Aquariums capitalize on one thing – beauty. I find myself mesmerized by the beautiful, colorful fish and less by the plantations or water when I am staring at an aquarium.
Freshwater fishes are one of the most common fish used in aquariums all over the world. Peacock cichlids are mellow and require a low-maintenance care plan.
Peacock cichlids are suitable fish pets because not only are they stunning to look at, they also have beautiful colors that leave you in disbelief each time you look at them. However, with such unique beauty comes specific needs.
Background of the Species
The peacock cichlid is one of the friendliest, most peaceful of the Astatotilapia genus of freshwater fish. It is considered an African cichlid due to its native background in Lake Malawi, a lake in Africa. This species can also be found in Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, some of the great lakes of East Africa.
The young fish and females have a dull gray color, while the makes have a stunning shade of gold, iridescent yellow, red, orange, blue, or purple as they mature. Unlike their relatives, these African cichlids don’t change color depending on mating status or mood. Their colors also tend to vary depending on which area of the lake they originate from.
The male peacock cichlid has an average of about six inches, with the females maxing out at four inches. The size of African cichlids will also depend on the quality of care they receive and where they come from.
They live in the shallows along Lake Malawi’s shores due to the many minerals dissolved in the water and high pH of the lake’s extremely hard water.
The shallow habitat can be extremely rocky, and lots of nooks and crannies to hide. They search for food in the sand substrate. Peacock cichlids share their name with the regal bird due to their colorful appearance.
Peacock cichlids have a lifespan of about 6-8 years; some can live as long as 10-15 years with proper care. To help prolong their lifespan, you need to maintain the recommended water quality, water parameters, and diet.
Popular Types of Peacock Cichlids
Peacock cichlids have distinct vibrant colors that make them common amongst aquarists; some of the common types found in aquariums include:
Blue Peacock Cichlid
Usually blue all over the body, these cichlids also spot darker vertical stripes on their body starting from the front of the dorsal fin to the end of the caudal peduncle. Their coloration and vibrance tend to vary depending on gender, age, and location.
Red Peacock Cichlid
These are the most common type of African cichlids. No matter what kind of fish red peacock cichlids share a tank with, their bright red color always stands out. Their fins also spot interesting bits of blue.
Strawberry Peacock Cichlid
These cichlids are bright reddish pink, with some exciting dots covering their fins. Compared to other peacock cichlids, they can be pretty hard to find.
OB Peacock Cichlids
These are human-made hybrids. They are bred by mixing different types of fish to get colorful and interesting fish. Orange Blotches can be found in many varieties when it comes to color because you never know what you will get.
Temperament and body type
Peacock cichlids are active and peaceful in nature. They are extremely laid back compared to many cichlids’ species. However, if you want to keep both male and female cichlids, consider limiting the ratio to at 2:1, hence two females for every male.
Some aquarists prefer to have an all-male tank because males can easily coexist with slight aggression. I like all-male tanks because they are more colorful, and you will never have unintentional spawns to worry about (sorry, ladies).
These fish have a similar body style – long-bodies, roughly torpedo-shaped fish. When they reach adulthood, they have fairly thick bodies.
Though cichlids are less aggressive than other species, they are very territorial at times. With time, you will be able to learn the temperament of each peacock cichlid in your tank.
They are very active and tend to spend most of their time near the bottom sifting through sand or looking for potential prey.
How to Take Care of Peacock Cichlids
Due to their relatively docile nature, they are relatively low maintenance. Hence, beginners or experienced aquarists should have no issue taking care of them. However, they can be quite sensitive to environmental changes, which means you should pay attention to these considerations:
Their water environment should mimic that of Lake Malawi. The water should be a bit warmer for cichlids to thrive. Make sure the pH levels, temperature, and hardness should be consistent year-round.
I recommend the pH levels be between 7.5 – 8.5; the temperatures should be 74 degrees F – 82 degrees F, and the water hardness between 4 – 6 dH. You should always ensure the water is always clean because they come from a habitat of very clear waters.
Without maintaining their water quality to these levels, their health will suffer and their lifespan shortened. Buy a good water test kit to make sure the water parameters are consistent with cichlids at all times.
Tank size and what to put in the tank
Peacock cichlids are active hunters and skillful swimmers, and you should give them the space they need so they can live as they would in native Lake Malawi water. I recommend a tank size of about 55-60 gallons.
The tank should be large enough to harbor multiple caves and prevent territorial aggression. The tank should be able to accommodate cichlids that prefer rocky habitats and those that don’t. If you are looking to keep a colony of 10 or so, consider a tank that will hold at least 100 gallons to accommodate their territorial behavior.
Avoid using gravel for substrate in the tank as it can damage their gills. Cichlids hunt for food near the bottom so mimic their soft and sandy native habitat.
To minimize territorial issues, put driftwood and rocks to act as hiding places for the fish. Like humans, cichlids also need their own space every once in a while.
They also have a habit of digging or disturbing foliage so if you want to add plants for decoration, make sure to use hardy plants like hornwort. You can also opt for floating plants to avoid disturbances to the substrate. Luckily, other than digging, peacock cichlids avoid eating aquarium plants.
Food and diet
Peacock cichlids are omnivores. They are also born-predators who enjoy diving deep into the waters to feed on invertebrates like insects and crustaceans.
Therefore, the foundation of their diet should be pellets that sink to the bottom of the tank along with supplements of vegetables and meat. You can also find live insects that sink to the bottom, such as brine shrimp, daphnia, and common water fleas.
Avoid mammalian meat and worms as this can give them Malawi bloat. I recommend serving several small meals distributed throughout the day to minimize overfeeding. This will help maintain stable water parameters and prevent obesity.
Peacock cichlids can share the tank with non-aggressive fish. The male cichlids can be territorial, but you can solve this by giving them plenty of living space and caves.
Make sure their tank mates can handle the precise water parameters cichlids require. Haplochromis cichlids can be good tank mates as they are not aggressive. A botia loach is also a good option because they need the same water conditions and have similar temperaments to peacock cichlids.
To encourage social interactions amongst the fish and prevent aggression, always make sure the females are more than the males. Other suitable tank mates include:
- Synodontis catfish
- Redtail shark
- Peaceful haplochromis cichlids
- Rainbow shark
Any aquarist itching to get into the peacock cichlid game will enjoy their beautiful, laid-back temperament combination. You can take care of peacock cichlids as long as you maintain a highly stable tank and the proper water parameters.
Give them lots of room to swim and lots of rocks and caves to help them set up territories. This species is not a good fit for you if you dream of having lots of lush live plants as they will dig and tear them up. Fish breeders will also find peacock cichlids to be an advantageous species.