Peacock Cichlid – Care, Habitat, 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.

They’re specifically known as being one of the most colorful fish to be kept and this makes them a popular choice for displaying in aquariums.

Quick Stats

Scientific Name: Aulonocara
Family: Cichlidae
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Color Form: Various; typically blue
Lifespan: 8 Years
Size: 4-6″
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 55 Gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater: Driftwood and Caves
Compatibility: Mixed

Peacock Cichlid Appearance

Typically, the Peacock Cichlid Fish varies in size from around 4 inches to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm). The Peacock Cichlid is known for having quite a variety of different colors.

Depending on the species, possible color schemes can include blue, yellow, gold, and orange. The coloring on the Peacock Cichlid’s skin is iridescent as opposed to being a fixed color shade.

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.

Peacock Cichlid Habitat

The Peacock Cichlid is native to Lake Malawi of the East African Rift system. The specific nature of the Peacock Cichlid’s preference for this particular habitat makes it rarer to be found in other neighboring water bodies.

For Peacock Cichlids to thrive, they require the natural conditions of the Lake Malawi to exhibit proper growth and maturation.

These fish prefer a slightly alkaline pH that ranges anywhere from 7.5 to 9.0. A lukewarm water temperature of around 75 to 81°F (24 to 27°C) is optimal for most Peacock Cichlid species.

Peacock Cichlids tend to dwell in areas of the lake characterized by natural rubble. These rocky environments contain a considerable abundance of sand and rocks that the fish has been known to inhabit.

The high density of minerals in the Lake Malawi causes an increased level of water hardness in the areas inhabited by the fish. Peacock Cichlids are accustomed to swimming in water with a hardness of 10 to 20 dH.

Peacock Cichlid Description

The Peacock Cichlids elongated fins are an adaptation that allows it to swim better in Lake Malawi’s special conditions. Its elongated fins allow it to move swiftly even in hard water with relative ease and speed.

The elongated body of the fish itself allows it to better maneuver through rocky environments as efficiently as possible.

Peacock Cichlids are omnivorous by nature and have a vast array of dietary sources. They’re largely classified as bottom dwellers and tend to pick off food from the seafloor.

They can feast on herbivorous options such as seaweed and red algae as well.

Likewise, they have a predatory carnivorous tendency for smaller sea life such as crustaceans, larvae, zooplankton, and insects among other things.

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.

Peacock Cichlid Breeding

Peacock Cichlids are a part of the benthic species that reside in lower regions of the ocean. On average, Peacock Cichlids can be found at a depth of 6 to 40 meters.

These fish have a highly developed predatory sense that facilitates their hunting of lower marine life.

They tend to hover low over the sand and use their keen senses to detect movement and attack prey.

These fish are usually classified as a peaceful species, integrating with other members of its species well.

However, the Peacock Cichlid has been observed to be largely territorial and will exhibit aggression if provoked.

Marine life forms that invade their habitat are considered a threat by the fish and will be subject to physical attack.

Males can be distinguished from females by their colorful appearance. This appearance is essential to their mating ritual which involves the male performing for a female at a cave entrance.

If the male is successful in gaining the female’s attention, she will follow him into the cave. The female then lays eggs where they will nest.

The male promptly fertilizes them while the female collects them in her mouth. The female will incubate the eggs for 28 days while staying inside the cave.

After the incubation period, the eggs will hatch with about 12-50 fingerlings.

Peacock Cichlids tend to be fairly independent for most of their life. The mother will typically leave the fingerlings to fend for themselves shortly after birth.

They assimilate well with other marine species and exhibit a docile behavior for most of their lifespan.

Peacock Cichlid as a Non-Native Species

While native to African waters, Peacock Cichlids have been introduced to other parts of the world such as Central America, South America, and small rivers that drain into the Atlantic Ocean.

Certain species of fish such as Tilapia mariae have been classified as invasive species and have been tactically introduced to rivers to control the population of undesirable species of fish.

Here are some of the main benefits of this particular species:


Common species of Peacock Cichlids are thought to be suitable for various recreational activities. These fish have been introduced to foreign rivers as a direct result of their desirability for sports fishing.

Their brilliant appearance makes them prized among other game fishes and their ability to tolerate mineral-rich water has made them a staple for hunting and sport.


Because of their beautiful appearance, these fish are specifically marketed as display fish. Owing to their elaborate patterns and colors, these fish are put on display in aquariums.

Aquarium hobbyists will often keep several different species of Peacock Cichlids together in the same tank which results in a diverse display of colors.

Their captivating appearance also makes them a popular attraction for tourists.

Aquarium Conditions

To keep Peacock Cichlids in a tank, a tank capacity of at least 55 gallons (208.2 liters) is needed. Adequate space is essential when keeping this species in a tank, largely due to its territorial nature.

Peacock Cichlids will usually pick a cave or rock formation to establish as its territory. This is also why it’s important to have enough sand, rocks, and substrate to match its natural habitat.

The water’s physical and chemical quantities must match that of Lake Malawi to avoid any stress during the breeding period. Lake Malawi is a clear freshwater lake with slightly alkaline water quality.

A pH between 7.5 and 9.0 is preferable for Peacock Cichlids depending on the species. These fish live in highly mineralized waters with a hardness of around 10 to 20 dH.

When placing them in the aquarium, the hardness levels of the water should not drop below 4 to 6 dH.

Peacock Cichlids have an affinity for lukewarm water temperature similar to those they are used to inhabiting in the lower regions of Lake Malawi.

The temperature of the water in the aquarium should stay between 75 to 81°F (24 to 27°C) for optimal growth and breeding conditions.

Peacock Cichlids exhibit docile behavior most of the time. They can live in harmony with other fish or other members of their species.

A ratio of 1 male to 4 female is preferable when keeping Peacock Cichlids together for breeding purposes.

These fish will exhibit territorial behavior toward certain areas of the tank. It can turn to aggressive behavior if provoked or if its territory is invaded.

However, this kind of behavior is largely defensive and doesn’t lead it to attack unless it feels threatened.

Peacock Cichlid Tankmates

When choosing tank mates for the Peacock Cichlids, it is important to keep the water conditions in mind and select a species that can withstand them.

For this reason, a lot of people will prefer to put other species that are also native to Lake Malawi and can withstand the conditions of the natural habitat.

However, pairing active fish with a tendency of aggressive behavior can cause conflict between the two species.

Generally speaking, certain varieties of fish such as Pseudotropheus, Labeotropheus, Petrotilapia, and Mbuna, angelfish should not be placed with Peacock Cichlids.

As we discussed above, One should keep fishes from Lake Malawi with peacock and ideal tankmates for peacock cichlids are Loaches, Rainbow Shark, Rainbow Fish, Pleco Fish, etc..


The Peacock Cichlids is an ideal aquarium fish owing to its easy assimilation, its peaceful behavior, and its beautiful color and patterns.

As long as proper tank conditions are maintained, and territories are well established, these fish are simple and hassle-free to take proper care of.

This makes them highly preferred among both new and experienced aquarium hobbyists looking to add some color to their tanks.

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