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False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid

Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae False Mpozo Lionhead CichlidSteatocranus glaberPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs

   A more recent 'lionhead' addition to the hobby, the False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is still quite scarce and a real treasure if you can obtain one!

   The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid was scientifically described in 1976 and introduced into the hobby about the end of 1981 or beginning of 1982. Though this fish is one of the more recently discovered of the nine described Lionheads, it hasn't been around since 1899 like it cousin the Blunt-head Cichlid S. gibbiceps. Nor is it as available as the more popular Lionhead Cichlid S. casuarius. Still it has the conspicuous shape and the modest needs of this species, and would definitely make a very unique addition to your tank.

   All the males of the various Lionhead species have an imposing air about them due to their enlarged heads. They also have some special characteristics because they have adapted to the fast moving streams of their natural habitat. They seem to perch on the bottom and their movements are similar to gobies where they tend to 'hop' or 'jerk' from place to place rather than swim. Their lower fins act as struts for support and their swim bladder has been greatly reduced, which keeps them from readily floating and then having to swim against the current.

   The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is one of the smaller members of this genus, reaching only up to just over 2 inches. It differs from others of their genus in that it has very large chisel-shaped teeth. It is very similar in appearance to the Blunt-head Cichlid S. gibbiceps except it grows to only about half the size, has longer fins, and fewer gill rakers.

   Being moderate to care for, The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is a great choice for any cichlid enthusiast who has limited space and cannot provide a large aquarium. It is not demanding about the pH and hardness but it does need very clean, oxygen rich water. Doing 30% to 50% water changes every week, depending on fish load, is important. They need a lot of caves near the bottom of the tank for retreating, several places at varying intervals work well. They do not bother plants, which is great for those who like their aquascaping. Provide plants that are hardy and individually potted.

   The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlids are peaceful little guys. They are considered to be a community cichlid if kept with the right tank mates. Generally they will get along with small peaceful fish that are not bottom dwellers. The Lionheads do best in a species specific tank and can be kept as a pair, but will not get along with other conspecifics. Like other cichlids, they become territorial during spawning.

For more Information on keeping this fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium


Geographic Distribution
Steatocranus glaber
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Steatocranus
  • Species: glaber
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Distribution:    The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid was described by Roberts and Stewart in 1976. They are found in Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo near the Inga Dam site. They are found in the rapids of the Zaire River as well.
   Steatocranus inhabit the quiet areas of faster flowing waters feeding on plants, algae, small crustaceans, and plankton. Because they inhabit fast moving streams, their swim bladder is under developed which keeps them from readily floating and having to swim against the current all the time.
   This species was initially considered to be Steatocranus mpozoensis , thus the common name 'Mpozo' is used in industry nomenclature.

Status:    This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid has an elongated yet stout body topped with a head that appears to be to big for the body. The male develops a nuchal hump that grows with age. Overall it is a silver-blue color with white dots along the back just under the dorsal fin and faint vertical lines on the main body. The head is a bluish color and the area behind the head may have a pinkish tint. They have special characteristics, adaptations to the fast moving streams of their natural habitat. Their lower fins act as struts for support and their swim bladder has been greatly reduced, which keeps them from readily floating. They don't hover, but rather 'jerk' or 'hop' from rock to rock.
   All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
   Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

Size - Weight:    The male grows to a length of 2 1/3" (6 cm), the female is slightly smaller reaching just over 2" (5 cm).

Care and feeding:    The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is an omnivore that can be fed live foods, frozen and prepared foods, algae, flake and pelleted foods. Feed 2 to 3 times a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.
   A minimum of 20 gallons is suggested. They like vigorous water movement along with strong efficient filtration. They need a lot of caves near the bottom of the tank for retreating, providing several places at varying intervals works well. They do not bother plants, which is great for those who like their aquascaping. Provide plants that are hardy and individually potted. They are not demanding about the pH and hardness but very clean. oxygen rich water is important. Do water changes of 30% to 50% weekly, depending on stocking numbers.
   They are subject to infections as well as other diseases that ail all freshwater fish, especially if water quality is ignored. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. Intestinal disease can be treated with metronidazol.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom:    These fish will swim in the bottom areas of the aquarium.

Acceptable Water Conditions:    Hardness: up to 20° dH
   Ph: 6.0 - 7.5
   Temp: 73 - 81 ° F (23 - 27° C)

Social Behaviors:    This cichlid is considered to be a community fish with the right tank mates.They can be kept with other small peaceful fish that are not bottom dwellers. They do best in a species specific tank and can be kept as a pair, but will not get along with other conspecifics. Like other cichlids, they become more territorial during spawning.

Sexual Differences:    The females are smaller.

Breeding/Reproduction:    The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid has not yet been reported to have bred in the aquarium. However it is thought that it should be quite similar to the more popular Lionhead Cichlid S. casuarius, so it should be just a matter of time.
   The Lionhead Cichlid S. casuarius will form a patriarchal/matriarchal family and are very good parents. They will often pair for life, forgoing a new partner if their mate dies. Get a group of juveniles and let them pair up, then remove the others or they will be attacked. They will become sexually mature at 2 to 3 inches. They are a substrate spawner that prefers the security of a cave. The pair will dig a den together underneath a rock and spawn. The female will lay between 20 and 60 eggs, and never more than 150. The female will stick the eggs to the roof of their den. After a week the eggs will hatch and the fry will be swimming 7 days later. The parents will guard their fry until the next brood. They will lead their young out into the open water of the tank to feed, and the parents will masticate food for the fry if the food is too large. They are really excellent parents. See more about cichlid breeding in: Breeding Freshwater Fish.

Availability:    The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is only rarely found online or in fish stores. It may be possible to special ordered them if they are out of season or you are willing to wait for them.

Author: Carrie McBirney
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
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