Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara): Ultimate Care Guide


The Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara) is a species of African Cichlid, and they are one of the most colorful freshwater fish in world. Peacock Cichlids are native to Lake Malawi, which is an African Great Lake located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. They live near the bottom of this warm and deep body of water, searching for food in the sand. This genus has 22 recognized species of Peacock Cichlid under its name and is known to claim some of the most peaceful and friendly members of this fish family. Many members of this species are well known and identified for their multitude of stunning color patterns.

Peacock Cichlids have a broad array of coloration, including a range of blues, reds, and yellows. Their colors make their name fitting as they allude to a visually vivid bird. Not all types of Peacock Cichlids are kept in aquariums, but there are many that are common in the aquarium hobby. This includes the African Butterfly Peacock, Flavescent Peacock, Sunshine Peacock, Nkhomo-benga Peacock, Maulana Bicolor Peacock, Aulonocara Fort Peacock, Maguire Cichlid, and Aulonocara Blue Gold Cichlid. The most popular member of the Peacock Cichlid species is the Aulonocara nyassae, which appears in bright blue colorations.

Peacock Cichlids are very active swimmers and spend most of their time on the lookout for prey. They exhibit high energy behaviors in the wild and captivity, making them entertaining aquarium fish to watch and look at. The Peacock Cichlid can be territorial but are generally passive in nature and are very calm when they have enough space. While most Cichlids communicate their emotions by changing their colors, the Peacock Cichlid’s colors are species-specific and genetically defined, meaning they do not change. Because of this, the Peacock Cichlid generally communicates through its behavior, such as digging holes or other general means of body language.

Peacock Cichlid
Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara)

Peacock Cichlid Care

The Peacock Cichlid has a low maintenance care plan that makes them an ideal member of freshwater aquariums. They are suitable for beginner to intermediate level aquarists, having specific care requirements and water condition needs to ensure their health and happiness. Having a high-quality water testing kit is very important when taking care of a Peacock Cichlid, because they do not interact well with unfit conditions or those that are changing often. Consistency in a Peacock Cichlid habitat will help to ensure that they live a long life in an environment that most closely matches their natural habitat.

Peacock Cichlid Temperature

The Peacock Cichlid needs a water temperature in their tank that closely mimics that of their natural habitat of Lake Malawi, falling in the upper range between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Their water temperature should also be kept as consistent as possible and change in conditions should be limited. Testing the water frequently will help to limit the amount of change that the tank experiences, keeping the parameters consistent and routine.

Peacock Cichlid Water pH

Peacock Cichlids prefer tank water with a pH that ranges from 7.5 to 8.5, with slight alkalinity. They also thrive the best in water that has a hardness between 4 and 6 dH, closely matching the water quality in Lake Malawi.

Peacock Cichlid Size

The average size of a male Peacock Cichlid is six inches at full growth, while a female will average four inches. The growth of this species can be influenced by where they came from, as well as the quality of their care. The Peacock Cichlid can grow up to a weight of 29 pounds at full maturity.

Peacock Cichlid Tank Size

Because Peacock Cichlids are such skilled swimmers and active hunters, a recommended tank size for them is between 55 and 60 gallons. This size tank will give them enough room to thrive like they would in the wild. This species can also exhibit territorial behavior, so a community of them will need a tank of at least 100 gallons in order to stay happy.

Peacock Cichlid Food & Diet

Peacock Cichlids are omnivores but as born predators, they dive to the bottom of their habitat to feed on invertebrate. Their diet in an aquarium should be made up of mostly sinking pellets, with supplements of meat and vegetables getting rotated in. Peacock Cichlids also enjoy feeding on live insects, brine shrimp, and water fleas. To avoid Malawi bloat, worms and mammalian meat should be avoided.

Because Peacock Cichlids are susceptible to overeating as scavengers, they should be fed several small meals throughout the day. This will also help to limit the likelihood of a Peacock Cichlid developing obesity and assist in maintaining high quality water conditions by limiting the number of excess contaminants being entered into the habitat at one time.

Peacock Cichlid Lifespan

A healthy Peacock Cichlid will live an average of six to eight years in captivity when properly cared for. This means that they have correct water parameters, high water quality, and a suitable diet. Although rare, Peacock Cichlids have been known to even live nine to 15 years in captivity when their owners have taken their care seriously.

Peacock Cichlid Tank Setup

Because the Peacock Cichlid hunts for food at the bottom of its natural habitat, substrate that is soft and sandy is best suited for their tank. Anything too rough like rocks or gravel could damage their gills as they search for snacks, due to the fact that Peacock Cichlids eject sand from their gills when hunting. Because they can be territorial, the Peacock Cichlid will enjoy driftwood or caves in their tank that serve as hiding places. While plants can be added to a Peacock Cichlid aquarium, it is important to remember that they have a habit of digging and could damage rooted foliage.

The Peacock Cichlid is a very active fish and will need a lot of opportunity for exercise in their tank habitat. Not only will they need ample space to swim actively, but they will also benefit from having toys or a slight current introduced to their space. This will provide the Peacock Cichlid with an outlet to release their energy, which can help to combat some of their territorial tendencies in a community environment.

Peacock Cichlid Breeding

Although Peacock Cichlids usually travel alone, when they are ready to breed, they become quite polygamous. Breeding Peacock Cichlids involves some intervening, as they have a specific nature about their mating.

How to Breed Peacock Cichlids

When breeding Peacock Cichlids, the males must be given their own space and should have a dedicated room in the tank. This can be accomplished by keeping one male in a breeding tank at a time, to eliminate the possibility of fighting for a mate. Raising water temperatures to the upper limit of their preferred range gradually can encourage mating behaviors among Peacock Cichlids. Male Peacock Cichlids will perform a mating dance when they are ready to attract the attention of a suitable female.

Peacock Cichlid Eggs

When ready to breed, a female Peacock Cichlid will lay her eggs in front of a male so that he can fertilize them. Once the eggs are fertilized, the female will collect them in her mouth and enter a hiding space, or cave, to incubate them.

How Long Do Peacock Cichlids Hold Eggs?

Peacock Cichlid females will hold their eggs for 21 to 28 days before laying them to be fertilized. The females will wait until a male is ready to approach them and display mating behaviors that show they are interested in fertilizing a female’s eggs.

How Long Does It Take for Peacock Cichlids to Hatch?

Once fertilized, the Peacock Cichlid eggs take about a month to incubate before they hatch. The Peacock Cichlid is a mouth brooder, so the females hold the eggs in their mouth until they are ready to hatch.

What is the Growth Rate of Juvenile Peacock Cichlids?

Peacock Cichlid juveniles grow at a steady rate until they plateau at their full size at around two to three years old. The best way to ensure optimal and steady growth among Peacock Cichlid juveniles is to feed them a quality diet, offer options for exercise, and keep the water conditions optimum for their health.

Peacock Cichlid Male or Female

Peacock Cichlid males typically appear in brighter colors than their female counterparts, with females appearing in duller versions of the colors males exhibit. Female Peacock Cichlids are usually slightly smaller than the males, which is the most common way to tell the two apart.

Peacock Cichlid Disease

Peacock Cichlids are subject to a fatal disease called Malawi bloat, which causes loss of their appetite, abdominal inflammation, respiratory struggle, and dwelling at the bottom of the tank. This illness is caused by the excessive eating of meaty foods. Severe cases of Malawi bloat can lead to liver, kidney, and bladder harm, as well as death within one to three days.

Another illness that the Peacock Cichlid is susceptible to is known as swim bladder disease, which causes the fish to float to the top of their tank where they will struggle to eat. This disease is caused by gas or parasitic infection within the swim bladder. This illness can be avoided by not feeding the Peacock Cichlid an excess of protein or dried foods, but rather increasing their consumption of fiber and vegetables.

The Peacock Cichlid can also suffer from fish tuberculosis, which can wipe out an entire aquarium’s population of fish. Fish tuberculosis can cause loss of appetite, frayed fins, sunken abdomen, and white blotches on the body. A fish that is suspected to have fish tuberculosis should be removed from the tank immediately and the water should be treated with antibiotics or replaced entirely.

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

There are many choices of tank mates for the Peacock Cichlid, as long as they are non-aggressive in demeanor. It is also important to ensure that other members of a Peacock Cichlid tank can survive in their specific water parameters. This fish species benefits from a community environment, limiting boredom and the ability for one fish to be singled out by aggressive or bullying behaviors. Peacock Cichlids can also live in an aquarium with each other, as long as there is enough space to limit territorial or defensive behavior.

Are Peacock Cichlids Aggressive?

The Peacock Cichlid is typically very peaceful, especially when compared to other, more aggressive members of the Cichlid family. Although they can be slightly territorial, this can be avoided by providing them ample room. Ensuring there is enough space and places to hide, such as under foliage or within caves, is the key to having a community tank with Peacock Cichlids.

Examples of Compatible Tank Mates

Peacock Cichlids should be kept in a tank with other non-aggressive fish species that share their same needs in relation to water parameters and lifestyle. A few examples of tank mates that are compatible with Peacock Cichlids include Plecos, Botia Loaches, Red Eye Tetras, and Synodontis Catfish.

Examples of Incompatible Tank Mates

Peacock Cichlids should not be kept in a tank with overly aggressive fish or those that do not share the same habitat needs. A few examples of tank mates that are incompatible with Peacock Cichlids include Tiger Barbs, Oscars, Puffer Fish, and Hatchetfish.

Where Can I Find Peacock Cichlid for Sale?

Peacock Cichlids can be found for sale online and at most freshwater aquarium stores. They are a popular addition to many freshwater tanks and can be found relatively easily depending on the type. If they are not available, many stores will be able to order Peacock Cichlids when requested.

Peacock Cichlid Price

Depending on the type of Peacock Cichlid, their price usually falls on the lower end of the aquarium keeping scale. Most of these fish range in from 6 to 9 dollars, making them very affordable and popular among fishkeeping hobbyists.

Peacock Cichlid Types

There are many different types of Peacock Cichlid that are unique in their own coloration, while all remain notable and vibrant in their appearance. Each type is relatively similar in demeanor and care, with their main difference existing in their appearance and biological origin.

Strawberry Peacock Cichlid

The Strawberry Peacock Cichlid is a rare member of its family, originating from the southern part of Lake Malawi. They are bright red and pink in color, with dots scattered along their fins. The Strawberry Peacock Cichlid is often nicknamed as the “Sunburst Firefish” because of its very vibrant coloration.

OB Peacock Cichlid

OB Peacock Cichlids have very unique spotting on their surface and have a primarily red or pink body with dark blue patterns all over. They were created when a male Peacock Cichlid was crossed with a female Mbuna. These fish are considered hybrids and have been created as a result of selective breeding, which has sparked debate in the aquarist community.

Blue Peacock Cichlid

The Blue Peacock Cichlid, known by the scientific name Aulonocara nyassae, is a very popular member of its family. These males appear in bright yellows and metallic blues, while the females are usually a brown or grey color. The vibrance and coloration of the Blue Peacock Cichlid is determined by their age, gender, and location.

Sunshine Peacock Cichlid

The Sunshine Peacock Cichlid, known by the scientific name Aulonocara baenschi, is found in the eastern parts of Lake Malawi. They have brilliant yellow bodies with electric blue heads that are iridescent in nature. The Sunshine Peacock Cichlid can vary in color depending on the specific nature of the location it is from. Sadly, this type of Peacock Cichlid is a greatly threatened population and has suffered at the hands of the aquarium trade.

Albino Peacock Cichlid

The Albino Peacock Cichlid has a body that is pale in coloration, with identifiable red eyes. They have the same coloration between males and females, but male Albino Peacock Cichlids usually have eggs spots on their anal fins. This variation of the species can happen in nature but is usually a result of hybrid breeding in captivity.

Ruby Red Peacock Cichlid

The Ruby Red Peacock Cichlid exhibits red scales that range in color depending on their dominance, diet, gender, and mood. Female Ruby Red Peacock Cichlids are typically beige or orange in color, while males exhibit bright patterns of red with noticeable light stripes and a blue head.

Multicolor Peacock Cichlid

The Multicolor Peacock Cichlid are true to their name in their variation of color patterns, including yellow, red, orange, black, and blue spots. Each fish of this species has a unique pattern and were created by crossing several different species of Peacock Cichlid. The female Multicolor Peacock Cichlids have spotted color patterns but are not as bright as their male companions.

African Butterfly Peacock Cichlid

The African Butterfly Peacock Cichlid, known by the scientific name Aulonocara jacobfreibergi. is considered the most colorful out of all members of this family. Its natural colors are variable and differentiate among populations. The African Butterfly Peacock Cichlid is one of the largest members of the Peacock Cichlid family, being found in the most abundant numbers.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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