Peacock Cichlid Care Guide & Species Profile

Peacock cichlids are some of the most colorful fish in the world.

They are native to Lake Malawi and are one of the most friendly and peaceful members of the cichlid family.

In our complete guide to peacock cichlids we are going to discuss everything you need to know include: known varieties, how to care for them, ideal tank mates and much more…

Get your free bonus: Download your Peacock Cichlid guide now to find out more about this beautiful species and how to care for them.

Peacock Cichlid Facts & Overview

African Malawi Cichlid

Care Level:Easy
Color:Various; typically blue
Lifespan:8 years
Size:4-6 inches
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons
Tank Setup:Freshwater: driftwood and caves

The Peacock Cichlid is a stunning species of fish native to Lake Malawi; it belongs to the Astatotilapia genus. There are at least 22 different species of Peacocks, the majority of which have stunning coloration.

Their coloring can vary from blues, reds to yellows and will stand out in any aquarium. The most popular of which being the blue (Aulonocara Nyassae); it will therefore be the focus in this article.

The majority of Cichlids have a reputation for being aggressive, whereas the Peacock Cichlid is fairly peaceful.

Males can be territorial, but on the whole they are peaceful and can make good community fish.

Typical Behavior

Peacocks are bottom dwellers and in the wild in Lake Malawi, will be found at depths of 6 to 40 meters.

A common behavior they will display is hunting for food amongst the sand. They will hover above the sand and once they detect any movement from any invertebrates they will strike. This is also a behavior you will see in aquariums as they sift through the substrate.

They are an active swimmer and are one of the most peaceful Cichlids available.


If you’ve seen other varieties of Cichlids, you will know that they are some of the most vivid colored freshwater fish in the fishkeeping hobby. Peacock Cichlids are no different.

They are some of the most colorful fish you will find, ranging from blue, gold, orange to yellow.

You will also notice than instead of a matt color, their color is in-fact iridescent.

Interestingly their color is permanent, whereas other Cichlids’ color is dependent on their mood and breeding status.

The different varieties of the Peacock Cichlid are essentially the same fish with different coloring; this color varies depending on the region of Lake Malawi it came from. It’s important to state here though that both the juvenile and females are typically a drab gray, so if you’re looking to add color to your tank make sure to buy a male.

Your Peacock should grow to around 6 inches long and is characterized by an oversized lateral line system.

Peacock Cichlid Types

Currently there are at least 22 recognized species of Peacock Cichlids, however not all of them are traded in the aquarium hobby; the most popular ones are:

  • African Butterfly Peacock (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi)
  • Flavescent Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)
  • Nkhomo Benga Peacock (Aulonocara baenschi)
  • Sunshine Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)

In my experience the two most common varieties are the red and blue Peacocks.

The Red Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara stuartgranti)

This is in fact a variety of the Flavescent Peacock. It is a manmade creation and not naturally occurring. It is the same size as other Peacocks except with a red coloration.

When buying one you might see them referred to under other names such as Ruby Red and Rubin Red.

The BluePeacock Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae)

A metallic blue, to a bright yellow, and during breeding season its color will become even more enhanced.

Like all other types of Peacock, its female counterpart is a gray color.

OB Peacock

Finally, a word on the OB Peacock. These are hybrids and are cross breeds between pure Peacock Cichlids breeds. OB Peacocks are the same size as regular Peacocks and offer some unique coloration.

Peacock Cichlid Size

In a home aquarium you should expect a male Peacock Cichlid to grow to around 6 inches long, with females being slightly smaller.

Habitat and Tank Requirements

Cichlid fish from genus Aulonocara

As mentioned in our general overview section, all Peacock Cichlids come from Lake Malawi, therefore your aquarium should closely resemble to conditions found there.

The lake is known for having alkaline water that is known for clarity and is extremely stable in terms of its pH level and other key parameters.

The areas of the lake in which the Peacocks live, are characterized by sandy and rocky areas. So, we recommend you mimic these conditions within the tank. Matching their natural environment will reduce the stress levels of your fish and will provide them with the optimal conditions they require to stay healthy.

Now onto setting up your aquarium for Peacocks.

Firstly you will need at least a 55 gallon tank. This tank should have a sandy substrate and lots of rocks. As they like to sift through the substrate, don’t use gravel because it can cut their gills. You should position the rocks to create plenty of caves and hiding spaces.

Whilst Peacocks aren’t known for their aggression, they are territorial. Breaking up the aquarium with lots of caves helps to reduce their territorial behavior.

If you’d like to decorate your aquarium with plants you can do so. They will not eat the plants but like other Cichlids, they have a tendency to dig and ‘reposition’ plants. For this reason you should only use hardy plants (think Java Ferns or Anacharis) and make sure to anchor them.

If you’re planning on keeping a community of them, then a tank of at least 100 gallons is needed. The larger the tank the fewer territorial issues you will have.

Also remember that they are active swimmers so a horizontal tank is preferable here as it gives them more open space to swim in.

One final point about habitat and tank requirements; if you are mixing different varieties of Peacocks then make sure to accommodate to their individual needs. Some prefer more rocky environments, whilst others prefer sand. This is why a larger aquarium is needed when mixing Peacocks so you can adequately provide for their needs.

Tank Conditions

As for water conditions within the tank, you should keep the water temperature between 76-82°F. PH levels must be kept within 7.8-8.6.

Interestingly as Lake Malawi is a huge body of water it isn’t subject to rapid changes in water chemistry of sudden drops in temperature. For this reason you should ensure that your aquarium’s water temperature remains as consistent as possible.

What Size Tank Do Peacock Cichlids Need?

A Peacock Cichlid will need an at least a 55 gallon aquarium. If you’re planning to keep a community of them then a 100 gallons tank is needed.

Diet and Feeding

Aulonocara Fish
Aulonocara Fish

Peacock Cichlids are omnivores meaning they eat both meat and plant/vegetables.

In the wild they are bottom dwellers meaning they will sift through the sandy substrates for food. This will typically be insects, larvae, zooplankton and other crustaceans.

You should try to emulate this inside your aquarium.

Start by making a quality cichlid pellet the core of their diet; you can then supplement this with meat and vegetables.

For meat you can use:

  • Brine Shrimp (live or frozen)
  • Daphnia frozen

Interestingly you should avoid tubifex worms and all mammal meat as it can cause Malawi bloat.

You can however feed them flakes, just make sure it is suitable for cichlids.

In terms of feeding frequency you should aim to feed them several smaller portions throughout the day instead of a single large feeding; this helps to maintain the water chemistry.

Tank Mates

African cichlid fish colorful aquarium
African cichlid

Cichlids in general get a bad reputation for being aggressive and in general they deserve this reputation.

Fortunately though Peacock Cichlids aren’t like other Cichlids and are the ‘tamer’ members of the family and generally much more peaceful.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that any fish you want to keep with your Peacocks can survive in the same water parameters; for this reason many people choose tank mates who are also native to Lake Malawi.

You can keep lots of the more gentle Haps (Haplochromis) with your Peacocks; for example:

  • Copadichromis
  • Placidochromis
  • Nyassachromis
  • Sciaenochromis

However not every Lake Malawi cichlids can be a tank mate with Peacocks. Other more active fish such as Petrotilapia, Labeotropheus, Pseudotropheus and Mbuna should be avoided.

Can You Keep Peacock Cichlids Together?

Simply put, yes.

The best way to keep them together is to make sure you maintain a ratio of 1 male to 4 females. This will help create schools within the aquarium.

Also remember that males are territorial so make sure to provide them with enough space; a 100 gallon tank is enough for a community of six.


As mentioned in the behavior section above, male Peacocks are territorial and tend to be solitary.

So when you want to breed Peacocks the first thing you need to do is make sure each male has their own territory to prevent conflict.

Fortunately though like other Cichlids, they are fairly straightforward to breed in a home aquarium. If they need encouraging, you can raise the water temperature to 82˚F as spawning typically occurs in warmer water.

Once they have established their territory (typically a cave) the courting process can begin; this is very entertaining to watch.

To lure the females into their cave, the male will ‘perform’ at the entrance of his cave. This will typically look like the male making quick sudden movements and darting to get her attention.

Once the female joins the male, they will enter the cave and the female will lay eggs into the nest. The male will fertilize the eggs and the female will then collect the eggs in her mouth; Peacocks are mouth brooders. She will stay inside the cave now until the fry are ready to hatch.

She will stay inside the cave and incubate them in her mouth for up to 28 days until they hatch (you should expect between 12-50 little Peacocks). After the fry have hatched, in an aquarium the female will generally leave them to their own devices.

Is the Peacock Cichlid Right For Your Aquarium?

The Peacock Cichlid is one of the easier and most peaceful Cichlids to keep.  Their stunning coloration and entertaining personality make them a fan favorite.

Remember when preparing their aquarium to create lots of different territories using caves and rocks to prevent aggressive behavior.

They are ideal for both new and experienced fish keepers and will make a fantastic addition to most tanks.

Have you ever kept Peacock Cichlids before? What’s your experience with them? Let us know in the comments section below…

About Robert 394 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.


  1. Rich says:

    Can peacocks live peacefully with other fish such as a red tailed shark and large neon tetras?

  2. Paul Infantino says:

    Question: I would like to start a new 125 gallon tank. I was under the impression that if you get all Peacock male cichlids and no females it leads to a more peaceful tank. Is this true?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Paul, a 125 gallon tank will provide you fish with plenty of space. Some people do keep all male peacock tanks, because it brings there colours out so long as they have plenty of space. I would recommend that you add the fish as juveniles. Thanks, Robert

  3. kyle says:

    can i keep 2 different color peacock cichlids in a 55 gallon tank with other compatible fish?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Kyle, yes you can. The best way to keep them together is to make sure you maintain a ratio of 1 male to 4 females. Thanks, Robert

  4. William says:

    I just got seven African ob peacocks they are so colourful so the tank just got a bit faster lol

  5. Nicole says:

    I would like to establish my 90 gal tank with male Peacocks. Can I safely in include a zebra or spotted Pleco? Also, does the color of the sand matter?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Nicole, yes they should be fine but add them with caution because it’s always down to the specific temperament of each fish. Thanks, Robert

  6. Nick says:

    What type of bottom feeders go best with peacocks? Also, realistically, how many can fit in a 75 gallon tank? I read up to 10 on a site. I want an all peacock tank

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Nick, Most plecos will be OK with peacocks. There are plenty of online calculators to determine the best stocking arrangement for your tank. Thanks, Robert

  7. Logan says:

    I have a 55g tank with 2.5” of sand on the bottom and lots of rocks stacked and placed around the tank like suggested, I want to do 10 peacocks 2 male 8 female is this too much?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Logan, thanks for your question. If you use an online stocking calculator you’ll be able to get a good idea of whether the tank is over or understocked. You can also add you filtration to it to make sure it’s accurate. Thanks, Robert

  8. Ron says:

    I have read that crowding a tank can cause some cichlids to become less aggressive. Is this true of peacock cichlids?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Ron, I wouldn’t recommend overcrowding any tank. Thanks, Robert

  9. Christiaan says:


    I’ve got a 90G tank (405 liters) and I want to make it an all male peacock and/or Hap tank.

    How much peacocks/ haps can I put in this tank, assuming it’d be a little (just a little bit) overstocked to keep aggression down yet enough space for them not to bump into each other?

    Thanks, Chris

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Chris, I’d recommend keeping about 15. There are a few online stocking calculators which you can use if you want an accurate number. Thanks, Robert

    • Cyndi Blankenbaker says:

      Try putting in 40 fish. My 75 has 53 cichlids and no agression

  10. Terry Mcqueen says:

    I know you mentioned 55 gal minamum but right now I have a 45 gal high tank, will Peacocks be ok in there and what illeffects will I get?

    • Fishkeeping World says:

      Hi Terry, all the tank sizes we list are a bare minimum so I wouldn’t go less than them personally. Thanks, Robert

  11. Janet Reynolds says:

    I have 2-3 juvenile OB peacock females getting beat up by the OB peacock male and other male Mbuna in my main tank. Can I keep the females in a 36 gallon rainbow community tank? It houses 2 schools of medium-sized (2.5-4”) dwarf rainbows, loaches. Would the female OBs pose problems with that setup, assuming I keep the pH around 7.8?

    • Mike Go says:

      Sure why not. Mine are in very hard well water ph8+ with Aussie Rainbows.

  12. Ramona Topa says:

    I have a baby Peacock Cichlid which I just discovered in my tank today. I have an adult male and had a female up until a couple of months ago when she unexpectedly died. This morning I was cleaning the tank and discovered a juvenile peacock cichlid swimming around – apparently the parents managed to breed and hide eggs. Baby is between 1/2 to 1 inch long. I shifted it over to my tank of tetras because I was afraid it would be eaten in the bigger fish tank. When do they start showing their color if male? Right now it is mostly gray although I see hints of red. Eventually I’ll have to move into the bigger tank, but my tank is not large enough if the baby turns out to be male.

  13. Charles Captain says:

    Can I keep 3 females and 1 male in a 29 gallon tank

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