Aulonocars are the most prominent representatives of the Malawian cichlids. It is difficult to find fish colored as attractively. The aquarium with them will sparkle with a rainbow of colors and will always be in the spotlight. You can find out about the maintenance, feeding, and breeding of aulonocars from our article.
Aulonocara (Aulonocara sp.), Or African akars – freshwater fish from the cichloid family living in Lake Malawi.
A distinctive feature of these fish is the color of the males. With age, gray and inconspicuous males turn into painted beauties – they can be red, yellow, blue, golden, blue with various combinations of these shades. For this feature, aulonocars are often called “peacock cichlids”. Thanks to the bright outfit, the fish easily recognize their relatives at a great distance.
After the aulonocars became the favorites of aquarists, active selection work began, as a result of which many color variations appeared that do not occur in nature. This became possible due to the ability of aulonocars to interbreed with each other.
Aulonocars change the intensity of their color depending on environmental conditions or mood. A real extravaganza of colors can be observed during the spawning season.
Unfortunately, the taxonomy of aulonocaras remains confused due to the poor knowledge of this group of fish, a large number of geographic races, color morphs, and artificial hybrids.
The body is elongated, the back is high, the head is pointed, with large eyes. There are depressions on it, which, according to scientists, are sensory organs that allow you to catch the movement of water. This makes it easy to find insect larvae in the sandy bottom. On the body, there are subtle transverse stripes, most distinct in females.
Young fishes and females have a nondescript color – gray or olive-brown with dark spots and stripes. However, by 6-10 months, the color of the males changes dramatically – they acquire a variegated color characteristic of the species.
The fins are large, well developed, always painted in bright colors, often with a white or turquoise border. Small yellow or orange spots form on the anal fin in males.
In nature, aulonocars are found only in the African lake Malawi. Typical biotopes are sandbanks or underwater rocks. Here the fish hunts insects and larvae and also hides from possible enemies. Aulonocars feel great even at great depths, where almost no light gets. And here the bright color of the fish is very useful – it’s easier to notice each other.
Care and maintenance
To keep aulonocars, you will need a spacious aquarium of at least 100 liters. Fine sand with a fraction of not more than 2 mm is laid as soil. This is due to the natural love of fish to dig up the bottom, where they look for their food – small invertebrates. It is necessary to place a large number of shelters made of stones, caves, grottoes in the aquarium – juveniles or females can hide in them, which are actively looked after by males ready for spawning.
The water in Lake Malawi is very clean with practically unchanged parameters. Aulonocars need to provide high-quality filtration and round-the-clock aeration so that hazardous nitrogenous compounds do not accumulate in the aquarium. For the same reason, it is necessary to change 1/3 of the water in the aquarium weekly.
It is not advisable to plant a live plant in an Autocar aquarium. Due to the habit of fish constantly digging up the soil, all the greens will sooner or later be on the surface of the water. Anubias can be used by tying them to driftwood or decorations.
It is best to keep the Aulonocar with a small harem, where there will be 3-6 females per male. If you plan to populate several males, you need to think about a larger volume of the aquarium and the obligatory division of the territory with the help of decorations.
Aulonocars have an interesting feature: males are mostly solitary, they are engaged in the protection of the spawning place, periodically inviting females there. Females and juveniles usually swim in a group.
Almost all types of aulonocars are peace-loving fish and get along well with non-aggressive, proportional cichlids. Only males exhibit territorial behavior towards representatives of their own species, and most often during the spawning period.
The best roommates for them will be neighbors on Lake Malawi: hummingbird cichlid, blue dolphin, etc. Aulonocar of other species can also be added, only it is necessary to take into account the possibility of crossing between them (for the purity of the breed it is better not to mix). It is not recommended to combine with the more active and aggressive Malawians of the Mbuna group.
Feeding the Aulonocar
The basis of the natural diet of the Aulonocar is insects and their larvae, which live on the sandy bottom. The process of hunting invertebrates is very exciting: aulonocars freeze over the sand and try to catch the lightest ground vibrations. In this, they are helped by special sensitive pores on the head. As soon as the victim is found, the fish sharply grabs the prey and sifts the sand between the gills. Unfortunately, the environment in aquariums is completely different, and it is no longer possible to watch the hunt. But the instinct does not disappear anywhere, so from time to time, you can notice how aulonocars are trying to find something in the sand.
Aulonocars are predatory fish, therefore, animal feed should make up at least 80% of the diet, the rest falls on plant feeding.
For feeding the fish, it is better to stay on high-quality dry food. Live and frozen food is not complete, and can often be dangerous in the form of infections and parasites. On the contrary, dry food is safe and complete.
The Tetra Cichlid line of food is perfect for aulonocars. It should be borne in mind that the fish swim in the middle layers of the water, so it is best to stick with sinking granules, for example, Tetra Cichlid Granules.
If the aquarium contains Aulunocars with a red or yellow body-color (for example, Bensha Aulonocar or Orchid), regular feeding with Tetra Cichlid Color will preserve and enhance the brightness of the colors, thanks to the natural color enhancers in the composition.
Do not forget about the herbal component in the diet. TetraPro Algae chips, containing spirulina algae concentrate, will fully satisfy the fish’s need for greenery.
Alternatively, universal feeds for all fish are perfect, such as TetraMin XL Granules and Tetra Rubin Granules (for color enhancement).
Aulonocars are prone to overeating and obesity, so you need to feed them carefully, once or twice a day in portions that will be immediately eaten by the fish. It’s helpful to have a fasting day once a week.