Lionhead Cichlid

Blockhead Cichlid ~ Buffalo Cichlid ~ Humphead Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae Lionhead Cichlid, also known as Blockhead Cichlid, Buffalo Cichlid or Humphead CichlidSteatocranus casuariusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Ken Childs
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I have kept a single Buffalo Head male before untill about 3.5 inches and he was by far one of my coolest chiclids. And he was in the with a mix of Haps, Peacocks,... (more)  AceBoogie87

   With its conspicuous shape and modest needs, the Lionhead Cichlid has earned a well deserved place in the aquarium hobby!

   The adult male Lionhead Cichlid has an imposing air about it because of its huge humped forehead. No matter what you find the Lionhead Cichlid called, all the common names are descriptive of this prominent nuchal hump.

  The Lionhead Cichlid is definitely a unique addition to your tank. Simply looking at their picture gives you some quick clues as to the special characteristics of this fish. 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. This is because they have adapted 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 and then having to swim against the current.

   This is a fairly small cichlid, generally reaching only about 4 1/2", and is moderate to care for. A great choice for any cichlid enthusiast who has limited space and cannot provide a large aquarium. The Lionhead 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 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. They do best in a species specific tank and can 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 territorial, especially toward conspecifics, during spawning.

What's in the name?
  'Steato' + 'cranus' means  "fat" + "head"
  casuarius means  refers to "prominent hump"

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

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Geographic Distribution
Steatocranus casuarius
Data provided by FishBase.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Steatocranus
  • Species: casuarius
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Distribution:    The Lionhead Cichlid was described by Poll in 1939. They are found found in Africa, in the Malebo Pool to Matadi and the Lower Congo River and basin. They are also found in the Zaire River tributaries. They 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.
  Other common names or different spellings these fish are known by are the African Blockhead, Lumphead, African Hump Head Cichlid, African Buffalo Head Cichlid, African Lion Head Cichlid, African Block Head Cichlid, and African Bump Head Cichlid.

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

Description:    The Lionhead Cichlid has an elongated yet stout body, an over sized head, and blue eyes. The male develops a nuchal hump that grows with age. Overall it is a drab olive green with some hints of brown, black, blue and gray coloring. 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 4 1/2" (11 cm) and the female grows to 3" (8 cm) (Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1, by Dr. Rüdiger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch). Some sources cite a bit larger sizes of about 6" (15 cm) for males and 4" (10 cm) for females.

Care and feeding:    The 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 30 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: 3 - 17° dH
   Ph: 6.0 - 8.0, (7.0 is ideal)
   Temp: 73 - 82 ° F (23 - 28 ° 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. They will often pair for life and remain solitary if their mate should die. Like other cichlids, they become more territorial during spawning.

Sexual Differences:    The females are smaller and the males develop a nuchal hump.

Breeding/Reproduction:    The Lionhead Cichlid 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 Lionhead Cichlids are usually found on line. They are sometimes found in fish stores, and may often be special ordered if they are out of season and you are willing to wait for them. They run about $17.00 USD for a juvenile.

Author: Carrie McBirney
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Lionhead Cichlid


AceBoogie87 - 2011-11-23
I have kept a single Buffalo Head male before untill about 3.5 inches and he was by far one of my coolest chiclids. And he was in the with a mix of Haps, Peacocks, South American and multiple Africans I kept him in my 72 gal. bowfront. I traded-in all my chiclids and went salt for a few years, but I made the switch back to fresh and the first fish I got was a small group of 4, 1.25 inch Buffalo Heads I can't wait to watch them pair up and hopefully have a successful brood! They are awesome fish to just kick-it and gaze at.

  • Charlie Roche - 2011-11-24
    Hey you are right and having fun. Glad you enjoy.
Reply
Tom W - 2010-06-18
I keep 4 of these in a small (3ft\120L) community tank and I've found them to be perfectly well behaved with regards to other fish. They occasionally chase each other around but as my tank is heavily aquascaped they don't cross paths that often, and it seems the fighting is only for show as they will spend other times swimming together in a pack. They're fascinating to watch, and remind me a lot of marine blennies and gobies in the way they move and dart from resting place to resting place. An all round excellent community fish in my opinion, and hopefully their reputation for being nasty becomes a thing of the past.

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-01-15
    They are very cool fish, and it's good to know they can do well in a community tank. Thanks for sharing:)
Reply
BigT - 2010-11-08
I have had a pair for about a year now. They have been living with bala sharks, gouramis, tiger barbs, and even an oscar large enough to eat both of them. They are tough enough to fight off the oscar and have proven that on several occasions. As far as the fish go they all get along very well. They are now getting ready to spawn. They have taken over a large section of the tank that the oscar won't even go to. Aside from their recent territorial displays they are by far the coolest fish in the tank more personality than the oscar.

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c.morgan - 2010-01-09
I keep the block heads in a 4 foot cichlid tank containing fish like the severum, the uaru, yellow labs, firemouth and more. I have kept fish for over a decade now and of all the species I have kept, these boys fascinate me more than any other species. I find they get an unfair write up for being too aggressive which is simply not the case. I recommend any fish lover to try these gorgeous little creatures.

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