The ability to utilise dietary components differs among fish species. Digestive enzymes may be used to determine the efficiency of the digestive process. In this study, the activities of the digestive enzymes in Tilapia rendalli, Oreochromis mossambicus and Clarias gariepinus were explored. Protease, amylase, lipase and cellulase activities were measured in different parts of the digestive tract of the three fish species. The pH dynamics along the digestive tract were monitored. In all fish species, the presence of food led to a reduction in stomach pH, whereby pH values of 1.54, 1.58 and 2.01 were recorded 12 h after feeding in O. mossambicus, T. rendalli and C. gariepinus, respectively. Protease and amylase activities were significantly higher (P < 0.05, anova) in the tilapias than in C. gariepinus. The tilapias may be pre-adapted to produce more protease and amylase to digest plant material, which is more difficult to digest than animal matter. In all species amylase activity was significantly higher in the proximal intestine than in the other parts of the digestive tract (P < 0.05, anova). The highest protease activity was recorded in the distal intestines. This is because of the alkaline pH recorded in the proximal and distal intestines, which favours amylase and protease activity, respectively. Lipase activities were significantly higher (P > 0.05) in C. gariepinus than in both tilapias. Marginal cellulase activities were recorded in all species. It is inferred here that phylogeny and not diet may be the main factor influencing enzyme activities, as all fish were fed a similar diet.