Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe'

by Greg Steeves


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' male


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' female


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' spawning


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' spawning


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' spawning


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' spawning


Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' female holding

European hobbyists have been working with a fish called Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe', or sometimes referred to as Haplochromis sp. 'Entebbe' for some time. The unwillingness of several prominent French and Dutch ichthyologists to recognize any genus erected by P.H. Greenwood (the most influential scientist of his time working with East African haplochromines) is beyond me but to have an intellectual conversation with someone whose mind is made up, is like beating a dead horse. I will not spend any more time or effort on the proper genus placement of this species, however depending on who you are speaking with, keep in mind that it might go by a different genus name. From my novice point of view, given the cranial profile and tooth shape this fish adheres closer to the Neochromis grouping to than any other.

This fish was originally brought to Europe by the well-known German explorer Erwin Schraml. By 2005, Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' was well established with several hobbyists. Several years later this fish found its way to North America and into the hands of James Bryan, an expert haplochromine breeder who was able to reproduce and distribute the species to other dedicated hobbyists. Eventually we found ourselves in possession of a group of 15 young fish. After growing them out to a size of 6cm, we were disappointed that none of the fish showed the beautiful colors that some of the photos from other groups had displayed. As time went on, it became evident that the reason for the poor display was that our entire group was comprised of females. Luckily, one of my go to friends Mike Helford was also working with this species, and after a short phone call, a small box containing two male Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' landed on my doorstep a few days later. This changed everything and the colony burst to life.

To say these fish are active would be a colossal understatement. They never stop moving and usually crowd together breaking the surface of the water in anticipation of feeding as soon as they see us. They are fed a diet of basic flake, pellets and algae wafers. Food choice does not seem to be much of a problem as everything offered has been greedily accepted. The group is housed in a species-only 55 gallon aquarium filtered by two large dirt magnet type sponges. This, coupled with frequent water changes has worked well thus far.

Tank décor consists of several large rocks stood up towards the back of the tank. In our experience, Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' does not require or use rockwork made into caves. They prefer more open water close to rocks and spend the biggest part of their time grazing the rocks and substrate for anything edible. We use fine grain light colored sand in their aquarium. We had added several large Anubias to give their surroundings more color but these were promptly destroyed with the leaves being eaten right to the stem. N. sp. 'Entebbe' seem be able to design their aquarium to their specifications so we’ve just gone with this. This must be to their liking because they are comfortable enough to spawn frequently and look very healthy.

Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' spawns in a typical manner comparable to most other Lake Victoria haplochromines. The male may dig a very small depression at the base of an object and use this as a focal point to lure a gravid female. The two will circle each other, she will drop an egg or two, quickly turn to pick them up and then nibble the egg dummies (ocelli) on the males anal fin. It is at this time that the milt is released and fertilization takes place. The female will hold her brood for around 14 days, however this may go longer in cooler temperatures and more quickly in warmer weather. The average would be at around 80F. We have gotten several broods in excess of 40 fry but more normally, one can expect between 25-35 larvae out of an adult female.

Male size for Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' is typically 12-15 cm while the females remain slightly smaller. The females are tan colored with seven faint vertical black bars lining the body. All fins are hyaline. The male is beautifully colored with a yellow tinge to the top third of the flanks merging to black along the bottom portion. The same black bars seen in the female is present on the male only much more vibrant. There is a slight reddish tinge behind the gill plate. The pelvic fins are solid black whole the front portion of the anal fin is red and fades to light blue towards the back. Two or three bright orange ocelli with a clear orbit are positioned towards the back portion of the anal fin. The caudal fin is red with a black base where it joins the peduncle. The dorsal fin is bright cyan with a red trim; towards the back portion the red engulfs the entire height of the fin. The pectoral fins are clear on both the male and female.

The fry are tiny but hardy. We raise our broods in a 5 gallon rearing tank until they are large enough to be moved (usually about a month of age). They are then put into a 20 gallon high tank, no décor or substrate, and an air driven sponge filter to grow. There has been a solid demand for these beautiful cichlids and we have had no problems parting with the young. Hopefully there are enough people working with Neochromis sp. 'Entebbe' now that they can become a staple in the haplochromine hobby. They are always in demand and have no special needs in the aquarium.

 



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