|Genus & Species: Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi|
|Common Names: Lemon Jake Peacock Cichlid, Fairy Cichlid, Freiberg’s Peacock Cichlid, Malawi Butterfly, Jake Cichlid|
|Temperature: 76 – 82.5ºF (24.5 – 28ºC)|
|pH: 7.7 – 8.6|
|GH: 8.0 – 18 dGH|
|Max Size: 15 – 17 cm (6 – 6.7 inches)|
|Lifespan: 10 years|
|Depth Preference: Mid dweller|
|Tank Size: 55 – 80 gallons|
One of the most popular African cichlids in the aquarium hobby is the lemon jake peacock cichlid, which is likely due to their display of various colorations and patterns that are uncommon in most other species and has a calmer disposition than most other cichlids.
Origin & Habitat
Lemon jake peacock cichlids are a freshwater species of fish endemic to the southern areas of Lake Malawi. They can be found near the Mumbo, Nkudzi, Monkey Bay, Nankumba, Mumbo, Namalenje, Mphandikucha, Chinyankhwazi, Chinyamwezi, and Domwe Islands, as well as Otter Point, Cape Maclear, Makokala reef, Mpanga rocks, Undu reef.
In their natural habitat, which largely consists of sandy substrates with plenty of scattered rocks, they can be found in shallow water habitats that resemble caves that are between 2 and 35 meters deep. Alternatively, they could be under overhangs or deeper crevices within the rocks that are large enough to house a group. The water is typically quite clear, with up to 20 meters of visibility.
Lemon Jake Peacock Cichlid Care
A natural display of sand-like substrate and several rocks that can both form caverns and carve out a variety of territories for the male would make up the ideal aquarium aquascape. Each male will look for his own territory, but the dominant male will get first dibs.
A thin coating of fine gravel or sand should be present on the top layer of the substrate, but not too much so that it may hide your fish when they dig. As these cichlids have a tendency to stir up the substrate, the best substrates are those that do not cloud the water.
Since lemon jake peacock cichlids are particularly sensitive to declining water quality and changes in water parameters, they should never be introduced to an aquarium that is still developing its nitrogen cycle.
Using multiple filters to provide a significant surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow on is the best approach to obtain the needed stability and adequate oxygenation. This will also aid in generating a reasonable flow—one that is neither too strong nor too weak—within the water column.
For those wanting to establish a biotope replicating their natural environment, vallisneria is the only aquatic plant from Lake Malawi that is currently available in most places. However, java fern and anubias are two other aquatic plant species that are capable of surviving in hard water.
Lemon Jake Peacock Cichlid Diet & Feeding
Lemon jake peacock cichlids are opportunist hunters that are carnivorous by nature, predominately feeding on benthic invertebrates in sandy substrates.
They will slowly swim slightly above the sand in order to identify hydrodynamic cues produced by buried prey and then attack the prey directly. Wider lateral line canals, which are assumed to be more responsive to water flows, are present in all species of Aulonocara. Species of Aulonocara are formidable predators in the dark and have a broader range of prey detection than any other cichlid in Lake Malawi.
The best sources of food for the lemon jake peacock cichlid consist of live or frozen blood worms, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, snails, insect larvae, and other microworms. To satisfy their carnivorous diet, these are all high in protein and largely comparable to the wild prey that they would naturally find.
They will readily consume commercially prepared flake or pellet food, but it is advised to make sure that they are of a high-quality source capable of sinking to the bottom of the tank and mostly contains the ingredients indicated above.
Fish that are carnivores have small digestive tracts that are susceptible to bloat and overfeeding. The lemon jake peacock cichlid should ideally only receive two small meals each day, each of which should be something it can finish in under a minute.
The idea is to keep your cichlids lean, if they are gaining too much bulk width-wise, cut back on their feeding. Even though the majority of domesticated species of fish are larger than their wild counterparts, overfed fish do not survive as long.
Tank Mates & Temperament
Despite having some semi-aggressive characteristics, lemon jake peacock cichlids are generally peaceful—much more so than most other territorial cichlid species.
Females are often found in foraging groups, whereas the dominant males are sedentary and aggressively territorial. Nearby, usually in groups, live females and sometimes other less dominant males, while the dominant male guards his territory usually inside of rocks or caves.
It would be ideal to only house one male with a few females in aquariums that are 80 gallons or smaller. Since males can be aggressive in their pursuit of females, it is typically advised to have a ratio of 1 male to 3 or more females in order to diffuse aggression.
They are not the ideal choice for a community tank with large predatory fish or mbuna; having hyperactive fish swimming nearby can simply lead to unneeded stress.
Its stunning colorations might degrade if this species is consistently harassed by other community members. Your aquarium will become more colorful and lively if you add peaceful species of fish. Multiple males should only be kept in large aquariums that are more than 125 gallons in size and have enough room for multiple territories.
On rare occasions, males might perceive other fish with identical color patterns as rivals and may react aggressively. Additionally, it is best to avoid other Aulonocara species because they have the potential to hybridize and the females are typically impossible to distinguish from hybridized specimens.
Fish smaller than 2 or 3 inches in size shouldn’t be introduced to lemon jake peacock cichlids since they will consume any fish that is capable of fitting in their mouth.
Ideal tank mates for the lemon jake peacock cichlid include larger peaceful bottom-dwelling species of lake malawi cichlids, dwarf cichlids, loaches, catfish, and plecos. Additionally, larger species of danios, barbs, rainbowfish, and tetras that are not extremely active can be successfully introduced within the restrictions of similar water parameters.
It is best to modify the decor in order to separate established territories when adding additional tank mates to a cichlid aquarium. Peaceful schooling fish also act as excellent dither fish, lessening the aggression towards other fish.
Male & Female Differences
Lemon jake peacock cichlids have a number of traits that make them easy to distinguish between male and female; however, sexual dimorphism is absent in younger individuals. Males will exhibit substantially brighter colorations and have a patch that resembles eggs on their anal fins.
Additionally, males have the potential to grow to be roughly 50% larger than females, with an average length of 6 inches as opposed to 4 inches for females at their maximum length.
Breeding & Spawning
Lemon jake peacock cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders that will spawn frequently in an established aquarium, but you should move them or keep them in a breeding tank if you want to produce as many fry as possible.
They become sexually mature at roughly 12 months old, plus or minus a couple of months. It is recommended to have one or two extra tanks on hand when buying a batch of lemon jake peacock cichlids with the intention of breeding them. Once you have located your first dominant male, who will be the most colorful individual, you will want to relocate him to another tank for the next dominant male to emerge.
In order to avoid conflict with the dominant male, younger males tend to withhold their vivid colorations as long as they can when in larger groups. You can continue removing the new dominant male until it seems like there are only females left. This will enable you to separate the males from the females while having a number of males available to breed with the females.
Each breeding tank can hold one male and three to four females, and it should be at least 40 to 60 gallons in size. Depending on personal preference, a breeding tank may have a bare bottom or a sandy bottom. You’ll need a cave-like structure, whether it’s built of rocks, pvc, or a small pot that’s been fixed to the ground and flipped on its side.
A few additional decorations will enrich their environment and likely encourage spawning behavior, without going overboard so that you can still easily observe them.
The water parameters should be set to the above-mentioned ranges, with the pH in the higher range of 8.0 – 8.5 and a temperature of 79ºF (26ºC). When it comes to effectively breeding a pair of lemon jake peacock cichlids, maintaining water quality will be crucial. Large, frequent water changes as well as thorough cleaning of the substrate will be required.
In the tank where the spawning will occur, the dominant male will make an effort to entice a female to the territory he has established. At this stage, it is crucial to keep an eye on your fish. Typically, you will notice that some females may not emerge to eat when you are feeding, which is perfectly normal, and additional inspection may indicate that a female is carrying eggs.
For 3 weeks, females typically carry the eggs, at which time they usually withdraw inside the spawning cave. Females typically hold the eggs for 3 weeks, and they usually retreat into the spawning cave during this period. You can let your female carry the fry for the full 3 weeks; at that point, the fry will be free-swimming and prepared to eat.
Younger females frequently swallow the eggs shortly after spawning, it may take a few attempts before they learn. It’s important to keep in mind that there is no parental care, and if the female is not removed after the fry are free-swimming, she might accidentally consume the fry that she spits out.
The adults should ideally be taken out of the tank at this point or placed in a breeding box inside the breeding tank. Similarly, if the female spits out fry in the breeding tank, it is highly likely that all of the adults in the tank will consume the fry.
Feeding newly hatched baby brine shrimp and infusoria as they begin to swim freely is an easy way to take care of the fry.
Donald S. Johnson first described the lemon jake peacock cichlid (Aulonocara Jacobfreibergi) in 1974. The specific name honors Jacob Freiberg, a fish importer, and collector of this particular species from Verona, New Jersey.
Since then, this Aulonocara species has remained one of the most popular in the aquarium hobby. Through selective breeding and hybridization, a variety of color variants, including red and yellow, are presently available.
Martin Genner and George Turner. Ancient Hybridization and Phenotypic Novelty within Lake Malawi’s Cichlid Fish Radiation. 2012
Margot Schwalbe and Jacqueline Webb. Same prey, different strategies: how sensory morphology and behavior differ between two species of Lake Malawi cichlids. 2012