Peacock Cichlid – A Complete Care Guide

If you’re someone who has always been in search of a fish that looks incredibly beautiful, is moderately docile, and can become a perfect addition to freshwater aquariums, then look no further.

Because Peacock Cichlids make a perfect choice for almost every aquarist around the world. With their active nature and diverse range of color variations, they are simply irresistible.

Even though I don’t recommend them to novice fish owners, you can give this hardy species a try only if you understand the core elements of maintaining their fitness in home aquariums.

In this care guide, I’ll show you how to manage this flawless fish species. Learning about Peacock Cichlids in depth will help you minimize the potential of encountering any problems.

Key Takeaways

  • Peacock Cichlids are generally peaceful but certain conditions can pique aggression in them.
  • They are unbelievably beautiful, with almost 20 color variations available in the aquarium trade.
  • They are highly sexually dimorphic, making their gender identification almost seamless.
  • They prefer higher pH and harder water

An Overview of Peacock Cichlid

Scientific NameAulonocara
Common NamesPeacock Cichlid, African Cichlid, Peacock fish
FamilyCichlidae
OriginEast Africa
DietOmnivore
Care LevelModerate
ActivityExtremely active
Lifespan6 to 8 years
TemperamentSemi-aggressive
Tank LevelMid to bottom
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons
Temperature Range74 F° to 82 F°
Water Hardness4 to 6 KH
pH Range7.8 – 8.6
Filtration/Water FlowLow to moderate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingMouth Brooder
Difficulty to BreedEasy
CompatibilityAfrican Cichlid tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?With caution

What Is A Peacock Cichlid?

Peacock Cichlids make a magnificent addition to a home aquarium, thanks to their beautiful colors and unique personality.

They scientifically go as Aulonocora while commonly recognized as Peacock Cichlid or Peacock fish. You can sometimes hear people referring to them as African Cichlids due to their origin.

Peacock Cichlids are a part of the Cichlidae family from the order Cichliformes. While most Cichlid fish are either semi-aggressive or highly territorial, Peacock Cichlids are relatively peaceful.

Origin and Habitat

Peacock Cichlids hail from the ancient lake called Lake Malawi in East Africa. It is the second largest and third deepest lake on the African Continent, making it the fourth largest lake globally. They were first discovered in 1922 by the British ichthyologist Charles Tale Regan.

These hardy species inhabit areas that are 100 to 130 ft deep, with the lake overall 2,300 ft in depth. Apart from higher pH levels, their natural habitat comprises a large number of rocks. And surprisingly, all types of Peacock Cichlids originate from Lake Malawi.

Appearance

Similar to their name, Peacock Cichlids take on colors like dark blues and deep greens found in a Peacock. But their extraordinarily beautiful body coloration and uniquely designed patterns are not limited to a single set of shades. Instead, these fish exhibit every color variation you can ever think of.

Blue Peacock Cichlid

With almost 22 types of Peacock Cichlids currently found around the world, each fish tends to feature shades that look absolutely stunning and rare to find. Some of the most commonly known colors are deep yellow, dark red, bright pink, burning orange, or sometimes gold. They can also feature purple or deep black.

Coming to the body shape, a Peacock Cichlid has a long body. The morphology of a Peacock Cichlid looks similar to that of a fusiform fish or roughly like a torpedo-shaped fish with taking on a thick form once hitting adulthood. Apart from featuring mesmerizing colors, they have 6 fins with prominent points scattered all across the fins.

They have long and pointed dorsal fins which run the length of their spine. The elongated rays on their dorsal fins shape these points on the rear edges. The anal fin is shaped exactly like the dorsal fin. But these fins are slightly smaller compared to the dorsal fin. And when you look at their tails, you will see fan-shaped tails with pretty rounded edges.

The good thing about Peacock Cichlids is that their colors don’t go dim with their mood swings. And unlike other fish that with time go dull, Peacock Cichlids remain the same throughout their lives.

When it comes to male Peacock Cichlids and female Peacock Cichlids, the main difference is color deepness. Similar to juveniles, the females usually feature a dull greyish shade. The origin of the fish can also be a factor that determines the color of the female fish.

The males, on the contrary, showcase extremely vivid colors. The colorful array includes shades like red, blue, black, purple, orange, yellow, and sometimes gold. The females stay the same throughout their lives, whereas the males undergo a dramatic transformation as they grow. But that doesn’t make the females any less beautiful to look at.

Peacock vs. Mbuna Cichlids

Some people don’t know how to categorize them which results in giving rise to a few misconceptions. Therefore, I’ll go over all those differences between a Peacock Cichlid and a Mbuna Cichlid to help you go ahead and purchase the fish that you’re looking for.

Both Mbuna and Peacock Cichlids have interesting personalities. They are active and can easily get along with other fish. The only thing you need to do is pick the less aggressive Peacock Cichlid males. Another interesting thing is their ability to recognize their owners. Both species take only a second to recognize who owns them.

And as far as eating goes, they are active eaters capable of hungrily attacking the food as soon as they get a chance. While Mbuna fish don’t eat everything, you get plenty of freedom to choose what goes into a Peacock Cichlid tank.

They also share the same water parameters but vary in coloration. The males of both species have attractive colors. Peacock Cichlids are slightly shimmery, whereas Mbuna Cichlids have solid and stronger color patterns. But for females, Peacock Cichlids have a drawback. The female Peacock Cichlid is either silver or brown. Mbuna females however are equally colorful as their male counterparts.

Factors like breeding might alter their body coloration. But they usually stay the same throughout their lives. Peacock Cichlids don’t develop bright colors while young. Mbuna Cichlids, however, pick on stronger shades as juveniles pretty normally.

Another essential difference is territorial aggression in male Peacock Cichlids. The males can never establish peace if put in a small tank. The dominant male looks brightly colored in a small tank with submissive males. But as soon as you shift it to a community tank where other males are as aggressive, it can go dull for a better part of its life.

This trait can cause issues if you’re purchasing a male Peacock Cichlid that is usually around 60$ per male.

Types of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids have almost 22 color variables that are stunning and rare to find in most freshwater fish species. Each fish has an incredible color pattern with its own personality traits. While mentioning all of them here can be demanding, I’ll list down the most famous types of Peacock Cichlids with all the necessary information you need to know.

1. Lemon Jake

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara Mamelela
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore but mostly carnivorous
  • Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 74° F to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.5
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

The Lemon Jake Peacock is a color variation of Peacock Cichlids (video source).

The Lemon Jake Peacock Cichlids have a blue-colored base with extremely bold yellow fins. You can also see white-colored lines covering the edges of their unpaired fins. The same shade also occasionally appears on the fish’s body in regular lines. They mostly prefer meaty foods and need a clean environment to stay healthy.

2. Flavescent Peacock

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara stuartgranti
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 7 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origin: Usisya region
  • Temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.4
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

Flavescent Peacocks (video source) hail from the Usisya region and look similar to Lemon Jate in appearance. They have blue heads, a bright yellow base, and a set of fins that are dark black with blue edges. You can see blue hues running all across their bodies with a bright yellow spot on their tail blade.

Female Flavescent Peacocks are shorter than their male counterparts and have deep vertical stripes on their base. Flavescent Peacocks prefer meaty foods and can show aggression on a number of occasions.

3. Red Peacock

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara Red Ruby
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 5 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 73 F° to 84 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.5
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

The Red Peacock Cichlid is a bright red-colored fish with a blue head that gives it a unique appearance (video source).

Out of the 22 types of Peacock Cichlids, they are one of the most beautiful fish you will ever see. The males have prominent dorsal and anal fins which are larger as compared to the rounded fins of a female. In the wild, they feed on meaty food like small crustaceans, cichlid fry, and algae.

4. Benga/Sunshine Peacock

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara baenschi
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.4
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

The Benga or Sunshine Peacock (video source) is another extremely bold-colored fish from the 22 types of Peacock Cichlids. They have brilliant yellow bodies with hues of blue visible below their eyes.

They prefer meaty foods and need clean water to thrive. The aggression level of these fish is mild, which makes them easy to care for. Apart from Sunshine Peacock, their other common names are Nkhomo Benga Peacock, New Yellow Regal Peacock, and Benga Yellow Peacock.

5. Blue Neon Peacock Cichlid

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara stuartgranti (Chiwindi)
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Carnivore
  • Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.4
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

The Blue Neon Peacock Cichlid (video source) is another beautiful color variation of Peacock Cichlids with a similar appearance to the Flavescent Peacocks. The main difference is the color of the fins.

The Blue Peacock Cichlid has a bright yellow base with blue fins. The base might also appear blue towards the posterior half with a shimmery blue head. They feed on meaty foods and are slightly aggressive.

6. Bi-Color 500 Peacock

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara stuartgranti Maulana
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origin: Chitimba Bay in Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.4
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

B-color 500 Peacock (video source) or Maulana Bicolor Peacock features a bold blue body with shades of brilliant gold, blue, and sometimes red around its shoulders.

Unlike other Cichlid species from the Peacock Cichlid, they are known for establishing peace with other species. The number included in their name comes from the fact that they are on Stuart Grant’s export list as item 500.

7. Dragon Blood Peacock

  • Scientific Name: Aulonocara baenschi
  • Difficulty Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive
  • Adult Size: 6 inches
  • Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Origin: Lake Malawi, Africa
  • Temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH: 7.5 – 8.4
  • Difficulty to breed: Easy
  • Planted aquarium suitability: Good

The Dragon Peacock, Dragon Blood Peacock, or Firefish is a hybrid fish that looks incredibly beautiful with its bright red-colored body (video source).

The fins of the fish are marked with spots that look quite prominent on their transparent fins. The females are pretty average looking as compared to the males with a silver body and occasional red markings. They can take on shades like light pink, orange, and bright red with shades of white and blue covering their fins.

Lifespan

The average Peacock Cichlid lifespan is between 6 to 8 years depending on how well you look after them. Since they have weak tolerance for disturbed water levels, you need to properly maintain water parameters.

Things like food, tank environment and precautions to minimize the chances of catching fish diseases also help with maintaining a healthy life cycle for a Peacock Cichlid.

Average Size

Peacock Cichlids can normally grow up to 4 inches, with the males being typically larger than the females. Some varieties can be as big as 7 inches, and in some rare cases, they can be 10 inches long.

Peacock Cichlid Care

For a typically peaceful fish like Peacock Cichlid, you don’t have to make a lot of arrangements so that the fish can easily inhabit your home aquarium. But, it’s always better to know how to make your fish happy and help it stay healthy. 

So, before you bring them to your home, make sure you know their natural habitat conditions, tank mates that they can get along with, foods that are essential to their nourishment, and how to filter out toxins from their tank.

Aquarium Setup

A perfect aquarium setup means the first step to helping your fish withstand environmental change.

To create a perfect aquarium setup, make sure you get a large tank because Peacock Cichlids are energetic and love exploring their surrounding areas. Another important thing you should know is to give them time to adjust in a community tank. I would suggest you first keep them in a species-only tank before attempting to keep them in a community aquarium.

Since the water of Lake Malawi stays warm around the year, purchase a heater to keep the water warm. You can use a thermometer or a controller to check the consistency.

Pro tip: The tank of a Peacock Cichlid should be horizontal rather than vertical.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a small group of Peacock Cichlids should be around 55 gallons. If you want to house multiple species in a tank, make sure the tank is at least 100 gallons.

Water Parameters

One of the basic elements of Peacock Cichlid care is consistent water parameters. Since they are used to warm water, high acidic levels, and moderate water hardness, these parameters are ideal for a Peacock Cichlid tank setup:

  • Water temperature: 74 F° to 82 F°
  • pH levels: 7.5 to 8.5
  • Water hardness: 4 to 6 dH

For hardness and pH, Texas Holey Rock is a great way to buffer your pH and hardness while also giving lots of shelter for your Peacocks.

Great For African Cichlids
Texas Holey Rock Natural Limestone

With its ability to raise pH and hardness, this rock is an excellent choice for African Cichlids

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Filtration and Aeration

Filtration is one of the most important things to consider here. Because a large tank with lots of fish will result in a cumulative amount of fish waste piling up in the tank. This can encourage the presence of toxins like ammonia and nitrite which are extremely dangerous for the inhabitants of freshwater aquariums.      

Even though any filter will work fine, I would recommend a strong canister filter for a 55-gallon tank.         

Great For Large Tanks
Fluval FX Series

High flow, large filtration capacity, and quality plumbing - The FX series is designed for monster fish keepers

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Lighting

As a dwelling fish, fish Peacock Cichlids tend to stay at the bottom areas where the light exposure is always dim.

While setting up their tank, you can use a light setup that doesn’t disturb their daily activities during the night hours. Throughout the day, make sure the tank gets exposed to natural lighting so the plants can grow and boost oxygenation levels. Dark aquarium backgrounds also will highlight their colors.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

Peacock Cichlids are skilled swimmers and love exploring what is around them. So when you choose something for their tank, don’t forget to pay close attention to the minor details.

Apart from supplementing their tank with live plants, you need lots of caves and rocks to stem the flow of territorial aggression among the species. While choosing caves or any decor, make sure you avoid everything that has rough edges because the fish will always stay at the mid or bottom levels. Also, consider adding Driftwood to their tank since Peacock Cichlids love to have it around them.

For plants, I have a list of live plants you can get for your fish.

Note that there isn’t a true Cichlid proof plant, but these above recover the best and will be affected the least among their peers.

Tank Maintenance

Apart from getting a strong filtration system, you need to properly maintain your tank so the inhabitants can have a completely safe environment.

Here are some tips that will help you keep your tank and decorations in a good condition.

  • Use an algae scraper to clean the tank walls
  • Take out decorations and rocks as needed to brush algae off them
  • Perform frequent water changes
  • Trim the plants occasionally and remove waste plant material

Substrate

In their natural habitat, the bottom is covered with soft sand so their gills don’t get damaged when they filter the substrate through their frail gills.

I would highly recommend going for aragonite sand which is ideal for Cichlid species. Apart from being soft, aragonite sand fits perfectly for the roles of making nests, laying eggs, and discharging minerals into the water.

Great For African Cichlids
Carib Sea Aragamax Sand

Boosts pH

Aragamax is great for African setups as it keeps pH and hardness levels stable

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Community Tank Mates

Building a community tank with Peacock Cichlids is straightforward. Even though they have some temperamental issues, they make good tank mates if you understand their behavior and activity level.

While the females have a cool temperament, male Peacocks can act pretty aggressively around their male counterparts. They form territories. And if they feel threatened by any other male, serious bullying, harassment, and extreme fights can be seen among the fish species.

Here’s a list of some of the best Peacock Cichlid tank mates you can go for.

  • Botia Loaches
  • Rainbow Sharks
  • Haplochrome Cichlids
  • Clown Plecos
  • Red Tail Sharks
  • Milder Mbuna Cichlids or females

Poor Tank Mates

Compatibility issues can create problems for you and your fish. To avoid unexpected fights, don’t house your Peacock Cichlid with:

  • Boisterous Mbuna Cichlids
  • Any aggressive fish or shy fish
  • Any fish that will not survive in the hard water and pH required for these fish

Breeding Peacock Cichlid

Peacock Cichlids are quite expensive. But thankfully, breeding them in home aquariums is possible and quite simple. To ensure successful breeding, make sure you read and follow everything I mention here.

The first step to breed Peacock Cichlids is to prepare a separate breeding tank. Actually, you need 3 different tanks to avoid any chaos and minimize the chances of an unsuccessful breeding. The main tank, a tank for the fry, and a tank for the juveniles. If you want to see an in-depth video, check out this video by Ricky Kenerly Cichlids.

The first tank will have one male and 2 females. The ratio will go like this to prevent territorial aggression. Make sure the tank is at least 50 gallons filled with a sandy substrate and lots of hiding places. To condition them to breed, start gradually raising the temperature up to 84 F°. Also, add a protein-rich diet to their menu.

When the intended breeding pair is ready, the male will perform a beautiful dance to attract the attention of the female. Once he’s done with that, he will encourage her to lay her eggs in front of his territory where he will later fertilize them.

Since Peacock Cichlids are mouth brooders, the female will carry the eggs in her mouth to the decided location. It can be either in one of the caves or on top of the rocks. This period is called the incubation period. Luckily, the parents will not harm their eggs in a Peacock Cichlid’s case. It will take her up to 21 days to finish the incubation process, after which, you have to shift the mother and her eggs to the fry tank.

The mother can stay with the fry for a couple of days. This is necessary for her to regain energy. After moving her back to the home tank, start focusing on the fry. From feeding them baby brine shrimp to other commercial foods, you can feed them plenty of different things that are small for the juveniles to swallow.

Peacock Cichlid Food and Diet

As skilled swimmers and natural predators as they are, relying only on frozen foods is not enough. You should feed them insects, crustaceans, and brine shrimp. Apart from these options, you can feed your pet sinking cichlid pellets, granules, flakes, frozen brine shrimp, and vegetables. Spinach and lettuce are some great options.

Great Balanced Food
Ron's Cichlid Food

Ron is an African Cichlid breeder with over 25 years in experience who created a line of food that is well balanced. A great option when you can't use frozen foods.

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Avoid feeding them worms and mammalian meat which can cause Malawi Bloat in these colorful fish. Overfeeding can be an issue here. It’s better to break down big meals into small ones and feed them only thrice a day.

Common Health Problems

Peacock Cichlid varieties can undergo a species-specific disease and some common fish diseases. The best possible way to keep these ailments at bay is to keep the water clean and toxins out of the tank.

Malawi Bloat

Malawi Bloat is identical to dropsy, but it can be fatal. This disease is usually caused by feeding your fish an excessive amount of meaty foods.

Some common symptoms are:

  1. Abdominal inflammation
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Difficult breathing

Swim Bladder Disease

This is another common fish disease. It can be caused by parasites or gas in the intestines.

Some common symptoms are:

  1. Floating to the top of the tank
  2. Distended abdomen
  3. Loss of appetite
  4. Curved back

FAQs

How big do Peacock Cichlids get?

Peacock Cichlids are medium-sized fish. The males are typically 6 inches while the females are only 4 inches long. Other peacock Cichlids from their color variations can be sometimes as large as 10 inches. It’s not because of their size that they should be kept in huge tanks, but their activity level.

What fish can I put with Peacock Cichlids?

Peacock Cichlids make good tank mates if they share the same temperament and activity level with their tank mates. The behavior Peacock Cichlids exhibit is normally peaceful. But as I mentioned earlier they need only a chance to go wild. Apart from their color variations like OB peacock Cichlid, you can house Peacock Cichlids with:

Botia Loaches
Rainbow Sharks
Clown Plecos
Other Peacock Cichlids

Are Peacock Cichlids Hard To Keep?

They are not only ideal for experienced aquarists, but if you are an intermediate fish keeper, they can be worth your time and other investments. The only thing that can make it hard for you to manage them is their behavior. Male Peacocks exhibit territorial behavior, which can lead to frequent fights and bullying. Make sure you get a large tank and fill it with lots of caves to prevent them from fighting each other to death.

Closing Thoughts

If you’re looking for an interesting and personable fish to keep in your tank, the Peacock Cichlid is a great choice. These fish are easy to breed and do well in larger tanks, making them perfect for any aquarium enthusiast. Have you kept these fish before? Let us know in the comments!

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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