Aulonocranus dewindti

Aulonocranus dewindti

Aulonocranus dewindti is a mouthbrooding cichlid who inhabits the sandy bottom of Lake Tanganyika; one of the Great Rift Valley lakes on the African continent. Its home is the so called intermediate habitat, which is a biotope consisting of a sandy bottom speckled with a lot of rocks and empty shells. Aulonocranus dewindti is well adapted to a life in this biotope and has developed enlarged sensory pores on the head which help it detect crustaceans and insect larvae hiding in the sand. Aulonocranus dewindti belongs to a group of Tanganyika cichlids known as featherfins. As the name suggests, their common characteristics are elongated, delicate fins, somewhat resembling the feathers of a bird.

Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola'

This article will focus on breeding Aulonocranus dewindti specimens collected near Ikola, in Tanzania. Ikola is situated on the western shore, in the upper third of the southern half of Lake Tanganyika. Since the specimens are collected near Ikola they are referred to as Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola' to distinguish them from specimens native to other parts of the lake. A lot of the guidelines included in this article may prove highly useful for breeding other Aulonocranus dewindti variants too.


Several males can be kept together in the same aquarium, but only if the aquariums is big enough and well decorated. Keeping three females for each male have proven successful in the past, but still do not know if this is the ideal ratio. Including a lot of suitable hiding spots is important, because the dominant male can harass submissive males and females quite a bit. By keeping more than one male in the aquarium you reduce the amount of aggression experienced by the females, since the dominant male will need to focus part of his attention on keeping the other males in check.

Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola' is a nest builder, just like all the other members of its species. In the wild, the territorial males will set up breeding colonies and try to attract females. You must therefore include items in the aquarium set up that can be used for nest building, such as shells, crushed corals and small rocks if you want to breed Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola'. Upside-down flower pots are also appreciated, as well as pieces from broken ones. In the wild, the males who manage to build the most impressive nests have a higher chance of attracting females, so don’t be surprised if the males in your aquarium create huge nest from whatever you give them. 


Lake Tanganyika is a lake with hard, alkaline water. The pH-value in the aquarium should therefore be kept around pH 8.2 and the water hardness above 120 ppm. The recommended water temperature is 76-80 degrees F. Keep in mind that Lake Tanganyika is a stable lake and Tanganyika cichlids are not used to rapid changes in water temperature or chemistry. Changing 25% of the water every 5th day is a good rule of thumb. 


As mentioned in the introduction, wild Aulonocranus dewindti cichlids feed primarily on crustaceans and insect larvae that they manage to detect in the sand using specialized sensory pores. In the aquarium, they will therefore appreciate a diet that consists chiefly of crustaceans and insects larvae. They should also be given algae based food, such as spirulina flakes. Aulonocranus dewindti cichlids are happy eaters in captivity and will normally accept most food types, from cichlid flakes and pellets to frozen blood worms and live brine shrimp. Varying the diet is important if you want to avoid nutritional deficiencies.

Breeding Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola'

If you provide the cichlids with a suitable environment, they will take care of the rest themselves. Several females can be brooding simultaneously without problem. You can either let the offspring stay with the adults in the aquarium until their mother grows tired of them and wants to spawn again, or force the brooding female to spit out her fry in a separate aquarium filled with water from the parent aquarium. You should let her brood for at least 10 days since it can be hard for younger fry to survive without their mother. Aulonocranus dewindti 'Ikola' fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flake food. If kept on a nutritious diet, they can exceed ¾ inch in length within four weeks.

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