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A Rheophilic Suprise, Steatocranus bleheri
by Dave Hansen

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This first spawn had gone just like it had for every other Steatocranus species I had bred previously. The pair have bred like clockwork about every two months, but the interaction between the male and female has changed somewhat. During the initial spawn I had not observed the male in the breeding log, only the female. Several spawns later, the male and female alternated in the log and recently have seen them inside together. When the male is alone in the log, the female assumes his position hovering over the breeding site. They also exhibit what I consider much tighter pair bonding than the other Steatocranus species I have kept.

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Another interesting behavior that I had not seen before occurred when the pair is guarding and fanning eggs. At feeding time, whoever is not in the spawning cave will eat. Once a couple of bites have been consumed, it goes over to the log, waits as the other one leaves the log, then enters as the other leaves to feed. In other species, I see the more common activities of the female putting off feeding unless food enters the cave or both individuals eating and not being overly concerned with leaving the site unattended for a short period of time. The older siblings do not harass their younger brothers and sisters in the least. I find the social aspect with several generations of offspring living together in harmony simply amazing!

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Steatocranus bleheri is an absolutely wonderful cichild. Their limited size allows for the hobbyists with space concerns to maintain a pair in a smaller sized aquarium. I regard
them as subtly beautiful in their own right and an enduring personality that will appeal to everyone. When observing the collection of fish I have amassed in my fish room, inevitably I find myself captivated with the actions of S. bleheri. When I have guests visit, I try to hold off showing the S. bleheri tank until the end because this is where my visitors attention will be. I hope to see this incredible little cichlid find a home in more hobbyist tanks. As a pleaser, its a sure thing!
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Originally published in The Lateral Line, the official publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club.


Lamboj, Anton. The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa. Bornheim, Germany: Birgit Schmettkamp Verlag, 2004.

Hansen, David. "Steatocranus: A Genus Review". The Lateral Line Vol 2 Issue 3 June 2009: 16-19.

Meyer, M. K.*; 1993; "Description of a new Steatocranus species from Luapula River system, Zaire"; Zoologische Abhandlungen Museum für Tierkunde Dresden; 47 (9); pp 113-120.
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