African Butterfly Peacock is also called by its other names like Malawi Butterfly Cichlid, Eureka Cichlid, Freiberg's Peacock, Jake Cichlid, Mamalela Peacock. The African Butterfly Peacock cichlids are quite variable in size depending on the location they originate from. They include some of the largest Peacocks. They can grow from lengths of 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) up to about 8 – 9 inches (20 – 23 cm). With proper care this fish may live up to may live 8 to 10 years. These are the most variable and colorful of all the Peacock cichlids. Natural strains can be very different between their own populations as well. Drastic color differences between males of this species have often led to their mistakenly being thought of as new species. All females however, are quite drab. The females have a white to grayish-brown body coloring topoped with vertical bands of gray/brown to beige. They have a rounded anal and dorsal fin which can be faintly colored. This species also has a distinct feature that separates them from other butterfly peacocks. This is a deeply forked tail fin, inspiring the name “Swallow Tail” peacocks. Some of the varieties are referred to by individual names as well, often relating to the local where a population originated. Then there are man made variations as well. These are selectively line bred fro a particular color, such as the “Eureka Red”, which was developed for a more intense red coloration.
A few of the variations of African Butterfly Peacock are described below. These are all males that were wild caught in Lake Malawi and categorized by location. Some have female descriptions as well.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Eureka”:
The Eureka Cichlid is a naturally occurring strain and grow to 6″ (15 cm). The Eureka Red Peacock is a captive bred color form. Its natural color is a combination of orangish yellow and metallic blue. Most of the body is blue with a “dusting” of orange at the top of the head, behind the head, and along the back. The top fin and caudal fins are light blue. The anal and pelvic fins are orangish yellow with ice blue trimming on the front edge. The anal fin on this one has few in any egg spots.
The female is very drab in white with dull gray/brown vertical bands and clear fins. The anal fin is rounded with a light gold coloring in the front two thirds and white/clear near the back, closest to the tail fin. The pelvic fins are also light gold with the tips being white/clear as well.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Eureka albino” :
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Eureka Albino, also known as the Albino Eureka Peacock, is one of the smaller strains, only growing to between 4 – 6 inches (10 – 15 cm) in length. It has a tangerine colored back, anal fin and pectoral fin. The forehead and face as well as the bottom part of this fish is white. The pectoral fin also has white trim on the front ray and there are no egg spots on the anal fin. The dorsal fin has a little tangerine in the bottom part close to the body, but the rest is a very light blue ice color. The tips of the tail fin have this blue ice color too. Females are basically white and both sexes have yellow eyes with tangerine pupils.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Undu Reef”:
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Undu Reef is is a naturally occurring strain found at the Undu Reef of Tanzania. It is also known as the Mamalela Peacock, Lemon Jake, and Lemon Jacobfreibergi. The males reach up to about 7″ (18 cm) in length with the females reaching about 5″ (13 cm).It has a base color of bluish lavender on the body with a vertical band of yellow, mixed with the base color, just behind the gill area. The dorsal, anal and pelvic fins are all yellow with the anal fin not having egg spots. The tail fin is a mix of the base color and yellow.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Otter Point” :
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Otter Point is a naturally occurring strain that grows to 6″ (15 cm). However there are hybrids and/or captive bred color forms that are also sold under the same name. This fish is a combination of electric blue and orangish red. and gets up to 6″. The body is electric blue with faint dark blue vertical bands. The top of the head and part way at the top back of the body is orangish red. The chin (below the eye) is the only area that has an almost blue-turquoise color. The tail fin has a mix of the two primary colors near the body with the second half being blue. The dorsal fin is blue with the very bottom near the back having a smidgen of gold along the fin. The anal fin is more of an orange with ice blue trimming. The pelvic fins are burnt red/brown with the front edges trimmed in orange/red. There are no egg spots on this male. The female has alternating vertical bars of a beige coloring that is a little thicker and white. The eye is yellow and the fins are clear except the pelvic and anal fins. The anal fin is orange/yellow and rounded and the pelvic fin is also orangish yellow with a little trim in blue at the tip.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Hongi Island” :
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Hongi Island is a naturally occurring strain found near Hongi Island. It grows to 6″ (15 cm) in length. This Peacock has orange fins, except for the pectoral fin, and a metallic blue face. The body has several vertical bands that alternate between light blue and dark bluish black. The tail fin, near the body has a little of this darker color. This fish is found near Hongi Island.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Cape Kaiser”:
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Cape Kaiser, also known as the Cape Kaiser Peacock, is a naturally occurring color strain that gets to about 7″ (18 cm) in length. This fish has longer fins and all are yellow with ice blue at the tips or edges. The forehead is dusted in yellow as well. This fish also has an electric blue chin and the rest of the body alternates from ice blue to dark blue/black vertical bans.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Tsano rock” :
The Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi Tsano Rock is a naturally occurring color form. It is also known as Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Tsano Rock “Swallow Tail”. The body of this Peacock has alternating colors of light blue and black, but they are faded in areas under the gold coloring that runs along the top two thirds of the body. The dorsal fin has blue ice edging on the very top and yellow the rest of the way down to the back. The tail fin blue with some yellow. The area under the eye and the chin are electric blue. The pelvic and anal fins are lighter blue with yellow egg spots on the anal fin. Females are light with brown/gray vertical bars and fins are light blue with the anal fin having egg spots.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Cape Maclear”:
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Cape Maclear has almost identical coloring as the Tsano rock, except there is a little orange where the back and dorsal meet, as well as the anal fin's egg spots being orange.
Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Nkudzi”:
The Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Nkudzi is a naturally occurring strain. The body behind the head has light blue and dark blue/black alternating vertical bands. The head has an electric blue and is a yellowish gold on the forehead, below and above the eye, and extending along the back to the first third of the dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is ice blue on the top part and yellowish gold as it gets closer to the body. It is also yellowish gold in the pelvic and anal fins with both having a trimming of light blue on the edges. The tail fin is a mix but the tips are ice blue with the rest being mottled with yellow/gold and dark blue/black.
These cichlids make a great choice for the beginning cichlid keeper, and are appealing to the advanced aquarist as well. They are easy to care for, easy to feed, and relatively undemanding aquarium residents. They are also fairly peaceful, making good inhabitants for the community tank, and will readily breed. The aquarium does need regular water changes. They are susceptible to Malawi bloat as well as the typical diseases that effect all freshwater fish if the tank is not maintained.
The African Butterfly Peacock is primarily a carnivorouscichlid. In the wild they feed on zooplankton, specifically larvae and will also eat crustaceans. In the aquarium provide them with a quality cichlid flake or pellet food as their main staple, and provide meaty supplements.Pelleted, frozen, live, and/or freeze-dried meaty foods such as daphnia, bloodworms and brine shrimp are excellent choices. Avoid tubifex worms as they contribute to a disease called “Malawi bloat.” You can also use shrimp mixes like the European Shrimp Mix, which costs less than other prepared foods and is just as nutritious. Feed once a day when young and 5 to 6 times a week when adults unless they are breeding. Avoid the desire to feed this fish more often than it needs, as this will keep the water quality higher over a longer time.
Peacocks are hardy fish, but like all Malawi Cichlids, they will deteriorate under poor water conditions. The Malawi fish are usually kept at a higher pH, which means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes are a must. They are also a messy fish because they eat mostly protein foods, which puts an additional biological load on the filtration system. The tank will need water changes of between 20 – 50% a week, depending on the bio load.
The streams that flow into Lake Malawi have a high mineral content. This along with evaporation has resulted in alkaline water that is highly mineralized. Lake Malawi is known for its clarity and stability as far as pH and other water chemistries. It is easy to see why it is important to watch tank parameters with all Lake Malawi fish.Rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water but are not found in brackish waters. Still salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness. Ffortunately this cichlid has some salt tolerance. It can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions, however it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a low salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, which means a specific gravity of less than 1.0002. 55 gallon aquarium is okay for a single fish, but 75 gallons or more is suggested for a group. They do fine in either freshwater or slightly brackish freshwater but need good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration. Gravel makes a good substate and the addition of crushed coral can help keep the pH up. Crushed coral or aragonite sands do tend to dissolves easier than salts. Keeping a higher pH however, means that ammonia is more lethal, so regular water changes are a must for these fish. Some rock decor is good to create hiding places and areas of retreat, just be sure to leave open spaces along the bottom of the tank as well. These fish need plenty of swimming room on the bottom and in the mid portions of the tank. They prefer subdued lighting. Yet a nice thing about these guys is they do not damage plants as much as other cichlids, so you can add some to your decor if desired.
The African Butterfly Peacock is best kept singly in a smaller 55 gallon tank, or as a group of one male with 4 – 6 females in a larger tank of 75 gallons or more. They are peaceful toward those of the same species as long as there are not 2 males. The exception to keeping more than one male is only if the tank is very large and can support different territories for each harem. The African Butterfly Peacock is best kept with other medium sized Malawi cichlids that are not overly aggressive. It will get along with all other Peacock Cichlids of the same genus. They will also tolerate those cichlids of a different genus as long as they are peaceful and of similarly sized, though they must be different in shape. However aggressive cichlids and the Mbunas are not good tank mates for this species.