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Aulonocara steveni "Usisya-Flavescent"
by Erik Weinhold

Aulonocara can be one of the most rewarding of african cichlid genera. Whether waiting for that juvenile to fully color up, or picking that show prize male out of the fry you bred yourself, you will never get bored with the many species of the Aulonocara genus. I have always been fascinated by the peacocks of Lake Malawi. I've kept several here and there, including A. jacobfreibergi "Eureka Red Albino", Aulonocara stuargranti "Cobue", A. hansbaenschi, and A. maulana "Bi-Color 500". All have their special color combination that makes them so unique. However, when I saw a fully-grown Aulonocara steveni "Usisya-Flavescent" at my local fish store, my jaw dropped. The crisp black on the dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, with the bright yellow body and blue highlights mixed in, topped off with a blue head, made the fish seem like a swimming portrait. I had to buy a pair of these beauties.

Adding these jewels to my aquarium really gave it that "finishing touch" look. I was looking for that right peacock to add in there, and with the numerous peacocks on the market, I had many choices! A. steveni is one of the calmer types of Aulonocara, but can hold their own in a typical Hap community setup. Also, they are one of the smaller species, rarely exceeding 5" in the aquarium, and 4.5" being the average size for males.

Care is the same as all the Aulonocara species. A high quality flake such as Omega One or OSI will bring out their color. In the wild they are micro-predators, feeding on small invertebrates in the sand. They should not be kept with the more aggressive cichlids such as Mbuna. The tank should have some rocks for territory, but they also appreciate some swimming room in the upper level. Sand probably makes the best "natural" substrate, but I have used crushed coral without any problems.

As of now, I have not bred the pair; however, they spawn in typical Aulonocara fashion. A harem should be kept with at least 1 male and 2 female. The male and female will spawn, and the female will pick up and hold the fertilized eggs in her mouth for a period of 3-4 weeks, at which time she will then release them. This specialized form of reproduction is called mouth-brooding.

I hope you have a chance to at least look at one of these popular fish. They have been in the hobby for a while now, reducing the price tag but not the admiration of these beautiful Aulonocara.

A Side Note
As of writing (11/15/02), there are a couple Aulonocara sold as "Flavescent". One might see the Aulonocara "Blue Neon" being offered. The Aulonocara steveni "Mbamba Bay" is also very similar but probably not offered very frequently at local fish stores. There is a newer discovery hitting the market, Aulonocara "Hongi Island". In my opinion the Usisya location has the most vibrant yellow of them all. A specimen with crisp black lines, vibrant yellow, and gorgeous blue highlights is a prize to behold!

 

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