New Aulonocara: a man-made hybrid?

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Jeremy Gay takes a look at a man-made version of the popular Lake Malawi Aulonocara cichlid, which recently turned up on one of our shoptours.

Scientific name: Either Aulonocara or an Aulonocara hybrid.

Common name(s): Fire red albino

Origin: Aulonocara have origins in Lake Malawi though we think these unusually coloured fish originate from a fish farm in South-East Asia, probably Singapore. They do not occur in the wild.  

Size: Up to 12.5cm/5” for males, females smaller.

Diet: Wild Aulonocara search sand for aquatic invertebrates. Tank-raised specimens do well on a mixed diet of dry and frozen foods.

Aquarium: Aulonocara need a spacious aquarium with plenty of open water. A long-term volume of 240 l/53 gal and 120cm/48” length is minimum.

Notes: As Malawi cichlids have increased in popularity, so have colour morphs and variations. Although the fish pictured may be mistaken and named as an albino Aulonocara, as it has pink eyes, it is classed as an erythrystic Aulonocara as it has pink eyes and pink pigment over most of its body.

It is impossible to tell what species of Aulonocara it actually is though it looks similar to the original Aulonocara hansbaenschi, a fish that Singapore farms export as Aulonocara "nyassae." The strain may have been created by crossing several captive species and then line breeding the genetic mutation, however.

The fish is male as it has long fins and much pigment, though long fins are also a trait of many Malawi cichlid hybrids. It will appeal to some because of its bright colour, although cross breeding with other Aulonocara and true species is not encouraged as it will affect those only wanting genuine species occurring in the wild.

As with any pink-eyed fish its vision will be impaired, so make sure it gets enough food and aggressive fish are not mixed with it. Suitable tank mates include Malawi cichlids such as Placidochromis electra, or just a single male with several females of his own kind.

Availability: Aulonocara are bred commercially in Europe and the Far East. Most retailers should be able to get them through UK-based wholesalers or by importing direct.

This particular fish was on sale at Chiltern Aquatics in Bedfordshire.

Price: £34.99 each.

This item first appeared in the March 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.