I have a fascination with riverine cichlids!
In this diverse group, the members of the
Steatocranus genus are among my favorites.
Their charming personalities and entertaining
behavior certainly make up for any short
comings with regards to coloration. Perhaps
it is the nearly human-like nature of these
fish that captivate me. This allure of Steatocranus
species has become well known
and the genus is gaining popularity in the
Steatocranus currently contains nine described
species and one undescribed. Uli
Schliwen of Germany is currently working
on a revision of the genus and I am eagerly
anticipating the results of his work. Recent
expeditions to Western Africa have revealed
numerous unfamiliar species making this
quite an exciting time for enthusiasts. The
subject of this article is one species in particular,
Steatocranus bleheri. This fish is
not nearly as common as other members of
the genus. My attempts to find information
on the web, either articles or pictures,
yielded very few results. Even my "go to"
book, The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa,
by Anton Lamboj, contains but three short
paragraphs on this particular cichlid. My
hope is that this article will bring some
much deserved attention to this fantastic
Steatocranus bleheri is found in small communal
groups in the Lubumbashi River.
This waterway is part of the Luapula River
System located along the border of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia. This is a complex of rivers, shifting
channels, lagoons and swamps containing
some of the world's largest wetlands.
The city of Lubumbashi near the river, is a
hub of the southeast DRC and home to over
a million people. I would love to visit this
area one day as the DRC is home to many
Steatocranus bleheri share many physical
characteristics with other species of the genus
most notably, a reduced swim bladder
and elongated body. Steatocranus are considered
a small to medium sized cichlid.
Named for the well known collector Heiko
Bleher, S. bleheri leans towards the smaller
end of the spectrum. Males will reach a
length of about 9cm (3.5 inches) while the
female remains slightly smaller. After approximately
one year, I could see very few
obvious differences between the two sexes.
In addition to the male being slightly longer,
he was also somewhat more robust than the
female. The males also possess more elongated
dorsal and anal fins than the female.
The genus is often referred to as the
"Buffalo Head" cichlids due to the massive
nuchal humps males can develop. You will
not find that characteristic in this species.
Males can develop a slight bulge, but it is
very common to see no hump at all. Both
sexes maintain the same dark gray coloration.
Variations of body patterns are mood
dependant. S. bleheri are deeper bodied than
most other members of the genus. The forehead
is very steep tapering off to a small
mouth. The body contains two horizontal
stripes that converge at the caudal peduncle.
This is a trait that they share with S. mpozoensis
and there is some debate in the scientific
community if in fact S. bleheri is a
variation of S. mpozoensis. The general consensus
is leaning towards the two being distinct
species. As is typical of the genus, they
spend most of their time on the substrate.
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