Peacock Cichlid – Complete Care & Tank Guide

Peacock Cichlids! One of the most colorful cichlids and freshwater fish. They have vibrant reds, blues, yellows, oranges, and purples.

cichlid from genus aulonocara

(FYI: Don’t confuse them with Peacock Bass. They are two different species; their habitats are in two different parts of the world.)

They weren’t always a well-known species. However, now, they’ve risen in popularity

There are many reasons why to keep them. One, they’re a good size. Two, they’re very colorful. Three, they’re easy to take care of.

Here’s a complete care guide for these fish.

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 Peacocks


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

What is a peacock cichlid? 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 Lake Malawi in Africa.


Cichlids are some of the brightest and vibrant fish. These indeed live up to the expectations.

They’re a sexually dimorphic species. The males and females have many physical differences.

Here are a few pointers on how to sex peacock cichlid.

Markings and Colours: Males are more colorful and vibrant than their counterparts. Especially in the breeding seasons.

Males sometimes have what’s called “egg spots,” on their anal fins. They are unusual, and they are unique to the tribe haplochromine.

According to Plos One, they seem to be for showing the male is healthy and may make it easier for the fish to find a mate. 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. The anal, dorsal and caudal fins of the male fish are longer.

Behavior: Males become flamboyant and aggressive in the breeding season, to impress the females. They also may become occupied with building a nest or cave, a suitable place for reproduction.

Peacock Aulonocara nyassae

With the females, change in behavior is a bit more subtle. Two fish preparing to spawn will spend much time together. However, a group of females tend to ignore the other cichlids in the tank.

Breeding females often carry their eggs in their mouth to protect their young.

(If you still can’t tell, ask your local vet or expert.)

How big does a peacock cichlid get? Fully grown they reach lengths of 4-7 inches, (10-18cm).

Beatiful Peacock fish taken by @aqua_naturalist on Instagram
Beautiful Peacock thanks to @aqua_naturalist on Instagram


Except in the breeding season, both sexes tend to lead solitary lifestyles. They’re territorial, but not overly aggressive.

If you want to breed them at home, here is a list of things to remember.

  • Set up a group of fish. A ratio of 1 male to 3-4 females is a good idea.
  • If you have different species in the same tank, make sure they look very different to avoid hybridization.
  • They lay and hatch eggs, and they’re mouth breeders. 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 around ten eggs. If she’s given birth before, she will lay around 30 eggs. Of course, it varies.
  • After the baby fish, (called fry), hatch, the mother looks after them for a week or so. Then they look after themselves.

How long does it take for peacock cichlid fry to hatch? Around 2 to 4 weeks.

How to tell if a peacock cichlid is holding? Here is an excellent video from Prime Time Aquatics explaining how to tell.

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

Looking After Peacock Cichlids

Cichlids 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.

It’s essential to have a tank large enough to accommodate them. They need places to seek refuge, like aquarium plants or rocks.

Plan your tank carefully to avoid common problems. These include bigger fish preying on smaller ones and clashes between fish. It may prevent two different species breeding with each other. (Hybridization.)

The minimum recommended tank size (water capacity) is a 50 gallon tank. A 100 gallon tank is an excellent tank size for a group of fish.

Pick the size of your tank by 1/2 an inch of fish per gallon. As they swim in open water, tall tanks offer more space.

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 is essential to minimize conflict. There are usually one male to 3-4 females, they’re polygamous. Keep this ratio to help the formation of schools.

They need lots of space to move around in. Their care and maintenance are like that of the Mbuna group.

Here is a care guide on ideal conditions for the tank to have.

Tank Conditions

They’re endemic to Lake Malawi and not very adaptable. They require fixed water parameters.

PH Levels And Water Hardness

In the natural conditions of their habitat, the water absorbs bicarbonate and calcium from the bedrock on the bottom of the lake.

The minerals release into the water, making it hard, and it has a neutral pH.

The pH needs to be 7.5 to 8.5.

Make sure the pH is the exact amount. If you put the fish in an environment with water parameters such as lower pH levels, it will stress them out, and it could contract diseases.

Vibrant Blue Peacock fish taken by @billcamp11
Vibrant Blue Peacock taken by @billcamp11

Water Temperature

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.

The recommended tank temperature for Peacock Cichlids is 74-80° Fahrenheit, (23-27° Celsius). Remember to maintain the water temperature steadily.

Sudden changes – even in the recommended range – make the fish uncomfortable. A useful tool to maintain the temperature is an aquarium heater.

Useful Tools

The aquarium trade has created a few handy tools to make tank maintenance easier. Here are some of the best for these fish.

Rift Lake Salts

Rift Lake Salts create and maintain ideal water chemistry for your fish. They’re sometimes known as African Cichlid Salt. They contain bicarbonate and calcium, minerals 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 these fish come from.

Dissolve it in a bucket of water before adding it to the tank.

The Cichlid Lake Salt by Seachem is an excellent choice, especially designed for African Cichlids, like the peacock cichlid.

Cichlid Lake Salt by Seachem Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

Passive pH Control

The salt mix isn’t the only way you can maintain the water parameters

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.

Here’s an excellent choice for Tufa

Rock Garden Natural Green Plant with Tufa Rock Base, 8' Click to Learn More / Buy from Amazon

A good choice for coral sand –

No products found. No products found.

This is like the natural processes of the rocks in the lake.

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

Suitable Tank Mates

Though protective of their territory, they can live alongside other species.

Here are some ideas for Peacock Cichlids tank mates.

Suggested companions include other cichlids, (preferably non-aggressive). Also other species with community temperament.

Other members of the tribe Peacocks come from, (haplochromine), share a similar temperament. Utaka Cichlids are an excellent choice.

Unsuitable tank mates are Zebra Cichlids and fish from the Mbuna genus.


Peacock Cichlids are insectivores. Unlike some of the other Lake Malawi Cichlids, whose diet consists mostly of vegetation. These are bigger and hunt in the open water, and have a much more varied diet.

They are a benthic species. This means they feed and live in the lower or deeper areas of water bodies, sifting through the substrate for food.

Feed them small amounts 2-3 times a day, rather than one big feed.

Remove any uneaten food from the tank. This prevents ammonia spikes and blockages in the filter.

Many people recommend these types of fish foods: wafers, granules and a sinking cichlid pellet. But make sure to give them a varied diet. Feeding them specific types of fresh and frozen foods is a good idea.

You must be careful when it comes to feeding them foods that aren’t specific fish foods.

Here are a few pointers.

Feed them different types of vegetables, such as cucumber, broccoli, peas, and lettuce. Also Japanese seaweed or nori.

Cucumber: Chop into inch long chunks. Weigh them down with something heavy, so they sink to the bottom. It keeping them occupied, as they slowly demolish the chunk.

Peas: De-shell the peas 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, or blending them and freezing them into small cubes.

Garlic is also another great option. Chop finely and mix it with something else. Feeding them small amounts of garlic helps Peacock Cichlids with their health and immune system.

These must only be fed to your fish in moderation.

Other Options To Consider

Despite being insectivores, Peacock Cichlids will be content on a diet with meat in it. Good options include frozen and freeze-dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

You can also feed them live brine shrimp.

Things To Avoid

Other Types Of Meat: Beef, chicken, lamb and other meats are a definite no. Peacock and other Lake Malawi Cichlids have digestive systems not suited to meat.

Tubifex worms are a bad idea because they cause Malawi bloating.

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.

According to the website Fishbase, there are 22 recognized species of the genus Aulonocara. Possibly, more are waiting to be discovered.

Here is a list of Peacock Cichlid types

  • 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)
  • Ruby Red Peacock Cichlid – Aulonocara Rubescens (Ruby Red Peacock Cichlid and Rubin Red Peacock)
  • Blue Orchid – Aulonocara kandeense (Blue Orchid Aulonocara)
  • Nkhomo-Benga Peacock – Aulonocara baenschi (The nkhomo-benga peacock is also known as the new yellow regal peacock,)
  • Emperor Cichlid – Aulonocara nyassae
  • Greenface Aulonocara – Aulonocara saulosi
  • Pale Usisya Aulonocara – Aulonocara steveni
  • Flavescent Peacock – Aulonocara stuartgranti
  • Sunshine Peacock – Aulonocara stuartgranti (Maleri Orange)
  • OB Peacock – (A hybrid, created with a male Aulonocara with an OB female mbuna.)

(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.)

Peacock Cichlids make an excellent, low-maintenance pet. Some of the brightest and most colorful fish, sure to bring some vibrancy to your aquarium.

Is there something missing from this article, or do you have a question? Let me know in a comment below.

Peacock Cichlid Pin


  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?

  2. Love peacock cichlids!! Our family has been breeding them and we have had many batches of babies! Even 70 babies at one point! It happened on accident but we love caring for them and donating the babies to our local fish aquarium’ Great article! I loved it!

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience of Peacock Cichlids. That’s very kind of you to donate the babies to your local fish aquarium.

  3. Learned a great deal here. I have a 150 stocked with mostly Peacocks……(ya gotta luvem). I am now going to gradually move to “exclusively Peacocks”. I do follow most of your recommendations, especially feeding. I try to feed them as much frozen food as possible and I have a food grinder that grinds dry stuff almost down to the size of sand. I mix in several types and brands and one clove of garlic. Put the mix in a sealed bowl and give it a good shaking. When my fish see me approach the tank, every fish in the tank, including the 3 very large, but peaceful and friendly Plecos,* all rush to the front and center where they know the food is coming in.
    *The Plecos are very large, 12”+. They are very tank friendly and keep to themselves. They do a magnificent job keeping a lot of uneaten food off the bottom, as well as algae off the glass.


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