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
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