The African Butterfly Peacock Aulonocara jacobfreibergi is one of the most colorful of the Peacock cichlids. It is also one of the most variable, with natural color strains that can be very different between populations. These cichlids are some of the largest members of the Peacock family, though size too depends on the location they are from. They can range anywhere from 4 inches (10 cm) in length up to about 9 inches (23 cm).
Peacocks are a very popular group of cichlids from Lake Malawi,
Africa. They are members of the
Aulonocara genus which has only about 23 species, but with many subspecies. It
is the brilliant colorations of blues, reds and yellows that have given rise to
the well deserved name of "Peacock cichlids". Most members can be recognized
by the tiny wrinkles around the head. These are sonar sensory pits that allow
them to locate small crustacean prey that hides in the sand.
The great variability of this African Butterfly Peacock, the A. jacobfreibergi strain, has led to many common names for individual populations. But as a group they are known by other common names like Malawi Butterfly Cichlid, Eureka Cichlid, Fairy Cichlid,
's Peacock, Jakes or Jake Cichlid,
and Mamalela Peacock. This species is one of the most "finny" of the
Peacocks, and they have a distinct feature that separates them from other
butterfly peacocks, which is a deeply forked tail fin. Thus they are sometimes
referred to as "Swallow Tail" peacocks as well. Freiberg
The Aulonocara genus, along with the Utaka Cichlids of the Copadichromis genus and other non-Mbuna kinds of cichlids, are all members of the Haplochromis group. Haplochromis is the type genus of free-roaming browsers sometimes call "haps" or "happies". They live in the more sandy areas and open waters, and are generally larger cichlids than their Mbuna "rock-dwelling" counterparts. They also are more peaceful cichlids and should not be housed with the highly active and aggressive Mbunas.
These cichlids are not only beautifully adorned, but are easy to care for, thus making them a desirable pet. They are enjoyed by beginning cichlid keepers and experts alike. Provide them with open space for swimming and a lot of caves in which to hide, sleep, or breed. This comfortable decor along with regular water changes makes for a stress-free environment. Being one of the most carnivorous of the cichlids they enjoy a meaty diet. They are almost puppy like in their excitability when being fed, thus adding to their appeal.
Peacock Cichlid Tank Requirements
As with most African cichlid tanks, lots of rockery and driftwood are required in order to provide hiding places for the fish. Hardy plants can be added, but make sure they can withstand the hard water that cichlids require. These plants can also act as hiding places. Some species of cichlids eat plants so it’s best to choose plants carefully.
The pH in
ranges from 7.5 to 9.0 so you want to maintain your aquarium pH within the same
range. To help keep up the pH level, you can add coral sand or gravel.
The water hardness should be in the range of 10 to 20 DH and the water temperature around 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Good filtration and weekly water changes are a must in order to help keep these fish in good health.
Feeding Peacock Cichlids is very easy. They like frozen foods, flake, pellets, small live foods and fresh vegetables such as lettuce or peas.
The African Butterfly Peacock cichlids are quite variable in size depending on the location they originate from. They include some of the largest Peacocks. They can grow from lengths of 4 - 6 inches (10 - 15 cm) up to about 8 - 9 inches (20 - 23 cm). With proper care this fish may live up to may live 8 to 10 years.
These are the most variable and colorful of all the Peacock cichlids. Natural strains can be very different between their own populations as well. Drastic color differences between males of this species have often led to their mistakenly being thought of as new species. All females however, are quite drab. The females have a white to grayish-brown body coloring topoped with vertical bands of gray/brown to beige. They have a rounded anal and dorsal fin which can be faintly colored.
This species also has a distinct feature that separates them from other butterfly peacocks. This is a deeply forked tail fin, inspiring the name "Swallow Tail" peacocks. Some of the varieties are referred to by individual names as well, often relating to the local where a population originated. Then there are man made variations as well. These are selectively line bred fro a particular color, such as the "Eureka Red", which was developed for a more intense red coloration.
A few of the variations of African Butterfly Peacock are described below. These are all males that were wild caught in
Malawi and categorized by location. Some have female descriptions
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "
The Eureka Cichlid is a naturally occurring strain and grow to 6" (15 cm). The Eureka Red Peacock is a captive bred color form. Its natural color is a combination of orangish yellow and metallic blue. Most of the body is blue with a "dusting" of orange at the top of the head, behind the head, and along the back. The top fin and caudal fins are light blue. The anal and pelvic fins are orangish yellow with ice blue trimming on the front edge. The anal fin on this one has few in any egg spots.
The female is very drab in white with dull gray/brown vertical bands and clear fins. The anal fin is rounded with a light gold coloring in the front two thirds and white/clear near the back, closest to the tail fin. The pelvic fins are also light gold with the tips being white/clear as well.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Eureka Albino, also known as the Albino Eureka Peacock, is one of the smaller strains, only growing to between 4 - 6 inches (10 - 15 cm) in length. It has a tangerine colored back, anal fin and pectoral fin. The forehead and face as well as the bottom part of this fish is white. The pectoral fin also has white trim on the front ray and there are no egg spots on the anal fin. The dorsal fin has a little tangerine in the bottom part close to the body, but the rest is a very light blue ice color. The tips of the tail fin have this blue ice color too. Females are basically white and both sexes have yellow eyes with tangerine pupils.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "Undu Reef"
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Undu Reef is is a naturally occurring strain found at the Undu Reef of
It is also known as the Mamalela Peacock, Lemon Jake, and Lemon Jacobfreibergi. Tanzania
The males reach up to about 7" (18 cm) in length with the females reaching about 5" (13 cm).It has a base color of bluish lavender on the body with a vertical band of yellow, mixed with the base color, just behind the gill area. The dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are all yellow with the anal fin not having egg spots. The tail fin is a mix of the base color and yellow.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "Otter Point"
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Otter Point is a naturally occurring strain that grows to 6" (15 cm). However there are hybrids and/or captive bred color forms that are also sold under the same name.
This fish is a combination of electric blue and orangish red. and gets up to 6". The body is electric blue with faint dark blue vertical bands. The top of the head and part way at the top back of the body is orangish red. The chin (below the eye) is the only area that has an almost blue-turquoise color. The tail fin has a mix of the two primary colors near the body with the second half being blue. The dorsal fin is blue with the very bottom near the back having a smidgen of gold along the fin. The anal fin is more of an orange with ice blue trimming. The pelvic fins are burnt red/brown with the front edges trimmed in orange/red. There are no egg spots on this male.
The female has alternating vertical bars of a beige coloring that is a little thicker and white. The eye is yellow and the fins are clear except the pelvic and anal fins. The anal fin is orange/yellow and rounded and the pelvic fin is also orangish yellow with a little trim in blue at the tip.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "
is a naturally occurring strain found near .
It grows to 6" (15 cm) in length. This Peacock has orange fins, except for
the pectoral fin, and a metallic blue face. The body has several vertical bands
that alternate between light blue and dark bluish black. The tail fin, near the
body has a little of this darker color. This fish is found near Hongi Island . Hongi Island
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "
Kaiser, also known
as the Cape Kaiser Peacock, is a naturally occurring color strain that gets to
about 7" (18 cm) in length. This fish has longer fins and all are yellow
with ice blue at the tips or edges. The forehead is dusted in yellow as well.
This fish also has an electric blue chin and the rest of the body alternates
from ice blue to dark blue/black vertical bans. Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "Tsano rock"
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Tsano Rock is a naturally occurring color form. It is also known as Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Tsano Rock "Swallow Tail". The body of this Peacock has alternating colors of light blue and black, but they are faded in areas under the gold coloring that runs along the top two thirds of the body. The dorsal fin has blue ice edging on the very top and yellow the rest of the way down to the back. The tail fin blue with some yellow. The area under the eye and the chin are electric blue. The pelvic and anal fins are lighter blue with yellow egg spots on the anal fin. Females are light with brown/gray vertical bars and fins are light blue with the anal fin having egg spots.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi "
Maclear has almost
identical coloring as the Tsano rock, except there is a little orange where the
back and dorsal meet, as well as the anal fin's egg spots being orange. Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Nkudzi
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Nkudzi is a naturally occurring strain. The body behind the head has light blue and dark blue/black alternating vertical bands. The head has an electric blue and is a yellowish gold on the forehead, below and above the eye, and extending along the back to the first third of the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is ice blue on the top part and yellowish gold as it gets closer to the body. It is also yellowish gold in the pelvic and anal fins with both having a trimming of light blue on the edges. The tail fin is a mix but the tips are ice blue with the rest being mottled with yellow/gold and dark blue/black.
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.
Other informations :
Size : These fish can reach up to 4 - 9 inches
Life span : 8 – 10 years with feeder proper care.
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Diet Type: Omnivore - Their diet is primarily carnivorous and although they feed on zooplankton which can contain some vegetable matter, they mostly seek out meaty foods.
Flake Food: Yes
Tablet Pellet: Yes
Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet Meaty Food: Most of Diet - Avoid tubifex worms, and do not offer mammal meat, as they may contribute to a disease called "
Feeding Frequency: Daily - Juveniles can be fed daily, but adults need only 5 - 6 feedings a week.
Peacocks are hardy fish, but like all Malawi Cichlids, they will deteriorate under poor water conditions. The
fish are usually kept at a
higher pH, which means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes
are a must. They are also a messy fish because they eat mostly protein foods,
which puts an additional biological load on the filtration system. The tank
will need water changes of between 20 - 50% a week, depending on the bio load. Malawi
Water Changes: Weekly - Suggested water changes of 20-50% a week, as these are messy fish producing a heavy bio load.
Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) - A 55 gallon minimum is suggested for a single fish, with 75 gallons or more for a group.
Suitable for Nano Tank: No
Substrate Type: Any
Lighting Needs: Low - subdued lighting - They prefer subdued lighting.
Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
Range ph: 7.7-8.6
Brackish: Sometimes - Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% - a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
Water Movement: Moderate
Water Region: Middle - These fish will swim in the bottom and middle areas of the aquarium.
The African Butterfly Peacock is best kept singly in a smaller 55 gallon tank, or as a group of one male with 4 - 6 females in a larger tank of 75 gallons or more. They are peaceful toward those of the same species as long as there are not 2 males. The exception to keeping more than one male is only if the tank is very large and can support different territories for each harem.
The African Butterfly Peacock is best kept with other medium sized
cichlids that are not overly aggressive. It will get along with all other
Peacock Cichlids of the same genus. They will also tolerate those cichlids of a
different genus as long as they are peaceful and of similarly sized, though
they must be different in shape. However aggressive cichlids and the Mbunas are
not good tank mates for this species. Malawi
Same species - conspecifics: Yes - Can be kept in groups of 1 male with 4-6 females, 2 males will fight.
Peaceful fish (): Monitor
Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
Aggressive (): Threat
Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Threat
Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat - is aggressive
Sex: Sexual differences
Males are more colorful than females. The back part of the male's dorsal and anal fins are longer and sharper as well. Females are drabber in color with rounded anal and dorsal fins.
Breeding / Reproduction
The African Butterfly Peacock has been bred in captivity. They reach sexual maturity around 4", which is 1/2 the adult size. Keep 4 - 6 females with one male for the best breeding success. All Cichlid parents tend to their young, making them easy to breed. They should have their own breeding tank. A cichlid couple guarding their babies can be a force to reckon with and this aggression is acted out on other tank mates. A 55 to 75 gallon tank is suggested. The male will display an intense coloration to attract the females.
It is difficult to witness a spawning of African Butterfly Peacock because it is done secretly in a cave. These cichlids are mouth brooders. This is where the females will lay the eggs and then pick them up in their mouths. After that they pick at the male's anal fin to get him to produce "milt" or sperm. The female will then take this milt into her mouth and the eggs are fertilized at that time. She will carry them in her mouth until the fry are old enough to be able to feed on their own. With other Peacocks this takes around 21 days so it is assumed the same is true for this fish. She will nibble and eat next to nothing during this time. Never house fry from different strains in the same tank, as it will be almost impossible to tell the fry and juveniles apart (until they grow).
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