Aulonocara jacobfreibergi


By Fiona Newman

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi are small to medium sized non-mbunas, which are characterised by enlarged openings on the lateral line system in the head region. These openings are commonly known as sensory pits. Aulonocara jacobfreibergi and other species of Aulonocara are commonly known as "African Peacock Cichlids".

Name : Named after Jacob Freiberg. Often called "Jacob's" (or "Jakes" in the US), in some countries known as Malawi butterflies. Other names depend on the place of discovery. These names include Aulonocara freibergi (an incorrect shortening of the species name jacobfreibergi). Trematocranus freibergi (when Johnson described it in 1974 he placed it in the genus Trematocranus). Ethelwynn Trewavas and David Eccles moved it to Aulonocara on the reasoning that large cephalic pores (large sensory pits) of this fish are more a common adaptation to deepwater or nocturnal activity than an anatomical characteristic that can be used to group fish as it also occurs in members of the genera Aulonocranus (Lake Tanganyika ) and Trematocara (Lake Tanganyika ) and Thoracochromis macconneli (Lake Turkana).

Other trade names have included Trematocranus trevori, Trematocranus regina, Trematocranus carolae, Trematocranus saulosi, Trematocranus catherinae and Trematocranus vannessae.

Other species confused with : Very easy to get the Aulonocara species mixed up when small (even easier to get varieties mixed up). While females of each species of Aulonocara can have a slightly different pattern of bars they should not be kept together as breeding males in the aquarium can dominate and try to breed with all the females. The closest other peacock to Aulonocara jacobfreibergi is Aulonocara sp. "Walteri" an undescribed fish from Likoma and Chizumulu Islands.

Distribution : Found on numerous sections of the coast of Lake Malawi. Each population has a distinct male breeding colouration.

Colour Etc : Aulonocara jacobfreibergi is one of the more comparatively elongate members of the genus. The males have a broad white edging on the dorsal fin with the colouration of the body a basic blue with yellow or reddish pigmentation on the upper part of the head and flanks depending on the population location. The females are monochrome grey-brown with mood dependent vertical bars. A number of colour variations are on Ad Koning's "Die Welt der Cichliden Malawi See" CD-ROM, on pages 188-9 of Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat Etc. The original variety is from Otter Point and has a blue and black barred body with orange-tan forehead area and light red blue-edged unpaired fins. The other non-red varieties fall into two broad groups; those with more yellow (ie Hongi Island, Domwe Island, Mumbo island, Mbowe Island, Ilala Gap = Regina Peacock, Mara Rocks, Chirwa Island, Undo Reef) and those with a dark body (i.e. Makakola Reef).

Temp : 24-27 °C pH : 7-8.5 Length : 10-12cm Hardness : > 15° DH

Habitat : This species is always found near rocks and caves or over sand close to the rocks. It is found at depths of 3 to 20 metres.

Feeding : In the wild, feed from the sandy bottom where they hover above the sand in a motionless position. The characteristic sensory pits detect movement of invertebrates under the sand and can detect other pressure changes such as those caused by predators. In the aquarium they will readily accept flake and frozen food. As these are placid fish care needs to be taken so they don't become over conditioned.

Disease : Prone to develop cataract on eyes. Sensitive to imperfect water quality. Need to be kept in clean well-filtered water.

Breeding : This species needs to be kept in a tank at least 100cm long with a capacity of at least 200 litres. The bottom should be sand and fine gravel with rocks piled in several places to provide caves for the males. This cichlid is very peaceful and should not be kept with more aggressive species such as Labeotropheus and Pseudotropheus zebra or any other mbunas. They can be kept with non-cichlid species that like similar water conditions (i.e. livebearers & rainbowfish (especially Melanotaenia boesemani, Melanotaenia lacustris and Melanotaenia splendida splendida)). Breeding will take place at regular intervals but care must be taken that the females do not become fat as the spawning frequency will be reduced. Several females can be kept with one male and several species should not be kept together as this can lead to hybridisation. The female mouth broods the eggs and fry will be released after approximately 3 weeks. The fry are large enough for baby brine shrimp.

General Comments : Aulonocara jacobfreibergi has many colour variants some of these have been artificially line bred (e.g. "Eureka Reds" ) and others have been created by importers (e.g. A."Simonae"). When breeding this fish take care not to cross colour variants and enjoy this beautiful fish.

References :

Allen 1995, Rainbowfishes In Nature and The Aquarium, Tetra-Verlag Merle Germany

AquaLex das Zierfischlexikon für den PC, AQUALEX CD V2, Lutz Döring (Author)

"Die Welt der Cichliden Malawi See" Media Marketing Gesellschaft dbr Germany.

Eccles D. & Trewavas, 1989, Malawian Cichlid Fishes (the classification of some Haplochromine genera), Lake fish Movies, West Germany.

Konings 1990, Ad Koning's Book of Cichlids and all the other fish of Lake Malawi, TFH Publications Neptune City NJ USA.

Konings 1995, Malawi Cichlids in their natural habitat, 2nd Ed., Cichlid Press, Texas USA.

Teapot P. 1995, Cichlids The Pictorial Guide, New Life Publications, Florida USA.

Ufermann A. Allgayer & Geerts M, 1987, Cichlid Catalogue, Dauendorf France.

Thanks to Greg Ure & Ad Konings for their input.

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