, you will see them chasing each other all over the tank, trying to push each other away. If you notice something like that, you should either upgrade the tank size or put some away into a separate tank. For multiple lucanusi fish, you should consider a 55-gallon tank.

As you can guess, these cichlids show a mildly aggressive temperament towards those of the same species. They won’t do anything that will significantly harm or injure another lucanusi, but they will try to annoy each other. Therefore, it’s best to give them enough space away from each other in a tank.

As for fish of other species, the temperament of these cichlids is more or less the same. They will display mild aggression. You can keep some other similar-sized fish in the tank, maybe some tetras if you will. But again, if you see the lucanusi chasing them and disturbing them, it means the tank needs to be bigger.

However, one thing you must keep in mind is that Enigmatochromis lucanusi need soft water. Note that most cichlids perform well in hard waters, so their tank mates can only be those who do well in the same water parameters.


Enigmatochromis lucanusi care guideAmerican hobbyist David Midviddy was the first one to breed an Enigmatochromis lucanusi. He then observed that, like other Pelvicachromis species, they bond in pairs, are biparental, and spawn in caves.

This species of cichlid is monogamous, which is not very common among cichlids. Some owners claim that Enigmatochromis lucanusi need soft water to spawn, but others claim that it isn’t absolutely mandatory; neutral water can work.

It’s still better to allow soft water in the tank for breeding. If the water’s hardness is too much, the eggs won’t hatch. Keep the pH level on the slightly acidic side and the water hardness soft, and you will see successful breeding. If the water is too alkaline and hard, the spawning won’t usually be successful.

You will notice a certain behavior in these cichlids when they are interested in inbreeding. Either the male or the female cichlid will take the bold initiative of flirting with the other one. If it works out, you will see them choosing a certain cave and chasing other fish in the tank away from it. Moreover, the female will show a purplish coloration when she’s ready to breed.

Both the male and female will take part in guarding the eggs, but the female will do it more intensively. It takes about three days after the spawning for the eggs to hatch. The larvae are usually deposited on the bottom of the original cave they were spawned in and occasionally in other nearby caves.

Within eight to nine days after the hatching, the juveniles will begin their free-swimming. The parents will guard their kids for about five to six weeks. You will see them trying to keep other fish in the tank away from their kids in quite an active manner.

On average, they might spawn between late September to December. It’s rare for them to spawn after February, and it’s rare for spawning to become successful after December. Most of them won’t even make court until the temperature drops below 76 F.


And that was everything you needed to know about Enigmatochromis lucanusi fish. Let’s take another look at the most important points you should keep in mind if you’re getting one of your own:

  • Enigmatochromis lucanusi is a rare breed of cichlids found nowhere but the Foto river of Guinea, West Africa.
  • They’re the only known fish under their genus.
  • Since they’re small in size, they’re called dwarf cichlids, but they’re much different from the American dwarf cichlids.
  • They prefer soft water the best and will stay the calmest there.
  • If you want them to spawn, the pH level should remain under seven and the temperature under 76 F.
  • A 30-gallon tank is best for a mated pair, but a 55-gallon or more is best for a group.
  • They have a mildly aggressive temperament for both the same species and other species.

Enigmatochromis lucanusi fishEnigmatochromis lucanusi might be a bit expensive to buy given their rare natural occurrences, but their gorgeous coloration is worth having in any aquarium. They will be an absolute delight to watch!

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