Peacock Cichlid Types

Aulonocara baenschi “Benga”

Endemic to Lake Malawi, the Benga Cichlid can be found foraging through the sand looking for crustaceans and other snacks. It grows to a max of around 6 inches and has a very mild temperament. Females often give off a hue of red and blue with some flat yellow markings; however, the benga are dimorphic. This is an exceptional fish and certainly one of my all time favorites. However, one has to be cautious with the baenschi in at least one regard: identification.

The Baenschi is often confused or lumped into one with the “sunshine cichlid”, but the baenschi is its own species and it is not a “sunshine benga”. The “sunshine cichlid”, Aulonocara sp. “Stuartgranti Maleri”, has its own informal designation while the Benga or Aulonocara baenschi has its own formal designation. While it is common to see “Benga Sunshine” – its either one or the other. Usually, that person hasn’t a clue.

It is very difficult to see the difference but there are tell tale signs of what you have and I will discuss those below. One thing to note however: if you do not have a wild caught specimen or a known F1 or F2, you probably have a hybrid between the two. There are a lot of people breeding this popular fish that would not know to ask which it was and because of their similarities, few can see the difference. Our sunshines and Benga are all F1 and I can, and do distinguish them.

Telling the Difference between a Maleri and a true Benga

A. baenschi (aka Benga, Yellow Regal, or Nkhomo reef) are no way near as common as Maleri sunshines. So the distinction can be important even with such similarities. So, one of the physical features to distinguish the two is the baenschi’s forehead. It will be noticeably rounded rather than gradually sloping like in the maleri. Baenschi also seem to have larger eyes from my observations over the years, though I have no formal support for that assertion. There is a predominant blue jaw and blue running through the fins where in maleri it is much more yellow all over.

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Eureka Red”

Sometimes called the Fairy Cichlid, the Eureka Red is not found in Lake Malawi but instead is a line bred variant of the Aulonocara jacobfreibergi. It behaves, no surprise, similar to other peacocks; sifting through sand, digging, and spending time in dim caves. However, in my experience the Eureka is a bit more of an open water swimmer; spending a lot of time in the middle of the tank’s water column. They vary in color from deep oranges to more of a red shade and the dorsal fins can be a translucent blue to a white with subtle hints of blue.

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi Undu Reef “Lemon Jake”

The Lemon Jake, like most jacobfreibergi is a cave dweller. Confusingly, one would think that being cave dwellers these fish would have enhanced sensory receptors on their heads; but it is quite the opposite indeed. Ad Konings attributes this to their position in the evolutionary tree. The undu reef variant is the most popular variant in the hobby due to its deep yellows and blue highlights. Truly a stunning fish in my opinion. You may hear it referred to as the “Mamelela”; which is the same thing as the Undu Reef variant.

Aulonocara maulana “Bi-Color 500″

Endemic to Lake Malawi, A. maulana finds its home amongst the sandy bottom areas of Chitimba Bay. The derivation of the name “Bi-Color 500″ comes from this species being number 500 on Stuart Grant’s species list. Bi-Colors forage through the sand bottom for invertebrates using highly evolved receptors in its head to sense movement beneath the sand. Once it senses something, the Bi-color will dive nose first into the sand scooping it up like a shovel. It then expels the sand out its gills and swallows the invert.

Adult Size: 4-5 inches (10-13cm)

Aulonocara maylandi “Sulfur Head”

The Sulfur Head is endemic to Lake Malawi and lives in the intermediate zone. It is a carnivore and relishes chasing down small fry. It’s a free swimmer and needs plenty of exercise room but definitely wants some rock caves to retreat to and to escape light.

Aulonocara rubescens “Ruby Red”

The ruby red is very similar to a German Red. You will notice a more pink coloration in the Ruby and poorer specimens of each blend so close it becomes difficult to tell between them. In fact, in most cases its a matter of opinion. Many say that this is a hybrid. The Ruby Red actually is not – but rather has been selectively bred from Aulonocara sp. “Stuartgranti Chipoka”. You may also find it called the Rubescens after the first United States Importer, Peter Rubin from Germany.

Other Types:

  • Aulonocara sp. “Dragonsblood”
  • Aulonocara sp. “German Red”
  • Aulonocara sp. “Lwanda Red Top”
  • Aulonocara sp. “OB Peacock”
  • Aulonocara stuartgranti “Blue Neon”
  • Aulonocara stuartgranti “Ngara Flametail”
  • Stuartgranti Maleri “Sunshine”
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