Even before I began to get excited about the Cichlids of West Africa, I was always intrigued by the genus Steatocranus. I have always had a soft spot for rheophilic fish. Rheophilic is a term that refers to fish that live in fast moving water. Most cichlids of this type are slender and elongated to enable them to thrive in the quick moving bodies of water. All members of Steatocranus are rheophilic species. In addition, all species have reduced swim bladders to varying degrees. They will sink like a rock when the stop swimming. The vast majority of their time is spent on the substrate.
Steatocranus sp. "red eye"
As of this moment there are 9 described species and 2 undescribed species. All of them except for one can be found in the Congo River system. This species happens to be among my favorites and it is Steatocranus gibbiceps. The described species contained in the genus currently are Steatocranus bleheri, S. casuarius, S. gibbiceps, S. glaber, S. irvinei, S. mpozoensis, S. rouxi, S. tinanti, and S. ubanguiensis. The undescribed species are S. sp. "red eye" and S. sp. "square head".
Let's discuss their appearance now. I would classify the genus as a small to mid size animal. The most unique characteristic they share is the large mouth and thickened lips. In addition, some male specimens can grow some very impressive humps on their head. Males also get larger than the females and tend to have more elongated dorsal and anal fins. This is one of my favorite traits. I have some males with dorsal fins that flow well past the end of their tail. Pelvic fins have a rounded appearance due to the longer middle rays. Steatocranus can be seen propped up on these pelvic fins constantly. Members of the species have very stout and strong caudal peduncle that powers a large caudal fin. The dorsal fin maintains a low profile along the length of the body and flares a bit near the end of the fin. Normally the coloration is the first physical trait that is mentioned when describing a species appearance. Steatocranus will never be called a colorful group of fish. As they mature most of them are a dark gray or muddy brown color. Juvenile coloration can be a bit more varied. The color is not what makes this an exciting group of fish to keep. It is there unique shape and wonderful personality.