Peacock Cichlid: Lifespan, Behavior, Care, & Breeding

Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara) is a cichlid species native to Lake Malawi in Africa. They belong to the group of African Cichlids that originate from this area. There are many different species of Peacocks, and their main difference is usually in colorization. Magnificent colors are exactly the reason why Cichlids are one of the most beautiful fish you can have in your aquariums. Their colors may vary from blue, red, yellow, gold all the way to gray. Although Cichlids are known to be very aggressive family, Peacocks are relatively peaceful compared to the others. On top of that, they are normal in size which makes them easier to handle than your usual Cichlid.

Aulonocara nyassae
Albino peacock cichlid Source

Let’s take a closer look at this stunning species and see what makes them so unique.

Peacock Cichlid Lifespan & Size

As mentioned earlier, Malawi Peacocks are medium sized Cichlids, growing up to anywhere between 4-6 inches. Their lifespan is usually between 7-12 years depending on their treatment.

Behavior & Characteristics

Peacock Cichlids are known to be quite peaceful fish compared to others of their family, and this makes them one of the most popular Cichlids within aquariums all around the world. They usually go along with other peaceful fish of the same size, although they do display some territorial behavior and males will fight for territory. If you keep only a few of them (2-3), the larger one may kill the other fish in territorial battles. For this reason, if you’re looking to have a specific Peacock tank, it’s a good idea to “overstock” the tank by keeping 10, 15 or more fish at the same time. This will make the aggression more “spread-out,” and it will be harder for a single Peacock to bully the others when there’s more of them. You should also have lots of rocks in the tank so the smaller fish can use it as cover when avoiding the bigger fish. And of course, the larger the tank is – the better.

Magnificent Appearance 

Peacock Cichlids are known to be one of the most beautiful looking fish in the fishkeeping hobby. They display beautiful, bright colors. The color is iridescent and simply stunning to look at. Their bodies are covered with pearl-like decorations that contrast their primary color. They usually come in blue, red, golden, purple colors. One thing to note is that this species is dimorphic which means that males & females of the same species display different colors. Male is known to have attractive, vivid colors while females are mostly gray and dull in color.

Uniquely Peculiar

Malawi Peacocks are known to be solitary and territorial; they will mostly try to stick to their own area and defend it from others. They’re also bottom dwellers and free swimmers – you want to give them a lot of space to swim while keeping it lightly decorated. They are known to sift through sand substrates in search of food, and this can be a very entertaining activity to spectate.

Although peaceful and flexible, they do require some special care when it comes to their environment and care, so it is recommended to have some prior experience before attempting to handle Peacock Cichlids.

Feeding & Nutrition

When it comes to food, Peacock Cichlids are pretty flexible and can eat a variety of different foods. They are omnivores which means they can consume both plants and meats. Although, since they love to hunt, it’s a good idea to provide them with some live food.

Here’s some foods you can use:

  • Cichlid pellet
  • Brine Shrimp
  • Frozen Daphnia
  • Insects
  • Larvae
  • Bloodworms
  • Flakes

Try to give them small meals spread out across the day to avoid overfeeding, giving one large meal per day could affect them in a bad way.

Housing & Tank Mates

When it comes to housing requirements, this is an area where Peacock Cichlids truly stand out. Their native area – Lake Malawi is usually covered with sand and lots of rocks at the very bottom. And since they are bottom dwellers, this is what they are most used to. This is a perfect fit for them since they like a lot of free space to swim and prefer to have some shelters to hide when necessary. Replicating their natural environment is always a good idea because otherwise, the fish may get stressed out. Another unique thing about Lake Malawi is it’s extremely clear, hardy water that’s slightly more alkaline than usual.

You can also use plants as decorations, but one thing you should know is that Peacock Cichlids are digging species so they may re-position and uproot your plants. If you’re going to use plants, make sure they are hardy and durable so they can’t mess with it, preferably something like Java Fern or Vallisneria.

When it comes to tank settings, use this:

  • Tank Size: 55 gallons and up (use more if you plan to overstock them)
  • Temperature 76-82°F (24-28°C)
  • pH 7.5 – 8.5, It should be slightly more basic than normal tank water
  • Water should be slightly harder with more mineral contents
  • Decor: Keep it simple with sand as substrate and rocks / logs for cover, minimize the amount of plants
  • Lots of filtration as they prefer clarity

Peacock Cichlid Tank Mates

Peacock Cichlids prefer peaceful tank mates like themselves. A good idea is to pair them up with other peaceful Cichlids, but in any case, you should simply give them enough space and territorial fighting should not be a problem in that case. You can use some of these tank mates with your Peacock:

Peacock Cichlids should be kept mainly with other peaceful Cichlid species. However, you could also try to pair them up with some Catfish like Plecostomus as they are known to get along with them.

Peacock Cichlid Breeding & Reproduction

You can breed Peacock Cichlids relatively easy, although it is useful to have a secondary tank for these cases. Their breeding process is unique and entertaining to observe.

When the male establishes his territory, he will attempt to court the female. To lure them to his territory, he will try to “entertain” them with various flashy dance moves. Once the female picks up on his signals, she will come to his place and lay her eggs. The male will then fertilize those eggs and from then on – it’s all her. Peacock Cichlids are known to be a mouthbrooding species which means the female will hold the eggs in her mouth until they hatch. During all this time she will be protective and keep them away from harm. After hatching, the fry is usually left alone, and parents go their own way. The best way to develop them is to keep them in a separate tank and feed them regularly when they grow up they may be moved to the main tank.


Overall, Malawi Peacock Cichlids are beautiful fish with stunning, vivid colors. They’re relatively peaceful compared to others, so this makes them a lot easier to handle. They display some very unique and entertaining behavior and are guaranteed to be a fun addition to your community.