Peacock Cichlid Comprehensive Guide: Types, Care, Tank Mates, and Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

Peacock Cichlid

These charismatic, brilliantly colored fish are an absolute joy to own, captivating the heart of many a hobbyist.

In this comprehensive guide, we take a deep dive into the captivating realm of Peacock Cichlids, exploring everything from their origins and enchanting color variations to their behaviors and distinctive care requirements.

While their radiant colors and engaging behaviors may initially attract you, the rewarding journey of nurturing them will truly captivate you.

Whether you are a seasoned aquarist looking to introduce Peacock Cichlids to your underwater world, or a beginner captivated by their vivid beauty, this guide is designed to offer the detailed information you need to ensure the health, happiness, and longevity of your Peacock Cichlids.

Peacock Cichlid Stats
Lifespan6 to 8 years
TemperamentSemi Aggressive
SizeUp to 6 inches
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons
Ease of CareEasy
Water Temperature74°F to 82°F (23-28°C)
Water Hardness4-6 dGH

Peacock Cichlid Species Summary

Representing the full spectrum of the Aulonocara genus, Peacock Cichlids emerge as one of the friendliest and most tranquil species of cichlids to inhabit your fish tank. These freshwater dwellers, fondly referred to as ‘peacocks,’ exhibit a remarkable balance of color and serenity.

1. A Scenic Home: The Origins of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids are indigenous to the eastern African region, specifically calling Lake Malawi their home. This lake, teeming with a rich ecosystem, provides a comfortable, warm environment for the peacock cichlids. Their dwelling of choice? The lake’s deeper recesses, where the water’s warmth is preserved.

A creature of diligence and finesse, the peacock cichlid showcases an active lifestyle, swimming skillfully near the lake bed. Its routine involves foraging for food within the sandy layers beneath the water, perpetually vigilant for any potential meal.

2. A Diverse Species: The Many Faces of Peacock Cichlids

Believe it or not, the peacock cichlid family boasts over twenty recognized types. Each of these finds its home in the vast expanse of Lake Malawi. This astonishing diversity is a testament to the lake’s rich ecology, the world’s ninth largest.

Yet, in the realm of domestic aquariums, only a select few species are typically housed. Some of these crowd favorites include:

  • African Butterfly Peacock
  • Flavescent Peacock
  • Nkhomo-Benga Peacock
  • Sunshine Peacock

Some aquarium enthusiasts also opt for:

  • Aulonocara Blue Gold Cichlid
  • Aulonocara Fort Maguire Cichlid
  • Maulana Bicolor Peacock

3. An Aesthetic Delight: The Allure of Peacock Cichlids

One glance at a peacock cichlid, and you’re bound to be spellbound by its dazzling display of colors reminiscent of the regal bird that shares its name. These freshwater fish stand out as some of the most vibrant, providing an aesthetically pleasing addition to any aquarium.

What’s more, their striking visual appeal is complemented by an equally captivating personality. Renowned for their docile behavior, peacock cichlids add more than just visual splendor to your aquarium—they bring an air of tranquility too. It’s this irresistible combination that makes them a highly sought-after choice for aquarium enthusiasts.


Eureka Red Peacock Cichlid

In a well-maintained environment, a peacock cichlid thrives, usually gracing its caretaker with an average lifespan of six to eight years. This expectancy depends heavily on providing your finned friend with a well-balanced diet and ensuring the water quality in your tank aligns with recommended parameters.

1. The Exception, not the Rule: Exceptional Longevity

Interestingly, in rare instances, peacock cichlids have outlived their average lifespan, reaching the ripe old age of 10 or even an astonishing 15 years! These occurrences, albeit infrequent, underscore the fact that the potential for a lengthy lifespan exists when proper care is given.

2. The Importance of Proper Care: A Prolonged Existence

Caring for a peacock cichlid isn’t a mere hobby; it is an exercise in responsibility that involves understanding and tending to the needs of these vibrant fish.

By focusing on optimizing the water parameters and maintaining the water quality, as well as providing a nutritious diet, you significantly enhance the chances of your peacock cichlid enjoying a long, healthy life.

While these instances of peacock cichlids living up to 15 years may be uncommon, they serve to highlight the longevity potential when we commit to a dedicated regime of care.

This goes to show your investment in maintaining optimal conditions for your cichlid can yield a prolonged lifespan, allowing you to enjoy the company of your vibrant companion for many years to come.

3. A Rewarding Commitment: Embracing Long-Term Care

It’s essential to realize that owning a peacock cichlid isn’t a fleeting commitment; it’s a long-term investment of time, care, and resources.

With the potential for an extended lifespan well within reach, one must understand the importance of sustained, responsible care to ensure their aquatic companion lives out its maximum lifespan.

Therefore, if you’re considering adding a peacock cichlid to your aquarium, be ready to commit to a long-term care plan. The rewards, as exemplified by the possibility of a decade or more of colorful companionship, are undoubtedly worth the effort.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

Among the diverse family of cichlids, the peacock cichlids stand apart with their vivacious display of colors, earning their rank as some of the most vibrantly colored freshwater aquarium fish. Unlike their counterparts, the dazzling hue of peacock cichlids isn’t influenced by their mood or mating status.

The vibrant display varies within the species, depending on the part of Lake Malawi they originate from. Both the females and younglings don a more subtle gray, whereas males mature into striking shades of iridescent yellow, orange, gold, red, purple, or blue.

The Splendid Varieties: An Overview of Peacock Cichlid Types

While the peacock cichlid family encompasses an extensive range of types, we will delve into a few of the most sought-after varieties.

The reason for their popularity lies in their unparalleled beauty, with each boasting distinctively vibrant colors that outshine most other freshwater species.

1. The Red Peacock Cichlid: A Radiant Marvel

Red Peacock Cichlid

The Red Peacock Cichlids enjoy the status of being the most favored type, and the reason is no mystery. Their brilliant red hue is truly captivating, standing out regardless of their tank mates. They also exhibit intriguing blue accents adorning their fins.

2. Blue Peacock Cichlid

Blue Peacock Cichlid

The Blue Peacock Cichlid is a spectacle in itself, usually presenting an all-over blue body with darker vertical stripes extending from the beginning of their dorsal fin to the caudal peduncle. Their vibrance and coloration can change based on location, gender, and age.

3. The Strawberry Peacock Cichlid: A Sweet Delight

Strawberry Peacock Cichlid

The Strawberry Peacock Cichlid is a vision to behold. These fish sport a bright reddish-pink tone, with some even displaying unique dots speckling their fins. True Strawberries are a rare find, making them all the more coveted.

4. The OB Peacock Cichlid: A Patchwork of Vibrance

OB Peacock Cichlid

Next up is the OB Peacock Cichlid. These fascinating fish flaunt a primarily red body dotted with intriguing dark blue patches. The patches are particularly pronounced on their face, extending to their caudal and dorsal fins.

5. The Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid: A Mythical Wonder

Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid

Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlids, often mistaken for the strawberry variety, differentiate themselves through the subtle dotted pattern adorning their bodies.

6. The Sunshine Peacock Cichlid: A Warm Glow

Sunshine Peacock Cichlid

Living up to their name, the Sunshine Peacock Cichlids boast dazzling, warm, yellow coloring contrasted beautifully with intermittent light blues. Their lower face retains the blue color. They also go by the name of yellow peacock cichlids.

7. The Butterfly Peacock Cichlids: A Spectrum of Color

Butterfly Peacock Cichlid

The Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are the most variable and colorful of all peacock cichlids. All species of African Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are brilliantly colored with blues, reds, and yellows, earning their well-deserved recognition in the aquarium hobby. On the contrary, the females exhibit a more subdued color palette with a white to grayish-brown body color topped with vertical bands of gray/brown to beige.

8. The Albino Peacock Cichlids: A Unique Vision

Last but not least, the Albino Peacock Cichlids are fascinating with their whitish color and red eyes. The coloration of males and females is quite similar, with males occasionally showcasing a slightly more red or orange hue.

Average Size of Peacock Cichlids: How Big Do They Get?

The growth of peacock cichlids sparks curiosity, given their stunning appearance. On average, a male peacock cichlid stretches up to an impressive length of approximately 6 inches. On the other hand, their female counterparts usually peak at a slightly lesser length of around 4 inches.

The eventual size of these captivating creatures can be swayed by multiple factors, including the quality of their care.

Interestingly, the geographical origins of these fish also contribute to their size. Certain areas might have naturally larger peacock cichlids, while others may have smaller ones. Therefore, the place where they are originally found could potentially influence their size.

The role of genetic elements in determining the size of peacock cichlids cannot be overlooked. Genetics has its part to play, although these are often impossible to test for practical purposes.

Much like other traits, the size of peacock cichlids can be a characteristic passed down through generations. While the impact of genetics might be difficult to quantify, it’s undeniable that these factors can potentially influence their growth.

Peacock Cichlids Care

Peacock Cichlid Care and Tank Setup

Known for their relatively docile nature and low-maintenance requirements, caring for peacock cichlids is a task that both novice and experienced aquarists can easily handle.

However, it’s crucial to note that peacock cichlids exhibit high sensitivity to environmental changes. Therefore, thoroughly understanding their optimal care needs is paramount to maintaining a consistent and suitable habitat for these colorful swimmers.

1. Optimum Tank Size

The ideal tank size for housing peacock cichlids should be around 55 gallons. This ample space caters to their nature as proficient swimmers and active hunters, allowing them to live as they would in their natural habitat, the expansive Lake Malawi.

A larger tank has the added benefit of providing sufficient room for the creation of multiple caves. These structures are essential to prevent territorial aggression among the cichlids.

In cases where you plan to house a large community of peacock cichlids, you’ll need to opt for a tank capable of holding at least 100 gallons of water. This extra space helps further mitigate territorial disputes among the fish.

Interestingly, different types of peacock cichlids have distinct habitat preferences. While some favor a rocky setup, others might thrive in an opposite environment. Having a large tank allows you to cater to both preferences, creating a well-rounded and comfortable habitat for your peacock cichlids.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

For Peacock Cichlids, their water environment plays a crucial role in their health and well-being. In their native habitat, Lake Malawi, the water conditions remain fairly consistent throughout the year. This includes aspects like temperature, pH levels, and water hardness.

In captivity, these parameters should be maintained as closely as possible to mimic the conditions of Lake Malawi, which is a tad warmer compared to the habitats of other cichlid species.

Here’s a brief guide to the recommended water conditions for Peacock Cichlids:

  • Water temperature: 74°F to 82°F
  • Water hardness: 4 to 6 dH
  • pH levels: 7.5 to 8.5

Maintaining water clarity is of utmost importance for peacock cichlids. Accustomed to pristine waters in their natural habitat, their health could deteriorate if the water quality in their tank isn’t properly maintained.

Given the significance of keeping the water parameters consistent for peacock cichlids, investing in a good water test kit is a good idea. This will ensure the most accurate readings possible, which is key to providing optimal care for your vibrant peacock cichlids.

3. Designing the Perfect Peacock Cichlid Tank

Given that peacock cichlids forage for food near the bottom of their native waters, the choice of substrate in your aquarium is crucial.

Gravel should be avoided as it could potentially harm the fish’s delicate gills. Instead, you’ll want to choose a soft, sandy substrate. This will not only emulate their natural habitat but also protect your peacock cichlids from injuries, ensuring their long-term well-being.

While peacock cichlids aren’t particularly aggressive, like all creatures, they appreciate some personal space now and then.

So including plenty of rocks and driftwood in your tank is beneficial. These additions will serve as hiding spots, offering your fish an escape when needed.

If you wish to add a touch of green to your tank, plants can be an excellent choice for decoration.

However, select only robust species such as anacharis, Java fern, and hornwort. This is because peacock cichlids are known to exhibit digging behavior, often disrupting the plant life in their vicinity.

One relief is that peacock cichlids don’t generally feast on aquarium plants, so you need not worry about them decimating your carefully chosen vegetation. Their interest lies in exploring and disturbing rather than eating the plants.

4. Common Diseases

Like any other living creature, peacock cichlids are susceptible to various health issues. Understanding these potential diseases is a critical aspect of their care, enabling timely intervention and recovery.

  • Malawi Bloat: A Fatal Condition

    One of the lethal conditions peacock cichlids can suffer from is Malawi Bloat. This disease resembles dropsy and stems from excessive consumption of meaty foods. Signs of Malawi bloat include loss of appetite, labored breathing, abdominal swelling, pale feces, and an inclination to stay at the bottom of the tank.

    Malawi Bloat is not to be taken lightly. If left untreated, it can cause severe damage to the liver, kidney, and swim bladder, possibly leading to fatality within one to three days.

    To counteract Malawi Bloat, change 25% of the water in the tank every two days until your fish recovers. If symptoms persist beyond a week, seek professional advice for further treatment.
  • Swim Bladder Disease: The Result of a Poor Diet

    Another diet-related problem is swim bladder disease. It is caused by intestinal gas or parasites infecting the swim bladder, leading to the affected fish floating at the top of the tank.

    Preventing swim bladder disease involves a balanced diet. Avoid overfeeding protein or dried food and incorporate more fiber, preferably in the form of vegetables.

    Remember, regardless of the cichlid species, overfeeding should always be avoided. Overeating can lead to obesity, resulting in loss of their stunning coloration and even premature death.
  • Fish Tuberculosis: A Highly Infectious Disease

    Another serious disease to be aware of is fish tuberculosis. Highly contagious, this disease can swiftly wipe out an entire tank population. The symptoms include loss of appetite, frayed fins, a sunken abdomen, and white speckles on the fish’s body.

    In case of a suspected infection, immediately transfer the uninfected fish to a separate tank. Treat the tank with an antibiotic and thoroughly disinfect the old tank or discard it entirely to prevent future outbreaks.

Peacock Cichlid Diet

Yellow Peacock Cichlid

Being omnivorous, peacock cichlids take pleasure in diving deep into the water to feast on invertebrates such as insects, including insects, larvae, crustaceans, zooplankton, algae, and plant matter.

In captivity, a balanced diet for peacock cichlids should be founded on high-quality cichlid pellets that sink to the bottom of the tank. These sinking pellets cater to their natural instinct of diving for food. Cichlid-specific flakes and granules can also be part of their diet.

Beyond this primary food source, you can offer them treats like live insects that sink to the bottom of the tank. Other suitable foods include live or frozen brine shrimp and daphnia, commonly known as water fleas.

One thing, though, is it’s crucial to avoid feeding tubifex worms and mammalian meat to your peacock cichlids as these can cause Malawi Bloat.

Apart from that, you should also supplement their diet with vegetables like blanched spinach, lettuce, peas, broccoli, and cucumbers.

One critical aspect of feeding peacock cichlids involves meal portions and frequency. To prevent overfeeding, ensure to provide several small meals throughout the day. This approach not only wards off obesity but also helps maintain stable water parameters.

Feeding your cichlids in smaller, more frequent portions ensures there aren’t large spikes of organic materials in the tank at any given time, maintaining a balanced and healthy environment for your fish.

Behavior & Temperament

African Cichlids are notorious for their aggressive behavior. However, when it comes to peacock cichlids, their aggression is comparatively milder, especially when you compare them to their more combative counterparts, such as the Jack Dempsey, Red Devil, or Jaguar cichlid.

Nevertheless, just like humans, every fish is unique and might exhibit individual variations in behavior.

Some peacock cichlids might be more aggressive than others. One thing, though, is they can be territorial. Therefore, as a responsible owner, you need to observe and understand the temperament of each of your individual fish.

But generally speaking, peacock cichlids aren’t the type of fish you need to be overly concerned about in terms of aggression.

Regarding their activity level, peacock cichlids display a high degree of liveliness. In their natural habitat, these fish spend a considerable amount of time near the bottom, sifting through the sand in search of potential prey. This behavior is carried over into captivity, making them a truly engaging species to observe.

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

Selecting suitable tank mates for your peacock cichlid goes beyond mere compatibility. Owing to the unique water parameter requirements of peacock cichlids, it’s crucial to ensure that any prospective tank mates can thrive in similar water conditions.

One way to ensure compatibility in your African peacock cichlid tank is to house peacock cichlids with others of their kind (other peacock cichlids). However, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced gender ratio, ideally, four female peacock cichlids to one male.

Male African peacock cichlids are notably territorial, necessitating ample space and plenty of caves for them to retreat to. If you wish to house multiple African peacock cichlids, you’ll want to lean towards females unless you have specific plans for breeding.

Of course, that’s not to say that Peacock cichlids cannot be housed with other fish species. You just need to avoid ones with heightened aggression, for instance, certain species from Lake Malawi, like Mbuna, Labeotropheus, Petrotilapia, and Pseudotropheus.

Some of the best tank mates for peacock cichlids include:

  • Botia Loaches
  • Giant Danios
  • Plecos
  • Rainbow Sharks
  • Red Tail Sharks
  • Red Eye Tetras
  • Synodontis Catfish

Breeding Peacock Cichlid

While male peacock cichlids are typically solitary in nature, their behavior takes a dramatic turn during the breeding season. Ready to spread their genes far and wide, these males become polygamous, courting as many females as possible!

Given this proclivity, it’s critical to provide each male with its own space in the tank when breeding peacock cichlids. Their mating behavior involves claiming a territory and lack of sufficient space could lead to territorial disputes and fights.

To navigate this potential issue, keep only one male in the breeding tank. This approach reduces conflict and enhances the likelihood of successful breeding.

1. Heat of Passion: Using Water Temperature to Encourage Breeding

A handy trick to stimulate breeding in peacock cichlids involves gradually increasing the water temperature to the higher end of their comfort zone. It’s essential to proceed cautiously here, as peacock cichlids are sensitive to abrupt environmental changes.

2. The Dance of Attraction: Mating Rituals

Once the male is ready to mate, he will initiate a dance-like movement to attract a female. If his dance impresses her, she will lay her eggs near his cave, the site he’s claimed as his territory, where he can then fertilize them.

3. A Mouthful of Miracles: The Incubation Process

Unique to certain fish species, peacock cichlids are mouthbrooders, in which the female collects the fertilized eggs in its mouth. This behavior is perfectly normal, so worry not. She is not eating her own eggs.

This incubation period can span up to roughly 28 days. At the end of this process, you can expect to see anywhere from 10 to 30 tiny fry swimming around the tank.

Differences Between Male & Female Peacock Cichlids

1. Noting the Difference in Size

As a general rule, male peacock cichlids are larger than their female counterparts. A mature male can grow to an average length of 6 inches, whereas females usually max out at about 4 inches

2. The Spectrum of Shades

Peacock cichlids are known for their remarkable coloration. Their scales are ablaze with multiple hues that catch the light beautifully.

However, it’s crucial to note that the vibrancy of these colors differs between the sexes. While male peacock cichlids boast vivid and flashy colors, the females exhibit a more muted and subdued color palette.

3. The Tale Told by Fins

The differences between male and female peacock cichlids extend to their fins.

Males tend to have longer dorsal and anal fins, especially towards the middle and end. Conversely, the females have shorter dorsal fins near the end, and their pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins are more blunt in comparison.

4. Egg Spots and Their Significance

One of the most prominent differences between male and female peacock cichlids is the presence of egg spots on the males’ anal fins, which they use as a lure during breeding.

However, this isn’t a foolproof method to determine sex, as some female specimens can also display these egg spots.

5. Examining the Vent

The most reliable way to ascertain the sex of your peacock cichlid is to examine its vent. This is an opening on the fish’s underside, just behind the anus, which serves as an outlet for waste as well as eggs and sperm during breeding.

Male peacock cichlids have two identical-sized openings – their male organ and anus. In contrast, females have two different-sized openings – a larger “egg tube” and a smaller anus.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the peacock cichlid truly is a marvel of the underwater world, bearing testament to nature’s unrivaled creativity.

Be it their spectrum of hues, the diversity among the species, their unique breeding habits, or their relatively peaceful temperament, these fish leave no stone unturned in capturing the heart of every aquarist.

This comprehensive guide has armed you with detailed knowledge about their types, care, tank mates, and lifespan, paving the way for you to provide the best environment for these stunning creatures.

Remember, the key to successful peacock cichlid keeping lies in maintaining a balanced ecosystem that closely mimics their natural habitat, consistent water parameters, and a suitable diet.

Whether you’re a novice aquarist or a seasoned hobbyist, the peacock cichlid’s dynamic personality and stunning aesthetics promise to add a touch of nature’s magic to your aquarium.

As you embark on this journey of raising peacock cichlids, remember that their vibrant colors are just the tip of the iceberg. Dive deep into their world, and you’ll discover a species that is as fascinating as it is beautiful.

Peacock cichlids are not just fish; they are a testament to the splendid diversity of life beneath the waters of our planet.

By keeping them in your home aquarium, you’re not only adding a splash of color to your space, but you’re also celebrating the rich tapestry of life that our oceans and lakes hold within them.

To a journey filled with vibrant colors and fascinating experiences – here’s to the wonderful world of peacock cichlids!

Frequently Asked Questions about Peacock Cichlids

Q1: Where are peacock cichlids originally from?

A: Peacock cichlids are native to Lake Malawi, located in East Africa. They typically dwell near the lake’s bottom, where they forage for food in the sandy substrate.

Q2: How long do peacock cichlids live?

A: With proper care and optimum living conditions, the average lifespan of a peacock cichlid ranges from six to eight years. However, in some rare instances, these fish have been known to live up to 10 or even 15 years!

Q3: What size do peacock cichlids grow to?

A: Male peacock cichlids can grow up to approximately 6 inches in length, while females generally reach a maximum size of 4 inches.

Q4: What do peacock cichlids eat?

A: Peacock cichlids are omnivores. Their diet should be primarily composed of a quality cichlid pellet that sinks to the tank’s bottom, supplemented with meat and vegetables. They also enjoy live insects, brine shrimp, and water fleas.

Q5: Are peacock cichlids aggressive fish?

A: Although peacock cichlids are African cichlids, which are known for their aggression, peacock cichlids are relatively peaceful in comparison. However, male peacock cichlids can display territorial behavior, especially during breeding.

Q6: How can I differentiate between male and female peacock cichlids?

A: Male peacock cichlids are generally larger and more brightly colored than females. Males also have longer dorsal and anal fins and often display egg spots on their anal fins. The most reliable method is to examine their vent, with males having two identical-sized openings and females having two different-sized openings.

Q7: Can I keep other species of fish with my peacock cichlids?

A: Yes, peacock cichlids can cohabit with other non-aggressive species that share similar water requirements. Some suitable tank mates include Botia Loaches, Giant Danios, Plecos, Rainbow Sharks, Red Tail Sharks, Red Eye Tetras, and Synodontis Catfish.