Greg Steeves,
Cichlid Room Companion
Furu Fanatics

Enterochromis (Greenwood & Gee, 1969), a Genus Review

By , 2006. image
Last updated on 12-Feb-2006


(Greenwood & Gee 1969)

The moniker "Enterochromis" is derived from the Greek "enteron" meaning bowel, and correlating to the long intestines common to members of this genus. The members of this genus are consistently small, to 10cm. Intestines are up to four times longer than the standard length of the specimen. Other genera that share this intestinal feature include Xystichromis, Neochromis, and some yet unclassified species. The outer rows of teeth of have broader crowns than the base whereas Xystichromis species generally speaking have stout pillar like tooth stems. Neochromis species have a strongly curved cranial profile while Enterochromis species have a straight sloping head. Superficially, Enterochromis closely resembles Astatotilapia.

Enterochromis cinctus

(Greenwood & Gee 1969) Lake Victoria.

Although Enterochromis cinctus does not appear on the IUCN red list, it is logical to extrapolate that this species is critically endangered or extinct.

Enterochromis cinctus was discovered in a deep trawl near Mwama Island Lake Victoria. "Cinctus" is a Latin derivative meaning "girded" and referring to the barring pattern found amongst males of this species. Enterochromis cinctus reaches a length of 9cm. The outer rows of teeth are typically bicuspid towards the front. The examined specimen of Enterochromis cinctus had blue-green algae, diatoms and other plant material in the digestive system.

Male coloration includes a silver or gray orange blaze to the head. Light orange adorns the flanks with a dark blue, almost black belly. The body contains 3-5 dark vertical bars which extend evenly from the abdomen to the upper lateral line. At the Upper lateral line the barring narrows only to merge again to the dorsal. A metallic sheen emits from the body bars as well as the caudal region. Two black bars cross the snout. An eye bar runs vertically from the corner of the mouth, through the eye, and above on to the forehead. The dorsal is translucent with subtle orange spots between the fin rays. The caudal fin is translucent as well with an orange red tinge. The anal fin is red towards the outer portion merging to gray at the base. Enterochromis cinctus is anatomically indistinguishable from Enterochromis paropius. The species differences lies in male coloration.

Enterochromis erythrocephalus (Greenwood & Gee 1969)

Lake Victoria, Holotype Buvuma Channel south of Ramafuta Island. Found at Bonga Point and in Pilkington Bay. Size 7.4cm.

"Erythro" refers to red while "cephalus" means the head. The cranial profile is mostly straight at a 45° angle with a slight indentation at the eyes. The body coloration is tinged in a yellow hue with a silver outlay on the sides and belly. The dorsal fin is pink red and the caudal fin is also hued red on the top half, while to bottom is pale yellow or translucent. Pelvic fins are black while the anal is hyaline. The anal fin is decorated with two or three orange ocelli.

Enterochromis erythrocephalus was taken in trawl catches off shore in the northern portions of Lake Victoria. This leads one to hypothesize that this species must have had a wide distribution. This cichlid is possibly more than a single species and part of a larger complex of animals.

Diet consists of blue-green algae, diatoms and green algae. Incidental ingestions of crustaceans and insect pieces were also found. This leads one to postulate that Enterochromis erythrocephalus feed on bottom mud in deeper waters.

nigripinnis (Regan 1921) Lake Edward, Lake George and Kazinga Channel. Size to 7cm. Enterochromis nigripinnis is one of the few member of the genus not critically endangered or extinct.

Body coloration of Enterochromis nigripinnis is metallic green with a silver belly. The dorsal fin is gray with black edging and a jagged dark line runs along the base. A pink hue tinges the dorsal between the fin rays as well. The caudal fin has a pink flush. The anal fin has black spines with pink hues in between the rays. A number of orange ocelli adorn the anal fin. Pelvic fins are black.

Enterochromis nigripinnis is an open water feeder ingesting primarily phytoplankton with small insects also taken when the opportunity arises.

paropius (Greenwood & Gee 1969) Near Bulago Island, Lake Victoria, Uganda

Critically endangered

Male Enterochromis paropius has a deep red cranial coloration. The belly is silver with vertical barring barely visible.

Specimens which were examined contained large quantities of blue-green algae and diatoms along with smaller amounts of other plant material. Fragmentary remains of diptera larvae were also found in some specimens.

Similar looking "paropius-type" cichlids have been found but remain unexamined. The comparable fish is likely part of a larger Enterochromis paropius complex.


Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper"

While exploring the northern portion of Mwanza Gulf in 1991, Yves Fermon and Ole Seehausen discovered a beautiful cichlid, Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" habituating papyrus and reed beds along the shores of Nyegezi Bay. They were able to collect a sampling that included one holding female. All Enterochromis sp. "red back scrapers" in our aquariums today are descendants from this one collection. Unfortunately, this colorful little haplochromine has not been seen in the wild since and is now thought to be extinct.

Fermon grouped Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" as a pseudonyererei and originally referred to it as Haplochromis "psuedonyererei". Although still undescribed, Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" shares specialized dentition with Haplochromis sp. "purple yellow" and Haplochromis sp. "blue obliquidens". The wild populations of Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" were algae scrapers. These species all conform to Greenwood’s Enterochromis genus (Greenwood, 1980).

In captivity, Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" is an undemanding colorful addition to an aquarium. The species appears to be closely related to Haplochromis sp. "purple yellow". Dominant males have split coloration on the body. The bottom portion is colored a yellow green while the top, below the dorsal an orange red. The dorsal fin is beautifully colored bright red at the base merging to blue at the edges. Six to eight vertical bars line the flanks. Male coloration can vary from this bright description to a much darker, yet similarly marked coloration. Males can reach a size of four inches, females slightly smaller. Females hold clutches of over thirty larvae. Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" is a maternal mouth brooder. Spawning occurs on a flat surface with the classic haplochromine spawning style of circling and scooping eggs. Gestation lasts 17 days. The female will allow the fry back into the buccal cavity for a few days post release. After this the young are left to fend for themselves.

Our group of Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" is housed with Harpagochromis sp. "golden duck" and Neochromis sp. "madonna". All three of these species vary greatly in both body shape and coloration. We do this to discourage any intra species breeding. The mix seems to work well. They are housed together in a 65 gallon tanks with power filtration. All three species are undemanding and do well on a diet of basic flake. They are not as aggressive as some other Victorian Basin cichlids.

Hopefully wild populations of Enterochromis sp. "red back scraper" are yet to be found, but as with so many other Lake Victoria cichlids, it might now be up to the hobbyist to ensure the existence of this beautiful little treasure.

References (4):


Steeves, Greg. (Feb 12, 2006). "Enterochromis (Greenwood & Gee, 1969), a Genus Review". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 10, 2023, from: