Aulonocara is a separate group of Malawi cichlids. Their common name is Peacocks. There are currently about 22 officially described Aulonocara species and quite a few that are still awaiting an official description.

The name Aulonocara is a reference to one of the most important features of this species, namely the enlarged lateral line system in their head. The genus name can be broken into two Greek parts: aulus means Flute and caras means face, a reference to the flute-like markings on the lower part of their head.

The lateral line is visible in the photo below. It looks like the holes in a flute.

Aulonocara lateral line system on their head
Aulonocara lateral line system on their head

Aulonocara diet

In the wild, Aulonocara live above the sandy areas. Using their lateral line organ in their head, they listen for movement in the sand by hovering just above the sand. As soon as they notice a movement in the sand, they dive into the sand, head down. They scoop up a mouthful of sand. They sift the sand through their gills and eat the invertebrates that were in the sand.

They are not picky eaters in the aquarium. All food will usually be ingested. They are carnivores that also occasionally ingest some algae. It does not hurt to occasionally add some spirulina flakes. The spirulina will also contribute to the optimal colouring of the Aulonocara.

You can feed them with cichlid pellets, flakes, brine shrimp, daphnia, black and white mosquito larvae, mysis, chopped mussels and shrimp. This can be live or frozen food.

The Aulonocara aquarium

For the Aulonocara you can set up the aquarium with a lot of sand on the bottom. At the edges of the open sand, you can further decorate the aquarium with rocks. Create some cracks, crevices and holes for the females to hide in to avoid the male’s attention. Also, brooding females often withdraw between the stones to find peace.

Water parameters

The water in Lake Malawi is about the same everywhere in terms of water parameters. The temperature is between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. The pH is between 7.5 and 8.5 at a GH of 12 to 16.

Tank mates

Aulonocara are not the strongest Malawi cichlids. Make sure you don’t keep them together with overly active fish and in a too crowded aquarium. Mbuna are often much fiercer and stronger than Aulonocara and they suppress Aulonocara. Many females also look about the same. If you keep several species of Aulonocara in an aquarium, crossbreeding cannot be ruled out.

Breeding Aulonocara

Like most Malawi cichlids, the Aulonocara is a mouthbrooder. The male lures the female to a spot in the sand with trembling movements. He shows her his flank and flares his fins. Once the female is ready to mate, they start circling each other. The female lays an egg and turns quickly and takes the egg in her mouth. The male circles with her and rubs his anal fin with egg spots in front of the female’s head. She gasps at the egg spots, after which the male releases some sperm. This fertilizes the eggs in the female’s mouth.

After spawning, the female incubates the eggs. Although the eggs hatch after 3 or 4 days, the female still holds the fry in her mouth. Only after about 3 weeks after spawning, the female releases the fry. In the aquarium, the fry must immediately take care of themselves. You can feed them with finely crushed flakes, fine dust food, brine shrimp, etc.


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