The Peacock Cichlid, scientifically known as Aulonocara nyassae, is a friendly freshwater fish that originates from Lake Malawi in Africa. This species is also so common among aquarists across the world. There are common due to their mellow nature and their low maintenance cost. However, this is not the only reason why they are preferred by a majority. They also have a stunning look and also have some colorations that are so rare among freshwater fish. If you watch these fish as they swim in the aquarium, you will be left in disbelief.

The Peacock Cichlids prefer living at the bottom of warm water and deep water, where it searches for food in the sandy substrate. This species is always on the keen lookout for any potential prey, and they are active and skillful swimmers. There are many types of Peacock Cichlids, and almost every type is found in Lake Malawi. However, not all the types are kept in captivity, but a few of them.

Irrespective of the species you love, you can agree to the fact that the Peacock Cichlids are among the most colorful freshwater fish. A combination of their beauty and docile behavior makes them an irresistible species in the tank. If you want this kind of beauty in your tank or home as an aquarist, you need to be fully aware of the specific needs. This guide seeks to give you extensive and well-researched information regarding the care of the Peacock Cichlid.


Scientific NameAulonocara nyassae
Size4.5 to 7 inches
ColorShred of red, blue, yellow, and orange
Tank size50 to 70 gallons
Lifespan6 to 8 years
Care levelEasy
Temperature76 to 82 Degree F
Freshwater or saltwaterFreshwater
CompatibilitySchooling, community fish


When it comes to choosing the ideal tank mates for the blue peacock cichlids, you definitely have plenty of options. This is due to this tame nature. They will comfortably live in the same tank as long as they enjoy similar parameters and are of the same nature and stature. However, it is best if they are kept with their own kind since they are more comber and mannered than the rest of the Malawi species. However, if you are not into hybridization, ensure that you keep them with other aulonocaras. These fish have an innate instinct to hunt, and they will grab the invertebrates such as shrimps right off the substrate with less effort.

 Some of the ideal tank mates include;

  • Redtail Sharks
  • Redfin haps
  • Botia Loaches
  • Yabbies
  • Feather fin catfish
  • Rainbow Sharks
  • Silver dollars
  • Cuckoo catfish
  • African Redeye tetras
  • Big gouramis
  • Ghost knives
  • Bristle nose catfish
  • Synodontis catfish
  • Placidochromis haps

It is not every cichlid that can make a good tank companion to the Peacock Cichlids.   Some of the species such as Psuedotropheus, Mbuna, Petro tilapia, and Labeotropheous should be avoided. The male Peacock Cichlids are a little aggressive and territorial, but they should be able to live well with the fish as long as they are provided with enough space to live with a lot of hiding spots. Generally, the ideal tankmates should be non-aggressive.


Brennan Peabody, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the fish trade, the Peacock Cichlid is among the most colorful fish species that you will ever find. Even as a person who is not used to fishkeeping or a beginner, this fish is likely to win your heart at first glance. The Peacock Cichlid is a medium-sized fish with an oversized lateral system. They are usually fairly thick when they attain maturity. They have long bodies. Despite the fact that there are different varieties of the Peacock Cichlids, their body shape is the same, and they are only differentiated by primary colors and special markings.

This species consists of a distinct fish system that adds to its uniqueness. The dorsal and anal fins are very prominent, featuring trailing edges where nicely elongated rays emanate. However, the dorsal fins are longer than the anal fins. The tail fin is fan-shaped with fairly rounded edges.


The primary colors of this fish are blue, yellow, orange, and gold. The males are more brightly colored compared to the others. These colors vary from one variety of Peacock Cichlid to the other;

  • Aulonocara Nyassae (Emperor Cichlid) – The main color in this species is blue with a metallic highlight. The special markings are red, along with the belly areas and behind the gills.
  • Aulococare Multicolor– The base color here is orange for the peacock Cichlid. Its special markings are in yellow, red, blue, and black spots all over the body.
  • Aulonacara Jacobfreibergi (Fairy Cichlids) In this case, the primary color is blue and yellow on the head area. The special markings are blue and dark stripes along on their belly and head areas. The dorsal fins, too, have a distinctive wide blue stripe.
  • Aulonocara Maulana This is a metallic blue colored peacock Cichlid with a yellow stripe behind the gills as the distinctive marking.
  • Aulonocara stuartgranti (Flavescent Peacock) This variety exhibits color morphs with the alternating colors being blue and bright yellow.
  • Aulonocara baenschi The primary color in this peacock Cichlid is yellow and blue on the head rea. The unique feature in this species is the presence of a long nose.
  • Aulonocara maylandi (Siphurhead Peacock) – This Peacock has a blue theme with a metallic highlight. Its unique marking is yellow stripes that run from the head to the dorsal fins.
  • Aulonocara Red Ruby – This is one of the artificial variants of the Peacock Cichlids. Their primary colors are red and blue. The special markings are pink stripes on the dorsal and tail fins.
  • OB peacocks– These are also a variety of artificial Peacock Cichlids that comes with a mix of the theme Peacock Cichlid colors.


A mature Peacock Cichlids can grow to a maximum size of 4 to 6 inches in length. This is determined by how well the fish is taken care of as it grows. Also, this is determined by the variety type. There are varieties that grow bigger than the rest.


The average lifespan of a Peacock Cichlid is between 6 to 8 years under optimal care. This involves ensuring they are given the right diet, the tank conditions are all met, and the water parameters are maintained throughout. A healthy fish can even outlive the limit, although this happens in rare cases.


The Peacock Cichlids originate from Lake Malawi, which is one of the South Rift valley lakes in Africa. They prefer living in shallow water bodies and the shores of this hard water lake. This species has adapted to living in conditions of neutral to high Ph water conditions since the lake has very many dissolved minerals. In the wild, this fish prefers residing in rocky areas or other alternative spots where they are free to show and exercise their territorial tendencies.

This species would prefer to live in an environment that has decent growth of plants where they can devour and play, but the lake condition does not support this. There are plenty of fish species in the lake that are destructive and will get rid of any plants that attempt to grow in the lake.

The Peacock Cichlid is one of the brightest fish in terms of coloration across the world. This made it easier for this species to enter and spread across the market. Through rigorous breeding, these fish can now be able to survive in different parts of the world. They are found in many pet stores worldwide.


Despite the fact that the Peacock Cichlids are territorial, they are less territorial compared to the rest of the Cichlids. Compared to some fish species such as flower cichlids, they are downright pacifists. This does not, however, mean there are no individuals that are aggressive. It is the duty of the owner to understand the individual temperament of their fish. This generally implies that you need not worry so much about this fish.

This species is very active in the tank, and they spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank sifting through the sand as they look for any prey. Also, in captivity, you will observe this behavior, and this makes them fun fish to watch.



The Peacock Cichlids are not large fish. The average size is between 4 to 6 inches, with the males being bigger than females. The average size of females Iis 4 inches while the males are 6 inches. These fish are extremely active, and therefore they need enough space to swim. The average size of the tank that will give them enough swimming room should be at least 55 gallons. They are schooling fish, and therefore if you wish to keep them in a group of 10 or so, you will need a minimum tank of 100 gallons to ensure that they are not overcrowded.

 As we discussed earlier, these fish live in alkaline water known for its clarity, and it is extremely stable in terms of Ph and other key parameters. It is crucial to match the tank with the natural habitat conditions, and this will lower the stress, and they will stay healthy. Also, you should always keep in mind that this species is an active swimmer, and therefore the ideal choice of the tank should be horizontal to give them enough swimming room.

Another important point is that if you are combining different peacock varieties, then ensure they are adapted to their individual needs. This is because some prefer a rocky environment while others prefer sand; therefore, you need a larger aquarium to cater to all these different preferences and leave the swimming space. Some of the tank requirements include;


As said earlier, the Peacock Cichlids prefer living in warm waters, and therefore, if you intend to keep them, you must have a heater to always keep the water warm. You should always keep checking the temperature, and in case of a drop, you can heat.


Filtration is among the most important parts of the aquarium setup. You need to have a filter within the tank so as to ensure there is proper water circulation and the waste is removed.


Some of the aquarists, especially the beginners, think that the purpose of the filter is to circulate water only, but that is not the case. The fish in the tank constantly drop the waste in the tank, and this waste settles at the bottom of the tank. This waste starts to break down after rotting and produces ammonia which is highly toxic. The tanks, therefore, need a filtration system to filter the waste from water and avoid the build-up of ammonia. This ammonia is converted into nitrate by the beneficial bacteria within the filter. This nitrate is toxic but less compared to ammonia, and it can be allowed to build up between water changes. This whole process is called Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle.

This implies that a filter is an important piece of equipment in the tank, and it is advisable to get a big one that can be able to adequately handle the water that our fish produces. The Peacock Cichlids are active fish, and this means that they produce a lot of waste. The best filter is the canister filter.


In the wild, the peacocks are bottom dwellers, where they spend most of the time looking for prey in the sand. It is crucial to ensure that you reciprocate these conditions in the tank. The ideal substrate is the aragonite sand. This sand is made from pure calcium carbonate. This will leach the minerals in water slowly and help in mimicking the natural habitat. Als o this species loves to dig and move mounds of sand around, and this is the perfect sand for this.


The Peacock Cichlids do not have a specific requirement for lighting. You are free to use any lighting that you feel is good for the tank. The best and most cost-effective method of lighting is LED lighting.


Lake Malawi, where this species lives, has a sandy bottom with a lot of small boulders and rubble. If possible, try as much as possible to mimic this condition. Having a lot of rocks, driftwoods, and other decors create a large variety of hiding places, and caves are optimal. This will give a lot of fish a lot of options for territory set in the tank. Due to the water conditions, most of the plants do not thrive in their environment, but you can provide some hardy plants such as Java Fern and anacharis but ensure you anchor them.



In the wild, the water absorbed bicarbonates and calcium from the bedrock on the bottom of the lake. The minerals are released in water, and this makes it hard, and it has a neutral Ph. The average PH needs to bet between 7.5 to 8.5. Always ensure the ph. is within the range. If you subject your fish to water with different conditions such as lower PH, they will be stressed out and could easily contract diseases.


Its native home which is Lake Malawi, is located in the middle of the tropic of Capricorn and the equator. The climate is tropical. The water is warm. The ideal water temperatures should be between 76 to 82 degrees F. The water temperatures should always be maintained within the range, and that is why you need a thermometer and heater in the tank. Sudden changes even within the range are not recommended since they may have effects on the health of fish.


The aquarium trade has created a few hardy tools that help in making the maintenance of the tank easier. Here are some of the bests for this species;


This creates and maintains the ideal water chemistry for your fish. They are also referred to as African Cichlid Salt. They maintain bicarbonates and calcium, the prominent minerals in Lake Malawi. When you dissolve them in tank water, they maintain the PH and increase the water hardness. This mimics the water conditions of the original habitat. Before you can add it to the tank, ensure that you dissolve it in a bucket of water. The ideal choice for the Peacock Cichlids is the Cichlid Lake salt by Seachem.


There are other ways in which you can use to maintain the water parameters besides the salt mix. Rock such as tufa and substrates such as coral sand contains minerals that are calcium-rich. These substances release calcium and bicarbonates slowly in water.


Generally, the Peacock Cichlids are omnivores. They are born predators, and this explains why they spend most of their time I the bottom of the tank feeding on the small invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and crustaceans. Generally, these fish are benthic, which implies that they live in lower or deeper areas of water bodies sifting through the substrate for food. It is recommended that you feed them small amounts of food two to three times a day.

After feeding them, ensure that you remove any uneaten food from the tank to prevent the spike in ammonia which might cause filter blockage. Some of the ideal feed you should feed your Peacock Cichlids include wafers, granules, and sinking cichlid pellets. Ensure that you give them a varied diet. It is also a good idea to feed them a specific type of fresh and frozen foods. You need to be extra careful when feeding them foods that are not specific to fish foods.

You can also feed them different types of vegetables such as cucumbers, peas, broccoli, and lettuce. You can also include the Japanese seaweed. You need to cut the cucumbers into large chunks and then weigh them down with something heavy so that they can be able to sink at the bottom. This ensures that they remain busy as they try to demolish the chunk. Unless you are feeding them on baby peas, ensure you de-shell them, and you can also boil them to make them soft.

You can ash and chop any of the above foods finely as a good way of preparing them, or you can alternatively blend them and freeze them into small cubes. You can also go for garlic by finely chopping it and mixing it with something else. They should be fed in small amounts, and this is very beneficial in the health and immune system of the Peacock Cichlids.

The Peacock Cichlids are omnivores, and therefore they will be happy having a diet with meat on it. Good options include frozen and freeze-dried brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. You can also feed them on live brine shrimp.

However, it is not all types of meat that can be fed to this fish. Some like chicken, lamb, beef are not recommended. Also, some like tubifex may cause this species bloating.


The male Peacock Cichlids prefer living alone, but when they are ready to breed, they become polygamous. This means that if you want to breed this species, you need to provide a dedicated room for every male in the tank. During the breeding period, the males are very aggressive and territorial, and this is why they need their own free space to establish a territory since they will always be fighting in a crowded area. When one male is in the tank, there will be no fights.

If you want to trigger the breeding among this species, you can raise the water temperature to the upper limit, and this should be done gradually since they are sensitive to a sudden rise in temperatures.

When the male is ready to breed, he will start to perform some dance and movements to attract the female during the courtship. If the male accepts to mate with the male, she will lay some eggs in Infront of his cave so that the male can fertilize them. Since they are mouthbrooders, the female will collect these eggs in their mouth and go to the cave to incubate them. You should not be worried as this happens since some think that she is eating them. The incubation takes about a month, and you will see between one to four dozen fries when the whole process is finished.


These fish are prone to some common fish diseases. They are at risk of contracting this disease if they are kept in a dirty tank or they are fed the wrong diet that does not provide the necessary nutrients. The water conditions also affect them. Some of the diseases include;


This disease is caused by a poor diet. This problem is a result of intestinal gas or parasites that end up infecting the swim bladder. Some of the signs of this disease include floating on you of the tank been unable to pick food at the bottom of the tank. To deal with this problem, ensure you feed your fish with plenty of protein or dried food and add fiber such as vegetables.


This is another fatal disease that affects this species, it is similar to dropsy, and it is a result of overeating meaty foods. Some of the symptoms include; appetite loss, labored respiration, and swimming on the bottom of the tank. This disease will lead to damage of the swim bladder, kidney, and liver until the fish dies.


This is another problem that the Peacock Cichlids face, and it is mainly caused by overfeeding them. Ensure that you feed them the right diet in small amounts and at regular intervals to avoid overfeeding them


This disease is highly infectious, and you should respond to it immediately you notice some signs. Some of the signs include loss of appetite, white patches on the body, and a sunken abdomen. The best action that you should take firsts is to isolate the sick fish from the rest. Then disinfect the tank using the antibiotics.


Are Peacock Cichlids Freshwater or Saltwater fish?

The Peacock Cichlids are freshwater fish that originates from Lake Malawi in Africa. They prefer living in shallow water bodies and the shores of this hard water lake.

How can you differentiate a male and female Peacock Cichlid?

Determining the gender of this species is relatively easy since they have several physical differences. Here are some of the notable differences between males and females:

In terms of behavior, the males are a bit aggressive during the breeding season by showing some displays which are meant to impress the female. The male is usually busy preparing the reproduction place while the female is usually cool throughout the period.

In terms of body size, males are generally bigger compared to females. The dorsal and anal fins of the males are also larger compared to females.

In terms of color and markings, the males have a more vibrant and distinct coloration compared to females. During the breeding season, this difference is more distinct. The male has a special marking called egg spot on the anal fins that help them get a mate easily.

How long does it take for a Peacock Cichlid to color up?

This fish will take approximately two years to color up and develop their stunning colors and special markings to totality. The males will color up faster compared to the female.

How many Peacock Cichlids can I keep in one tank?

This generally depends on the size of the tank. For instance, if you have a 50 gallons tank, you can keep 4 to 6 cichlids. Also, consider the polygamous rule that states one male fish should be kept with 3 to 4 females per group.

Are Peacock Cichlids hardy?

Yes, they are hardy fish, but they’re easy to maintain and are docile too. This is the exact reason why most beginners prefer keeping this fish. However, you should strive to ensure you feed them the best diet and provide optimal tank and water conditions for your fish to live a healthy life.

Do Peacock Cichlids have teeth?

Yes, they have teeth. The purpose of the teeth is to help them in hunting, and the shape and size usually vary from one variety to the other. They will sometimes bite your fingers but in rare cases.


The Peacock Cichlids are peaceful and easy to maintain fish. They are also beautiful with their vibrant coloration. This makes them ideal for a beginner and experienced aquarist seeking to have an addition to their community. By now, you have a better understanding of all you need to take care of this fish in general. Despite the fact that they are hardy and easy to maintain, you must give the optimal conditions in the tank. We hope this guide has given you the extensive information you needed and you are now ready to make a choice and definitely this fish should be your ideal choice as a beginner.

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