Peacock Cichlid – Size, Types, Care, Tank Mates & Details!

Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara) is a species of the Astatotilapia genus with as many as 22 special varieties found in nature. These species can be identified based on their elaborate pattern and color schemes.

Specifically known for their vibrant colors, Peacock Cichlids are a popular choice for display in aquariums due to their eye-catching appearance.

Peacock Cichlid Description and Appearance

Peacock Cichlids possess elongated fins, which allow them to swim effectively in Lake Malawi’s unique conditions. Their elongated bodies enable them to maneuver through rocky environments with ease.

These fish are omnivorous and have a diverse diet, consisting of herbivorous options such as seaweed and red algae, as well as carnivorous tendencies for smaller sea life like crustaceans, larvae, zooplankton, and insects.

Peacock Cichlids typically measure between 4 and 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. Their color schemes can include blue, yellow, gold, and orange, with iridescent hues on their skin. Only males exhibit vibrant colors, while females and young fingerlings are usually dull gray.

Scientific name: Aulonocara
Common names: Peacock cichlid, aulonocara, peacock
Distribution: Lake Malawi in East Africa
Size: 4–6 inches
Life expectancy: 6–8 years
Color: Vibrant purple, yellow, orange, red, blue, pink
Diet: Omnivore
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Minimum tank size: 55 gallons
Temperature: 76–82°F (24–28°C)
pH: 7.8–8.6
Hardness: 4–6 dGH
Care level: Easy
Breeding: Mouth brooder

Natural Habitat

Peacock Cichlids are native to Lake Malawi, part of the East African Rift system. Their preference for this specific habitat means they are rarely found in other neighboring water bodies.

These fish thrive in slightly alkaline pH levels ranging from 7.5 to 9.0 and require water temperatures of 75 to 81°F (24 to 27°C). They inhabit areas of the lake characterized by natural rubble, rocky environments with an abundance of sand and rocks.

The adaptive nature of the fish’s feeding habits means it can survive on various sources of nutrition. Peacock Cichlids can consume just about any food source they’re provided with, including manufactured food.

However, some exceptions do exist for them in the form of mammalian meat and tubifex worms. These are known to cause the Malawi Bloat which results in abdominal swelling and bloody ulcers with a substantial risk of death.

Different Types of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids (Aulonocara) are a vibrant and diverse group of freshwater fish belonging to the Astatotilapia genus, with as many as 22 unique species found in nature.

Each species is identified by its striking color patterns and intricate designs, making them a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts.

There are several known types of Peacock Cichlids, including:

  1. Emperor Cichlid (Aulonocara Nyassae)

  2. Yellow Regal Peacock (Aulonocara baenschi)

  3. Flavescent Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)

  4. Ruby Red Peacock (Aulonocara Red Ruby)

  5. Aulonocara Multicolor

Emperor Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae)

The Emperor Cichlid, also known as the Red-Shouldered Peacock, is a stunning species native to Lake Malawi. Males grow to a maximum size of 12 cm, while females reach 9 cm.

Males exhibit bright blue bodies with a wide, red oblique stripe behind their gill covers. Females, on the other hand, are more modestly colored, displaying gray-brown shades with dark transverse stripes on their sides. To keep an Emperor Cichlid, an aquarium with a minimum capacity of 150 liters and a sandy substrate is recommended.

Yellow Regal Peacock (Aulonocara baenschi)

Named after its founder, Dr. Ulrich Bensch, the Yellow Regal Peacock is a medium-sized cichlid with a maximum length of 13-15 cm in captivity. This species features a vibrant yellow body with bluish stripes on the tail and torso. The lower part of the head and mouth also displays a blue hue.

The Yellow Regal Peacock is considered one of the least aggressive African cichlids, even during spawning, and can coexist peacefully with other aquarium inhabitants. However, males may exhibit territorial behavior towards one another.

Flavescent Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)

The Flavescent Peacock is known for the incredible variety of colors displayed by males, with over 100 known variations. Males reach a size of 12-15 cm in captivity, while females are gray.

Males reach their maximum color intensity by two years of age. Flavescent Peacocks live at depths of 15-20 meters in the wild, preferring sandy bottoms with rock formations. An aquarium of at least 150 liters is required to house a pair of these cichlids, which are relatively peaceful but may become territorial during spawning.

Ruby Red Peacock (Aulonocara Red Ruby)

The Ruby Red Peacock is another striking result of breeding efforts. Males grow to a length of 12-15 cm and boast a bright red color with light stripes and a blue head. Females are less colorful, displaying beige or orange shades.

Caring for Ruby Red Peacocks is similar to other Aulonocara species, with no significant differences in their requirements.

Aulonocara Multicolor

As the name suggests, Aulonocara Multicolor is distinguished by its unusually diverse coloration. Randomly arranged spots of yellow, red, orange, black, and blue create a unique pattern on each fish.

Even females exhibit “spotted” colors, albeit less vibrant. This variety was obtained by crossbreeding several Aulonocara species.

Sulphurhead Peacock (Aulonocara maylandi)

Sulphurhead Peacocks grow to a size of 8-10 cm and feature a dark, gray-blue coloration. A wide stripe extends from the head to the tail along the upper body.

Depending on the stripe’s color (white or yellow), two subspecies of Aulonocara maylandi are distinguished.

Large color differences can be seen in different varieties of the fish, depending on the living conditions, nature of the habitat, and interactions with other marine life.

Only the males of the Peacock Cichlid exhibit any color, females and young fingerlings are found to only be found in dull grey color. The males transform as they mature to present various colors while the females remain grey.

Peacock Cichlids are typically found to have elongated bodies with a lateral line system. Most species have been observed to have a high back.

The pectoral, dorsal, and caudal fins are all elongated with the pectoral fin being largely transparent while the dorsal and caudal fins may show color variances as well.

Tank Setup for Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids are stunning fish that bring vibrant colors and dynamic behaviors to the aquarium. As they originate from Lake Malawi in Africa, they have specific requirements for their environment. In this detailed article, we will explore the tank setup for Peacock Cichlids, including tank size, water parameters, substrate, decorations, and tankmates.

Tank Size

Peacock Cichlids require ample space to swim and exhibit their natural behaviors. For a small group, a tank size of 40-55 gallons (150-200 liters) is the minimum recommendation, while a larger tank of 75 gallons (280 liters) or more is ideal, particularly when housing multiple species or bigger groups.

A larger tank will also help minimize aggression and territorial disputes among males.

Water Parameters

Peacock Cichlids thrive in stable water conditions similar to their natural habitat in Lake Malawi. The water should have a pH of 7.8-8.6, with a temperature between 74-82°F (23-28°C). The water hardness should be maintained between 10-20 dGH. Regular water changes of 15-20% every week will help maintain a healthy environment for your fish.


A sandy substrate is essential for Peacock Cichlids, as they like to sift through the sand in search of food. A fine sand or crushed coral substrate will help maintain the necessary pH and water hardness levels. Make sure the substrate is at least 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) deep to allow the fish to burrow and explore.


Rock formations, caves, and hiding spots are vital for Peacock Cichlids to establish territories, retreat, and reduce stress. You can use limestone or lava rocks, as well as artificial caves or PVC pipes. Arrange the rocks in a way that provides hiding spots and caves while still leaving open areas for swimming. Be sure to secure the rocks to prevent them from toppling and injuring the fish.

Aquatic plants can also be added, but choose hardy species like Anubias, Java Fern, or Vallisneria that can tolerate the higher pH levels and won’t be easily uprooted by the fish. These plants provide additional cover and help improve water quality.

Lighting and Filtration

Peacock Cichlids do not have specific lighting requirements, but a standard LED aquarium light will suffice. Keep the lighting on a consistent schedule, with 10-12 hours of light per day to simulate a natural day/night cycle.

A powerful filtration system is essential for maintaining a healthy tank, as cichlids produce a lot of waste. A canister filter or a hang-on-back filter with a high flow rate will help maintain water clarity and quality. Make sure the filter doesn’t create strong currents, as Peacock Cichlids prefer calm waters.

Keep in mind that each species has its temperament, and individual personalities may vary. Observe your fish for signs of aggression and adjust your stocking accordingly.


Peacock Cichlid Tankmates

When selecting tankmates for Peacock Cichlids, it is crucial to consider their compatibility and temperament. Peacock Cichlids are moderately aggressive, and their tankmates should be able to coexist peacefully without being too timid or overly aggressive.

The ideal tankmates should also have similar environmental requirements, including water parameters and temperature.

Ideal Tankmates for Peacock Cichlids

1. Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Yellow Labs are an excellent choice for a Peacock Cichlid community tank due to their peaceful temperament and similar environmental requirements. They add a beautiful contrast with their bright yellow color and are easy to care for.

2. Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri)

The Electric Blue Hap is another suitable tankmate for Peacock Cichlids. They share similar water parameters and are moderately aggressive, making them a good match in temperament. Their striking blue coloration makes them an attractive addition to the tank.

3. Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus acei)

Acei Cichlids are a peaceful Mbuna species that can coexist with Peacock Cichlids. Their elongated bodies and blue or purple coloration make them an appealing addition to a Peacock Cichlid tank. Ensure the tank is large enough to accommodate their territories and provide ample hiding spots.

4. Rusty Cichlid (Iodotropheus sprengerae)

Rusty Cichlids are a docile species that can be housed with Peacock Cichlids. They have a rusty-orange color and prefer the same water parameters, making them a compatible choice. Like the Acei Cichlid, ensure the tank has enough hiding spots and space to establish territories.

5. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus spp.)

Bristlenose Plecos are excellent tankmates for Peacock Cichlids due to their peaceful nature and compatibility in water parameters. As bottom dwellers, they will help keep the tank clean by consuming algae and leftover food.

Tankmates to Avoid

Avoid keeping Peacock Cichlids with smaller, timid fish, aggressive cichlids, or predatory species. Some examples of unsuitable tankmates include:

Additional Tips for a Peaceful Community

  1. Ensure the tank is large enough to accommodate all inhabitants and provide room for territories. A minimum of 55 gallons (208 liters) is recommended, but larger tanks are ideal for multiple species or larger groups.

  2. Provide ample hiding spots using rocks, caves, and PVC pipes. This will help reduce stress and aggression among the fish.

  3. Maintain a balanced male-to-female ratio, as this can help minimize aggression, particularly among male Peacock Cichlids.

  4. Keep a close eye on the tank inhabitants and monitor for signs of aggression. Be prepared to adjust the stocking if necessary.

In conclusion, selecting suitable tankmates for Peacock Cichlids is crucial to create a harmonious community tank. By choosing compatible species with similar temperaments and environmental requirements, you can ensure a peaceful and visually appealing aquarium environment.

Remember to provide adequate tank size, hiding spots, and a balanced male-to-female ratio for the best results.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Regular monitoring of the tank inhabitants’ behavior is essential to detect any issues early and prevent them from escalating. Make a habit of observing your fish daily and watch for signs of stress or aggression.

Additionally, maintain good water quality by performing regular water changes, testing the water parameters, and keeping the tank clean. This will help create a stable environment and promote the overall health of your fish.

Diet and Feeding Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids are omnivorous by nature and enjoy a diverse diet in the wild. In captivity, providing a well-balanced and varied diet is essential to maintain their overall health and vibrant colors.

Staple Diet

A high-quality cichlid pellet or flake food should form the foundation of their diet. Choose a product that contains essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals specifically designed for cichlids.

Supplemental Foods

To add variety and enhance their diet, offer occasional treats such as:

  • Frozen or live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia

  • Vegetables like blanched spinach, zucchini, and peas

  • Spirulina or algae wafers to mimic their natural consumption of algae

Feed your Peacock Cichlids 2-3 times a day, offering only what they can consume within 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and water quality issues, which can negatively impact their health.

Breeding Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids are mouthbrooders, meaning the female holds the fertilized eggs and fry in her mouth to protect them. To encourage breeding, follow these steps:

  1. Maintain optimal water parameters and a clean, stress-free environment.

  2. Ensure a balanced male-to-female ratio (1 male to 2-3 females) to prevent aggression and competition.

  3. Provide flat rocks, caves, or breeding pits to create suitable spawning sites.

  4. Enhance their diet with high-quality, protein-rich foods to condition the fish for breeding.

During spawning, the male will display vibrant colors and perform a mating dance to attract the female. If successful, the female will lay her eggs on the chosen spawning site, and the male will fertilize them.

The female then scoops the eggs into her mouth, where she’ll incubate them for about 21-28 days. Once the fry are released, they can be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flake food.

Peacock Cichlid Diseases and Treatment

Like all fish species, however, Peacock Cichlids can be susceptible to various diseases and health issues. In this article, we will discuss common diseases that affect Peacock Cichlids and provide guidance on how to diagnose and treat these conditions.

Common Peacock Cichlid Diseases

1. Malawi Bloat

Malawi Bloat is a common issue among African cichlids, including Peacock Cichlids. Characterized by abdominal swelling, rapid breathing, and loss of appetite, Malawi Bloat typically results from a high-protein diet, overfeeding, or subpar water quality.

Treatment: To treat Malawi Bloat, start by improving water quality through regular water changes and reduce protein in the fish’s diet. Medications like Metronidazole or Clout can also be used to treat the condition, but it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

2. Ich (White Spot Disease)

Ich is a common parasitic infection that causes small white spots on the fish’s body, fins, and gills. Other symptoms include excessive scratching, rapid breathing, and lethargy.

Treatment: To treat Ich, raise the water temperature to 86°F (30°C) for a few days, which accelerates the parasite’s life cycle and increases its vulnerability to treatment. Additionally, use medications like Malachite Green or Copper Sulfate to eradicate the parasites.

3. Fin Rot

Fin Rot is a bacterial infection that causes the fins of the fish to appear frayed, discolored, and sometimes even rot away. This condition is usually caused by poor water quality, stress, or injury.

Treatment: To treat Fin Rot, improve the water quality by performing regular water changes and maintaining proper water parameters. Antibacterial medications such as Maracyn, Kanamycin, or Tetracycline can also be used to treat the infection.

4. Swim Bladder Disease

Swim Bladder Disease is a disorder that affects the fish’s ability to maintain buoyancy. Affected fish may have difficulty swimming, float at odd angles, or be unable to swim at all. This condition can be caused by poor diet, overfeeding, or sudden changes in water temperature.

Treatment: Adjusting the fish’s diet to include more vegetable-based foods and reducing the amount of food given can help to alleviate swim bladder issues. In severe cases, Epsom salt baths may be used to relieve pressure on the swim bladder.

Preventing Disease in Peacock Cichlids

Prevention is always the best cure for diseases in fish. By maintaining optimal water conditions, feeding a balanced diet, and observing the fish regularly, you can prevent many common diseases in Peacock Cichlids. Additionally, quarantining new fish before adding them to the main tank can help to prevent the spread of diseases to your existing fish.

Conservation Status

Peacock Cichlids do not currently have an endangered or threatened status. However, challenges such as pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction threaten their natural habitat in Lake Malawi.

We must take efforts to preserve their environment and promote sustainable practices within the aquarium trade.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How big do Peacock Cichlids get?

A: Peacock Cichlids typically reach a size of 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) in captivity.

Q: What is the ideal tank size for Peacock Cichlids?

A: We recommend a minimum tank size of 55 gallons for Peacock Cichlids. For community setups or housing multiple males, opt for larger tanks.

Q: What is the lifespan of Peacock Cichlids?

A: Peacock Cichlids can live up to 8 years in captivity with proper care.

Q: Are Peacock Cichlids aggressive?

A: Peacock Cichlids are considered semi-aggressive. They can be territorial, especially during breeding, but generally coexist peacefully with compatible tankmates.


Peacock Cichlids are captivating fish that can thrive in well-maintained home aquariums. Providing a balanced diet, creating suitable breeding conditions, and understanding their

conservation status will ensure their overall health and happiness. By following the advice and recommendations presented in this article, fishkeepers can create a thriving aquatic environment for these beautiful cichlids.

Remember, the key to keeping Peacock Cichlids healthy and vibrant lies in maintaining optimal water parameters, offering a diverse and nutritious diet, and providing appropriate tankmates and hiding spots. By taking the time to understand and meet their specific needs, you can enjoy the beauty and unique behaviors of these magnificent fish for years to come.