peacock cichlid

Peacock Cichlid – All you need to know about it.

Native to Lake Malawi in Africa, the Peacock Cichlid belongs to the Aulonocara genus which consists of over 22 different species. Known as the most colorful fish, these omnivorous cichlids will make your aquarium stand out. The most interesting fact about them is that they are non-aggressive most of the time, very unlike other cichlids.

Their coloring varies from blues (the most common), reds, and yellows. This makes them well deserving of the name Peacock.

Read on to learn more about how to set up a tank and care for your Peacock Cichlids.

Scientific NameCichla ocellaris
OriginLake Malawi in Africa
Size4-6 Inches
Aquarium Size55 Gallons
Lifespan8 Years
Ease of CareEasy


Cichlids are known to be the most colorful fish out there. Peacock Cichlids differ only in the sense that their coloration is permanent (iridescent shade) and does not depend on their mood or mating status. The color depends on where in Lake Malawi they originated from, females and young fry of all Peacock species are a bit dull grey in color when compared to males. Peacock Cichlids are not laterally compressed like most cichlids, they are cylindrical and thick. Kind of like a torpedo.

There are several different types of Peacock Cichlids, but some of the few that are in demand are listed below:

Red/Flavesent Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara stuartgranti):

With a size of 12-15cm, they stand out due to their vividly bright, red coloration and shades of blue on the fins. This fish was made using selective breeding and becomes the main attraction for your community tank. Known also as Ruby Red or Rubin Red in the aquarium trade, but you will have to wait at least 2 years for the males to look their brightest.

When it comes to temperament, these are peaceful fish but during mating season, they will jealously guard their territory

Red/Flavesent Peacock Cichlid (peacock cichlid)
Image Source: aquaholicsonline

Yellow Peacock (Aulonocara Baenschi):

A medium sized 13-15cm big cichlid colored yellow with bluish stripes on the tail and body, with the head and mouth colored blue. These African Cichlids are known to be peace loving animals even during mating unlike other cichlids. However, males can get aggressive over females and trouble can ensue, which is why it is recommended to keep 3-6 females per male.

Yellow Peacock (Aulonocara Baenschi):
Image Source: kidadl

OB Peacock:

They feature a bright red body with shades of dark blue all over. The dark blue shades are bright on their face and the caudal and dorsal fins. The OB Peacock is also the result of selective breeding between pure cichlid breeds.

OB Peacock
Image Source: goliadfarms

Blue Peacock/Emperor Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae):

Males grow up to a size of 12cm, while females grow up to a size of 9cm. Their coloration depends on their size, gender and location. Usually, they are metallic blue, with stripes of yellow that become even more vivid and brightly colored during breeding season. Behind the gills on both sides are wide oblique stripes of red, giving them the name “Red Shouldered Peacock”. Like all other cichlid species, female Blue Peacock Cichlids are also dull grey in color.

Strawberry Peacock:

These cichlids are hard to source out. Their absolutely stunning features are a bright reddish-pink body with colored dots that cover their fins.

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Video Source: Heap Aquatics

Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid:

Very similar to strawberry peacocks, so similar that they are often confused as strawberry peacock cichlids. The only differing feature that makes them distinguishable is a subtle dotted pattern on their body.

Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid
Image Source: aquariumfishparadise

Fish Size:

Female peacock cichlids grow up to a size of 4 inches, whereas males grow up to 6 inches. Their growth, like much other fish, depends on the level of care they receive.

Difference between male and female:

Peacock Cichlids are sexually dimorphic. All the bright and vivid colored fish you see are males, whereas the females are a shade of dull, brownish grey.

Life Span

Their lifespan averages out at 6-8 years. There have been cases of Peacock Cichlids that have lived 10-15 years. This goes to show that care and stable water parameters go a long way in fish care, if taken care of correctly, you can make your fish live a long and healthy life.


Peacock Cichlids are bottom dwelling omnivores, which means that they feed on both plants and insects, plankton and other invertebrates. In captivity, they should not be fed worms and mammalian meat because that has a very high chance of leading to Malawi bloat.

Quality flakes or pellets that fall to the bottom of the tank along with live or frozen larvae, daphnia, or water fleas make up the perfect diet for Peacock Cichlids. Feeding times should be carefully monitored, be wary not to overfeed them because that will catalyze their digestive tract, making them create more waste and destabilizing the water parameters. Instead, feeding them at intervals is what works best and keeps water parameters stable.

They will search the substrate for food, digging around like they do in their native habitat.

Behavior and Temperament

Unlike other cichlids, Peacock Cichlids are very docile and not at all aggressive or territorial. They will spend the majority of their time exploring the bottom of the tank and digging around in the substrate in search of food. Some specimen might display aggression but generally, these fish are considered to be pacifists when compared to the likes of Convict Cichlids.

In a community tank, it is preferred to keep one male per two females to avoid competition. An all-male population has its own perks, like peaceful co-existence with the males of other species and no unexpected spawns (population control).

Aquarium and Water Parameters

Lake Malawi has slightly warm water compared to the habitats of other cichlids, the water here is clear and its parameters remain stable throughout the seasons. This indicates that water parameter stability inside the tank is vital for Peacock Cichlids.

PH Level7.5-8.5
Water Hardness4-6dH
Temperature74-82 F

Tank Size:    

The minimum size for a Peacock tank should be 55-60 gallons because these fish like to swim around fast and hunt. For a larger population, we would recommend a 100-gallon tank for a community of at least 6, so they all have to freedom to roam about as they please, without displaying territorial aggression.

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The large size provides room for rock and other structure placement, to provide hiding space. It should be noted that some species prefer a rocky theme while others prefer the opposite, so a large tank gives you the freedom to use both themes.


It is important to have a soft substrate, such as aragonite sand because just like any other cichlid, Peacocks also like to dig. Having gravel on the surface can result in injuries for them. Along with that, the placement of rocks and other structures also helps minimize aggression by providing hiding places. Peacocks are not aggressive, but every fish needs private space.

For plants, we would suggest hardy specimen like hornwort, Java Fern and Anacharis because Peacock Cichlids like to redecorate the aquarium by digging around and plants like these will be safe from the onslaught. Floating plants are also a good option for them, as there will be no worry of them being uprooted. Learn more in our guide to set your own planted aquarium.


Lake Malawi temperatures remain quite warm throughout the year, so a heater is recommended to keep temperatures around 75-82 F. Along with this, a canister filter should be installed to clean up the mess that will result from all the digging.

The Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle should also be kept in check by using a filter to suit the tank size. If you overfeed your fish, they will produce more waste than they normally do. This will result in the accumulation of ammonia in your tank, which is not a good sign. The filter you use has to clean up the ammonia by converting it to nitrite and then nitrate, which will be removed during water changes.

The use of LED lights will help make your aquarium look bright and colorful when the lights reflect upon the vivid coloration of these beautiful Peacock Cichlids.

Tank Mates

Unlike the majority of cichlids, Peacocks are quite docile and will very rarely display aggression. So any peaceful fish would be a good tank mate. The factor to watch out for is the consistency of water parameters. Lake Malawi waters are their natural habitat and you should try to mimic those conditions, so make sure that fish with similar requirements are added to a Peacock tank. This is the sole reason why many people prefer to add other species from Lake Malawi to a Peacock Tank.

Best Tank Mates:

Some of the best and recommended tank mates, which would survive in similar water conditions without displaying much aggression are:

  • Copadichromis
  • Placidochromis
  • Nyassachromis
  • Sciaenochromis
  • Other peacock cichlids – if you keep a mixed tank, keep 1 male to every 4-6 females, or keep an all-male tank with a mix of species
  • Botia loaches
  • Peaceful Haplochromis cichlids
  • Synodontis catfish
  • African red eye tetra
  • Red tail shark

Worst Tank Mates:

Any fish that requires different water parameters or is highly aggressive and territorial should be avoided because that fish is simply not compatible with a Peacock tank.

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To encourage breeding, the temperature of the tank can be raised to the upper threshold of 82 F, this will stimulate the warm days at Lake Malawi when breeding takes place. Since Peacocks are very sensitive to changes in conditions, the males will try to establish their territory in front of a cave or rock and perform the mating dance. For this reason, it is recommended that the male to female ratio should be 1:6 because if males cannot find spots for mating, they will try to take over the spots of other males.

Once the female is lured into the cave with the mating dance, they will both go inside and the female will lay eggs while the male fertilizes them. The male will then leave and the female will incubate the eggs in her mouth for over 28 days (mouthbrooders) until some 12-50 Peacocks hatch. Peacock Cichlids are usually left to be raised on their own, so when the fry hatch, the mother will leave them to fend for themselves. For this reason, experts recommend the use of a separate breeding tank because that will allow the baby fish a good chance at survival.

Common Problems in Peacock Cichlid

Malawi Bloat:

This results from overconsumption of meaty products, which can result in a bloated stomach, abdominal inflammation, loss of appetite, labored respiration, and a tendency to stick to the bottom of the tank. Severe cases can result in harm to the kidney, liver, and swim bladder or even death within 2-3 days.

The Malawi Bloat is very common in cichlids because once they start feeding, there is no stopping them, so it is advised that feeding time should be strictly regulated.

Swim Bladder Disease:

Swim bladder disease is the result of either intestinal gas or a parasitic infection inside the swim bladder. This will cause a fish to remain at the top, being unable to delve down to the bottom of the tank. A lack of fiber results in this, avoid feeding your fish and excessive amounts of protein or dried food.

Fish Tuberculosis:

This disease is highly infectious, so if you notice the fish displaying symptoms like a lack of appetite, frayed fins, a sunken abdomen, and white patches on the body, you should take action. The best course of action here is to isolate the infected fish and disinfect the tank using antibiotics or get a new tank.


Q: How big does a Peacock Cichlid get?

Males grow up to a size of 6 inches and females grow up to a size of 4.5 inches.

Q: Are Bloodworms or Brineshrimp safe for Peacocks?

Excess of this food should be avoided because it has a high chance of causing Malawi Bloat.

Q: Are duboisi cichlid peacocks?

No, they are not Peacocks.


We hope all your curious questions regarding Peacock Cichlids were answered by this article. Everything regarding care, diet, breeding, and tank requirements. We would highly recommend these fish for beginners, because they are docile, have a vast variety of coloration, and are very easy to care for. The only thing you have to carefully monitor is the water parameter because Peacocks are sensitive to even the slightest changes.

For any further queries or suggestions, please get in touch.

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