The Aulonocara Fort Maguire can be quite variable, but is gorgeous in any of its natural colorings!

The Aulonocara Fort Maguire Aulonocara hansbaenschi is a moderately sized Peacock cichlid that grows to a length of about 6 inches (15 cm). This is a beautiful fish that has long been commonly known as the African Peacock and Malawi Cichlid. There are a variety of different natural hues creating great combinations of oranges to reds and electric blues. Hence this cichlid is also known by several other common names that depict its bright appearance including Red Shoulder Peacock, Aulonocara Red Flush, and Firebird Cichlid.

This fish is a part of a small group of cichlids that are very popular with aquarists. They come from Lake Malawi, Africa and are known as the Peacock Cichlids. Peacocks are contained in the Aulonocara genus which has only about 23 species, but with many subspecies. It is the brilliant colorations of blues, reds and yellows that have given rise to the well deserved name of “Peacock cichlids”.

The Aulonocara, along with the Utaka Cichlids Copadichromis and other non-Mbuna’s, are members of the Haplochromis group. Haplochromis is the type genus of free-roaming browsers sometimes call “haps” or “happies”. They live in more sandy areas and open waters, and are generally larger cichlids than their Mbuna “rock-dwelling” counterparts. They also are more peaceful cichlids and should not be housed with the highly active and aggressive Mbunas.

These fish are quite hardy and easy to care for, making them an excellent first cichlid for the beginning aquarist. Being so very handsome actually makes them very desirable for aquarists of all experience levels, and they are also favored because they are easy to breed. The variety of natural hues that this species comes in gives an aquarist a wonderful choice of color. However this fish has been heavily bred in captivity, and is so inbred that true strains are hard to find unless they are wild caught or from a reputable dealer.

Provide them with a good sized tank. A 55 gallon aquarium is the suggested minimum for a single fish, but a group will do best in 100 gallons or more. They need open space for swimming and a lot of caves where they can hide, sleep, or breed. A comfortable decor and regular water changes will make for a stress-free environment and healthy fish. These are some of the most carnivorous of the cichlids so will enjoy a meaty diet. As they become comfortable with their home and routine they become very endearing. They have an almost puppy like excitability when being fed and will push to be first in line at dinner time.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Aulonocara
  • Species: hansbaenschi
Aulonocara Fort Maguire – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish – inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L)
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 84.0° F (22.8 to 28.9&deg C)
Enter a Freshwater Aquarium
  • My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Popular Searches

Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Aulonocara Fort Maguire Aulonocara hansbaenschi was described by Meyer, Riehl and Zetzsche in 1987. They are endemic to Lake Malawi, Africa and found in the southern part of lake between Masinje and Fort Maguire. There are currently only 23 described Aulonocara species, though a number of subspecies also exist.

This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Vulnerable (VU) because it is endemic to Lake Malawi and occurs in only a very limited range. They inhabit areas around Fort Maguire, Masinje Rocks, Mara Point and Thumbi West Island. Other common names it is known by include Red Shoulder Peacock, Aulonocara Red Flush, Firebird Cichlid, and Malawi Peacock.

Though most Peacocks inhabit deeper waters than other Malawi cichlids, the Aulonocara Fort Maguire is found in a bit shallower waters at about 13 – 20 feet (4 – 6 m). They like a rocky habitat and will tend to hide in the caves and crevices. Males will hold a territory in a cave and spawning occurs within. They feed from the substrate on sand dwelling invertebrates, and possibly some zooplankton. They have special sensory pores on their jaws that help them locate the crustaceans in the sand.

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara hansbaenschi
  • Social Grouping: Harems
  • IUCN Red List: VU – Vulnerable


The Aulonocara Fort Maguire is a moderate sized Peacock cichlid. It will grow to an average of about 6 inches (15 cm) in length. It can have a life span of about 6 to 10 years with proper care.

Like many of the Peacock cichlids, this species has a variety of different natural colorations. The basic male is blue with a wide red to orange/yellow band that is located just behind the gills. The top of the band tends to be more red and as the band lowers to the pelvic fins, can turn to a more yellow/orange. The have several vertical bars that are a dark brownish color from behind the wide band of red to the tail. The fins are all blue and tipped in white or ice blue. The face is blue with a hint of the red/orange coloring dotted throughout. Tail fin is mottled in the brown/red and blue coloring. Anal fin has egg spots that are sometimes hard to see.

Females are beige with brown vertical bands. Other brown areas on the females are at the very back end of the dorsal near the tail fin, the tail fin, and the anal fin (which is rounded). The facial area is a lighter brown as well. Juveniles are an burnt orange color mixed with turquoise blue with the fins having dots and dashes of turquoise as well. The chin and pelvic fins are turquoise and the anal fin is clear with orange egg spots.This fish may live 6 to 10 years.

All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.

Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense “smells” in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being “sampled” for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to “smell” the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

  • Size of fish – inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
  • Lifespan: 6 years – They have a lifespan of about 6 to 10 years with proper care

Fish Keeping Difficulty

These cichlids make a great choice for the beginning cichlid keeper, and are appealling 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.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Aulonocara Fort Maguire is primarily carnivorous. In the wild they feed on small sand-dwelling invertebrates and small amounts of zooplankton. In the aquarium provide them a varied diet and some plant matter. A quality cichlid flake or pellet food works will as their main staple, and then provide meaty supplements. Pelleted, frozen, live, and/or freeze-dried meaty foods such as daphnia, bloodworms and brine shrimp are excellent choices. You can also use shrimp mixes like the European Shrimp Mix, which costs less than other prepared foods and is just as nutritious.

Do not offer mammal meat, and avoid tubifex worms as they may contribute to a disease called “Malawi bloat”. 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.

  • Diet Type: Carnivore – They are primarily carnivorous and although they may feed on zooplankton which can contain some vegetable matter, they mostly seek out meaty foods.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet – Avoid tubifex worms, and do not offer mammal meat, as they may contribute to a disease called “Malawi bloat”.
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily – Juveniles can be fed daily, but adults need only 5 – 6 feedings a week.

Aquarium Care

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.

  • Water Changes: Weekly – Suggested water changes of 20-50% a week, as these are messy fish producing a heavy bio load.

Aquarium Setup

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. Forturnately 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.

A 55 gallon aquarium is okay for a single fish, but 100 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. 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. They prefer subdued lighting.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gal (208 L) – A 55 gallon tank is minimum suggested for a single fish, 100 gallons or more is best for a group.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting – They prefer subdued lighting.
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 84.0° F (22.8 to 28.9&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 78.8° F – Breeding temperatures are between 78.8 – 82.4° F (26 – 28° C).
  • Range ph: 7.7-8.6
  • Hardness Range: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes – Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% – a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle – These fish will swim in the bottom and middle areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Aulonocara Fort Maguire is best kept alone in a 55 gallon tank, or as a group of one male and several females in a 100 gallon tank. They are peaceful toward those of the same species as long as it is not two males, unless tank is very large and can support different territories.

This fish is best kept with their own kind as they are much more peaceful than other Malawi cichlids. Try to not house with other Aulonocaras to prevent hybridization. Can be kept with other peaceful Malawi cichlids as long as they are a different shape though a similar size.

  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Yes – In a large aquarium, 100 gallons or more is suggested, one male can be kept with several females. Two males will fight.
    • Peaceful fish (): Monitor
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat – is aggressive
    • Plants: Monitor

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are larger and more colorful with pointed dorsal and anal fins. The females are smaller and drab with rounded dorsal and anal fins.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Aulonocara Fort Maguire has been bred in captivity. Keep several females with one male for the best breeding success. All Cichlid parents tend to their young, making them easy to breed. They should have their own breeding tank. A cichlid couple guarding their babies can be a force to reckon with and this aggression is acted out on other tank mates. A 100 gallon tank is suggested They spawn best in moderately alkaline, medium hard water. Provide a pH around 8.0, hardness between 10-15 dGH, and a temperature between 78.8 – 82.4° F (26 – 28° C). The male will display an intense coloration to attract the females.

It is difficult to witness a spawning of Aulonocara Fort Maguire because it is done secretly in a cave. These cichlids are mouth brooders. This is where the females will lay the eggs and then pick them up in their mouths. After that they pick at the male’s anal fin to get him to produce “milt” or sperm. The female will then take this milt into her mouth and the eggs are fertilized at that time. She will carry them in her mouth until the fry are old enough to be able to feed on their own. With other Peacocks this takes around 21 days so it is assumed the same is true for this fish. She will nibble and eat next to nothing during this time. Never house fry from different strains in the same tank, as it will be almost impossible to tell the fry and juveniles apart (until they grow).

Try and keep the different species blood lines pure. If this does not happen, pure strains can be lost permanently, unless more are wild caught, thus depleting our natural resources. The Aulonocara Fort Maguire is listed as vulnerable, which means someday this fish may be hard to find, so keeping blood lines pure must be stressed. To prevent cross breeding, make sure if you have more than one type of Cichlid and that they are very different in shape. See more information on breeding cichlids in Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

Malawi bloat is a typical disease for African cichlids, especially if their dietary needs are not met with quality foods. They are susceptible to other typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and oxygenation. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment.

As with most fish they are susceptible to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


Pure strains of the Aulonocara Fort Maguire are sometimes found online. They vary in price with juveniles being moderately priced and adults more costly, all depending on coloring. They are always found in fish stores as long as you know what you are looking for. Often times they may just be listed under “peacock” to the uneducated eye. They may be special ordered if you are willing to wait for them if they are out of season.