Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Steatocranus casuarius

Lionhead cichlid

Lionhead cichlid, Steatocranus casuariusLionhead cichlid, Steatocranus casuarius
Photos by Andy Rapson


Steatocranus: Greek, steatos = hard fat + Greek, kranion = skull

General Notes:

Steatocranus casuarius are active and curious by nature with loads of character. They do swim but mostly in short bursts and resting on a perch or in a cave in between. They spend a lot of time interacting with each other with occasional sparring in order to set a pecking order. Steatocranus casuarius can be kept in a group or as a pair even in a community tank with suitable fish for tank mates. These fish are adapted for life in fast flowing water and their aquarium should have good circulation but there should be some quieter spots too because they won't appreciate a life of fighting the current.  Steatocranus casuarius have reduced swim bladders, it is thought that this makes them less buoyant and so less likely to be swept away in fast water and it explains why they don't swim around like other cichlids do. They are quite territorial and each individual will have its own small territory which they tend to keep to. Steatocranus casuarius are hardy, easy to keep and interesting. As such they would make a very rewarding first cichlid to keep.


Despite having large predatory looking mouths Steatocranus casuarius are omnivores with a particular fondness of algae and other vegetation along with insects, crustaceans and worms. In captivity they are quite unfussy and will eat flake food, live or frozen food, freeze dried food and even some fresh greens on occasion.


Male Steatocranus casuarius when adult have a much larger nuchal hump than adult females and males are also twice the size of females.


Steatocranus casuarius are relatively easy to breed. They are usually cave spawners but not always. Once paired up the pair will protect a small territory usually with a cave at the heart of the territory. They are quite prolific and a healthy pair will spawn at regular intervals. The fry are quite large when free swimming and are easy to raise. When breeding these fish on purpose it would be better to let a compatible pair of adults have their own aquarium in order to give the fry the best chance of survival.

Wild status

The wild population of Steatocranus casuarius is listed as least concern which means that the wild population is healthy and under no immediate threat from anything. Most Steatocranus casuarius in the hobby are now bred in captivity.

Information at a glance

pH: 6 - 8
dGH: 4 - 20
Temperature: 23 - 28°C (73 - 82°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 10cm (4in)
Min tank size: 100 litres
Difficulty level: Easy
Aquarium type: Species / Community
Swimming level: Bottom

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Lionhead cichlid, Steatocranus casuarius

Origin: Africa: Pool Malebo and the lower Congo River in both Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of the Congo

Habitat: Adapted to live in fast moving water in rivers and streams, but they do spend time in slower moving water too.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Sub-family: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Genus: Steatocranus
Species: S. casuarius, Poll 1939

Common name:
Lionhead cichlid, Blockhead cichlid

Synonyms: None