Fairy Cichlid (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi) Species Profile: Care, Tank Size, Food & Tank Mates

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Fairy cichlid)

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Fairy Cichlids are counted among the most colorful peacock cichlids, and they look incredibly striking and are fun to observe. If you are a fishkeeper who values the aesthetic of the fish in your tank, Aulonocara jacobfreibergi might be a perfect choice. 

While the fairy cichlid is good-looking, this species is territorial and has some specialized care requirements. It is one of the rare species of Auloncara that can stand up to Mbunas, and this temperament asserts itself with time.

Looking forward to adding this fish to your cichlid aquarium? Here’s the comprehensive guide that will take you through the fairy cichlid care fundamentals to enjoy keeping this species in your tank without any hassle. 

Species Summary

The Fairy Cichlids (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi) is a freshwater cichlid species. Native to Lake Malawi, it’s generally found in the southern portion of the lake with populations known from Undu Reef, Boadzulu Island, Mambo Island, Otter Point, Domwe island, Mara Rocks, Nankumba, Hongi Island, and Nkhudzi. 

While the scientific name of this species is Aulonocara jacobfreibergi, they are commonly known as African Butterfly Peacock, Fairy Cichlid, Lemon Jake Peacock, Malawi Butterfly, Freiberg’s Peacock, and Eureka Red Peacock.

It belongs to the Peacock group of the Lake Malawi Cichlids, and the scientific name honors the fish importer Jacon Freiberg. This fish generally shows a preference for rocky caves, which contrasts with many other Aulonocara species that like swimming in an open expanse of sand. 

The genus Aulonocara currently has 22 recognized species that live in deeper waters than other Malawi cichlids. Don’t confuse Aulonocara species (peacocks) with peacock bass, an entirely different group of fish endemic to the Amazon basins in tropical South America.

Scientific Name:Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
Common Name:African Butterfly Peacock, Fairy Cichlid, Lemon Jake Peacock, Malawi Butterfly, Freiberg’s Peacock, and Eureka Red Peacock
Origin:Lake Malawi
Aggressiveness:Aggressive
Size:8 inches (20 cm)
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
pH:7.5 to 8.5
Temperature:73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
KH: 9 – 19
Minimum tank size:55 gallons
Diet:Omnivorous

Appearance

Fairy Cichlid

Fairy Cichlids are widely popular among aquarists for their stunning beauty and colorful patterns. 

Males are more colorful than females. They develop a metallic blue shade on their face and from just past their pectoral fins down to their tails. This hue gives a contrasting effect with the bright red color present on the upper portion of the back just before their dorsal fins, behind their gills, and the lower edge of the pelvic, anal, and lower half of their tail fin.

However, like many haplochromine members, several variables are available in different sizes and colorations depending on the location they originate from, including:

  • A. jacobfreibergi “Eureka”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Eureka albino”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Undu Reef”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Otter Point”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Hongi Island”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Cape Kaiser”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Tsano rock”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Cape Maclear”
  • A. jacobfreibergi “Nkudzi”

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Fairy Cichlid) size

The average Fairy Cichlid size is about 5.9 inches (15 cm); Males can sometimes grow up to 7 inches (17cm ), with a female fairy cichlid being around 4 inches ( 10cm). 

When sold in stores, this species is usually about 1-2 inches long. However, they have a fairly moderate growth rate with 1 inch every three months.

If you want to make sure your fish grow to their potential size, it’s important to take care of them seriously from the day you bring them home. A well-balanced diet, multiple times feeding a day, good water quality, and enough space to move around freely in the tank are all essential for their growth and health.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of fairy cichlid is between 8 to 10 years. However, this lifespan assumes optimal care regarding water conditions, tank setup, and diet. 

The long lifespan of the fish doesn’t mean that you can skimp on fish care. They are also prone to health concerns; hence, offer them a good level of care and well-balanced food to add years to their life. 

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Fairy Cichlid) Care

Fairy cichlids that are found in the Northern habitat of Lake Malawi often swim in pure rocky or places with large boulders, while specimens from the Southern part of the lake prefer areas with a mixture of scattered rocks and sandy bottom, and males may possess territories in larger caves. 

If you want to recreate their natural habitat in your home aquarium, use plenty of rocks and some sandy substrate at the bottom.

Fairy Cichlids are hardy fish, but like all Lake Malawi Cichlids, they are susceptible to Malawi bloat, which is mainly triggered by stress. Minimizing stress to keep your tank as stable and consistent as possible is the key to a healthy environment for your Fairy Cichlids.

Here’re some of the Aulonocara jacobfreibergi care guidelines to follow. 

Tank Size

A minimum aquarium tank of 55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″) is required for a single adult Fairy Cichlid. However, it is recommended to go with at least 75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″) or more if you want to keep a group of them. 

As we mentioned earlier, the variations of A. jacobfreibergi are found in different habits; some prefer a rocky habitat, and others prefer a sandy bottom with some scattered rocks.

A larger tank provides enough space that lets you create a more visually appealing setup that can be made to accommodate both.

Water Parameters

Fairy cichlids thrive in a water environment that mimics the conditions of their native Lake Malawi. Water quality is the most important since deteriorating water quality is the number one cause of stress in aquarium fish. 

These species appreciate sufficiently oxygenated water, but they don’t like too strong currents. They are also messy fish. An effective filtration system is a must to handle the additional biological load. A filter with an output between 4-5 times the volume of your aquarium is ideal.

In their native habitat, Lake Malawi, water chemistry is very stable and hardly changes. Hence, these species require consistent water conditions to thrive. In addition, African Rift lake cichlids require slightly hard alkaline water, but they can’t survive in full brackish waters.

Stick to the water parameters mentioned below before adding these colorful species to your tank. 

  • pH: 7.5 to 8.5
  • Water Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Hardness: 9 – 19
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <10 ppm

Stay on top of the water conditions with water changes of at least 25% – 50% every week to maintain water quality and prevent stress. 

As any cichlids fish keeper knows, keeping the water clean is essential for the health of your fish. These delicate fish come from clear waters in their natural habitat. You must keep the water as clean as possible.

Decor (Plants and Substrate)

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi otter point

In the wild, A. Jacobfreibergi lives either in pure rocky habitats or an area mixed with rocks and sand. The tank should have open expanses of sand with many rocky areas, including caves. You can use the ocean rock to build sturdy foundations and stretch from the bottom to near the water’s surface. Don’t overdo it, be sure to leave open spaces.

Generally, live plants do not do well with Lake Malawi Cichlids because these fish will destroy these plants apart in short order. However, many aquarists had success with Amazon swords with a pH of 7.0.

While the coral sand or Aragonite are recommended, these species feel safer over a darker substrate. So, an crushed lava rock substrate with a dark color will work perfectly. A little bit of coral sand on top of the substrate can help keep the water hard and alkaline.

Food

Like most peacock cichlids, A. jacobfreibergi is an omnivore, but it’s a natural predator, and its diet consists mainly of zooplankton and small invertebrates in the wild. 

In the aquarium, their diet will differ, but it’s easy to manage. A well-planned diet for your Fairy cichlids should include both meaty and vegetable foods. 

A good quality flake or pellet food can serve as a base diet. The NLS Cichlid Formula (1mm) is the best food on the market. You can supplement this with live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, Mysis shrimp, and bloodworms.

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Vegetables such as blanched spinach, zucchini, broccoli, or peas are also a good addition to their diet. A varied diet will help bring out their best colors and maintain their health.

Feed your Fairy cichlids 1-2 times per day, only enough that they can consume within a minute or two. Uneaten food will quickly pollute the tank and lead to poor water quality. 

Tank Mates

The Fairy Cichlid is best kept in groups of 1 male with several females in specie only aquarium. Since male fairy cichlids are territorial, you should not keep two males unless you have a very large tank that can create different territories for each harem.

If you decide to keep them with other fish, be sure to choose appropriate tank mates. These cichlids are peaceful toward their own kind. Your Fairy cichlids will do well with tank mates of a similar size and temperament as long as there are not two males.

Additionally, this fish can be kept with Utaka Cichlids and midwater Haps, including Copadichromis, Placidochromis, and Cyrtocara. 

You can also consider some quieter Mbuna, like Labidochromis caeruleus. In a multi-species aquarium, you should make sure that there are only one peacock species in the tank to avoid hybridization. 

Breeding

Fairy cichlids are some of the fascinating fish in the world. Not only are they beautiful, but they also have an interesting breeding process. 

All Aulonocara species are maternal mouthbrooders, and the A. jacobfreibergi is no exception. Their breeding process is quite fascinating. Typically, they reach sexual maturity around 4 inches.

When ready to spawn, the coloration of the male becomes much more intense, and he becomes more aggressive, especially in pursuit of females. Therefore, keeping a ratio of one male to 4 or more females is the best start. 

The male will build a nest by scooping out a depression in the substrate and fanning it with their tails. Once the nest is complete, the male will start to court the female by displaying his beautiful colors and nipping her fins.

The female will lay a batch of eggs, after which she immediately scoops them up in her mouth. At the same time, the male will release his milt and form many ‘egg spots’ on his anal fin. The female will mistake his milt for her eggs and take them into her mouth, which results in fertilization.

The eggs may be held in her mouth for up to 2 weeks, during which time she will not eat. After two weeks, the fry is released into the wild and is typically around ½ an inch long.

The A. jacobfreibergi is not a tricky species to breed, but it does require some patience and dedication. 

Final Thoughts

That’s all about Aulonocara jacobfreibergi care. The guide comprises all essential aspects related to the fairy cichlid care so you can make a wise decision. This beautiful species is easy to care for, making them a desirable pet for beginners and pro aquarists alike. 

Keep them with the ideal tank mates and offer them a well-balanced diet to let them thrive in your home aquarium. Make sure to replicate their natural habitat, along with regular water changes to make them feel comfortable and happy in their new home. 

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over ten years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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