You are currently viewing Creating a Colorful Aquarium with Peacock Cichlids: What You Need to Know

Creating a Colorful Aquarium with Peacock Cichlids: What You Need to Know

Peacock Cichlids are vibrant inhabitants of freshwater aquariums, famed for their vivid colors and dynamic personalities. Originating from Lake Malawi in Africa, these African Cichlids are celebrated for their diversity in coloration and form. This article explores the various types of Peacock Cichlids, each with unique attributes that captivate aquarists worldwide. Understanding the essentials of Peacock Cichlid breeding is crucial for maintaining their health and vibrancy in a home aquarium.

Origin and Habitat of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids, known scientifically as part of the Aulonocara genus, are native to the clear, deep waters of Lake Malawi in East Africa. This vast lake, one of the African Great Lakes, is famed for its remarkable clarity and stability in terms of temperature and pH, which provides an ideal environment for these cichlids. Lake Malawi is characterized by its rocky substrates and sandy bottoms, which play a crucial role in the everyday life of Peacock Cichlids.

In their natural habitat, Peacock Cichlids are found at various depths, usually ranging from shallow waters to depths of about 40 meters. However, they are most commonly spotted around 10 to 20 meters deep. The lake’s unique environment encourages the proliferation of a wide array of aquatic life, offering a rich supply of food and ample hiding spots among the rocky crevices. These conditions also promote the vivid coloration that Peacock Cichlids are known for, as males display enhanced colors to attract mates and ward off rivals.

The water conditions in Lake Malawi are notably alkaline, with a pH often above 8.0, and hard due to high mineral content, which is essential for the health and growth of these African Peacock Cichlids. These water parameters are vital to replicate in home aquariums for Peacock Cichlids to thrive.

Types of Peacock Cichlids

Peacock Cichlids, belonging to the Aulonocara genus, are native to Lake Malawi and are celebrated for their vibrant colors and diverse species. Each species displays unique patterns and hues, making them a favorite among aquarists. Here’s a detailed look at several popular and distinct types of Peacock Cichlids, showcasing their varied beauty and characteristics.

Aulonocara nyassae (Blue Peacock)

Often just referred to as the Blue Peacock, this species is iconic for its radiant blue coloring, which can range from a deep royal blue to a lighter sky blue, captivating onlookers with its shimmering scales.

Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Eureka Red)

This species is distinctive for its rich red and orange body contrasted with striking blue accents on its dorsal fin and around its face, making it a standout specimen in any tank.

Aulonocara baenschi (Sunshine Peacock)

Known for its vibrant yellow body, the Sunshine Peacock also features electric blue along its back and dorsal fin, which intensifies with age, adding a splash of sunlight to the aquarium.

Aulonocara stuartgranti (Flavescent Peacock)

This cichlid is diverse within its species, showing a variety of color patterns generally involving a mix of blues and yellows with a metallic sheen. It’s admired for its elegant appearance and peaceful nature.

Aulonocara hansbaenschi (Red Shoulder Peacock)

Distinguished by a vivid red blotch on its lower flank against a deep blue body, the Red Shoulder Peacock is both eye-catching and serene, suitable for community cichlid tanks.

Aulonocara ethelwynnae (Blue Neon Peacock)

This lesser-known variety is prized for its luminous neon blue color that seems to light up under aquarium lights, adding a dramatic flair to its environment.

Aulonocara kandeensis (Blue Orchid Peacock)

Featuring a deep blue body with lighter blue highlights, the Blue Orchid Peacock has a calm demeanor and requires similar water conditions as other Peacock Cichlids, making it an excellent addition for beginners.

Aulonocara saulosi (Saulosi Peacock)

Characterized by a unique blend of golden yellow and blue, males of this species transform in color as they mature, starting with a juvenile blue and turning a striking yellow with maturity.

Aulonocara firefish (Dragon Blood Peacock)

The Dragon Blood Peacock is an artificial hybrid with a stunning red to orange body that sometimes shows hints of white or pink. Its dramatic appearance makes it highly sought after.

These Peacock Cichlid types are just a few examples of the diversity found within the Aulonocara genus. Each brings its own unique beauty and requirements to the aquarium, offering enthusiasts the chance to cultivate a truly spectacular aquatic display. When selecting Peacock Cichlids, it’s important to consider not only the visual appeal but also the compatibility with other fish and the specific environmental needs of each type to ensure a harmonious and healthy aquarium.

What is an OB Peacock Cichlid?

The OB Peacock Cichlid stands out as one of the most intriguing and visually striking members of the Aulonocara genus. “OB” stands for “Orange Blotch,” a fitting description for this fish’s distinctive and varied patterning. The OB Peacock Cichlid is not a result of natural selection but rather a line bred variant that exhibits an eclectic mix of vibrant colors and patterns, making each individual uniquely captivating.

The OB Peacock Cichlid is a hybrid, primarily derived from various species of Peacock Cichlids native to Lake Malawi. The “blotched” appearance is a genetic mutation that occurs naturally, though the vivid and varied colors seen in the aquarium trade are often the result of selective breeding. This selective breeding aims to enhance and stabilize the color mutations across generations, presenting a kaleidoscope of colors, including blues, reds, oranges, and even purples interspersed with irregular blotches. 

Breeding Peacock Cichlids

Breeding Peacock Cichlids is an exciting aspect of keeping these vibrant fish. Known for their bright colors and relatively peaceful demeanor, Peacock Cichlids can provide a unique challenge for aquarists looking to delve into the breeding aspects of aquarium care. Here’s a comprehensive guide to understanding and facilitating the breeding process for Peacock Cichlids.

Understanding Breeding Conditions

Optimal Environment: To successfully breed Peacock Cichlids, creating an optimal environment in the aquarium is crucial. This involves mimicking the natural conditions of Lake Malawi as closely as possible. The water should be slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.8 and 8.6 and have a temperature range of 76-82°F (24-28°C). The tank should also include plenty of hiding spots and territories, using rocks and caves to provide potential nesting sites.

Water Quality: Maintaining pristine water conditions is vital for encouraging Peacock Cichlids to breed. Regular water changes, efficient filtration, and constant monitoring of water parameters help in maintaining the health of the fish and increase their likelihood of breeding.

Breeding Process

Initiation: The breeding process for Peacock Cichlids typically begins with the male displaying intensified colors and performing a mating dance to attract a female. This dance includes flaring fins, shaking, and other movements to catch the female’s attention.

Spawning: Once the female is enticed, she will lay her eggs on a flat rock or in a sandy pit prepared by the male. She then collects the eggs into her mouth, where fertilization occurs. Peacock Cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders, meaning the female will carry the fertilized eggs—and later the fry—in her mouth to protect them from predators.

Brooding Period: The brooding period usually lasts about three to four weeks. During this time, the female might appear less active and will not eat. It’s crucial to ensure she is not stressed or harassed by other tank mates during this period.

Raising Fry

Release and Initial Care: Once the fry are ready to swim and feed independently, the female will release them. Initially, the fry can be fed with specially formulated fry foods or finely crushed flakes. They should be kept in a separate tank or breeding net within the main tank to protect them from being eaten by adult fish.

Growth and Development: Peacock Cichlid fry grow quickly, provided they receive appropriate feed and water conditions are kept optimal. As they grow, they can be introduced to larger granules of food and eventually transition to the same diet as the adults.

Challenges and Tips

Genetic Diversity: To maintain healthy genetic diversity, avoid breeding closely related fish. Introducing new genetic lines from reputable sources can help in producing robust and vibrant offspring.

Aggression Management: Male Peacock Cichlids can become territorial and aggressive during breeding. Managing tank space and hiding spots efficiently can minimize stress and aggression in the tank.

Breeding Peacock Cichlids is not only a fulfilling activity but also a responsibility that requires attention to detail and careful management. By providing the right conditions and dedicated care, aquarists can enjoy the rewarding experience of watching their own Peacock Cichlids grow from eggs to colorful adults, adding a layer of dynamic interaction and beauty to their aquarium endeavors.

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

Selecting the right tank mates for Peacock Cichlids is crucial for maintaining a harmonious and visually appealing aquarium. Peacock Cichlids are generally more peaceful than other African cichlids, but their compatibility with other fish depends on several factors, including temperament, size, and environmental needs. Here’s how to choose suitable companions for your Peacock Cichlids to ensure a thriving community tank.

Considerations for Compatibility

Temperament: Peacock Cichlids are relatively peaceful, especially compared to their Malawian Mbuna cousins. However, they can display territorial behaviors, particularly during breeding. It’s important to pair them with fish that can hold their own without escalating conflicts.

Size and Activity Level: Tank mates should be close in size to Peacock Cichlids, which typically range from 4 to 6 inches in adulthood. Fish that are too small might be bullied or stressed, while much larger fish could intimidate or harm the cichlids. Similarly, fish with a compatible activity level are important, as overly active fish can stress the more subdued Peacock Cichlids.

Ideal Tank Mates

Other Peacock Cichlids: Keeping different species of Peacock Cichlids together can be visually striking and generally safe as long as there’s enough space and environmental resources to reduce competition.

Other Non-Mbuna Cichlids: Haplochromis species, often referred to as “Haps,” are a good match in temperament and size. They are also from Lake Malawi and share similar water and dietary preferences.

Catfish: Certain catfish, particularly the Synodontis species, are excellent choices due to their bottom-dwelling nature, which complements the mid-water territory of the Peacock Cichlids. They also help keep the substrate clean.

Fish to Avoid

Aggressive Mbuna Cichlids: Mbuna tend to be more aggressive and territorial than Peacock Cichlids. Their inclusion can lead to heightened stress and aggression in the tank, which could result in injuries or even fatalities.

Predatory or Large Fish: Larger predatory fish like the African Tigerfish or larger Central and South American cichlids should be avoided as they can view Peacock Cichlids as prey.

Tank Setup Tips

Spacious Environment: Ensure the tank is spacious enough to accommodate all species comfortably. Peacock Cichlids thrive in tanks that are 55 gallons or larger, as this provides ample space to establish territories and reduce conflict.

Adequate Hiding Spots: Provide plenty of rocks, caves, and other hiding places to help reduce stress and aggression. This setup mimics their natural habitat and gives fish a retreat during conflicts or when they feel threatened.

Balanced Grouping: Consider the social structure of your tank. Establishing a group with a balanced ratio of males to females and maintaining a diverse species mix can help mitigate aggressive behaviors.

By carefully selecting and managing tank mates for your Peacock Cichlids, you can create a dynamic and peaceful aquarium community. This not only enhances the well-being of your fish but also provides a more engaging and aesthetically pleasing environment for you to enjoy.


Peacock Cichlids are among the most captivating inhabitants of the freshwater aquarium world, cherished for their stunning colors and engaging behaviors. Properly managed, Peacock Cichlids exhibit a range of fascinating behaviors and interactions that can provide endless entertainment and satisfaction. Peacock Cichlids enrich the aquarium experience, adding both beauty and intrigue to your aquatic setup. By adhering to the guidelines discussed above, aquarists can enjoy the dynamic world of Peacock Cichlids for years to come. Whether you are a novice seeking to bring a new vibrancy to your home or an experienced keeper looking to refine your skills, Peacock Cichlids offer a rewarding challenge with spectacular rewards.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Peacock Cichlids

What size tank do I need for Peacock Cichlids?

  • Peacock Cichlids require spacious aquariums to thrive, given their active nature and need for territorial space. A minimum tank size of 55 gallons is recommended for a small group of these fish. Larger tanks provide more stable water conditions and more space for the fish to establish territories, which is crucial for reducing stress and aggression.

What are the ideal water conditions for Peacock Cichlids?

  • Peacock Cichlids thrive in alkaline water with a pH between 7.8 and 8.6. The temperature should be maintained between 76°F and 82°F (24°C to 28°C). It’s also important to keep the water hardness within 6-10 dGH and ensure that the environment mimics the clear, mineral-rich waters of Lake Malawi.

What do Peacock Cichlids eat?

  • Peacock Cichlids are omnivorous and do well on a varied diet. High-quality cichlid pellets should make up the core of their diet, supplemented with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and krill to promote vibrant coloration. Occasional vegetable matter, like blanched spinach or zucchini, can also be offered to provide essential nutrients.

How can I tell male from female Peacock Cichlids?

  • Males are typically more colorful, with brighter and more varied color patterns than females. They also tend to be slightly larger and more aggressive, especially during breeding. Females are usually duller in color and smaller in size.

Are Peacock Cichlids aggressive?

  • Peacock Cichlids are relatively peaceful compared to other African cichlids but can display territorial behavior, particularly during breeding. To minimize aggression, they are best kept with other Peacock Cichlids or similarly sized and tempered species.

Can Peacock Cichlids be kept with other fish?

  • Yes, Peacock Cichlids can be kept with other fish, provided they are chosen carefully. Good tank mates include other types of non-aggressive Malawi cichlids and catfish like the Synodontis species, which tend to occupy different parts of the tank and help keep the tank clean.

How often should I change the water in a Peacock Cichlid tank?

  • Regular water changes are crucial to maintaining the health of Peacock Cichlids. It is recommended to change 20-30% of the water every two weeks, although more frequent changes might be necessary depending on the tank size and the number of fish.

Do Peacock Cichlids need a specific type of substrate or tank setup?

  • Peacock Cichlids prefer a tank with plenty of hiding places and territories, which can be created using rocks, caves, and sand substrates. These setups not only replicate their natural habitat but also help in reducing stress and territorial conflicts among the fish.

How long do Peacock Cichlids live?

  • With proper care, Peacock Cichlids can live for 6 to 8 years, sometimes longer under optimal conditions. Their lifespan is heavily influenced by the quality of care, including diet, water quality, and tank environment.

How big does a Peacock Cichlid get?

  • Peacock Cichlids generally reach an adult size of about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length. However, some species and individuals can grow slightly larger, especially in well-maintained aquariums with optimal conditions. The size can also vary depending on the specific species of Peacock Cichlid, with some of the larger types potentially reaching up to 8 inches (20 cm). Providing a spacious tank, a balanced diet, and maintaining excellent water quality are crucial factors that can influence the overall growth and health of these vibrant fish.