Aulonocara masoni belongs to the Aulonocara stuartgranti complex of peacock cichlids. It is unique in that it shares a location with another, closely related A. stuartgranti member Ė Aulonocara maulana. These two species reside at Chitimba Bay, Malawi and are separated by less than 20 meters in depth and a mere 2.5 km of sand! The masoni is a deep water fish, claiming a habitat of large sheets of sandstone at 22 m whereas the maualana is found on a sand bar at only 5 m down. Masoni are characterized by an overall blue body color with orange ventral fins. It is also one of the largest of the peacocks, reaching lengths as long as 13 cm.
A. masoni are relatively easy to keep and breed in captivity. A tank no smaller than 50 gallons, furnished with a sandy bottom and a few caves will do nicely. A single male could be kept either alone or with a few females. Iíve found that females are not mandatory to keep a male looking his best. If a species tank is your goal, I recommend 4-6 females to each male.
Like all peacock cichlids, the masoni is an insectivore, feeding on insect larvae and small crustaceans found in the sand in the wild. In the aquarium, they will readily adapt to and accept almost any food. While they need animal protein in their diet, Iíve found it works best to include Spirulina in their diet to keep their blue color looking its best. Frozen and live foods can be fed periodically, but itís best if these are only used as supplements to a diet of flake and/or pellet foods. Be aware that larger adults will need more than flake food to keep them in optimal breeding condition.
This cichlid is a polygamous maternal mouthbrooder. When cared for properly, females will breed about every four weeks. Regular water changes and a diet high in protein will keep your masoni looking spectacular. Broods consist of 8 to 50 eggs, depending upon the size and condition of the female.
Masoni should not be kept with other members of the A. stuartgranti complex as this will increase the risk of cross-hybridization and aggression between males. Other peacocks, like A. rostratum, A. ethelywnae, and A. chitande, can be housed successfully with the masoni if ample space is provided. □