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Aulonocara kandeensis & Aulonocara maylandi
by Ryan Bartal (aka Ryan B)

Aulonocara kandeensis and Aulonocara maylandi are two closely related species of peacocks often overlooked in favour of their showier relatives. Although they don’t possess the typical “blue foil” commonly associated with the genus, these two make for highly attractive, enjoyable aquarium residents. Their similarities are numerous, and discussing both species separately would result in nearly identical articles.

Aulonocara kandeensis is commonly referred to as the “blue orchid” peacock, an apt name for this subtle beauty. This species is endemic to Kande Island, and forages a short distance away from the rocks for snails and other invertebrates. It is a slightly smaller peacock with adult males rarely exceeding 4” in length (3.5” is average). Females remain a drab silver/grey colour, but unlike other peacocks possess a large number of “egg spots” on the anal fin. This can somewhat confusing when trying to determine the sex based on physical appearance alone. Males in full breeding colouration are a lusterous black colour with indigo highlights over the majority of the body. The most notable feature on males is the brilliant blaze extending from the mouth, through the dorsal and on into the tail. This blaze is a beautiful creamy metallic colour with strong baby blue highlights that reflect a great deal of light. The pelvic fins grow quite long and are edged in the same white and baby blue found in the blaze. The anal fin is also edged in this colour and possesses 8-12 large bright yellow egg spots.

Aulonocara kandeensis - Male Aulonocara kandeensis - Female

Aulonocara maylandi is commonly sold under the name “sulphur crest” or “sulphur head” peacock. Its blaze is a brilliant sulphur yellow rivalling that of the Otopharynx lithobates variant from Zimbawe Rock. It is another rock dwelling Aulonocara and can be found on the two submerged reefs: Eccles Reef and West Reef south of Makanjila Point. Adult size is on par with the blue orchid, and females are virtually impossible to differentiate. Males look very similar to A. kandeensis as well, but have the sulphur blaze, and don’t turn as black, thereby making their vertical barring more visible.

Aulonocara maylandi - Male Aulonocara maylandi - Female

In the aquarium these fish are quite easy to care for, and make for model citizens. They are amongst the least aggressive of peacocks and can be kept in smaller aquaria than other representatives of their genus. The aquarium must be at least 36” (90cm) in length, and some rocks or caves should be provided so that the fish will have somewhere to hide when feeling threatened. Finding food in the lake sediments is their natural feeding behaviour so a sand bottom is preferred, but gravel will work as well. Any high quality prepared dry food supplemented with frozen or live mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and/or daphnia will meet all of their nutritional requirements. Many people who purchase either one of these species have difficulty with the males achieving the intense colouration as seen in pictures. A. maylandi and A. kandeensis are quite timid among cichlids, they simply don’t do well with most other species. Because of this their colouration can be very drab or washed out. Keeping them in a species tank is best, but it is possible for them to coexist with non-threatening cichlids like Labidochromis caeruleus. It is interesting to note that it is not uncommon to have two or even three males in a colony displaying full adult colouration. Aggression is kept to a minimum, and usually consists of a lot of displaying, but very little physical confrontation. Females will hold for approximately 21 days, but produce an exceedingly large number of fry for a peacock, expect 60-100 very small fry. Raising the minute fry does not pose any problem as they will readily eat baby brine shrimp, cyclopeeze, or finely crushed flake food.

Aulonocara kandeensis and Aulonocara maylandi are real “sleepers” amongst the peacocks of Lake Malawi. Their subtle beauty stacks up against their more extroverted cousins of the Stuartgranti complex at any given time. Once a hobbyist maintains these species they will undoubtedly agree with this sentiment.

 

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