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False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid

Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid, Steatocranus glaberSteatocranus 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 Steatocranus glaber 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, 10 more species are still undescribed.

All the males of the various Lionhead species have an imposing air about them due to their enlarged heads. This species is not 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.

The various Lionhead specie 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.

What's in the name?
'Steato' + 'cranus' means "fat" + "head"
glaber means "bald"

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is one of the smaller members of this genus, reaching only up to just over 2 inches. Being moderate to care for, it makes 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 regular partial water changes are is important.

These fish 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, but they love to dig in a sandy substrate and plants may be uprooted. Individually potted plants or those that can be rooted to the decor such as Anubias or Java Fern work best.

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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False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Size of fish - inches: 2.4 inches (5.99 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 0.0° F (22.8 to -17.8° C)
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid Steatocranus glaber 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. Another common name this fish is known by is Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid. It was initially considered to be Steatocranus mpozoensis , thus the common name 'Mpozo' is used in industry nomenclature.

This species is listed on the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (VU) because of its restricted area of occurrence near the Inga Dam site. While Inga 1 and 2 are existing dams that are not creating a threat, Inga 3 will be built within five years. Because it will divert a significant amount of water flow it may create a threat.

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. This helps keep them from readily floating so they don't have to swim against the current much of the time.

  • Scientific Name: Steatocranus glaber
  • Social Grouping: Pairs - They will pair for life, but will often remain solitary if their mate should die.
  • IUCN Red List: VU - Vulnerable

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. The male grows to a length of 2 1/3 inches (6 cm) in length while the female is smaller, reaching just over 2 inches (5 cm). The Lionhead cichlids will generally live for about 5 - 8 years but could possibly live even longer if well cared for.

These fish 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 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.

This fish differs from others of its 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. 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.

All cichlids also 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 of fish - inches: 2.4 inches (5.99 cm) - The male of this species reaches 2 1/3 inches in length, with the smaller female growing to just over 2 inches.
  • Lifespan: 5 years - The Lionhead cichlids generally have a lifespan of 5 - 8 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Lionhead cichlids are relatively easy to care for. This species is not demanding about the pH and hardness of the water, but they do need very clean, oxygen rich water. They also need plenty of caves for retreat. The size and behavior of the False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid makes a pair suitable for a smaller sized aquarium of 20 gallons.

It can be suggested for any aquarist willing to provide it with the proper environment and care. The aquarists must be willing to do frequent water changes and provide appropriate tank mates. As long as the tank is kept clean and well oxygenated, and there are plenty of caves for retreat you will have happy fish. They are also relatively easy to breed if the habitat is suitable for their burrowing needs.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is an omnivore. In the wild they feed on plants, algae, small crustaceans, and plankton. In the aquarium they are ready eaters and will accept most foods. They can be fed a varied diet of live foods, frozen and prepared foods, algae, flake and pelleted foods. They especially enjoy algae and will even like some fresh green on occasion. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their 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.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Most of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Generally feed 2-3 small feedings a day rather than a single large feeding for better water quality.

Aquarium Care

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is a rewarding specimen to keep as long as water quality is maintained. They are not demanding about the pH and hardness but very clean. oxygen rich water is important. Do regular partial water changes of 30% to 50% weekly, depending on stocking numbers.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of 30 - 50% a week are recommended.

Aquarium Setup

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid will swim mostly in the lower parts of the aquarium, and occasionally in the middle. A minimum of 20 gallons is suggested for a pair. If you wish to keep more than a larger tank will be needed as they are very territorial. They are not demanding about the pH and hardness but they need very clean. oxygen rich water, so provide filtration and aeration. A moderate water flow is fine, but for a more natural habitat you can provide vigorous water movement in some areas along with some areas where the water movement is more quiet.

These fish are cave spawners and love to dig in a sandy substrate. Provide a substrate of sand along with a lot of caves near the bottom of the tank for retreating. Offering several hiding places at varying intervals, created with rocks and driftwood works well. Flowerpots turned up or lengths of pvc piping also make good shelters as well as spawning sites for the fish.

They will often dig a series of caves and tunnels under the decor so make sure that everything in the tank is secure. Rocks need to be firmly place and can be bonded with silicone to make sure they don't topple over. They do not bother plants, but plants may be uprooted by the burrowing of this fish. It works best to use plants that are hardy and individually potted, or those that can be rooted to the decor such as Anubias or Java Fern.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) - A minimum of 20 gallons is suggested for a pair, a larger tank will be needed to house more..
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes - A 20 gallon Nano tank can house a pair.
  • Substrate Type: Sand - These fish are cave spawners, and like to burrow into the sand under the decor.
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 0.0° F (22.8 to -17.8° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 81.0° F
  • Range ph: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 3 - 20 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Bottom - These fish will swim primarily in the bottom areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

This cichlid, though territorial, is considered to be a community fish if it is kept with the right tank mates. They can be kept with other small peaceful fish that require similar conditions. Do not house with other fish that are too large or overly boisterous. Also it should not be kept with any other cichlids unless the tank is very large.

In general other fish kept with them should not be bottom dwellers, but there are a few catfish that can be kept with them. These include Bristlemouth catfishes from the Chaetostoma genus and some of the Upside-down catfishes native to Africa including those from the Chiloglanis genus and Synodontis brichardi. Some other good tankmates include African tetras from the Alestidae family such as the Jellybean Tetra Ladigesia roloffi as well as characins and barbs.

False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlids do well in a species specific tank and should be kept as a pair, but will not get along with other conspecifics. They will often pair for life and remain solitary if their mate should die. Like other cichlids, they become more territorial during spawning.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful - They are territorial but can kept with small peaceful fish that require similar conditions.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They should be kept as a pair, but are aggressive towards others of their same species.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The females are smaller than males, and the adult males develop a nuchal hump.

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. These fish do become nervous without company. They may spawn in a community tank, but a species specific tank with the addition of a school of fast moving dither fish works best.

They are a substrate spawner that prefer the security of a cave. The pair will either use an existing den or cave, or dig a den together underneath a rock and then spawn.The spawning itself is quite secretive. 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.

In about 5-7 days the eggs will hatch. The fry will be free swimming in about 5-7 days after that. The parents will lead their young out into the open water of the tank to feed. The parents will even masticate food for the fry if the food is too large.

Lionhead cichlids are really excellent parents. The parents will guard their fry for up to three months, or until their next brood. Even when the parents are protecting another brood, any previous young that are still in the tank are usually tolerated. See more about cichlid breeding in Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Moderate

Fish Diseases

The False Mpozo Lionhead Cichlid is a rewarding specimen to keep as long as water quality is maintained. These fish are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and has low oxygenation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Water changes, not overfeeding, providing adequate hiding places, and observation along with feeding your fish the proper foods will keep them in optimum health.

A common problem with fish is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels.

This species has an extremely long, highly coiled intestine, which can be subject to problems if they are not provided a high algae diet. Intestinal disease can be treated with metronidazol. As with most fish they are susceptible to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.

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.

References

Author: Clarice Brough CFS, Carrie McBirney
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