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Aulonocara baenschi
by Marc Elieson

The peacocks are among the most stunning of all Cichlids. There is a reason why they've earned the name "Peacock." And A. baenschi is no exception. Males of this species take on a strong yellowish-orange color with irridescent blue around their jaw.

Females, like other Aulonocara spp. remain colorless. In my experience with this species, it takes males almost two full years to attain their maximum coloration, but the wait is well worth it. Baenschi are easily distinguished from other yellow-bodied, blue-headed peacocks because of the extremely curved forehead and nose. Like many peacocks, A. baenschi is found in areas with scattered rocks on a sandy bottom, but particularly in the region surrounding Nkhomo reef near Benga in Malawi. It feeds on invertebrates that dwell in the sand by lying motionless over the sandy bottom, sensing micro-movements in the substrate. When it finds a target, it darts rapidly into the sand and sifts it by shooting the sand out its gills while retaining the acquired treat.

Aulonocara baenschi maleIn the aquarium environment, this cichlid species is best kept with other docile cichlids. Mbuna are too rambunctious for this slow-moving and peaceful peacock. Other peacocks and many of the gregarious Haps and Utaka (e.g., C. moorii, O. lithobates, and Copadichromis spp.) work well as tank mates. They should also be kept in tanks no smaller than 50 gallons if kept with other species as they reach adult lengths of 4-5 inches. A 40-gallon aquarium with only 1 male and 6 females would be an ideal breeding set up. Males tend to be rather aggressive towards females; therefore, it is recommended keeping several females for each male in order to reduce the level of aggression directed at any one female. Broods for adult-sized females range anywhere from 20 to 40 fry.

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