Yelloweye Sweeper-Facts and Photographs

Yelloweye Sweeper (Pempheris flavicycla)

The Yelloweye Sweeper (Pempheris flavicycla) has two subspecies. One  is Pempheris flavicycla flavicycla which is found across the Indian Ocean from East Africa to Sri Lanka but not in the Red Sea.  The other in the Red Sea is Pempheris flavicycla marisrubri .

The images in this post are of Pempheris flavicycla flavicycla. They are not common fish in Tanzania and we have only seen them on the east and west coast of Mafia Island and on a reef near Fanjove Island. They were described in 2015 with the holotype being from Mafia Island in Tanzania.


The Yelloweye Sweeper has typical sweeper looks with very a distinctive deep hatchet shaped orange body with a yellow ring around the eye. The pectoral fins are light orange and there is a black line down the rear of the anal fin. On some specimens there is an additional blue line alongside the black line. We have seen them up to 12 to 14 cm in length.  Because of their nocturnal feeding habits, they have proportionately large eyes which allow better night vision. They obtain their common name from the yellow ring around the eye.


The Yelloweye Sweeper are nocturnal feeders and during the day collect in shoals of  ten to fifteen fish under overhangs and in caves. The shoals tend to be size related and on the deeper reefs in Chole Bay around 18 meters one finds the adults whereas the juveniles are found in shallower waters.

The larger full grown specimens will often move above or outside the feature in which they hiding in. At night the shoals disperse to feed on plankton. Sweepers are known to produce sounds and adult males seem to be able to produce the loudest sounds indicating that sound production may be mating related.


The Yelloweye Sweepers have been seen between 2 to 18 meters on Mafia Island and Fanjove Island. The juveniles have been seen over mixed rubble and reef in the shallows on the west coast of Mafia Island.

The known range stretches’ from East Africa to Sri Lanka excluding the Red Sea but as a newly described fish, details are limited.

Yelloweye Sweeper (Pempheris flavicycla)


The Yelloweye Sweeper are nocturnal feeders , feeding mainly on zooplankton. Once it is dark they swim above the substrate and feed on the zooplankton.  Usually they feed singular but if there is a major planktonic event then they may feed in a shoal.


Little seems known about their breeding habits although it seems that with sweepers in general breeding is not tied to the moon cycles.


Yelloweye Sweeper are not commonly kept in private aquariums although they are very attractive looking fish and would certainly be easy to keep and feed. Possibly this will change with time.




Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Pempheridae
Genus: Pempheris
Species P.flavicycla



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