Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara): Aquarium Care Guide
The peacock cichlid is one of the most popular freshwater fish among aquarists around the world. While its gentle nature (for a cichlid) and low-maintenance care plan are certainly a draw, there’s a reason this towers above the rest:
These fish are absolutely stunning to look at and have colors rarely found on the freshwater fishing side. We have found ourselves in disbelief several times when looking at these fish in person!
But if you want this kind of beauty in your tank at home, you need to understand your specific needs. That’s why we put together this guide on peacock cichlid care.
It will teach you everything you need to know about keeping these fish happy and healthy, so you can sit back and enjoy their wonderful colors.
Comprised of the entire Aulonocara genus of freshwater fish, the peacock cichlid, or simply peacocks, is one of the friendliest and most peaceful cichlids you can find to have in your aquarium.
Native to Lake Malawi in East Africa, Peacock Cichlids live near the bottom of warm, deep water where they forage for food in the sandy substrate. An active and skilled swimmer, the peacock is always on the lookout for potential prey.
There are more than twenty types of peacock cichlid names, and it is no wonder that all species are found in Lake Malawi, as this body of water is the ninth largest lake in the world.
However, only a few species are commonly kept in aquariums, and these include the African butterfly peacock, flavescent peacock, sun peacock, Nkhomo-benga peacock, maulana bicolor peacock, Aulonocara Fort cichlid Maguire and the Aulonocara blue. golden cichlid.
No matter what species you’re admiring, you’ll agree that peacock cichlids are some of the most colorful freshwater fish species, and it’s only fitting that they share their name with a majestic bird. Combine their beauty with their relatively docile demeanor and you’ll find it’s hard to resist adding them to your tank!
The average lifespan of peacock cichlids is around six to eight years when given proper care. This means maintaining recommended water parameters, water quality, and diet.
Author’s Note: There have been situations where peacock cichlids have lived up to 10 or even 15 years! While these are obviously rare cases, it does show that there is potential for a very long lifespan if you are serious about owning one.
Like other cichlids, peacocks are among the most brilliantly colored freshwater aquarium fish. However, unlike its relatives, the peacock cichlid’s color does not depend on its mood or mating status.
Colors vary within the species and depend on which area of Lake Malawi the variety originated from. Both females and young fish are dull gray in color, but males take on a dazzling shade of iridescent yellow, gold, orange, red, purple, or blue as they mature.
Types of Peacock Cichlids
As we mentioned earlier, there are many different types of Peacock Cichlids. While it would be overkill to list them all, this section will share general information about the most popular strains.
The reason these types of peacock cichlids are so popular is because they are absolutely beautiful. Each one has a distinct vibrant color that cannot be matched by most other freshwater species.
red peacock cichlid
Red Peacock Cichlids are definitely the most popular type, and it’s obvious why. These fish have a bright red color that stands out no matter what fish they share a tank with. They also have some very interesting blue sprinkled throughout their fins.
OB Peacock Cichlid
The OB Peacock Cichlid is probably our favorite. These fish have a primarily red body with interesting patches of dark blue throughout. These patches are brightest on the face and continue on the dorsal and caudal fins.
Blue Peacock Cichlid
The blue peacock cichlid is usually blue throughout its body with darker vertical stripes starting at the front of the dorsal fin and ending at the caudal peduncle. Their vitality and coloration can vary depending on location, sex, and age.
Strawberry Peacock Cichlid
The Strawberry Peacock Cichlid is absolutely stunning. These fish are a bright reddish-pink color and some even have some interesting spots covering their fins. It can be hard to find a real strawberry, so good luck!
Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid
Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlids are sometimes confused with the Strawberry variety. The main difference to look for is the subtle dot pattern on their bodies.
The average size of a male peacock cichlid is about 6 inches, with females typically a maximum of 4 inches. Their size can be influenced by the quality of their care, but also by where they come from.
Other genetic components also play a role, but it is not practical to test them.
Peacock Cichlid Care
Peacock cichlid care is something that novice or experienced aquarists should have no problem with. In general, these fish are fairly low maintenance and relatively docile.
That said, they can be quite sensitive to changes in their environment. That’s why it’s important to understand your ideal care requirements so you can keep things as consistent as possible.
The recommended peacock cichlid tank size is at least 55-60 gallons. This is because these fish are skilled swimmers and active hunters. It will give them the space they need to live as they would in the wild.
Obviously, a larger tank will also provide enough room for the multiple caves needed to prevent territorial aggression. If you have a large community of peacocks, you may need a tank that holds at least 100 gallons of water to further inhibit their territorial behavior.
Author’s Note: Some types of Peacock Cichlids prefer a rocky habitat and others prefer the opposite, so a larger tank can be made to accommodate both.
Peacock cichlids thrive in an aquatic environment that mimics the conditions of their native Lake Malawi, where the temperature is slightly warmer than the aquatic habitat of other cichlid species.
This body of water is very consistent throughout the year when it comes to water parameters and chemistry. This means that temperature, pH levels, and hardness need to be kept as consistent as possible.
- Water temperature: 74°F to 82°F – aim for the upper half of this range if possible
- pH levels: 7.5 and 8.5
- Water hardness: 4 to 6 dH
It is very important that you keep the water as clean as possible. Peacock cichlids are used to very clear water in their natural habitat and their health will suffer if you don’t maintain the quality of the water.
Author’s Note: Because it is so important to keep the water parameters consistent with this fish, we recommend getting a good water test kit. You will need as much precision as possible if you want to care for peacocks the right way.
What to put in your tank
Remember that peacock cichlids forage near the bottom of their native habitat, so never use gravel as a substrate as it could damage the gills of the fish. Something soft and sandy will be better for your fish in the long run.
It is a good idea to provide plenty of rocks and driftwood to serve as hiding places to minimize territorial problems. Although these are not super aggressive cichlids, they all need their space from time to time!
Lastly, you can add plants for decoration if you wish. However, you should choose only hardy plants like hornwort, because peacock cichlids have a habit of burrowing and disturbing foliage.
This is typical cichlid behavior, so it’s something you may have been familiar with before. Another option when choosing plants is to opt for some of the best floating plants so that substrate disturbances are not a problem.
Fortunately, peacock cichlids will avoid eating aquarium plants, so you don’t have to worry about that (just digging).
Possible common diseases
Peacock cichlids can be subject to a fatal condition known as Malawi bloat, which is similar to dropsy and results from eating an excess of meaty foods. Symptoms of this problem include lack of appetite, abdominal swelling, labored breathing, and a tendency to stay at the bottom of the tank.
This disease is something that should be taken very seriously if you are an owner. Severe cases result in damage to the liver, kidneys, and swim bladder and can even end in death within one to three days.
Another issue that can result from a poor diet is swim bladder disease. This problem is caused by intestinal gases or parasites that infect the swim bladder.
A fish experiencing this problem will float to the top of the tank and will not be able to stay near the bottom to forage for food. To prevent this disease, avoid feeding your fish excessive amounts of protein or dry food and add more fiber, such as vegetables.
In any case, never overfeed any species of cichlid, as they tend to consume whatever is available. Overweight fish can lose their beautiful coloration and even die prematurely.
Another serious disease that can infect cichlids is fish tuberculosis. Highly infectious, the disease can wipe out the entire population of a tank in a short period of time. Symptoms of fish tuberculosis include lack of appetite, frayed fins, a sunken abdomen, and white spots on the fish’s body.
If you think a fish may be infected, immediately remove the other fish to another tank. Treat the new tank with an antibiotic and disinfect the old tank or get rid of it entirely.
Food and Diet
Although peacock cichlids are omnivores, they are natural born predators and enjoy diving deep into the water and feeding on invertebrates such as insects, both adults and larvae, and crustaceans.
A quality cichlid pellet that sinks to the bottom of the tank should be the foundation of their diet along with meat and vegetable supplements. Live bugs that sink to the bottom are also good, as are live or frozen brine shrimp and daphnia, or common water fleas.
Cichlid-appropriate pellets and flakes can also work well if that’s what you prefer. Again, to avoid Malawi bloat, avoid worms and mammalian meat.
To minimize the risk of overfeeding, you should feed peacock cichlids several small meals a day. This will not only prevent obesity, but will help keep the water parameters stable. This is because you won’t get big spikes of organics in the tank all at once.
behavior and temperament
Although peacocks are territorial, they are less aggressive than other cichlids. When you compare them to a fish like the Jack Dempsey or the flowerhorn cichlid, they are downright pacifistic!
Some specimens are more aggressive than others, of course, so it is up to you as the owner to learn and understand the temperament of each individual fish. Generally though, these are not fish you need to worry too much about.
In terms of their activity level, these fish are very active, spending much of their time near the bottom of their native waters sifting through sand and looking for any potential prey movement. You will also see this behavior in captivity, making them a very fun fish to watch.
Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates
In fact, you have many options when it comes to choosing peacock cichlid tank mates. These fish are a tame member of the cichlid family and will do well with other non-aggressive fish.
Male Peacock Cichlids can be a bit territorial, but they will do well with other fish as long as you give them enough room to live and plenty of caves to hide in to reduce their territorial behavior.
You need to make sure your tank mates can handle your precise water parameters. This means that the best options are different types of non-aggressive cichlids.
In general, any type of non-aggressive Haplochromis cichlid (such as redfin haps) should make a good tank mate for your peafowl. If you’re not sure, simply compare the recommended water parameters for each to see if there is any overlap.
Another species that you can try is the botia loach. These fish are often used as suitable tankmates for peacock cichlids due to their temperament and similar water conditions required.
Author’s Note: Make sure you have more females than males in the tank. This will prevent aggression and encourage natural social interactions.
Although male peacock cichlids tend to travel alone, they become polygamous when ready to breed and will play in the field any chance they get.
This means that when you decide to breed peacock cichlids, there should be dedicated space for each of the males in the tank. A large part of their reproductive behavior depends on them claiming space, and if they don’t have it, they will look for other places to occupy it (this leads to fights).
The easiest way to avoid this is to keep only one male in the breeding tank. This relationship is conducive to success and will keep tensions low.
One trick you can try when trying to encourage your fish to breed is to raise the water temperature to the upper limits of their normal window. Do this gradually as these fish are sensitive to sudden changes.
When ready, the male will begin to do a dance pattern/mating move to attract the female. If that is successful, the female will lay her eggs in front of her cave (that’s why the males need her own space) so he can fertilize them.
Since these fish are mouthbrooders, the female will collect the fertilized eggs in her mouth and go to the cave to incubate them. Don’t freak out if she sees this happening, she’s not eating the eggs!
The incubation process will last about a month and you will see between one and four dozen fry when the whole process is finished.
You now have a better understanding of peacock cichlid care and what these fish are like in general.
The combination of their beauty and laid-back temperament makes them a no-brainer for any hobbyist who has been itching to get into the cichlid game.
However, if you are not comfortable keeping a highly stable tank, we can understand if you think this fish is not right for you. If this is the case, keep practicing and gain more experience before you get one!
If you have any questions about these fish or have suggestions on how we can improve this care guide, please send them to us. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of aquarists find the best fish for them and we’ll be happy to do the same for you.