Peacock Cichlid Complete Care Guide: Types, Colors & More

Peacock Cichlids are small, bottom dwelling fish that are native to east Africa.

Their brilliantly diverse colors and fantastic patterns have made them extremely popular.

Unlike other Cichlids they are not aggressive and they make excellent additions to a temperate freshwater tank. Although they are solitary fish they can be kept in small communities.

Peacocks are very active fish and provide great entertainment in all manner of ways. Whether they are digging up plants, scavenging for bottom dwelling prey or brooding eggs in their mouth, they will always be entertaining to watch.

Are you thinking about adding a splash of color and excitement to your tank?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this colorful fish

Peacock Cichlid

What is a Peacock Cichlid?

Peacock Cichlids (Aulonocara) are African Cichlids native to Lake Malawi in east Africa.

They commonly inhabit the deepest parts of the lake near the sandy benthos. Here they primarily feed on small organisms including invertebrates and crustaceans.

There are many Peacock Cichlids and they make up the entire Aulonocara genus that sits within the very diverse Cichlidae family. There are at least 20 different types; however only 7 of these Peacock Cichlid species are suitable for home aquariums.

Peacocks are well known for being extremely colorful and you can find them in many different colors and patterns. They get their name in association with the terrestrial bird whose feathers feature a bold array of colors.

Alongside their stunning appearances, these small fish are very friendly and active.

You can expect them to live up to 6-8 years.

On average they cost around $6-20 per fish, with males often being more expensive.

Key Facts:

  • Experience Required: Beginner.
  • Nicknames: Peacocks or Peacock African Cichlids.
  • Color Forms: Red (most popular).
  • Size: 4-6 inches.
  • Tank Size: Minimum 55+ gallon.
  • Tank Temperature: 74-82°F.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Stunning colors
  • Very active
  • Easy to look after
  • Fun feeding displays

Cons:

  • Can be territorial
  • Destroy plants
  • Need a lot of space

Appearance and Size

Sunburst Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlids are known for their colors.

Males in particular have extremely bold colors.

They come in many different color varieties some of which are shimmery or patterned. Juveniles and females both appear a dull grey color, whereas mature males come in a bright array of iridescent yellow, red, blue, purple, orange, or gold. Some colors are found naturally in the wild whilst others are selectively bred in captivity.

Their difference in patterns and color variations are not determined by mating status or mood. In fact they are actually determined by which region of the lake they inhabit.

Peacock Cichlids’ morphology is typical of a fusiform fish, with 6 fins including a long spiny dorsal fin that extends the length of their spine.

They generally grow to between 4-6 inches in length with females often being smaller than the males.

Peacock Cichlid Types

There are over 20 different species of Peacocks known to inhabit the Malawi lake.

However, only a handful of these can be kept in home aquariums. The most popular are:

  • Red Peacock Cichlid: These are the most popular variety and they have bright red bodies with white speckles. Some varieties also have brilliant blue tints scattered throughout their fins.
  • OB Peacock Cichlid: They have a bold red body and are covered in patches of dark blue. Patches occur from the head to the caudal and dorsal fins.
  • Blue Peacock Cichlid: These Peacocks have a blue body with darker blue vertical stripes appearing from the dorsal fin to the caudal. The boldness of their colors is largely related to their habitat, gender, and age.
  • Strawberry Peacock Cichlid: They have a reddish pink body and some blue spots that cover their fins.
  • Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid: Just like the Blood Parrot Cichlid, there is also a blood variety. These Peacocks look very similar to the Strawberry variety but Dragon Bloods have a very subtle spotted pattern on their bodies.

Habitat and Aquarium

These fish are native to Lake Malawi.

This lake is entirely freshwater and has a water chemistry that is relatively consistent year round.

In your tank setting you must maintain a constant environment. The water should be as clean as possible to mimic the naturally clear waters of the East African lake. Fluctuations in water parameters will likely increase risk of disease so we advise you regularly monitor tank conditions using both pH readers and thermometers.

You will need a 55 gallon tank for a single Peacock Cichlid.

Each additional Peacock will need 20 gallons.

As active fish they need swimming space so make sure to get a wide tank as opposed to taller thinner tanks.

  • Temperature: 74-82°F
  • pH: 7.5-8.5
  • Hardness: 4-6 dGH
  • Flow: Light
  • Substrate: Soft gravel or sand

Peacock Cichlids are bottom feeders and hunt for food along the benthos of Lake Malawi; this means you should never use gravel or rocky substrata in your tank. Instead use soft and sandy sediments that won’t damage their gills.

They will also need hiding places as this helps reduce territorial aggression.

Rock and driftwood décor are perfect for this.

Plants are also a good option for tank décor.

However, as your peacocks will dig and disturb the surrounding flora, you will need hardy plants that are not easily disturbed. Java Fern and Hornwort are good additions.

Care

Peacock Cichlids are hardy fish.

However, they can be affected by fluctuation in water parameters. Maintaining a good care routine is essential in keeping them healthy.

If not cared for properly they are susceptible to various diseases.

The most common disease affecting Peacocks is named after their native river, known as Malawi bloat or dropsy.

This is caused by poor nutrition and liver dysfunction. A common sign that your Peacocks might be experiencing this is noticeable bloating of the belly alongside loss of appetite, pale feces and difficult or irregular breathing.

There are, however, ways you can reduce the chances of this happening. You should regularly check tank parameters and change 25% of tank water every 2 days until the fish recovers.

Other common freshwater diseases that might harm your peacocks include tuberculosis and swim bladder disease. These can result from poor diets or overindulgence in protein and parasites.

Aulonocara

Feeding and Diet

Peacock Cichlids are omnivorous but most of their diet comes from live proteins.

These predators enjoy delving to depths to feed on bottom dwellers. These often include small adult and juvenile invertebrate insects and crustaceans.

Within your tank it is best to imitate this feeding behavior by providing sinking pellets.

These cichlid pellets will fall to the bottom of the tank and contain all the needed nutrients they require to be healthy.

You should also give them meat and vegetable supplements for a balanced diet.

Make sure to avoid worms and mammalian meat as this can cause Malawi bloat.

They need to be fed several small meals a day. This will help to reduce the risk of overfeeding and prevent obesity. It can also help to maintain stable water conditions due to minimized inputs of organic material at any one time.

Try 3 feeding sessions a day for 5 minutes each time.

What Food Can They Eat?

The best food to feed your Peacock Cichlids include:

  • Insects
  • Daphnia
  • Water fleas
  • Frozen brine shrimp
  • Frozen daphnia
  • Pellets
  • Flakes

Behavior

Peacock Cichlids are very easy going and you need not worry too much about them.

They can be territorial especially when they are ready to breed. However, they are less aggressive than most Cichlids and compared to the Flowerhorn Cichlid they are angelic.

It is always good to observe each fish and provide them with outlets for their aggressive tendencies (for example, providing more space or enough caves/crevices).

These brightly colored fish are extremely active and spend most of their time exploring the sandy substrate at the bottom of their natural habitat. Here they sense the movement of potential prey among the sand. This predatory behavior can also be seen in tank settings and can be extremely interesting to watch.

Most males spend most of their time in isolation swimming alone. However when it comes to breeding, they seek out females and become polygamous.

Tank Mates

Peacock Cichlids are peaceful and active fish that will share tank space well with other species known for similar habitats.

Fish that are also found in Lake Malawi make great tank mates. These will likely be other forms of non-aggressive cichlids.

A good way to tell if a fish will fit in well with your Peacock Cichlids is to compare the water parameters. These conditions need to match the parameters of your Peacocks. Friendly peaceful fish are the best to pair with peacocks especially those that prefer the upper regions of the tank. Some of the best Peacock Cichlid tank mates include:

You can also keep Peacock Cichlids together.

If you give them enough space this will recreate natural conditions and to help avoid territorial behaviors between Peacocks. It is also advised that only 1 male should be kept per 2 females.

You should avoid more aggressive fish including other more aggressive Cichlids, Betta Fish, and Tiger Barbs.

Breeding

Male Peacocks in the wild naturally travel alone.

When they are ready to mate they become polygamous. They will take any chance they can get to mate with females.

You can breed Peacock Cichlids in home aquariums, but there are a few things you need to do to help this process along.

  1. Only have 1 male in the tank during breeding as a big part of their mating routine is hinged on claiming space.
  2. Give them ample space and crevices to hide. If there is not enough space males will seek new space which can lead to fighting.
  3. Finally, when initiating breeding among cichlids, elevate the tank temperature only slightly and slowly to the upper end of their temperature range. Be careful as they are very sensitive to sudden changes.

When the male is ready to mate he will move his body in a pattern and “dance” to try to gain the female’s attention.

If they are successful the female will lay eggs in front of the male’s territory (in the wild this would usually be outside a cave). The male will then fertilize these eggs.

As mouth brooding fish the female will hold the eggs in her mouth after fertilization.

Do not be surprised if you see this; the female is not eating the eggs!

She will then retreat to the cave to incubate them. Usually this incubation lasts 1 month and can result in between 1-48 fry at the end of the mating process.

Facts about Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlid
Other Common Names: Peacocks
Scientific Name: Aulonocara
Family Name: Cichlidae
Distribution: Lake Malawi
Size: 4-6 inches
Color: Blue, red, gold, yellow, patterned
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Peaceful
Lifespan: 6-8 years
Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Tank Mate Compatibility: Peaceful non-aggressive upper tank dwelling fish

Final Thoughts

Peacock Cichlids are some of the most stunningly beautiful freshwater fish.

If you can provide them with stable water conditions then they can provide endless color and entertainment for your tank.

There are many different color morphs to choose from and each with their own colors and patterns.

Their susceptibility to dangerous diseases is something you should not overlook but caring for these active fish should be no problem for most aquarists.

Which do you think is the most beautiful color morph? Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.