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The OB Peacock
by Marc Elieson

The "OB Peacock" is not found in Lake Malawi but rather is a man-made cichlid species. It was engineered by crossing a male Aulonocara species with an OB female mbuna, at least initially.

OB PeacockThis man-made species is problematic for a few reasons. Principally, it is hybrid, which many African Cichlid hobbyists find detestable. This is based upon (1) a fear that any hybrid will destroy the purity of a species's gene pool if allowed to co-habitat; and (2) the creators of such “species” are evil because they play god out of greed. This is a harsh accusation. I am not going to take sides on this debate - at least not here - but will attempt to objectively explain the rationale behind each camp’s arguments. Wish me luck!

The Defense:

First of all, hybrids will cross-breed with other Cichlids, but no more readily than two Julidochromis species or two Pseudotropheus species if kept in the same tank. Their claim is that hobbyists are creating more hybrids more rapidly than they are because of the general hobbyist's ignorance and poor fish keeping. What’s worse than creating and selling engineered hybrids, they say, is the hobbyist who ignorantly throws together a few of this and a few of that (aka. fish soup), get them to spawn, and then pass the fry along to friends or trade them in to local fish shops. At least they are above-board, they argue, which poses much less of a threat to muddying gene pools because people are aware of what they’re getting (provided they do some research before buying).

Second, Cichlid hobbyists have been characterized as eager enthusiasts, always ready for the next “new” fish or color variant to come out of the lakes. As time goes by, fewer new-looking fish are being caught and exported because exporters are running out of unexplored habitats. In order to keep many hobbysists’ interest and to satisfy their insatiable appetite, professional breeders resort to engineering their own color morphs. Some are line bred, and others…are hybrids. If you don’t fall in this category, don’t be offended…and don’t be fooled into thinking that there aren’t large numbers of hobbyists out there that do.


OB Peacock OB Peacock


The Prosecution:

A large number of hobbyists and all scientists (but one) of which I am aware oppose the creation of hybrids. Some “feel that with 1500+ species of cichlids in the wild, we don't need to go creating yet another kind just because we can.”1

Most hobbyists get upset about the careless (and purposeful) creation of hybrids for practical reasons. First of all, haphazard hybrids lack the original color or other desirable traits belonging to purebred Cichlids. These “mutts” can really turn people off to Cichlids, especially when they carry the usually high price that characterizes African Cichlids (because an innocent or not-so innocent retailer acquired them at the usual price and now needs to earn his money back). Many hobbyists have purchased young fish for a hefty price, pining for the day they would mature and sport the color for which they are renowned. These hobbyists become angry and potentially disillusioned when that fish (really a hybrid) never gets that much-awaited color after finally growing to adult proportions. Equally upsetting is the prevalence of fish that are sold as “assorted cichlids.” These fish are cheap (for a reason) and are difficult to identify – usually because they are the product of two or more species.


OB Peacock OB Peacock


Concluding Remarks:

If you bought and own a hybrid, I'm not going to tell you to go and destroy it as other more zealous hobbyists might. If you like them, great. You're free to do whatever you like, just be responsible. Don't pass them along because it won't take long before they show up in a local fish shop or at a fish auction and some unsuspecting cichlidophile purchases them. If you find them insidious, that's fine too; you're entitled to your views. Just try to respect other's views as well. And remember that over-the-top, emotionally charged arguments are not well received. Most importantly: however you like your fish...enjoy them! □


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