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Common names:
Velvet black

Taxonomic tree
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
Order: Cichliformes (Cichlids)
Family: Cichlidae (Cichlids)
Genus: Neochromis
Species: Neochromis simotes (Boulenger, 1911)
Number of Occurrancies: 9

Etymology(based on Scharpf & Lazara, 2019)

  • Neochromis: neo-, meaning new, i.e., a new genus “closely related” to Haplochromis

  • simotes: one with a flat- or pugnose, perhaps referring to its “broadly rounded” snout, “much broader than long, as long as eye”. 

Synonyms: click here to view synonyms on FishBase, but also see taxonomic remarks below

Type locality: Kakindu, Upper Victoria Nile and Jinja, Ripon Falls, Uganda. Syntypes at British Museum of Natural History (BMNH)

General identification features for haplochromine cichlids

  • A single nostril on each side of the head; dorsal fin with contineous spinous and soft-rayed parts; lateral line interrupted(with anterior superior part and posterior inferior part)

  • Ctenoid scales

  • Juveniles lack tilapia mark (dark spot at the posterior end of the dorsal fin)

Distinguishing characters for the genus(From Seehausen et al., 1998)

  • A steep and convex dorsal head profile;

  • A broad, sometimes square shaped lower jaw; teeth in the outer row equally or subequally bicuspid and contigously set; teeth in the outer tooth row very movably implanted; three to more than six rows of inner teeth in both jaws forming broad bands anteriorly and anterolaterally; 

  • Lack of a distinct gap separating the outer tooth row from the first inner row in the lower jaw;

  • Usually 3-5 egg dummies on the anal fin of males;

  • Flank scales much higher than wide and and either a usually distinct vertical bar pattern on the flanks or black blotches on organge ground

Distinguishing characters for the species (From Seehausen et al., 1998)

  • Medium sized, rather elongate haplochromine with a rounded head, strongly convex dorsal head profile, a sub-terminal mouth, very broad jaws, a posteriorly downwards curved premaxillary and extremely broad bands and many rows of very densely spaced scraper teeth.

  • Brightly coloured species (bright blue with an orange dorsal fin).

  • Distinguished from: N. nigricans by smaller eyes, equally bicuspid teeth (vs. subequally bicuspid), smaller scales on the occiput, ctenoid (vs. cycloid) scales on the caudal part of the dorsum, very small scales on the chest, and presence of small cycloid scales on the anal region; N. rufocaudalis by more sub-terminal mouth, shallower body and narrower head; N. gigas narrower head and a much steeper and more convex head profile, a much more sub-terminal mouth (vs. terminal), and smaller adult size i.e. 8.6 cm SL (vs. 14 cm SL); N. omnicaeruleus by a much more subterminal mouth (vs. terminal); N. greenwoodi by  much more subterminal mouth, equally bicuspid outer teeth in adult males (vs. weakly bicuspid to unicuspid) and the absence of a gap between inner and outer tooth rows in the lower jaw (vs. presence of a gap), and by smaller adult size i.e. 8.6 cm SL (vs. 13.5 cm SL). 

Taxonomic remarks: We adopt the genus Neochromis, which is valid in Catalog of Fishes (Eschmeyer et al. 2019), based on Seehausen et al. 1998, although FishBase (Froese and Pauly, 2019) lists the species in genus Haplochromis based on Van Oijen 1996. N. simotes is referred to as the “Tropheus of Lake Victoria” because of its close resemblance to the morphologically highly specialised algae browsers of the genus Tropheus from Lake Tanganyika. Both share a strongly subterminal mouth and many rows of very densely spaced scraper teeth (Seehausen et al., 1998).

Distribution in Uganda: The species is endemic to the middle of Upper Victoria Nile, between Kirindi and Kakindu, a stretch of about 20 km of the Nile River that connects Lakes Victoria and Kyoga

Occurence: Native

Habitat: Rocky habitat with fast water flow (predominatly in rapids). 

Feeding: No stomach content data available by the jaw morphology points to a specialised algae feeder, most likely epilithic algae (Ole Seehausen Personal communication).   

Biology: Little is known about the biology and ecology of N. simotes but, as a specialised algae browser, the species requires sediment-free rocks to feed on the epilithic algae. It has very narrow microhabitat selection within the upper Victoria Nile, mostly confined to rapids where it lives at the edge of the fast flow. 

Economic importance/End use: Unknown. 

IUCN conservation status: click here to view conservation status

Threats: The major threat is alteration of water flow. It is very likely that this species will disappear as the Victoria Nile becomes more and more fragmented by dams. Damming will also increase predation mortality by Nile perch, while cultivation of river banks will likely accelerate siltation, especially in the reservoir areas, and this is likely to impact the species because haplochromines generally depend on clear waters for feeding and identification of mates. 

Main references

  • Seehausen, O., Lippitsch, E., Bouton, N. and Zwennes, H. 1998. Mbipi, the rock-dwelling cichlids of Lake Victoria: description of three new genera and fifteen new species (Teleostei). Ichtyological exploration of Freshwaters 9: 129-228.

  • Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2019. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication., version (02/2019)

  • Sharpf C, Lazara J.K. 2019. Fish Name Etymology Database v4.

  • Eschmeyer, W.N., Fricke, R. and Van der Laan, R. (eds). 2019. Catalog of Fishes: genera, species, references. Updated 1 July 2019. Available at: (Accessed 10 July 2019)

  • van Oijen, M.J.P. 1996. The generic classification of haplochromine cichlids of Lake Victoria, East Africa. Zoologische Verhandelingen 302: 57-110.


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Natugonza, V. & Musinguzi, L. (editors) 2021. Freshwater Biodiversity Portal for Uganda., version (01/2021).


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