To help potential new breeders out there, I thought I would write a small article of compiled information from books, the web, and personal experience on how to breed these wonderful fish! They are not only beautiful, but if taken care of properly they will eventually pay for themselves!
Aulonocara sp. (Peacock Cichlids)
Aulonocara are very beautiful cichlids who originate from Lake Malawi in Africa. They are easily kept and usually less aggressive when compared to those of the mbuna and haplochromis species. Adult Aulnocara grow to around 5 inches in size. A male Aulonocara is always on display, trying to attract his next mate, this makes them excellent centerpiece fish, and they always stand out in an aquarium full of the average Africans.
Proper Water Conditions
Breeding Water Temp 78-84 degrees F
Regular Water Temp 74-82 degrees F
For breeding fish a basic 3-tank or more setup is usually best option and will give the best results. These tanks should be placed in a low traffic area of the house, to avoid stressing the colony.
A tank with a minimum size of 45-50 gallons should be selected to be used for the main breeding group. A suitable heater and proper filtration should be used to ensure the heath of the breeding adults and development of fry. For filtration I suggest the Marineland line, either the penguin 350 biowheel filter, or the Emperor 400 biowheel filter. These filters are top of the line and will help to ensure proper water chemistry for the fish to breed. To mimic the natural habitat of peacock cichlids, and for best results when breeding sand or fine gravel should be selected as substrate, (gravel/base) and an abundance of caves, slate type rocks, and hiding spots should also be placed around the aquarium.
Fry Raising tank.
This tank should be a minimum of 10 gallons; again a suitable heater and filter should be used. Again I would suggest a penguin filter, not only because it’s a great filter, but also because the intake speed can be adjusted. The intake speed in this tank should be the slowest possible. A sponge should be fitted over the filter intake tube, this will prevent fry from being sucked into the filter and killed. The tank bottom should be covered in Java moss or a similar aquatic plant.
This tank should be at least 25 gallons, and as before a heater and filter should be used. The decoration of this tank is purely ascetic and not needed, as this is where fry will be placed after they have grown to their juvenile state.
*Note depending on how many males are present and the size of your breeding colony this setup may need to be larger. Many breeders I know have 5-10 tanks with their larger colonies for all the different stages of fry the colonies are producing. To make a larger setup more efficient some people I know use a sump type setup, or connect the tanks with PVC piping so that only a centralized heater and filter is needed.
Unlike most African Cichlids, Aulonocara are omnivores and feed and in the wild feed on crustaceans and other meaty prey.
Adult Aulnocara will be happy eating almost any foods including standard flake foods and pellets but may also eat:
Snails, and other crustaceans.
Basic Breeding Information
Sex Ratio: 1 male to 3-5 females.
Sexual Dimorphism: Males are very colorful with elongated dorsal and anal fins. Females are drab silver or brown
Here are some Examples of the Males and Females of different aulonocara species for reference. (apologize for the bad photos, they are from a cell phone)
Like many cichlids Aulonocara tend to be very prolific and for this reason different Aulnocara species should be kept in separate tanks to prevent cross breeding. The Aulnocara species is a mouth brooding species, this means after the male has fertilized the eggs the mother will gather them in her mouth until they develop, and usually release them in approximately 4 weeks time but this can vary quite a bit between species.
When a male becomes ready to breed he will begin to wildly “show off” to his potential breeding partners. He will try and coax the female to lay her eggs into his selected spot in the aquarium, this spot may be caves, flat toped rocks, or a pit that has he has dug in the substrate. At times this ritual may become very aggressive, so to avoid injury and stress many hiding places are needed for the females to escape the constant pestering of the male. When the mating ritual is coming to an end the female will lay around 60 eggs in/on the selected spot where the male will fertilize them. After the male has finished the female will gather the eggs in her mouth where they will develop for approximately 3-4 weeks. It is easy to tell when a female is holding young, her jaw will become squared and larger, and also the female will eat very little and avoid opening her mouth. During the holding period it is very important that the female remain as undisturbed as possible, if a female becomes to stressed she may spit out or swallow the young in her mouth.
At this point there are many options for a breeder. When the female shows signs of pregnancy she can be moved to the fry tank immediately or you can wait 2-3 weeks before moving her. More advance breeders may not move the female at all, and use a method of stripping the young from the mother’s mouth. This is done by waiting until the near end of the brooding period and gently opening the mother’s mouth to release her young into the fry tank. This method is used to prevent the mother from swallowing her young and aborting the pregnancy – I will further elaborate on the method if anyone wishes me to. My preferred method is to move the mother near the end of her pregnancy, as this is the least stressful method of giving birth. This way the female can spend the last few days of brooding in stress free environment and be out of the main tank as little as possible (the longer a female spends outside a tank the more she may be viewed as an outsider by the inhabitants). The mother can be left in the fry tank for a few days after birth to care for her young and recuperate from the spawning.
When the fry become free swimming they can be feed small/baby brine shrimp, commercial fry food (usually comes in liquid form) and very finely ground flake food. Weekly water changes of about 5-10% should be done to ensure good water quality for the fry. As the fry become bigger they should be transferred into the bigger rearing tank, where they can grow until they are ready to sell as juveniles, and after about 4 months the males will begin to show their adult coloration.
I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have any questions please feel free to ask them