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Steatocranus: A Genus Review
by Dave Hansen

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I have bred a few of the species, but not all of them by a long shot. They are a cave spawning and pair bonding cichlid. I have always started with 5-6 juveniles of a species and let them sort it all out to obtain a pair. Pair bonding compared to many species is relatively peaceful. I never witnessed the raw brutality of some cichlids. It is very easy to see with even minor observation who is going to pair. There will be some chasing that is exhibited.

Reptile Snake Underwater Scaled reptile Fish

Steatocranus gibbiceps

Once a pair is identified it is a simple matter of pulling the rest of them before any carnage takes place. In a couple of instances I have had a male tolerate two females in the tank, but he would only breed with one. In one case, the dominant female died and it looked like he bonded with the second female. Eggs were laid several times, but I never achieved any fry from the attempt. A clay breeding cave has been the most popular choice so far for a breeding site. I have also had pair choose a group of rocks as well that formed a cave. There can only be one entrance though into their sections of the rocks. If there is any way for a backdoor entry, they will move onto another site.

Head Eye Underwater Fish Marine biology

Steatocranus bleheri with fry

Once they have spawned and the fry are free swimming the female will guard them. The male doesn't actually guard the fry, but patrols his territory and defends anything in his space, which happens to contain the female and fry. The young fish will stay very close to the spawning site for an extended period of time. Often I have no idea how big a spawn took place till weeks after the spawn and the fry begin to explore their surroundings. In addition, the parents and juveniles will tolerate multiple generations of broods. I have discovered the hard way that the parents do not defend very well against catfish picking off fry. I have a habit of keeping catfish, mostly Synodontis, in all my tanks. I do this for two reasons. I like the job they do of keeping the tank clean of any food, and I love catfish. I no longer keep any in a tank with Steatocranus though.

Eye Reptile Iguania Fish Scaled reptile

Steatocranus sp. "square head"

I would like to share some thoughts on the tank environment when keeping these cichlids. First let me mention that I would never mix species in a single tank. I keep them in 30-gallon long tanks. I imagine a bonded pair could be kept in a 20 long, though I have not tried this myself yet. The substrate is always dark brown pool filter sand. I keep lots of rocks for hiding and perching spots. I have found that they will live at multiple levels. I also keep lots of plants in the tank. Most of them are tall plants that will reach the surface and help subdue the lighting a bit. An overly bright tank will not let them be too comfortable. Water parameters are not real important and they tolerate higher pH and hardness very well.

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