Peacock Cichlid Care Guide

Peacock Cichlid


The Peacock Cichlid is a popular freshwater fish species that belongs to the Cichlidae family. Native to Lake Malawi in East Africa, these cichlids are known for their vibrant colors and unique characteristics. With their stunning iridescent scales and intricate patterns, Peacock Cichlids are a sought-after addition to aquariums around the world.

Unique Characteristics and Features

One of the most remarkable features of Peacock Cichlids is their wide range of colors. Males, in particular, exhibit vibrant shades of blue, yellow, orange, and red, making them true showstoppers in aquarium setups. Females typically have more subdued colors but still display attractive hues.

Another distinguishing characteristic of Peacock Cichlids is their sexual dimorphism. Males often have elongated dorsal and anal fins, which contribute to their overall impressive appearance. Females, on the other hand, have shorter fins and less intense coloration. This sexual dimorphism adds visual interest and contrast to a group of these fish in a well-designed aquarium.

These cichlids are known for their peaceful temperament, especially towards other fish species. However, male Peacock Cichlids can become territorial, particularly during breeding or when multiple males are present. Providing ample hiding spots and adequate space for each fish can help minimize territorial disputes.

Peacock Cichlids are also notable for their breeding behavior. They are mouthbrooders, meaning that the females hold the fertilized eggs in their mouths until the fry hatch. This unique reproductive strategy ensures the protection and care of the offspring.

Summary Table

Common NamePeacock Cichlid
Scientific NameAulonocara spp.
Origin / DistributionLake Malawi, East Africa
Size4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm)
Aquarium SizeMinimum 30 gallons
Water ParametersTemperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C) pH: 7.8-8.6 Hardness: 8-20 dGH
DietOmnivore, primarily carnivorous
Feeding FrequencyTwice daily
TemperamentGenerally peaceful, but males can be territorial
TankmatesOther Lake Malawi cichlids, African catfish, peaceful barbs/tetras
Lifespan6 to 10 years
Care LevelIntermediate
Unique Features/AppearanceVibrant colors, iridescent scales, sexual dimorphism
Conservation StatusVaries depending on the species
Additional NotesProvide hiding spots and spacious aquarium


  • Common Name: Peacock Cichlid
  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara spp.
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Order: Perciformes

The Peacock Cichlid belongs to the family Cichlidae, which is one of the largest and most diverse fish families. It falls under the order Perciformes, which encompasses a wide range of ray-finned fish species. The scientific name for the Peacock Cichlid is Aulonocara spp., indicating that there are multiple species within the Aulonocara genus.

The common name “Peacock Cichlid” is derived from the striking and vibrant colors exhibited by the males of this species, resembling the majestic plumage of peacocks. These cichlids have captivated fish enthusiasts with their beauty and unique characteristics, making them a popular choice for aquariums worldwide.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

Peacock Cichlids are native to Lake Malawi, a large freshwater lake located in East Africa. Within the lake, they are primarily found along the rocky shorelines and sandy bottoms. Lake Malawi is renowned for its rich biodiversity and is home to a vast array of fish species.

The geographical range of Peacock Cichlids is limited to Lake Malawi and its surrounding areas. Lake Malawi itself is situated between Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The lake’s extensive size and diverse habitats provide various niches for different fish species, including the Peacock Cichlids.

In the wild, Peacock Cichlids inhabit a range of environments within Lake Malawi. They are commonly found near rocky outcrops, where they seek shelter and establish territories. The rocky areas offer plenty of crevices and caves for the fish to hide in and provide a suitable habitat for them to breed and raise their young.

Additionally, Peacock Cichlids can also be found in sandy areas of the lake, where they forage for food and search for potential mates. These fish are well-adapted to the rocky and sandy substrates of Lake Malawi and have evolved to thrive in the diverse ecological niches present in their natural habitat.

It is important to note that the natural habitat and distribution of Peacock Cichlids are limited to Lake Malawi and its immediate surroundings. In aquarium settings, it is essential to replicate their preferred rocky or sandy environments to ensure their well-being and provide them with a habitat that mimics their natural habitat as closely as possible.

Physical Appearance


Peacock Cichlids typically reach an adult size of 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. While weight can vary among individuals, it is not commonly used as a measurement for these fish species.

Coloration and Patterns

The Peacock Cichlid is renowned for its dazzling colors and intricate patterns. Males exhibit a wide range of vibrant hues, including shades of blue, yellow, orange, and red. The colors are often iridescent, producing a shimmering effect under aquarium lighting. These striking colorations serve as visual displays to attract mates and establish dominance.

Female Peacock Cichlids have a less vibrant coloration compared to males. They usually showcase more subdued hues, primarily consisting of shades of brown and gray. However, some female specimens may still display hints of coloration, albeit less pronounced than males.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

Peacock Cichlids have a sleek and streamlined body shape, typical of many cichlid species. Their bodies are laterally compressed, allowing them to navigate through rocky environments with ease. The dorsal and anal fins are elongated in males, giving them a more pronounced and elegant appearance. These elongated fins contribute to their overall majestic display and are used in courtship rituals to attract females.

Sexual Dimorphism

One of the notable features of Peacock Cichlids is sexual dimorphism, where males and females exhibit distinct physical characteristics. Males are larger than females and often possess more vibrant colors. Their fins, especially the dorsal and anal fins, are elongated and may feature extensions or filaments. Additionally, males display a higher degree of color intensity and patterning, particularly during breeding or when displaying dominance.

Females, in contrast, are generally smaller and exhibit less vibrant coloration. Their fins are shorter and have a more rounded shape. While lacking the striking colors of the males, females contribute to the overall visual balance within a group of Peacock Cichlids.

The pronounced sexual dimorphism adds to the allure of these fish species, making them visually captivating and a delight to observe in aquarium settings.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

Peacock Cichlids are generally known for their peaceful temperament, especially when compared to other cichlid species. However, it is important to note that individual behavior can vary, and certain factors, such as breeding or territorial disputes, can influence their behavior. While they may display occasional aggression, it is usually limited to interactions with conspecifics or during breeding periods.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

In community aquariums, Peacock Cichlids can coexist with a variety of other fish species, especially those that are peaceful and not overly territorial. They are known to engage in social interactions, including group swimming and occasional displays of dominance among males. Females generally display less aggression and are more tolerant of other tankmates.

Suitable Tankmates

When selecting tankmates for Peacock Cichlids, it is important to consider compatible species that share similar water parameter requirements and temperament. Suitable tankmates include other species of Lake Malawi cichlids, particularly those that inhabit different areas of the water column or occupy different niches. Additionally, peaceful African catfish species, such as Synodontis catfish, and certain peaceful species of barbs or tetras can also make good companions for Peacock Cichlids.

It is essential to provide ample hiding spots and visual barriers in the aquarium to create territories and reduce potential conflicts. Ensuring that there is sufficient space and appropriate numbers of fish within the tank can help minimize aggression and promote harmonious interactions among tankmates.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

To provide a suitable living environment for Peacock Cichlids, a minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended. However, larger tanks are beneficial as they offer more swimming space and allow for the establishment of territories.

Water Parameters

Maintaining proper water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of Peacock Cichlids. The ideal water temperature ranges from 75 to 82°F (24 to 28°C). The pH level should be kept between 7.8 and 8.6, and the water hardness (GH) should be moderate to hard, ranging from 8 to 20 dGH. Regular monitoring and appropriate water conditioning can help maintain stable and suitable water conditions.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

Peacock Cichlids require efficient filtration and aeration in their aquarium. A high-quality filtration system will help remove waste, maintain water clarity, and provide adequate oxygenation. Consider using a combination of mechanical, biological, and chemical filtration methods to ensure optimal water quality. Additionally, providing gentle water movement and aeration using air stones or water circulation pumps will help maintain oxygen levels in the tank.

Substrate Preferences

Peacock Cichlids are accustomed to sandy or rocky substrates in their natural habitat. Using a fine to medium-grained substrate, such as sand or smooth gravel, is recommended. These substrates resemble their natural environment and allow for sifting and digging behaviors.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is suitable for Peacock Cichlid aquariums. The lighting should be sufficient to provide visibility and enhance the vibrant colors of the fish without causing excessive stress. A lighting period of 8 to 10 hours per day is generally sufficient for their needs.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Peacock Cichlids appreciate a well-decorated aquarium that offers hiding places and territorial boundaries. Incorporate various types of decorations, such as rock formations, caves, and driftwood, to create a visually appealing and functional environment. These structures provide retreats and breeding sites while also mimicking their natural habitat. Additionally, live or artificial plants can be included, but keep in mind that Peacock Cichlids may uproot or eat certain plant species.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

Peacock Cichlids are omnivorous fish, meaning they consume both plant matter and animal-based foods. In the wild, their diet consists of a variety of small invertebrates, insects, crustaceans, and algae. To replicate their natural diet, it is essential to offer a balanced mix of protein-rich and plant-based foods in captivity.

Feeding Frequency

Peacock Cichlids should be fed multiple times a day, with smaller portions. This helps mimic their feeding behavior in the wild, where they would encounter small and frequent meals. Aim for two to three feeding sessions per day, ensuring that the fish can consume the food within a few minutes.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To provide a well-rounded diet for your Peacock Cichlids, consider incorporating the following:

  1. High-quality Pellets or Flakes: Use commercial pellets or flakes specifically formulated for cichlids as a staple food. These provide essential nutrients and are often fortified with vitamins and minerals.
  2. Live or Frozen Foods: Offer a variety of live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and small crustaceans. These protein-rich foods simulate their natural diet and provide enrichment.
  3. Vegetable Matter: Peacock Cichlids also benefit from vegetable matter in their diet. Include blanched spinach, peas, spirulina flakes, or other suitable plant-based foods. This provides fiber and essential nutrients.
  4. Supplementary Foods: Occasionally, you can provide treats like small pieces of fruit or live foods, such as small earthworms or insect larvae, to add variety and mimic natural foraging behaviors.
  5. Avoid Overfeeding: Be mindful not to overfeed your Peacock Cichlids, as it can lead to obesity and water quality issues. Feed them an amount they can consume within a few minutes, removing any uneaten food afterward.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

Peacock Cichlids can coexist with a variety of fish species in a well-planned community aquarium. When selecting tank mates, consider the following compatible species:

  • Other Lake Malawi Cichlids: Peacock Cichlids can be housed with other Lake Malawi cichlid species, particularly those that have similar size and temperament. Select species that occupy different regions of the tank or have different feeding habits to minimize competition.
  • Peaceful African Catfish: Certain African catfish species, such as Synodontis catfish, can make suitable tank mates. They generally have peaceful behavior and are compatible with Peacock Cichlids.
  • Peaceful Barbs or Tetras: Peaceful barbs, like Cherry Barbs or Denison Barbs, and peaceful tetras, such as Neon Tetras or Rummy Nose Tetras, can also be good tank mates for Peacock Cichlids. These fish species generally have a peaceful nature and are compatible in terms of water parameter requirements.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

While Peacock Cichlids have a peaceful temperament, it’s important to avoid certain fish species that may pose compatibility issues. Avoid species that are known to be aggressive, highly territorial, or have conflicting requirements in terms of water parameters and tank space. Some examples of incompatible species include:

  • Aggressive Cichlids: Avoid keeping Peacock Cichlids with aggressive cichlid species, such as Mbuna cichlids. These aggressive species can disrupt the harmony of the tank and lead to territorial conflicts.
  • Fin-nippers: Fish species known for their fin-nipping behavior, such as Tiger Barbs or Serpae Tetras, should be avoided. Their nipping behavior can cause stress and damage to the delicate fins of Peacock Cichlids.

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Peacock Cichlids, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Tank Size: Provide a spacious tank with ample swimming space to minimize aggression and territorial disputes.
  2. Grouping: Keep Peacock Cichlids in small groups of their own species. This allows them to establish a hierarchy and reduces aggression between males.
  3. Hiding Places: Incorporate plenty of hiding places, such as caves, rock formations, and driftwood, to provide retreats and territories for each fish. This helps reduce aggression and provides a sense of security.
  4. Territory Division: Use decorations and plants to create visual barriers and separate territories within the tank. This helps establish individual territories and minimizes aggressive encounters.
  5. Observation and Adjustment: Regularly monitor the behavior and interactions of the tank mates. If any aggression or compatibility issues arise, be prepared to make adjustments, such as rehoming or rearranging the tank.


Breeding Behavior

Peacock Cichlids exhibit fascinating breeding behavior, and their reproductive process involves mouthbrooding. Here are some key aspects of their breeding behavior:

  • Courtship Displays: Male Peacock Cichlids showcase vibrant colors and intricate displays to attract females. These displays often involve flaring fins, head shaking, and lateral body movements.
  • Spawning Sites: Males establish territories and prepare spawning sites, which are typically located in caves or crevices. These sites serve as safe areas for females to deposit their eggs.
  • Egg Deposition: During courtship, females deposit their eggs onto a flat surface within the male’s chosen spawning site. The male then fertilizes the eggs externally.
  • Mouthbrooding: After fertilization, the female carefully picks up the eggs in her mouth, where they will incubate until hatching. During this time, the female does not eat and solely focuses on protecting the brood.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To encourage successful breeding, it is essential to create suitable conditions for Peacock Cichlids. Consider the following factors:

  • Water Parameters: Maintain stable water parameters within the species’ preferred range. This typically includes a temperature of 77 to 82°F (25 to 28°C), pH between 7.8 and 8.6, and moderate to hard water with a hardness of 8 to 20 dGH.
  • Adequate Hiding Places: Provide caves, rocky formations, or specially designed spawning sites within the aquarium to serve as suitable areas for egg deposition and protection.
  • Compatible Males and Females: Ensure that there is a proper ratio of males to females within the group to prevent excessive aggression and competition. A recommended ratio is one male for every two to three females.
  • Nutritious Diet: Prioritize a nutritious diet with high-quality foods to promote optimal health and breeding condition. Offer a variety of live or frozen foods to stimulate natural behaviors and reproductive activity.

Raising Fry and Specific Care Requirements

Once the female Peacock Cichlid has mouthbrooded the eggs and they hatch into fry, there are some considerations for their care:

  • Separation: It is advisable to separate the female from the rest of the tank to provide a stress-free environment for her to care for the fry. This can be done by moving her to a separate breeder or rearing tank.
  • Feeding Fry: The fry will initially rely on their yolk sac for nutrition. As they grow and start to swim freely, introduce appropriate food options for them, such as crushed flakes, baby brine shrimp, or powdered fry food.
  • Water Quality: Maintain excellent water quality during the fry-rearing phase, ensuring regular water changes and providing suitable filtration to remove waste and maintain water stability.
  • Growth and Development: Monitor the growth and development of the fry, providing them with appropriate food, clean water, and suitable tank conditions to promote healthy growth and minimize stress.

Health & Disease

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

Peacock Cichlids, like any other fish species, can be susceptible to certain diseases. Here are some common diseases that may affect them and their associated symptoms:

  1. Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): Symptoms include white spots resembling grains of salt on the fish’s body and fins, increased scratching or rubbing against objects, and behavioral changes.
  2. Fin Rot: Fin edges appear frayed, ragged, or disintegrating. The fins may have a white or red discoloration, and the affected fish may show signs of lethargy and reduced appetite.
  3. Bacterial Infections: These infections can manifest in various forms, including open sores, ulcers, red streaks or patches on the body, swelling, and clamped fins. Affected fish may also exhibit signs of loss of appetite and abnormal behavior.
  4. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections often appear as white or gray cotton-like growth on the fish’s body, fins, or eyes. The affected areas may have a fuzzy or slimy texture.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

To maintain the health of your Peacock Cichlids and prevent diseases, consider the following strategies:

  1. Quarantine New Fish: Before introducing new fish to your aquarium, quarantine them in a separate tank for a few weeks. This helps identify and treat any potential diseases before they spread to other fish.
  2. Maintain Water Quality: Proper water parameters, regular water changes, and efficient filtration are vital for maintaining optimal water quality. Clean and well-maintained water reduces stress and helps prevent disease outbreaks.
  3. Balanced Diet: Provide a balanced and nutritious diet to boost the immune system of your fish. High-quality pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods can help ensure their nutritional needs are met.
  4. Observation and Early Detection: Regularly observe your fish for any signs of abnormal behavior, physical changes, or symptoms of disease. Early detection allows for prompt action and increases the chances of successful treatment.
  5. Isolation and Treatment: If you notice any signs of illness, it is advisable to isolate the affected fish in a separate quarantine tank. Consult with a veterinarian or experienced aquarist to determine the appropriate treatment, which may include medications, salt baths, or other remedies specific to the disease.

Care Level

Difficulty of Care

Peacock Cichlids are generally considered to have an intermediate level of care. While they are not as demanding as some other cichlid species, they do have specific requirements that need to be met for their optimal health and well-being.

Special Considerations or Requirements

When caring for Peacock Cichlids, there are a few special considerations and requirements to keep in mind:

  1. Water Parameters: Maintaining stable water parameters within the recommended ranges is crucial for Peacock Cichlids. Regular monitoring of temperature, pH, and water hardness, as well as ensuring appropriate filtration and water quality, is necessary.
  2. Tank Size: Providing a sufficiently large tank is important to accommodate the active nature of these fish and to minimize territorial disputes. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for a small group of Peacock Cichlids, but larger tanks are beneficial, especially for larger groups or when multiple males are present.
  3. Compatibility: Carefully selecting compatible tank mates and creating a harmonious community tank is essential. Avoid keeping Peacock Cichlids with aggressive or fin-nipping species, as this can lead to stress and potential health issues.
  4. Diet Variety: Offering a varied and balanced diet is important to meet the nutritional needs of Peacock Cichlids. Providing a combination of high-quality pellets or flakes, live or frozen foods, and occasional plant matter ensures a well-rounded diet.
  5. Hiding Places and Territories: Incorporating appropriate hiding places, decorations, and territories within the aquarium is crucial to reduce aggression and provide security for the fish. Rock formations, caves, and driftwood can serve as retreats and spawning sites.
  6. Behavioral Observations: Regularly observing the behavior and interactions of your Peacock Cichlids allows you to identify any potential issues or signs of stress. This helps you make necessary adjustments to maintain a healthy and harmonious environment.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the Peacock Cichlid, as a collective term for various species within the Aulonocara genus, can vary depending on the specific species. It is important to consult reliable sources or organizations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for up-to-date and accurate information on the conservation status of each individual species.

At the time of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, the IUCN Red List did not specifically assess the overall conservation status of the Peacock Cichlid as a whole. However, individual species within the Aulonocara genus have been assessed. Some species, such as Aulonocara jacobfreibergi and Aulonocara stuartgranti, have been evaluated and are listed as of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. Other species within the genus may have different conservation statuses.

Regarding legal restrictions on keeping Peacock Cichlids in captivity, it is crucial to research and abide by the laws and regulations specific to your country, region, or local jurisdiction. Some countries may have restrictions or permits required for the import, possession, or trade of certain fish species, including those within the Aulonocara genus. It is important to adhere to these regulations to promote responsible fishkeeping and protect wild populations.

To ensure compliance with legal requirements and promote conservation efforts, it is recommended to obtain fish from reputable sources, such as licensed breeders or authorized pet stores, who follow ethical and sustainable practices.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information on the conservation status and legal considerations of the specific Peacock Cichlid species you are interested in, it is advisable to consult local conservation authorities, fishkeeping associations, or governmental agencies responsible for wildlife regulations.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some additional information and fun facts about Peacock Cichlids:

  • Peacock Cichlids are named for their stunning colors and patterns, resembling the vibrant plumage of peacocks.
  • They are endemic to Lake Malawi, which is known for its incredible diversity of cichlid species.
  • Male Peacock Cichlids are often referred to as “peacocks” or “bucks,” while females are called “hens.”
  • Peacock Cichlids are mouthbrooders, with the females incubating the eggs in their mouths until the fry are ready to be released.
  • Each species within the Aulonocara genus has its own unique coloration and patterning, making them highly sought after by aquarium enthusiasts.
  • Peacock Cichlids are known for their social behaviors and interactions within a community tank. They can exhibit interesting courtship rituals and vibrant displays to attract mates.
  • There is a wide range of Peacock Cichlid color morphs, each with its distinct combination of colors, such as blue, yellow, orange, and red. This adds to the allure of keeping and breeding these fish.
  • In the wild, Peacock Cichlids play a crucial role in the Lake Malawi ecosystem by controlling the population of invertebrates and contributing to nutrient cycling.
  • Many hobbyists enjoy breeding and raising Peacock Cichlids due to their fascinating behaviors and the joy of witnessing the development of the fry.
  • Peacock Cichlids can display individual personalities and behaviors, with some individuals being more assertive or dominant than others.
  • They are known for their intelligence and can recognize their owners, showing responsiveness and interaction during feeding time.

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