Easily The Most Stunning Cichlids – Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae) – Complete Species Guide

Peacock Cichlids! Known widely all over the fish-keeping community as one of the most colorful cichlids, and freshwater fish. It could be not truer; peacock cichlids are very bright. They are covered in vibrant reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and even purples in some cases.

cichlid-fish-from-genus-aulonocara Peacock Cichlid

(FYI: Peacock Cichlids are not to be confused with Peacock Bass. They are two different species; their habitats are in two different parts of the world.)

Before, they were not a well-known species, and in turn, not very popular when it came to being kept as pets. However, now, all that has changed, and they have risen in popularity. Well, so they should.

There are many pointers to them making a good fish to keep. One, they are a large fish, but not hugely so. Two, as we mentioned earlier, they are very colorful, so are a pleasure to watch. Three, they are relatively easy to take care of and do not need that much maintenance.

If you’re thinking of having a peacock cichlid, (or a few) as a pet, looking for more information, or you’re curious, you’ve come to the right place! We have everything on the Peacock Cichlid right here, so read on.

Table Of Contents:

How To Guide: African Cichlid Peacock and Haplochromis Show Tank

Basic Facts

Name: Peacock Cichlid

Scientific Name: Aulonocara nyassae

Group: Freshwater Fish

Size Of The Fish: Medium

Temperament: Semi-Aggressive

Aquarium Size Required: Medium-Large

Where It Swims: On The Bottom

Care Difficulty Rating: Easy-Medium

Good Paired With: Other Small To Medium Community Fish, Other Peacock Cichlids


Amazing Multicolored Peacock Cichlid taken by @from860to215 on Instagram
Amazing Multicolored Peacock Cichlid thanks to @from860to215 on Instagram

The Peacock Cichlid, (Aulonocara nyassae) is one of the many African Cichlids. It comes from the family Cichlidae, which includes all known Cichlid species. Many types of Peacock Cichlid come from the Lake Malawi in Africa. The lake straddles the border of its namesake, Mozambique, and Tanzania. At an area of 29,600 km², it’s the ninth largest lake in the world.


If you are a fish keeper, you would know that Cichlids are some of the most bright and vibrant looking freshwater fish. Peacock Cichlids indeed live up to the expectations.

Peacock Cichlids are a sexually dimorphic species. This means the males and females are entirely different from each other.

As with many species, all across the animal kingdom, it can be difficult to determine the sex of the individual. Here are a few pointers to help you.

Markings and Colours: As with other fish, Males are much more colorful and vibrant than their counterparts. This is primarily in the breeding seasons. Another thing is that males sometimes have what’s called “egg spots,” on their anal fins. They are unusual, in the fact that they are unique to the tribe haplochromine.

According to Plos One, they seem to be used for showing the male is healthy and may make it easier for the fish to find a mate. In fact, they so important, that some fish will go to the point of targeting others who don’t have egg spots.

Size and Shape: Usually, the males are bigger than the females, sometimes up to an inch (2.5cm) longer. Another thing is that the anal, dorsal and caudal fins of the male fish may be longer.

Behavior: If you’re trying to work out the gender of your fish, closely study its behavior, sometimes it can be a dead giveaway. It becomes evident during the breeding season. Males become flamboyant and aggressive, in hopes of impressing the females. They also may become occupied with building a nest or cave. So, they have a suitable place for reproduction.

Peacock Cichlid Aulonocara nyassae

With the females, change in behavior is a bit more subtle. Two fish preparing to spawn will spend much time together. However, two or a group of females tend to ignore the other cichlids in the tank. Breeding Peacock Cichlid females often carry their eggs in their mouth. They do this for the sake of protecting their young.

(Even if after you’ve followed all the pointers listed above, and you still can’t tell, ask your local vet or expert. That should clear up the problem.)

Peacock Cichlids, when fully grown, reach lengths of 4-7 inches, (10-18cm). They are some of the larger cichlids that live in Lake Malawi.

On color, the Males excel in that category. Females and juveniles are drab in comparison. But, when the males mature, they transform, their colors becoming vibrant.

Their colors also become more pronounced during the breeding season. This is because, like with many other animals across the animal kingdom, vibrant colors are impressive. For the females, bright scales means the male is healthy and has good genes. This gives more chance of survival for her offspring.

Beatiful Peacock Cichlid taken by @aqua_naturalist on Instagram
Beatiful Peacock Cichlid thanks to @aqua_naturalist on Instagram



As we have mentioned earlier, it is relatively easy to tell the difference between a male and a female. Due to the bright coloration of the former. During most of the time they spend in the tank, males tend to lead solitary lifestyles. They also ignore the other fish. They are also territorial. But they aren’t overly aggressive like some of the other Lake Malawi Cichlids.

If you want to breed Peacock Cichlids at home, the first thing would be setting up a group of them at the beginning. For the safety of the fish, and to get the best outcomes, a ratio of one male to three-four females is a good idea. Fortunately, Peacock Cichlids are not too difficult to breed in the aquarium.

If you are planning on keeping different species together in the same aquarium, it helps if you choose species that look starkly different from each other. This helps minimize the risk of hybridization during the breading season.

Like all other species of Cichlids, they lay and hatch eggs. These fish are mouth breeders. So once the eggs are laid and fertilized, the female keeps them in her mouth to protect them as they grow.

They are incubated and develop in her mouth for two-three weeks.

If the female is a first-time mother, she will lay ten eggs, on average. However, if she’s a mature mother, who has given birth several times, she will lay around 30 eggs.

Remember, these numbers are a guide. The number of eggs a given female will produce depends on how much experience she has as a mother, and many other factors.

After the baby fish, (called fry), hatch, the mother will look after them for a week or so. After that time, they are strong enough to look after themselves.

Yellow Flavescent Peacock Cichlid taken by @central_texas_cichlids on Instagram
Yellow Flavescent Peacock Cichlid thanks to @central_texas_cichlids on Instagram


Looking After Peacock Cichlids

All the species of Cichlids that come from Lake Malawi are naturally aggressive. Often, when they are placed in an aquarium or similar confined space, there is usually an increase in aggressive behavior.

If you are planning to keep Peacock Cichlids, it’s essential to have a tank large enough to accommodate them. They also need places where they can seek refuge.

If you plan your tank carefully, you can avoid common problems that people who keep peacock cichlids face. These include bigger fish preying on the smaller and unnecessary clashes between fish. It even may prevent two different species breeding with each other. (This is known as hybridization.)

As we have mentioned earlier, the average size for Peacock Cichlids is 4-7” (10-18 cm). Because of that, it’s essential they have a large tank! The minimum size (water capacity) of the tank recommended for them is 50 gallons. If you can manage it, 100 gallons is a good idea. This size is excellent for a group of fish.

A pointer to remember when picking the size of your tank is 1/2 an inch of fish per gallon. As Peacock Cichlids swim in the open water, tall tanks are a good idea, as they offer more space.

Not only are they a species that swims in the open water, but they also cover an extensive range in the wild. Despite many males being solitary, they do form schools. They swim together, feeding on the bottom of the lake.

In the aquarium, the fish forming schools are essential for a harmonious existence for them. It will minimize conflict between the cichlids. As mentioned in the breeding section, there is usually one male to 3-4 females. Because of this, they are known as polygamous. Keeping within this ratio will also help the formation of schools.

Something to keep in mind is that Peacock Cichlids need lots of space to move around in. Their care and maintenance are like that of the Mbuna group.

Conditions Of The Tank

The Peacock Cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi, which means this is the only place they can be found in the world. Because of this, they aren’t the most adaptable of fish. So if you wish to keep them, they require fixed water conditions and specific water chemistry.

Read on to find out how to help your Peacock Cichlids thrive.

PH And Hardness

In the natural conditions of Lake Malawi, the water absorbs bicarbonate and calcium from the bedrock on the bottom and the sides of the lake. The minerals are released into the water, making it quite hard, and giving it a neutral pH.

Being endemic to the lake, the Peacock Cichlid has specially adapted to the environment. In the home aquarium, the conditions must be particular for the fish. For the pH, it needs to be 7.5 to 8.5. This is the high range of pH for freshwater fish.

Make sure that the pH is the exact amount. Don’t make them any lower or higher. If you put the fish in an environment with a lower pH, it will stress them out, and it could contract diseases.

Vibrant Blue Peacock Cichlid taken by @billcamp11
Vibrant Blue Peacock Cichlid taken by @billcamp11


Lake Malawi is situated almost in the middle of the Tropic of Capricorn and the Equator. It has a tropical climate. The water is quite warm, so your aquarium needs to reflect that.

The recommended tank temperature for Peacock Cichlids is 74-80° Fahrenheit, (23-27° Celsius). Another important thing when it comes to temperature is maintaining it steadily. Sudden changes – even those in the recommended range – can make the fish uncomfortable.

A useful tool to maintain the temperature would be an aquarium heater.

Useful Tools

As Peacock Cichlids require special water conditions, it can be a bit of a pain to have to monitor the tank regularly. Well, you have to, to make sure the requirements haven’t changed!

However, the aquarium trade is well aware of this problem, and they have created a few handy tools to make tank maintenance easier.

Here are some of the best for Peacock Cichlids.

Rift Lake Salts

Rift Lake Salts are for creating, and maintaining ideal water chemistry for your fish. You can get them in most pet shops, and in shops online, where they are sometimes also known as African Cichlid Salt. They contain bicarbonate and calcium, which are the minerals that are most prominent in Lake Malawi.

When you dissolve them in the tank water, the Rift Lake Salts maintain the pH and increase the hardness of the water. This imitates the water conditions of where Peacock Cichlids come from.

If you choose to use this product, make sure you dissolve it in a bucket of water beforea adding it to the tank. It allows the pH and hardness to be put right before your fish are in the water.

Passive pH Control

The salt mix isn’t the only way you can maintain the water chemistry. There is a way you can keep the ph and hardness at the right levels. Also, you can have a lovely decoration for your aquarium at the same time.

Rocks such as tufa and substrates such as coral sand contain minerals that are calcium-rich. These substances slowly release bicarbonate and calcium into the water.

This is like the natural processes of the rocks in Lake Malawi, so it is an excellent way to kill two birds with one stone. (Decoration for your aquarium, and contented fish! 🙂 )

Peacock Cichlid swimming taken by @aqua_naturalist on Instagram
Peacock Cichlid swimming thanks to @aqua_naturalist on Instagram


Suitable Tank Mates

Many types of cichlids live in Lake Malawi, and compared to many of them, Peacock Cichlids are peaceful fish. As with other fish species, these fish are protective of their territory. This is mainly male peacock cichlids, but they aren’t known for their aggressiveness.

Because of this, peacock cichlids can live alongside other species.

Here are some ideas for Peacock Cichlids tank mates.

Suggested companions would include other cichlids, (preferably those that aren’t aggressive. As well as other species who’s temperament is community.

Other members of the tribe that Peacock Cichlids come from, (haplochromine), share a similar temperament. A good example would be Utaka Cichlids. They would also make an excellent companion for Peacock Cichlids.

A definite no-no when it comes to pairing them with other fish is with Zebra Cichlids. They can be quite aggressive, and putting them together would not go well. Other fish from the Mbuna genus isn’t a good idea either.

(For more on Zebra Cichlids, AKA Convict Cichlids, see here.)


In the wild, where they live in Lake Malawi, Peacock Cichlids are described as insectivores, so their diet mainly consists of insects. Unlike some of the other Lake Malawi Cichlids, whose diet consists mostly of vegetation. Peacock Cichlids are bigger and hunt in the open water, so this allows for a much more varied diet.

They also have a specific method of feeding. They are a benthic species. This means they feed and live in the lower or deeper areas of water bodies, sifting through the substrate on the bottom for food.

To prevent overfeeding, and for the sake of keeping them healthy. It is much better to feed Peacock Cichlids small amounts several, say, 2-3 times a day, rather than one big feed.

It is also essential to remove any uneaten food from the tank. By doing this, you prevent ammonia spikes and blockages in the filter. They could be a real pain if they were to happen!

When planning to keep them as pets, there are a few foods to consider.

Many people recommend these types of fish foods: wafers, granules and sinking pellets. However, there is the importance of giving them a varied diet. Feeding them specific types of fresh and frozen foods is a good idea.

As with any animal, you must be careful when it comes to feeding them foods that aren’t specific fish foods.

Here are a few pointers.

It is a good idea to feed them different types of vegetables, such as cucumber, broccoli, peas, and lettuce. Also, a good idea is Japanese seaweed or nori. Here are the methods of preparing them:

Cucumber: Cucumbers can be chopped into inch long chunks. Then, weigh them down with something heavy, so they sink to the bottom. This is an excellent idea for keeping your fish occupied, as they can slowly demolish the chunk.

Peas: This may be tedious, but de-shelling the peas is a good idea unless you are using baby peas. If you want to make them softer, boil them.

Washed, and finely chopping, any of the above foods is a good way to prepare them, as well as blending them and freezing them into small cubes.

Garlic is also another great option, believe it or not. Make sure you chop it as finely as you can and mix it with something else. Feeding them small amounts of garlic helps Peacock Cichlids with their health and immune system.

However, these must only be fed to your fish in moderation. As with any other food, for the sake of keeping your fish healthy and making sure they have a balanced and varied diet.

Other Options To Consider

Despite being insectivores, Peacock Cichlids will be content on a diet with meat in it. However, there are specific types of meat you could feed them. Good options include frozen and freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

Things To Avoid

Other Types Of Meat: Don’t panic, it’s fine to feed your fish the meats recommended above. But, as with everything, always in moderation. Beef, chicken, lamb and other meats are a definite no-no. Peacock and other Lake Malawi Cichlids have digestive systems that aren’t suited to meat.

All in all, if you are concerned or want in-depth information about feeding your fish, asking your local vet is always a good idea.

Pretty Peacock Cichlids taken by @cerulean_aquatics
Pretty Peacock Cichlids taken by @cerulean_aquatics

Popular Types Of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids is the name for the genus of fish called Aulonocara. It includes many species and sub-species. So there’s plenty of variety when it comes to choosing your Peacock Cichlids.

According to the website Fishbase, there are 22 recognized species of the genus Aulonocara. There is the possibility that more are waiting to be discovered. But, not all them have made it into a favorite pet. Although there are others that are available in the aquarium trade, not all 22 are at your fingertips.

Here is a list of the most popular types of Peacock Cichlids, and their scientific names. Also, any other names they might be known as, (if applicable.)

Night Aulonocara – Aulonocara hueseri (Midnight Peacock)

Sulfurhead peacock – Aulonocara maylandi (Sulfurhead Aulonocara)

Aulonocara Chizumulu – Aulonocara korneliae (Aulonocara Blue Gold | Blue Orchard Aulanocara)

Eureka Red Peacock – Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Freiberg’s Peacock | Fairy Cichlid)

Blue Orchid – Aulonocara kandeense (Blue Orchid Aulonocara)

Nkhomo-Benga Peacock – Aulonocara baenschi

Emperor Cichlid – Aulonocara nyassae

Greenface Aulonocara – Aulonocara saulosi

Pale Usisya Aulonocara – Aulonocara steveni

Flavescent Peacock – Aulonocara stuartgranti

(FYI: The Emperor Cichlid mentioned above isn’t to be confused with the Giant Cichlid, (Boulengerochromis microlepis). It’s a species which comes from Lake Tanganyika in Africa. The Giant Cichlid is sometimes known as the Emperor Cichlid, which is why people confuse it.)


So, has your thirst for knowledge been quenched? Good! All in all, Peacock Cichlids make an excellent, low-maintenance pet. They are an absolute pleasure to look at. Some of the brightest and most colorful freshwater fish out there. They’re sure to bring some vibrancy to your aquarium.

If you found this helpful, then excellent! You can help other people find this resource by sharing it on social media, and telling your friends. If you have any tips, recommendations or suggestions that somehow weren’t mentioned in this list, please, by all means, share them in the comments. Thank you for reading.

4 thoughts on “Easily The Most Stunning Cichlids – Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae) – Complete Species Guide”

  1. I found this article very informative. We have been starting an all male peacock cichlid tank. We have 6 peacocks now. They are fun to watch and even fun to research our “wish list” !

    Debbie Rogers

    • Thanks so much for sharing Debbie and so good to hear you found my article helpful. They certainly are fun to watch. Enjoy your Peacock cichlids. Cheers Jim 🙂

    • Hi Carl, I’m sure it looked wonderful. Peacock Cichlids are so vibrant, they would look spectacular against the dark background. Do you still keep cichlids?


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