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Related FAQs: Malawi Cichlid Systems, Tanganyikan Cichlid Systems, African Cichlids, African Cichlid Identification, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, African Cichlid Disease, African Cichlid Disease 2, Cichlids of the WorldCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,


Related Articles: Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies by Neale Monks, Dwarf Mbuna by Mary Bailey, Stocking Lake Malawi Community Tanks by Mary Bailey, Shell Dwellers, shell-dwelling Cichlids of Lake Tanganyika by Daniela Rizzo,


Stocking Lake Malawi Peacock, Aulonocara Tanks


By Mary Bailey

A mature male Aulonocara jacobfreibergi. Photo: Mary Bailey

Members of the genus Aulonocara, sometimes known as Malawi Peacocks, are often victims of the assumption that all Malawi cichlids can be kept together because they come from a single lake. In fact Lake Malawi is more like an inland sea, 365 miles long and 50 wide, with waves and storms, and you never quite stop expecting the water to taste salty. The shoreline is rocky in places, but there are also long sandy beaches and river mouths where the bottom is muddy. There is also, obviously, a lot of open water out in the center. Each of these habitats has its own fish population, and within each population there are fishes of various sizes, some of them predators and some prey.


So to assume they can all live together is a bit like assuming you can keep a fox and a rabbit together just because they live in the same bit of countryside!


Aulonocara are not mbuna!


The first Malawi cichlids to be imported were all mbuna, the small, usually colorful, rock-dwellers that remain the most popular species from the lake today. When the first Aulonocara species began to appear, against a background of almost total ignorance of the lake and its ecology, the natural thing to do was to add them to an existing mbuna community. They didn't do well, mostly cowering in corners, eating little or nothing, showing no color, and eventually giving up the ghost. They were considered difficult to keep and impossible to breed.

A. jacobfreibergi is one of the most widely traded species and eminently suitable for peaceful cichlid communities from 55 gal.s/210 litres upward. Photo by Mary Bailey


Unfortunately a lot of people are still putting 'Peacocks' in mbuna tanks today, often encouraged by ignorant or dishonest dealers who assure them it's quite OK.


So what's the problem? Well, almost all mbuna are strictly rock-dwellers, while Aulonocara are sand-dwellers. The sand is sometimes near or even under rocks, but they are sand-dwellers nonetheless. The habitat difference is very important because it means that Peacocks and mbuna have little or nothing to do with each other in the wild, and it also determines their behavior, in particular their attitude to other fishes.


Mbuna are tightly bound to their habitat and rarely stray more than a few feet from rocks, unless they are washed away by storms. They appear to be psychologically unable to do without the security the rocky habitat offers, and they simply do not venture out across the areas of open sand adjoining and separating sections of rocky shoreline. This is why there is so much geographical variation within species and so many different species--the mbuna at each area of rocky shore are effectively genetically isolated from those elsewhere.


Another effect of this isolation is that no matter how high the population density--and the resulting competition for food and space--in a particular area of rocky shore, no mbuna would dream of mounting an expedition across the sand to look for somewhere less crowded. The need to survive in the face of so much competition means that most mbuna have evolved into tough, territorial little thugs--if they have the opportunity, as there isn't enough space for every male to hold a territory. The other males, and females, keep moving round their particular stretch of rocky habitat, steering clear of those fish that do have territories. The natural habitat is every bit as crowded and 'busy' as the mbuna aquarium.


By contrast, Aulonocara have much more space available. The rocky, mbuna habitats are linear--narrow bands of rocky shore--but the sand extends out into the lake and the only limitation on fishes occupying it is that eventually it descends to depths where there is no longer any oxygen, and hence no fishes. Sand-dwellers are not subject to overcrowding, and many are only weakly territorial, if at all. If life becomes 'difficult' at a particular spot, they can simply swim away to look for a more amenable one. They do not need to be aggressive and competitive, and hence they aren't. Such behavior would be a waste of valuable energy. For their particular lifestyle it is a better survival characteristic to live quietly and get along with other fishes in their habitat. Except for predators, of course!


This behavioral incompatibility with mbuna is not to say that mbuna will continually attack and physically injure Peacocks. The real problem is the stress of living with such boisterous fishes in a 'busy' mbuna community. It is stress and fear that results in Aulonocara hiding in corners and slowly starving away.


Three types of Peacocks


Aulonocara species actually fall into three groups: those that live in caves, those that live among scattered rocks, and strict sand-dwellers that are not usually associated with rocks at all.


An Aulonocara of this last group could theoretically swim all the way round the lake over sand if it so chose and had time enough. These species are also found over mud (at river mouths) and usually have a wide, sometimes lake-wide, distribution. They probably don't actually undertake long journeys along the lake shore, but there are no barriers to create separate populations so there is regular genetic exchange with neighboring groups. These strict sand-dwellers are Aulonocara aquilonium (which has been exported and sold as A. auditor), A. auditor (known only from the type specimen), A. brevinidus (the "Blue Gold Sand"), A. gertrudae (the "Multi-Spot" or Jumbo Blue"), A. guentheri, A. macrochir (possibly a synonym of A. rostratum), A. nyassae (not the species sold under that name, which is a form of A. stuartgranti), and A. rostratum.


The Aulonocara of the intermediate zone (where rocks meet sand) are found among scattered rocks on sand, mainly on gently-sloping shoreline where this type of habitat is common. They make use of the scattered rocks--males dig nests between them, and they can be used as shelter from predators. These Peacocks feed from the sand between these rocks as well as over the open sand beyond. Mbuna are also found feeding in this habitat, but 'upstairs' on the rocks. They may look as if they are sharing the habitat but in ecological terms they are occupying two different niches or microhabitats. There is virtually no competition or interaction, the mbuna do not hold territory here, and those feeding are probably non-territorial males and females. A territorial male that slipped out to the local fast-food outlet would find his home occupied by a squatter when he got back!

These two fish (being sold as Aulonocara "Rubin Red", though the identification is dubious) are both males, but the specimen in the back is showing brighter colors as befits its higher status in th pecking order. Like a lot of farm-raised fish, it's hard to tell if these are a true species, a regional sub-species or some sort of hybrid. Photo by Mary Bailey.


Populations of this type of Aulonocara tend to be fairly sedentary and localized, though at least one species (A. stuartgranti) has a very wide overall distribution with local variants. These Peacocks can move away from trouble if necessary, they do not need to be aggressive and are not equipped to deal with aggression except by fleeing. As well as A. stuartgranti (which has numerous local forms, e.g., the "Blue Regal") they include Aulonocara baenschi (the "New Yellow Regal" or "Benga"), A. ethelwynnae ("Chitande Aulonocara", the only described member of the Chitande Type group, see below), A. hansbaenschi (the "Red Flush", probably a synonym of A. stuartgranti), A. hueseri (the "Night" or "White-Top" Aulonocara), A. kandeense (the "Blue Orchid"), A. korneliae (the "Blue Gold"), A. maylandi (the "Sulphurhead"), A. saulosi (the "Greenface" or "Green Metallic"), and A. steveni (the "Usisya Aulonocara", again probably a synonym of A. stuartgranti). There are also a host of undescribed forms that may or may not be separate species: the assorted "Chitande types" and various forms resembling stuartgranti but geographically isolated at islands or reefs, e.g., the "Blue Regal" (Mbenji Islands), the "Yellow Regal" (Maleri Islands), and the "Sunshine" (Chidunga Rocks).


Finally there are a few species, formerly assigned to a separate genus, Trematocranus, and sometimes called "Malawi Butterflies", that are found in sandy-bottomed caves where rocks meet sand. They are Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (with numerous variants such as "Trevori", "Carolae", "Reginae", etc), A. trematocephalum (known only from the type specimen), and some undescribed species, e.g., A. sp. "Walteri", A. sp. "Lwanda", and A. sp. "Masinje".


But, although these Aulonocara are clearly associated with rocks they are not in competition with mbuna. They live communally in large caves while most mbuna prefer small holes among the rocks above. In addition, the mbuna found where rock meets sand are usually the less aggressive species that are unable to compete for the preferred, all-rock habitat higher up. The cave-dwelling Aulonocara appear to both feed and breed in their caves, at least some of the time. But they do also forage over the sand--when I first snorkeled over the sand near the rocks at Otter Point there were masses of them out in the open. So while they are more rock-bound than their congeners, they do not have to stick around if, for example, a large Kampango (the catfish Bagrus meridionalis) picks their particular cave for breeding.

Typical Aulonocara habitat in Lake Malawi is open and dominated by sand rather than rocks, and Aulonocara are consequently much different in temperament and preferences than the Mbuna cichlids adapted to rocky shores. Photo copyright Robin Sznober


Exceptions that prove the rule


Although as a general rule of thumb Aulonocara should not be kept with mbuna, there are situations where this is possible. Not, as one might assume, in a huge aquarium offering both types of habitat, unless we are talking about the sort of tank used in public aquaria to keep full-grown sharks and the like. Anything smaller cannot offer enough space for Peacocks to get completely out of mbuna range. But a few species of mbuna are not (or only slightly) territorial, their niche in the wild being a wandering existence, grabbing a mouthful of food here, a mouthful there, and making a quick exit when the territory owner notices them. They do not even become territorial when breeding. They include some Labidochromis (notably L. caeruleus) and all Iodotropheus; and a large tank with some rocks, a lot of open sand, and a few of these mbuna can work with Aulonocara species and other sand-dwellers.


Although still relatively young, these A. kandeensis show the sexual dimorphism typical of the genus. Eventually the male will become deep blue with a blue-white band across its forehead and dorsal fin, while the females remain silvery brown. Photo by Neale Monks.

However, in my view the ideal option for the community containing Peacocks is a mix of other small(ish) sand-dwellers and the smaller inshore open-water dwellers (the utaka, e.g., the genus Copadichromis).


Other sand-dwellers


Lots of other Malawi cichlids live over sand and are potential tankmates for Peacocks. Well-known species include Placidochromis electra and Cyrtocara moorii, but there are other small sand-dwelling 'haps' that are equally small and peaceful, such as the sand-dwelling Otopharynx species.


Members of the sifting genus Lethrinops are also small and peaceful and require the same sort of 'soft' sandy substrate. Some of these species are strictly sand-dwelling, some share the sand-with-rocks habitat, so it is possible to mix-and-match them with the Peacocks being kept.

As usual, however, it is important not to jump to jump to conclusions--not all sand-dwelling species are small, and some are predatory. Taeniolethrinops praeorbitalis, for example, is large and spends its life--in the wild--moving around 'plowing' the substrate for food. Fossorochromis rostratus males may look gorgeous, but they too grow large and feed by digging, and can become aggressive. The natural foraging territory of a male rostratus is immense, and it is questionable whether keeping one in a domestic aquarium is kind. Not all Placidochromis are small--P. milomo, for example, can attain almost a foot on aquarium rations. A 4-5-inch Aulonocara may feel threatened by such a large, robust tankmate, even if the threat is imagined. As when Peacocks are kept with mbuna, it is stress rather than actual physical harm that is the main problem.

Haplochromines adapted to sandy areas such as Cyrtocara moorii (above) make excellent companions for Aulonocara, as can the infamous eye-biter Dimidiochromis compressiceps, a species that inhabits shallow, reedy areas around the edge of Lake Malawi. Both species are fairly large and thus unsuitable for tanks less than 100 gal.s/350 litres. Photos by Mary Bailey.


Nimbochromis are popular aquarium fishes, and two species, N. venustus and N. polystigma, live over sand. But they are small-fish predators that may eat any young your Peacocks produce, and they too are large enough to possibly cause concern to smaller, albeit too-large-to-eat tankmates like Aulonocara species. Of course, they encounter one another in the wild, but the wild is not a small space with solid glass boundaries preventing escape. More stress!


On the other hand, species can have a bad reputation that is unjustified. Dimidiochromis compressiceps is sometimes known as the 'Malawi Eyebiter', but is perhaps one of the most peaceful and timid cichlids in the lake, and, like the Peacocks, often doomed to a miserable life with mbuna. Its natural habitat is among reeds fringing the lake--hence its laterally compressed body--but it will do very nicely in a sandy biotope tank with Vallisneria. It is now thought to feed on fry rather than eyes of other fishes, but doesn't do either in captivity if fed properly, and prefers to mind its own business. A good fish for a peaceful sand-dweller tank.


I hope from these few examples it is clear that you need to check out the size and habits of any sand-dweller rather than assuming shared habitat means it is suitable to keep with Peacocks. The two books by Ad Konings listed in the references at the end of this article are good sources of the necessary information on these and other Malawi cichlids.




Utaka is the local collective name for shoaling, plankton-feeding Malawi cichlids typically found in open water near rocks. Although strictly the name applies to Copadichromis species, Nyassachromis are usually included in the group for aquarium purposes.


Again it is important to understand that 'near rocks' does not a rock-dweller make! Utaka do seem to prefer to have a rocky backdrop, but, like intermediate-zone Peacocks, they have the option of moving away (and in three dimensions) if they choose and they don't interact with mbuna to any extent. Like Peacocks they are likely to have a miserable time if kept in an mbuna tank. Some of them build nests on open sand, some between rocks. They make excellent tankmates for sand-dwellers, but they do need to be kept in a reasonable number, even if the 'shoal' is very small compared with the many thousands sometimes seen in the wild. The aquarium shoal can be a mixture of species (as in the wild), but if you do this choose species with different-looking females as otherwise neither you nor the males will be able to sort them out and hybrids may result.

Otopharynx, such as these O. tetrastigma are good companions for Peacock Cichlids and work well in peaceful Malawiian community systems. Photo by Neale Monks.


Again, not all open-water Malawi cichlids are suitable as tankmates for Peacocks. Some are predatory! A big ncheni (Rhamphochromis spp.) is an open-water dweller, but it is also a piscivore. Although the normal prey of these big open-water predators is usipa or lake sardines (Engraulicypris sardella), they have large enough mouths to eat smaller cichlids such as Aulonocara and utaka!


Other 'rock-dwellers'


Not all Otopharynx are sand-dwellers, and a couple--notably O. lithobates--have specialized on cave-dwelling in the same sort of (large) caves as the cave-dwelling Aulonocara species. They are attractive and peaceful fishes that will do well with Peacocks.


Protomelas, by contrast, feed from the tops of rocks, but, depending on the species, breed in the sort of large, sandy-floored caves favored by Aulonocara jacobfreibergi & co, or between rocks in the intermediate zone. The smaller species (e.g., the 'Stevenis') are another possibility for an Aulonocara tank.


One final pitfall--hybridisation


In fact it is not really a good idea to think in terms of an Aulonocara tank, but rather to think of a peaceful tank of smallish Malawi cichlids of various types, including Peacocks. This is because there is one final pitfall--unless you are very careful, it is not a good idea to keep different species of Aulonocara with one another!


The problem is, as with the utaka, that the females of many (most) species are indistinguishable from one another, so if you mix them up you will never be able to sort them out again. They are so similar that even the males can't tell them apart, and then you get hybrids. Worse still, you won't know you have hybrids because you won't realize that species X has spawned with species Y because you can't tell the females apart'¦ so the first person to realize (perhaps) what has happened is the unfortunate aquarists who are sold your fry, who then find that their fishes aren't what they expected when they are full-grown and the males color up.


And how are you going to sell the young anyway? Often you won't see the spawning, you will just discover an unidentifiable female with a mouthful of eggs, so the only way to know what they are is to grow them up and see if the males look like one of your original species. This will require a lot of tank space, and may be a waste of time and money if they prove to be hybrids and you are obliged to take the only ethical course and destroy them.


The same problems apply, of course, if you mix up local variants of species such as A. jacobfreibergi and A. stuartgranti. The results won't be hybrids, but they won't be a recognized geographical form that people want to own.


Hence it is best to keep just one Aulonocara species or variety per tank, unless you obtain those where females are clearly different--for example, A. jacobfreibergi females are very different from most others.


One final caveat: you can't keep all the suitable species I have listed (Aulonocara, Lethrinops, peaceful mbuna, assorted smallish 'haps') together unless you have an immense aquarium--we are again looking at public aquarium size. Most of these fishes like space, they do not need to be--and shouldn't be--packed in like mbuna. By all means keep an Aulonocara species tank (one species, by itself) in a 36-inch aquarium, but if you want a community then you should be looking at a 72-inch minimum. If you are planning to include utaka then it should be at least 24 inches deep to allow them to feel 'off-the-bottom'. There are endless permutations possible, just be careful to think through all the different elements--choice of fishes, tank size, rocks or not, etc--when creating yours!


It is this kind of shoreline, rather than rocky coast, that is home to Aulonocaras as well as many other sand-dwellers. Photo by Mary Bailey




Konings, A. 2003 Back to Nature Guide to Malawi Cichlids (2nd edition). Cichlid Press, El Paso, USA. 208 pp.

Konings, A. 2007 Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat (4th edition). Cichlid Press, El Paso, USA. 424 pp.


Note: Both of these are available from www.cichlidpress.com (USA/Canada) and www.cichlidpress.co.uk (UK/Europe)




1.  Mature male Aulonocara jacobfreibergi; photo © Mary Bailey

2.  Aulonocara jacobfreibergi is one of the most widely traded species and eminently suitable for peaceful Malawi cichlid communities from 55 US gallons/210 litres upwards. Photo © Mary Bailey

3.  These two fish (being sold as Aulonocara 'Rubin Red', though that identification seems dubious) are both males, but the specimen at the back is showing brighter colours as befits its higher status in the pecking order. Like a lot of farmed fish, it's difficult to know if these fish are a true species, a regional subspecies, or some sort of hybrid. Photo © Neale Monks

4.  Typical Aulonocara habitat in Lake Malawi is open and dominated by sand rather than rocks, and Aulonocara are consequently much different in temperament and preferences to the mbuna cichlids adapted to rocky shores. Photo © Roman Sznober

5.  Although still relatively young, these Aulonocara kandeensis clearly exhibit the sexual dimorphism typical of the genus. Eventually the male will become deep blue with a blue-white band across its forehead and dorsal fin, while the females remain silvery-brown. Photo © Neale Monks

6.  Haplochromines adapted to sandy areas such as Cyrtocara moorii make excellent companions for Aulonocara. Unsuitable for tanks smaller than 100 US gallons/350 litres. Photo © Mary Bailey

7.  Dimidiochromis compressiceps, a species that inhabits shallow, reedy areas around the edge of Lake Malawi, also make excellent companions for Aulonocara. Unsuitable for tanks smaller than 100 US gallons/350 litres. Photo © Mary Bailey

8.  Otopharynx such as these Otopharynx tetrastigma are good companions for peacock cichlids and work well in peaceful Malawian communities. Photo © Neale Monks

9.  It is this type of shoreline, rather than rocky coast, that is home to many Aulonocaras and other sand-dwellers. Photo © Mary Bailey

Haps/Peacock Stocking Options for 330 G tank
Stocking Options for a 330 G Malawi Cichlid Tank     – 11/20/12

Hello Crew: I`m new to this hobby - and I really love your site.  I have a new (for me) 330 G tank that I set up this fall (2` x 2` x 12`).  Currently, the water parameters are as follows:  pH @ 7.8, ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 60, water temp. @74.5F.  My water is naturally on the hard side.  I tried some live plants, but they did not survive the cichlids.  I have three live plants left, some plastic plants, lots of rock:  marble, limestone, river rock, and about 1/3 of the tank is covered in sand, no obstructions - for the peacocks.  I have a Rena XP3 filter with Purigen and Super Elite activated carbon in the filter trays, along with the other media, two
110 Aqua Clear HOB filters, 2 Aqua Clear 70 pumps, and 2 blue Poret filters with water lifters in them.  I have two large pieces of drift wood with many caves near the rocks.  I do about a 25% water change week 1, and about a 40% water change week 2.  I try to fast them one day a week, but its hard not to feed them, especially when they do their `little dances`.
I started myself off with a few mixed Mbuna in a 70G before I found this large, custom built tank that came with stock.  After it was set up, while I was away on holidays, my spouse moved all the fish into the large tank and disposed of the 70G.  :(   I now have the following stock in the big tank:
6-7 Labidochromis Caeruleus (aka "Yellow labs"; 2 @ 3'', the rest various sizes)
5  Iodotropheus sprengerae (aka "Rustys")
 *  Protomelas taelianautas (aka "Super Red Empress"; 1 dominant male beautifully coloured @ 51/2'' He is the second dominant tank boss, 2 subdominant males @ 5'' that have taken on the female colouring, numerous females)
2  Metriaclima Estherae (aka "Red Zebra";  1 @ 3'', 1@ 2'' )
1  Metriaclima Estherae OB -  1 ''
1  Pseudotropheus sp. Acei  (aka "Yellow Tail Acei")
 *  Otopharynx lithobates 'Mumbo Is.' - and I think there are a few 'Zimbabwe Rock' also - (aka ''Sulphur Head'') - 1 white blaze male  @5'' who is my tank boss, 2 subdominant males that take on the female colouring about the same size as the dominant male, numerous females)
*    Capadichormis chrysonotus 2 males, several females
2   Metriaclima Lombardoi (aka Kennys; both males @ 31/2'' each)
1   Labeotropheus OB fuelleborni (about 3'')
2   Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi 'Eureka' Peacocks (1@ 3'', 1 @ 2'')
2   Melanochromis Johanni (aka electric blue johanni, 2 males)
5   Hemichromis binnaculatus (Blood Red Jewel Cichlids - juveniles - 2 males, 3 females less than 2 '')
5   Aulonocara Peacocks - Rueben Reds - juveniles - too young to tell sexes yet @ 1 ''
1   Red Top Hongi (male about 3'')
1   Melanochromis hybrid ?   (Started out as silvery pink, now has coloured up similar to the electric blue johanni but is larger and is relatively peaceful @3 1/2'')
1   Giant Sailfin Pleco (@14'')
1   Medium size sail fin Pleco @ 7''
1  Cuckoo catfish @ 2 1/2'')
2  Bristlenose catfish @ 3'')
1  Freshwater crayfish - Procambarus Clarkii sp. orange
*The females are similar:  silver with three black splotches or silver with black line below lateral line, sometimes with or without blotches.  All together, there is about 16 of them in various sizes.
I have read many articles that state it is not wise to keep haps/peacocks together with Mbuna, including Mary Bailey`s on this site, except for the very peaceful species such as the yellow labs and Rustys. This is the reason why I am re-homing the other Mbuna. While the red zebra and kennys have not killed any fish, they are very territorial and will not let others near their claimed homes. The ones left are all peaceful - for now. Will have to wait and see about the other red zebra and OB red zebra which are still small, and no trouble at the moment. If that changes, I can re-home them later.
Along with the two kennys, and the large red zebra, I`m re-homing the medium sized sailfin Pleco.  I will keep the yellow labs, the Rustys and yellow tail acei with the haps and peacocks.  I know that the yellow tail acei is a schooling fish so I will likely get 4 more.  I`ve heard the same about the cuckoo cats.  Should I get another one?
< If your cuckoo cat is a Syn. multipunctatus then a few more will make them feel more at home.>
 My main concern is that I read conflicting info about peacocks/haps in terms of mixing species.  It is clear that it is not good to mix species with similar looking females due to cross breeding and hybridization.  However, an article I read suggested that you can keep 4 different species of Aulonocara if you pick one from each of the following sub-groups:  Chitande, Jacobfreibergi, Stuartgranti, and sand dwellers (like Gertrudae).  So far, from my reseach,
I discerned that the Otopharynx falls into the Chitande sub-group, correct?
< The genus Aulonocara is characterized by the cichlids having a series of pores along the bottom of the jaw that that pick up vibrations of food items living in the sand. Cichlids without this feature are not placed in the genus Aulonocara. The Otopharynx is not a peacock. In the hobby it is usually placed in the hap group.>
 The Eureka peacock falls into the Jacobfreibergi sub-group, correct?
< Correct >
  So I could then select a Stuartgranti species such as the Stuartgranti maleri or Ngara species?  As for the sand dwellers, I do not want any at the moment.  Was this article accurate?  Can I also get the Stuartgranti ("yellow Regal") or Ngara ("Flametail") with the other Aulonocara or is this inviting cross breeding?
< Generally, blue colored peacocks and the Jake groups do best in Malawi community cichlid tanks. Yellows do best in a species only tank. I would recommend  getting males only unless you are planning on breeding them.>
Afterwards, I am looking forward to adding some Copadichromis borleyi (Kandango) and Copadichromis .  Can I, or is it better to select only one from these two sub-groups?
<  Go with the borleyi since the females will have some color on the fins.>
 Or in other words, does the rule about
Aulonocara apply to the other species as well?
< Here is how it works. If you have this big tank full of blue fish, the females will breed with the dominant blue fish. This means your fish will cross breed and  your tank will have numerous little strange cichlids that don't look like anything.>
 I would also like to get one Crytocara Moorii (aka "dolphin head").  To this mix, can I add Protomelas sp. steveni Taiwan (Taiwan Reef) or Protomelas sp. spilonotus Tanzania (Liuli) or will this be inviting cross breeding?
< Yes>
  I also like the following fish:  Pundamillia nyererei, Cynotilapia Afra (Cobue), Haplochromis ''ruby green'', Pseudotropheus demasoni, Pseudotropheus Saulosi, and Pseudotropheus Socolofi and I have considered some Lethrinops.  I prefer to keep the fish smaller than the 6 inch length, a few bigger are OK but I don`t want to get too much into species larger than 10 inches.  I prefer more herbivores than carnivores.  My concern is that I would like to utilize all of the tank, not just the mid section or bottom.
I appreciate selecting stock is very individual, but I would be interested in hearing your suggestions on stocking this tank.
< Skip the Victorians. They will have a difficult time competing with the Malawi cichlids. In my Malawi tank all the fish have color or at the least an interesting pattern and get along.  I would recommend the following:
Yellow labs ( Good stock have a orange -yellow color with black fins) or Labidochromis chisumulae ( Blue male with white female).
Rustys ( Both sexes look alike)
Ps Saulosi ( Blue striped male with yellow orange female) or Ps demasoni (Both sexes are blue with black stripes).
Ps acei ( Both sexes look alike, feeds on algae on driftwood )
Ps lanistacola ( Malawi shell dweller)
Mel parallelus ( Black male with blue horizontal stripes, females are white with black horizontal stripes)
Red Fin ( Colorful male and females are silver grey with red fins)
Red Top L. trewavasae ( Blue male with red dorsal fin, females are a bright orange color.) or L fuelleborni Marmalade Cat ( beautiful mottled fish)
C. moorii ( both sexes look alike but get big humps on their foreheads)
You get the idea. Keep all the fish colorful unless you are interested in breeding. Then keep them in a species only tank.>
As for the high nitrates, have you heard of Maglife USA`s new substrate, Nitrastrate that is naturally buoyant and reduces nitrates?  Has anyone tried it?  Does it work?  Do the fish like it?  I am in the process of setting up a refugium to cycle the fish water through that will help reduce the nitrates
< Nitrates are converted to Nitrogen gas by anaerobic bacteria. I would increase the filter maintenance, occasionally vacuum  the gravel, and try a vegetable based fish food high in Spirulina to reduce the nitrates. Haven't heard of the product but have seen similar claims on products over the years that may work for awhile.-Chuck>
Re: Haps/Peacock Stocking Options for 330 G tank  11/22/12

Stocking a 330 Gallon Malawi Cichlid Tank II
Thanks for your insight and comments, Chuck!  Yes, my catfish is a Syn. multipunctatus so I will add two more.  Thanks for the clarification on the peacocks.  The species you recommend seem to be sufficiently different from one another so as to discourage cross breeding.  I'll do more research on the stock you suggested and then decide.  With your suggested stock list, does Mary Bailey's rule of thumb re:  inches of fish/square foot of tank still apply?
< Since most cichlids are territorial it is wise to be aware or there passion for their own area. Mary's rule is s good place to start but it is not species specific. I would give a little more space to some of the more aggressive species like Ps elongatus types and very little territory to the less aggressive species like the Ps. acei . When it comes right down to all fish are individuals and you will have to watch you fish to determine the limits of their territories.>
What  vegetable based fish food have you used with good results?
< When you look at the ingredients listed on the package for Spirulina food you will see fish meal as the first main ingredient. This is because fish will not eat pure Spirulina.  Spirulina should be lists close to the top as a list of ingredients. I feed Zoomed Spirulina 20, OSI also makes a very good food. Some brine shrimp flake and plankton flake fed sporadically will enhance the fishes colors. Stay away from any type of worm food. Lake Malawi cichlids don't do well on bloodworms, glassworms or earthworm flake.>
I live in a rural area, so my LFS is very limited in choices so I will likely have to order on line.
< Good luck.-Chuck> Cheers, AW.

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