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West African Cichlids

Steatocranus casuarius

Steatocranus casuarius

Steatocranus casuarius, Male. Photo by Sam Borstein.

General

Steatocranus casuarius, also known as the Buffalohead is a West African Cichlid that is dear to many hobbyists hearts. This fish gets its common name from the large hump on the males heads. This little, pugnacious fish was first typed by Poll in 1939. They are rheophilic, and therefore have a reduced swim bladder. Steatocranus stay near the bottom of the tank, spending their time scooting around

The latin name Steatocranus is derived from Greek, Steato, meaning fat, and cranium, meaning skull. Yes, these fish are fat heads. The genus is from the
Latin word cassis, which means helmet.

Males and female Steatocranus casuarius have the same color pattern— a gray to black body color, occasionally with dark stripes, all depending on mood. Males get up to 4.5-5 inches, and females stay about an inch smaller. Sexing can be difficult. Females tend to be rounder, and don't possess as long as a hump or as long finnage as males.


Habitat

Steatocranus casuarius is found in the wild in the fast flowing water of the lower and middle regions of the Congo River. This fish is found in abundance at a particular location point, Stanley pool. Specimens do not differ appreciatively when taken from various location points.

Care

Buffaloheads are easy to care for. Despite the fact that this dimunitive fish is pair bonding and can be kept in a twenty gallon tank, I advise placing the fish in a larger community tank with either docile Pseuodotropheus, or other West Africans. This way the fish are more active and enjoyable. I think it also keeps the pair bond strong.

Tank should be about 76-80F degrees and offer good water movement. Furnish the tank with caves and rocks. They can handle a large range of water parameters, but ours did very well in hard, Chicago water.

Feeding

I fed a variety of foods such as fish Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, various flakes, and New Life Spectrum. The fish are not picky. They really like baby brine shrimp and brine shrimp.

Breeding

I obtained my pair of Buffaloheads from Milwaukee West African expert Jeff Michels. The fish were wild, and were about 2-2.5 inches. I put them in a sixty gallon tank with some gentle Pseudotropheus and some Kribensis types. Immediatley the pair showed breeding behavior, and shortly thereafter, spawned.

Before spawning, the female will taken on a round, nearly bloated appearence, and will get a hump, sometimes as large as the male.

The fish laid only thirty eggs in a clay cave, but the the eggs were huge! The largest cave/substratum spawner eggs I have ever seen.

The eggs took forever to hatch. I checked the water temperature and it was at 78F degrees, so I knew that temperature not the cause of the slow development. I finally accepted the fact that the larger the eggs, the longer they take to hatch. Indeed, afterhearing some other fishkeepers experiences, it seemed typical. After six days, the eggs finally hatched and were free swimming six days hence.

The fry were very large— about half an inch, and eagerly accepted newly hatched baby brine shrimp. The parents fiercely defended the fry, and owned about two-thirds of a three foot tank. After about a week, the fry were an inch long. They are easy to raise, and extremely cute in appearence loking just like their parents, scooting around the bottom of the tank.

Retail Price

$30 dollars per pair or $15-20 per wild fish. Fry and juveniles are usually only $5-10 each. Occasionally the fish will show up in pet shops. It is more often available from cichlid hobbyists. The fish does occasionally disappear for periods of time, but is a classic, so it is always there.

Report July 2008 by Sam Borstein.

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