Peacock Cichlid: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

Peacock Cichlid swimming in tank.

Peacock Cichlid is a colorful and interesting freshwater fish that gets its name from the majestic bird, best known for its beautifully colored feathers and social behavior. They rival many Cichlid species for low maintenance and mellow personality.

As aquarium fish, Peacocks are an incredibly rewarding species, and perhaps their beauty is an extra reason to justify their popularity in the pet industry. Surely for this fish to be named after a regal bird shows just how gorgeous-looking Peacock Cichlids can be.

But did you know that Peacock Cichlids exist in as many as 20 different varieties? And that each species possess specific base coloration that can stand out in captivity? Maybe you didn’t even know that Peacock Cichlid is a relatively calm species that will only become aggressive in the wrong environment. 

In this definitive guide, find out all the critical information you’ve been looking for about Peacock Cichlids. Precisely, we will be discussing the fish’s care in captivity under such aspects as lifespan, typical appearance, tank size, diet, behavior, tank mates, breeding, and more!

Species Overview

Finally, we have some peaceful fish for Cichlid lovers, and that’s Peacock Cichlids.

Peacock Cichlids, also known as Aulonocara stuartgranti, or simply Peacocks, are peaceful freshwater fish and a nice addition to home aquariums. These fish are endemic to Africa and can be found in the warm, deep waters of Lake Malawi.

A naturally hardy species and an ardent swimmer, Peacock fish is just as friendly as you would want a lovely pet to be.

Like we’ve mentioned, there are up to 20 recognized varieties of Peacock Cichlids. However, just a handful of such species are kept in captivity, as you will discover in the forthcoming paragraphs. 

CategoryRating
FamilyCichlidae
ColorVarious; typically blue
LifespanUp to 8 years
Care LevelEasy
Behavior & TemperamentSemi-aggressive
CompatibilityMixed
Food and DietOmnivores
SizeUp to 4-6 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater; driftwood and caves
Tank Size (Minimum)55 gallons

Lifespan

A typical Peacock Cichlid lives for about 6-8 years with quality care. Maintaining stable tank water conditions, a balanced diet, and suitable companions will go a long way towards securing the lives of Peacocks at home.

Some species can live for up to a decade with quality care, but it is such a rare feat, only achievable with the best possible tank water conditions.

Appearance

What would you make of their unique name? Are they even the actual peacocks? You could be wondering. Well, a fish getting their name after a regal bird only confirms one thing; they must be truly stunning.

Peacock Cichlids boast a consistent bright color even during the mating season. However, some species will spot different colors depending on their native environment in Lake Malawi.

In adulthood, the males can take on dominant shades of iridescent red, blue, yellow, purple, orange, or gold. On the other hand, the female Peacock Cichlids, like the juvenile fish, will have a predominant gray coloration.

Types of Peacock Cichlids

You will find different types of Peacock Cichlids in their native environment. Like the parent fish, these varieties have become incredibly popular because of their spotless beauty in the aquarium community.

While the list of Peacock varieties is almost endless (over 20 different fish), we will highlight the five best variants below;

Blue Peacock Cichlid

Blue Peacock Cichlid, just from the name, is a beautiful Peacock variety with their entire bodies covered in magnificent blue coloration. Dark vertical stripes supplement their smooth appearance, and the vibrancy of the color depends on gender, age, and location.

Red Peacock Cichlid

On the other hand, Red Peacock Cichlids are probably the most sought-after Peacock variety. As the name suggests, they have bright red coloration all over their bodies that make them easily noticeable in captivity.

Also, they spot cute-looking blue shades lining their fins, giving them such a stunning look that has made them so famous in the aquarium community.

Strawberry Peacock Cichlid

Many people choose strawberry Cichlid if they need an incredibly gorgeous Peacock variety to complement their tanks.

Like Red Peacocks, the Strawberry varieties possess vibrant reddish-pink coloration all over their bodies and may sometimes also have gorgeous dots on their fins.

The only disadvantage of keeping these fish is that they are quite rare, and even identifying an original Strawberry can be difficult.

OB Peacock Cichlid

OB Peacock Cichlid is such a rare Peacock variety but worth paying close attention to if you need a magnificent aquarium.

They have red bodies with dark blue patches. Thanks to the beautiful patches, OB Peacocks have bright faces and shiny dorsal and caudal fins that make them such a notable species in captivity.

Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid

In conclusion, Dragon Blood Peacock fish is almost inseparable from the Strawberry species, hence the confusion. However, they have subtle dots all over their bodies that are absent in the Strawberry varieties.

Size

A standard male Peacock Cichlid will grow to reach about 6 inches in full length. On the other hand, the females will only reach around 4 inches long in adulthood.

It’s worth reminding that just like many species, you can influence Peacock Cichlid’s size by dictating the level of care you give them at home. In addition, location and genetics may also play a role in determining the fish’s average size in captivity.

Peacock Cichlid Care

Peacock Cichlid care is just as easy as you would wish it to be. As a low-maintenance species with a docile personality, not even beginner-level aquarists find it difficult to care for these Cichlids at home

With everything considered, Peacock Cichlids may still be vulnerable to regular shifts in tank water conditions. That’s why we always advocate for just the suitable parameters at any given time to be sure your fish are safe in their new home.

Now, let’s discuss the ideal care requirements in detail;

Tank Size

The suitable tank size for Peacock Cichlids is anything between 55-60 gallons. Remember, aside from being deadly hunters, the Peacocks are adept swimmers that will want a spacious room to enjoy their best life in captivity.

With that in mind, going with a larger tank makes more sense if you keep Peacock Cichlids at home. Such a tank should have enough hiding spots to limit the Peacock’s territorial behavior.

If you are going with a larger group or multiple species in the same habitat, be ready to set up the right tank with a minimum size of 100 gallons.

Water Parameters

Looking at the natural environment, it’s fair to say Peacock Cichlids love slightly warm waters with plenty of vegetation and a neutral to basic pH.

Ideally, you should maintain the water parameters within reasonable levels to mimic the actual environmental conditions.

That’s highlighted below;

  • Water Temperature: 74°F-82°F
  • Water Hardness: 4-6 dH
  • pH Levels: 7.5-8.5

Peacock Cichlids come from a clean environment with consistent water conditions. As such, you must maintain high-quality water throughout their lives in captivity.

We believe investing in the right aquarium testing kit at this point would make perfect sense to help you get an accurate view of the tank water status. 

What to Put in Their Tank?

Being active hunters, you should avoid gravel when setting up Peacock Cichlids’ habitat. Instead, we recommend a soft material like fine sand that limits the risks of physical injuries during hunting.

What’s more, you can limit the fish’s territorial behavior by introducing enough rocks and driftwood to create multiple hiding spots.

Peacock Cichlids aren’t such an aggressive fish, but they would be happy in their own space, just like any species. And that’s the essence of including enough hiding places.

As far as plant decoration goes, Peacock Cichlids will be happy with natural, hardy types like the hornwort. But, sometimes, these fish can try to uproot your plants with their relentless digging, and that’s why you need the hardy types.

Floating types are another consideration if you want to maintain your soft, sandy substrate in perfect shape. 

Nobody mentions it, but Peacock Cichlids can easily sour the tank water. So, consider investing in the right filtration equipment to help you maintain clean water by eliminating harmful waste products.

Common Diseases

Have you heard of the Malawi boat before? Well, that’s one of the most common conditions you will have to cope with if you keep the Peacock Cichlids.

Excessive meaty foods cause Malawi boat, and its symptoms include abdominal inflammation, breathing difficulties, and loss of appetite.

With an uncontrolled progression, it can cause liver and kidney damage and even cut short the fish’s life in as little as three days.

If you suspect a Malawi boat outbreak, you must take action instantly and seek expert help when necessary. In other words, treat this disease as a medical emergency at any given time. 

Another condition affecting the Peacock Cichlid community is swim bladder disease. Like the Malawi boat, it also stems from a poor diet and can have a parasitic origin.

From the name, any fish affected by swim bladder disease will have trouble maintaining their balance on the water, and if it’s your Peacock Cichlids, you will see them helplessly floating on the water surface.

To keep the swim bladder disease away from your Peacock Cichlids, avoid excess proteins and try as much as possible to always feed your fish on a balanced diet.

Finally, Peacock Cichlids will be susceptible to fish tuberculosis. This contagious infection is a real nightmare for a healthy population.

Without proper intervention, fish tuberculosis can kill the entire community without warning. Its classic symptoms include frayed fins, white spots on the fish’s body, and loss of appetite.

The safest way to contain its spread is to isolate the suspected fish as quickly as possible before getting the right antibiotic. Also, you must disinfect the primary tank or get a new one straight away.

What Do Peacock Cichlids Eat?

Peacock Cichlids are natural omnivores, but they behave like carnivorous species in the wild. In such environments, they prefer to hunt for fresh meat and feed on insects, crustaceans, and larvae.

In captivity, they will eat whatever food is available inside the tank. That means you can introduce them to high-quality pellets as a standard meal in addition to the conventional supplements of meat or even vegetables.

They are happy with live insects, water fleas, daphnia, and brine shrimp. Flakes and granules are also an important part of these Cichlids’ diet. However, don’t feed Peacock Cichlids on mammalian meat and worms that predispose them to the Malawi bloat.

Overfeeding is quite common with most Cichlid species, and the same can be said about the Peacock varieties.

To avoid that, just feed your Cichlids a small amount of food multiple times a day. This also helps maintain a clean tank without worrying about possible contamination by leftover fish food.

Behavior & Temperament

Like most Cichlids, you can expect Peacocks to be quite territorial. But the good news is, they are not as aggressive as many large Cichlids.

We even think of them as more docile species that will only want their space in captivity. Of course, some species can get quite aggressive, but that depends on other factors like the tank setup, its size, and the fish’s tank mates.

As long as you understand your Peacock’s needs and behavior in captivity, you should be good to go.

Unlike behavior, the activity levels will be constant for every Peacock species. And as you may already know, Peacock Cichlids are such an active species that will constantly want to explore the bottom of the tank.

Their typical routine involves hunting for food by constantly examining the substrate. That alone gives a spectacular view if they are part of a community tank. 

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

As expected, Peacock Cichlids can cohabitate with a wide variety of species as ideal tank mates. In fact, these fish can readily coexist with any non-aggressive species that won’t threaten their existence in the same aquarium.

Male Cichlids tend to be more territorial, but as we have mentioned, you can control that by having the right tank setup from the start. Also, introducing multiple hiding spots in the form of caves and rocks can help limit such aggressive behavior.

A commonly overlooked aspect of tank mate selection is the water parameters. You see, Peacock Cichlids originate from a region dominated by slightly warm waters with neutral to basic pH.

So, the biggest question will be, “can the new tank mate also survive in the same environment?” If the answer is no, you probably need to find another species.

But if everything seems just right, go ahead and introduce new buddies to Peacock Cichlid’s habitat. Generally speaking, some of the most popular species you can keep together with Peacock Cichlids because of their behavior and adaptability include the following;

  • Botia Loach
  • Botia loaches.
  • Peaceful Haplochromis cichlids.
  • Synodontis catfish.
  • African red eye tetra.
  • Redtail shark.
  • Rainbow shark.

Don’t forget this. You can keep more than one Peacock Cichlids in the same aquarium. However, the general rule states that you will need a higher female to the male population while doing so.

We recommend a 1:4 male to female ratio to have an excellent school and limit aggressive behavior. Plus, introducing more fish to the same habitat means a large tank size of up to 100 gallons depending on the actual population.

Breeding

The male Peacock Cichlids are a polygamous species, which simplifies the breeding process. Still, successful breeding depends on right tank setup.

Giving Peacock Cichlids enough space limits aggression or potential fights for mating partners and facilitates breeding.

As already mentioned, we encourage aquarists to go with a favorable female population while only keeping one male in the same environment.

We’ve seen aquarists adopt different strategies during breeding, like gradually increasing the water temperatures, so you can try the same methods and monitor your fish’s response over time.

An exciting mating dance signals the commencement of the breeding season, with the dominant male doing everything to capture the female’s attention. If the female accepts the proposal, she will lay many eggs and allow the male to fertilize them.

Being natural mouthbrooders, the females will be called into action once again, this time, after fertilization. And gathering the eggs in her mouth, she will escape to a safe environment like the caves to begin the incubation process.

Usually, the incubation period lasts for just around one month and brings the new fry.

Final Thoughts

Peacock Cichlid is many people’s favorite Cichlid species for a good reason. We are a huge fan of their calm personality and always recommend them to deserving aquarists with enough resources.

Despite their beauty, Peacock Cichlids will only thrive in your home aquarium if you maintain stable water conditions throughout their lives. We won’t be quick to call them a delicate species, but we feel they might not be your type if you are not ready to give them the best environment.

Having gone through this guide, perhaps this is the decision time. Do you have whatever it takes to keep a healthy Peacock Cichlid community at home or need more clarification about the fish’s care guidelines? We will be glad to hear from you.

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