Fast facts on Aulonocara
Biotope: Endemic to Lake Malawi. It is probably the most commonly kept cichlid of Lake Malawi. Also known as "Peacock Cichlid" it occurs almost everywhere along the coasts of Malawi, Tanzania and Mocambique showing an incredible variety of intralake endemism, local morph and colour variants. Can vary in size from a few inches (see Aulonocara sp. "Cobue") to "almost" a foot (Aulonocara rostrata).
Tank: A trio (1M/2F) can easily be housed in a 100 litres tank if is correctly set up. They need caves to hide, rest, spawn and, upon their leisure, simply watch, in peace, what's going on "outside" the tank.
Water chemistry: Typical Lake Malawi water chemistry (I mean an alkaline environment with pH over 7.5/8.0). Keep water temp under control; You can face trouble - during summer time - if it rises too close to (or above) 30° C.
Spawning: Easy, generally speaking. NEVER house two kind of Aulonocara in the same tank because they will easily crossbreed giving fertile hybrids as a result; something every "wise" cichlid keeper should avoid. It is, of course, a female "mouth-brooder". You should NEVER mix fry and/or juveniles because it is almost impossible to tell which fish is which afterwards.
Food: Pellets, live food (brine shrimps, mosquito larvae), flakes, vegetables. A well kept Aulonocara will accept almost any kind of food with "no problems".
Tank Mates: Avoid M'buna of any kind; period! Among Utakas choose fishes suitable in size. Stay away for "safety reason" (see spawning) from females with similar colours even if they belong to other Utakas! Aulonocara can be a really shy fish; try to place their tank in a "calm" environment and consider using some "dither-fishes": Rainbow fishes (Melanotaenia sp.) and/or Congo Tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus) are suggested by many authors. Never used either of them, any way, personally. This cichlid can be housed, and likely spawned, in a community tank too, provided water chemistry is suitable to its needs and only peaceful fishes are hosted in the same tank. Will NOT damage plants that much.
Odd Things: I DO like Peacoks, but - for some reasons - despite many trials I've never spawned them !!! I have kept A. hansbaenschi, A. jacobfreibergi and A. stuartgranti "Nkata Bay". Currently I'm growing up 9 specimens of A. stuartgranti "Chiloelo" (Mocambique) hoping, at last, to get some pairs.
The fish shown in the picture was caught in the harbour of Nkata Bay (by myself; in October 1997). A group of 5 specimens (2M/3F) was sent to Europe at the end of the trip but only a pair survived the voyage (the air forwarder had had TONS of problems …). Finally I lost, despite all my efforts, the two fellows, eight months later, of what I've suspected to be a problem related to "gills worm", just my bad luck …