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Champsochromis caeruleus

Champsochromis caeruleus

Above Male Champsochromis caeruleus. Female Below. Photos by Sam Borstein.

General

Champsochromis caeruleus FemaleChampsochromis caeruleus is a piscivorous maternal mouthbrooder from Lake Malawi. This fish, first typed by Boulenger in in 1908, is nicknamed the Trout Cichlid because of the similarity in body shape and swimming style. There are two species of Champsochromis, the Champsochromis caeruleus, and the Champsochromis spilorynchus. Only Champsochromis caeruleus is readily available.

The name Champsochromis is derived from two Greek words, Champso, meaning crocodile, refering to the snout on the fish, and chromis, meaning perch. The species name is Latin for blue.

Male Trout Cichlids can approach 18" in size, but the 14 to 16 inch range is more likely, which is very large for a Malawian cichlid. Males are a magnificent blue color, and have a red anal fin. The scales on the body range from an orange to red color. The fins on males can be massive, stretching well past the caudal fin, especially so in older specimens.

Even though this is one of the largest Malawians, it is peaceful. Because Champsochromis caeruleus is a pursuit predator, it is an active swimmer in the tank, which can sometimes stress fellow tank inhabitants.

The common name for this fish is The Malawi Trout Cichlid

Habitat

Champsochromis caeruleus has a lake-wide distribution in Lake Malawi, and is found in open water.

Care

Caring for Malawi Trout is not very difficult. The most important requirement is to give this active fish a large enough tank. Champsochromis caeruleus likes hard water in the 77-80F degree range.

Because this fish is so large and active, be careful with tank decorations. Make sure you don't use rocks that are to sharp or other objects which could cause injury during a collision.

Feeding

In the wild Champsochromis caeruleus is a pursuit predator, and it's favorite activity is dining on are Lake Sardines of the Engraulicypris genus. In aquariium, they will accept almost any food. I fed mine Spectrum and Tetra Cichlid Sticks.

Breeding

I obtained my Champsochromis caeruleus from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford and placed them in a 75-gallon tank. The fish were young and about two inches long.

At about four inches, my dominant male began to color up, and show an interest in spawning. When the male was about six inches, the fish spawned. At this point, I had only had the fish about six months and all accounts I had read indicated that this fish would have to be older to reproduce. I let the female hold assuming that the first spawn would be infertile, or the female would drop. The female held 30 days (Full Term), at which point I stripped her of her eggs.

For being such a large fish, the spawns are small, only about 35 eggs. However, egg size is very large. Newly free swimming are 3/4 of an inch long.

I preserved some eggs for Dr. Ron Coleman to use in his Cichlid Egg Project. After seeing the eggs, he said they were some of the largest he has seen, especially for a Malawian. Many people I know who have spawned the fish say it is a poor holder and the spawns are small— not my experience.

Fry are easy to raise, but can be over fed. Don't feed too much baby brine, and try to ween the fish to flakes as soon as you can. In my experience, this fish grows fast, but at the 2 inch range, they grow much slower. At about 3.5-4 inches, growth accelerates.

Retail Price

Champsochromis caeruleus is occasionally available at retailers that specialize in cichlids. Expect to pay $25 to $50 each for juveniles.

Report December 2008 by Sam Borstein.

Aulonocara walteri

 

Aulonocara walteri

Above Male Aulonocara walteri. Photo by Rick Borstein.

General

Aulonocara walteri is a moutbrooding, Malawian cichlid first typed by Konings in 1990. Technically, this fish does not have full nomenclature yet, so I probably should call it Aulonocara sp. "walteri".

Aulonocara walteri is typical of other Malawian peacocks. Brightly colored males with a lot of blue and drab, barred females. The common name, "Blue Face Peacock", is appropriate as males have the greatest concentration of color on the head. In preparation for breeding, males become a deeper blue and the color extends further down the body. Some male Aulocara walteri also exhibit yellow or tan coloration on their upper flanks.

Males grow to over 4 inches. Females top out at slightly over 3 inches.

Aulonocara walteri is closely related to Aulonocara jacobfreibergei.

The common name for this fish is The Blue-Faced Peacock

Habitat

Aulonocara walteri is found near Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. Although most of the jacobfreibergei group are rock dwellers found at 15M and below, this fish has been found in as little as 3 meters of water. They are usually found at the intersection of sandy and rocky habitats.

Care

Aulonocara walteri is easy to keep. Provide a sand or soft gravel substrate and rockwork simulating caves.

As always, regular water changes are important. I suggest at least a 30% water change every other week. In my case, I do about 50% weekly.

Males can be aggressive to each to other, so an aquarium of four feet or longer is recommended if you have a large group of fish.

Aulonocara should not be kept with more aggressive mbuna such as Pseudotropheus or Metriaclima species. Of course, only one Aulonocara species per tank . . . they will interbreed!

I have successfully kept Aulonocara with a mildly-disposed Tanganyikans such as the Brichardi types.

Feeding

Aulonocara walteri is easy to feed and accepts a wide variety of foods. I fed spirulina flakes, earthworm flakes, cichlid flakes and frozen mysis shrimp. I believe offering a variety of foods is of benefit to these fish.

In the wild, Aulonocara hover over the sand and make use of sensory pits located on the lower snouth to detect invertebrates moving in the sand. Once they detect movement, a fast plunge into the sand rewards this fish with a tasty snack. In the aquarium, you can observe this behavior if you provide a sand substrate.

Breeding

Aulonocara walteri is easy to breed. For best results, I suggest a species tank. Supply one male and several females. In my case, I had one male and four females. Provide a flat piece of stone (slate is good) for the breeding site.

I should admit that I broke the "species" rule due to lack of tank space. I kept adult Aulonocara walteri in a 90-gallon tank with some juvenile Metriaclima hajormaylandia. The Aulonocara walteri were quite a bit bigger, so it wasn't a problem.

Males will display to females and draw them to the breeding site where breeding ensues in typical Aulonocara fashion. Brood sizes are in the 20-30 range.

In my experience, females are very good holders, successfully holding the fry to term. I stripped fry at 18 days and they had just a bit of a yolk sack remaining. The babies will take freshly hatched baby brine shrimp immediately.

The fry grow fast and have the drab coloration of the females until about four months of age.

Retail Price

Aulonocara walteri adults are in the $14 to $20 range.

Report December 2003 by Rick Borstein

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu"

Aulonocara stuartgranti

Above: Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" Male. Photo by Rick Borstein.

General

Note We originally listed this fish as Aulonocara "Maulana Bi-Color 500". Mike Garibaldi (and others) questioned the location. We sent a hi-res pic on to Ad Konings who made the call that this fish was the "Undu" location.

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" is a mouthbrooding cichlid native to Undu Reef in Lake Malawi in Africa. Aulonocara species, often called Malawi Peacocks, or just Peacocks, are colorful fish which have quite a following in the tropical fish hobby. Colorful peacocks always seem to be in demand.

This fish is a member of the often nicely colored Aulonocara stuartgranti complex. The "Undu" location is offered referred to in the pet trade as a Blue Neon Peacock. The distinguishing trait of the male Undu is an overall blue body with a wide band of yellow behind the head. Female Undus are tan-grey with a few vertical bands and no other color.

Male Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" get up to around 3.5 to 4 inches. Females stay smaller at about 3 inches.

Habitat

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" is found in the transitional habitat of Lake Malawi between fifteen and forty feet deep over sand bottoms.

Care

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" is not a difficult fish to keep. Provide a sand or fine gravel substrate. A tank temperature of 76-78F and neutral to hard water is ideal. Do not keep this fish with any other Aulonocara species as it may interbreed.

Feeding

In the wild, Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" feeds on invertebrates found in the sand. All Aulonocara species possess sensitive pits on the underside of the head which allow them to detect subtle prey movement in the sand. In the aquarium, the fish accept a variety of prepared foods. I fed Spectrum, HBH Graze, HBH Cichlid Flakes, HBH Soft and Moist and the occasional treat of blood worms or frozen brine shrimp.

Breeding

I obtained a beautiful trio of Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" from John Hansen when I visited him at his home in Pearcy, Arkansas. John is an ACA member and has spoken to the GCCA in the past. In John's large fishroom, I was able to choose my trio from a 300 gallon vat containing about fifteen pairs of fish. Of course, I picked the brightest, best-looking male! Some money changed hands and packed up the fish for the plane ride back to Chicago.

I placed the fish in a 125-gallon cichlid community tank with a fine sand substrate. Tankmates included Neolamprologus toae and Pseudtropheus porchi. The fish settled in fine and could often be observed digging in the sand. Compared to other peacocks I have kept, Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" is not very aggressive.

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" breeds like other peacocks. Once the fish are sexually mature (12-16 months, typically) males will begin to court females. The male will extend his fins and circle the female, eventually bringing her to small pit dug in the sand or a depression near a rock. The female will lay an egg, pick it up in her mouth, and then nudge the males genital pores (eggspots) to receive his milt and fertilize the egg.

Twenty to thirty eggs are generally laid. My habit is to strip the fish at 12–14 days post spawn. At this point, the babies are at the heads and tails stage. I move them to clean tank or container containing a sponge filter and about 80% new, fresh water for another four to eight days. At this time, almost all of the eggsack will be gone and the babies will be free swimming. At this point, start feeding small amounts of freshly hatched baby brine shrimp.

One week later, I move the fry to larger ten or fifteen gallon tank for growout. After thirty days, the fry should be one-half to five-eights inch long.

Retail Price

Aulonocara stuartgranti "Undu" is occasionally available at pet shops that specialize in cichlids. Expect to pay about $75 for a trio of adult fish. Unsexed juveniles are generally in the $8–$10 range.

Report July 2009 by Rick Borstein.

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