Blue Peacock Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Aug 29, 2021

blue peacock cichlid care guide

Credits: Erick Houli on Flickr under Creative Commons license

There are at least 22 different types of peacock cichlids known to men. And none is as dazzling and sought-after as the beautiful blue peacock cichlid. After all, they aren’t nicknamed emperor peacocks for nothing – they look nothing short of royalty. 

Blue peacock cichlids are super famous among both beginner and seasoned aquarists due to their striking looks and interesting personalities. In this care guide, we will tell you all there’s to know about them and how to raise them in the best possible manner. 

So, let’s begin with a quick intro first! 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Quick Facts 

NameBlue peacock cichlid 
Species Aulonocara nyassae 
NicknameEmperor cichlid
Genus Aulonocara
Maximum Size6 inches (15 cm)
Lifespan 10-12 years
Care Level Easy
DietOmnivore
TemperamentSemi-aggressive
Temperature76-82°C (24.4-27.7°C)
pH Range7.5-8.5
LightningModerate to dim 

Blue peacock cichlid is a species belonging to the aulonocara genus and the haplochromine group endemic to the serene Lake Malawi in Africa. These fish mainly inhabit the southwestern arm of the lake. 

Interestingly, these fish were first identified only from their holotype. It wasn’t until the 1990s that more specimens were collected. 

This species is listed as vulnerable in IUCN’s red list since they’re only endemic to Lake Malawi and appear within a minimal range. In their natural habitat, these skillful swimmers inhabit deep waters, complete with rocky terrains and caves to take refuge in.

Blue Peacock Cichlid Lifespan 

A blue peacock cichlid can live for anywhere between 10-12 years if provided with the right tank environment and diet. 

Reportedly, there have been cases where blue peacock cichlids live for more than 15 years! And although these are anomalies, they go on to show what can be achieved with the proper care. 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Appearance 

Blue peacock cichlids are easily one of the prettiest species to come out of great African rift lakes. The males have a metallic blue body from head to tail with golden undertones. In addition, there are dark vertical stripes that begin at the front of their dorsal fin and end at the caudal peduncle. 

They also have faint red patches behind the gills and along their tummies. 

The colors will get quite intense during the breeding season to woo females. 

On the other hand, females are gray and instead look drab compared to their male counterparts. 

Like all cichlids, blue peacocks have a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in their throat in addition to the regular teeth. They also have one nostril on each side – in contrast to two sets most fish have.

The ends of their pelvic, pectoral, anal and dorsal fin are equipped with spiny rays to protect them from attackers. However, the front parts of these very fins have a soft texture to facilitate effortless movements underwater. 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Size 

Blue peacock cichlids grow to the maximum length of 6 inches (15 cm). Diet plays quite a pivotal role in determining their growth rate and final length. 

Head over here to find out how big do different varieties of peacock cichlids get.

Blue Peacock Cichlid Male VS Female 

Differentiating a male blue peacock cichlid from a female is remarkably easy. As mentioned above, males are brightly colored with shades of blue and golden, whereas females sport a grayish/brownish body. 

Besides this, another differentiating factor is size. Males are a tad bit bigger than females. 

And lastly, males have longer and pointier fins than females who sport short and rounded fins. 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Temperament 

Credits: Erick Houli on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Peacock cichlids are territorial – especially males during the breeding season. But compared to other species from Lake Malawi, blue peacock cichlids are super docile and have a more subdued personality. 

For instance, blue peacocks are downright saints compared to some notorious species like jack dempsey and flowerhorns. 

These fish are also active swimmers and inquisitive explorers. And they love to dig. So, expect to find the decorations toppled and plants toppled occasionally.

In the wild, they love to swim around the bottom and sift through the sand as they look out for small prey. And, of course, they mirror this behavior in the tank. 

Also, blue peacocks will try to swallow any creature they can fit in their mouth, given their superb hunting instincts. So make sure you don’t add small feeder fish or crustaceans in the tank. 

Males are naturally territorial. But as long as you provide plenty of space and rocks to claim and hide in, your cichlids should be fine.

The ideal ratio would include 4-5 females for every male. 

Best Tankmates For Blue Peacock Cichlids 

Luckily, you have plenty of options when choosing tankmates for your blue peacock cichlids, given their tame nature. They will do fine as long as other tankmates enjoy similar parameters and are of similar nature and stature. 

That being said, it’s best if you keep them with their own kind as they’re more somber and mannered than other Malawi species. 

And if you’re not into hybridization, make sure you don’t keep them with other aulonocaras. 

Since these fish have an innate instinct to hunt, they will grab inverts like shrimps right off the substrate effortlessly. 

So, our roundup of best tankmates for blue peacock cichlids include:

  • Redfin haps
  • Copadichromis haps 
  • Placidochromis haps 
  • Sciaenochromis haps 
  • Nyassachromis haps
  • Botia loaches 
  • Rainbow sharks 
  • Redtail sharks 
  • African red eye tetras 
  • Synodontis catfish 
  • Cuckoo catfish
  • Featherfin catfish
  • Bristlenose catfish 
  • Big gouramis 
  • Silver dollars 
  • Yabbies 
  •  Plecos 
  • Ghost knives 

Avoid aggressive Lake Malawi cichlids like pseudotropheus, mbuna, petrotilapia, and labeotropheus. Also, exert some caution if you will mix blue peacocks with fish from Lake Tanganyika because they do best in slightly different environments. 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Diet 

Although blue peacocks are omnivores, they have a strong inclination towards a carnivore diet. In the wild, these fish love to lurk deep under the water and hunt down sand-dwelling invertebrates. They also snack on insects, larvae, and small amounts of zooplanktons. 

In the tank, you should give your blue peacocks a good quality flake or pellet food, as well as occasionally supplement their diet with meaty treats. 

Here’s a list of food you can give your cichlids:

  • Flakes 
  • Pellets 
  • Bloodworms 
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Daphnia 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Blanched vegetables 
  • Algae wafers 
  • Small crustaceans 

Make sure you avoid mammalian meat like the beef heart. The fat in these foods has a very high melting point for fish. Thus, the fat won’t melt quickly and will instead get deposited in the liver. 

And also, steer clear of tubifex since it’s often known to trigger Malawi bloat. 

As for feeding frequency, you can give them 3-4 small meals a day. Give them an amount they can finish within 30 seconds. Do 30 seconds sound too short? Don’t worry – cichlids are greedy eaters. They can consume a good chunk of food within that period. 

This feeding style is beneficial to manage their aggression over resources. Additionally, it also helps with keeping the water quality pristine for a more extended period. 

Head over here if you want to know more about the dos and don’ts of feeding cichlids. 

Here’s our pick of best commercial food for African cichlids if you’re interested:

What We Love About It

  • Made in the USA by someone who’s bred African cichlids for over 2 decades 
  • 100% natural and premium ingredients 
  • Packed with ingredients like veggies, fruits, protein, and mineral 
  • Specially formulated to enhance colors 

Water Parameters For Blue Peacock Cichlids

Temperature76-82°F (24.4-27.7°C)
Breeding temperature78-82°F (26-28°C)
pH range 7.5-8.5
Water hardness4 to 6 dH
Ammonia 0
Nitrite 0
Nitrate <50 ppm
Phosphate<0.5 ppm
Water regionMid to bottom
Water movementModerate
Specific gravity <1.002

The streams and rivers that flow into Lake Malawi are highly mineralized. This, coupled with evaporation, has led the lake’s water to be alkaline. 

Also, lake Malawi is the 9th biggest lake on the planet – you can practically say it’s a freshwater sea! As a result, the lake’s pH, temperature, and other water parameters are highly stable. 

And as a fishkeeper, it’s our duty to make an effort to emulate this environment as much as possible to ensure healthy and thriving cichlids. 

Make a routine to conduct 20-50% water change every week, depending on your stocking number. 

However, frequent water changes will mess up with the tank’s pH range and general hardness. 

To maintain the hardness, you will need to use salt. But note that our regular table salt won’t work. It will instead backfire and trigger Malawi bloat. 

You will need to use specially formulated salt that is capable of increasing water’s dH level. 

Here’s a link to Cichlid Lake Salt by Seachem if you’re interested: 

What We Love About It 

  • Replicates the natural environment of African rift lakes
  • Fortified with magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium 
  • Does not mess the tank’s pH level

To increase the pH levels, you can use crushed coral. You can add crushed coral to the chemical filter. 

However, higher pH levels translate to higher ammonia levels. So, don’t skip regular water changes. 

Blue peacock cichlids have a slight tolerance towards salinity. Therefore, you can keep them in a moderately brackish tank that has salinity around 10% of a normal tank. 

Since it’s crucial to maintain the water quality at all times, we highly recommend testing the parameters once every week using a reliable kit. 

Here’s one by API Freshwater Master Kit that we, along with so many others, swear by:

We recommend buying a master kit over strips because it provides more value for money comparatively. 

Minimum Tank Size For Blue Peacock Cichlids 

Blue peacock cichlids are active swimmers and keen hunters. Thus, the minimum suggested tank size for a single fish is 55-60 gallons. However, if you are going to house multiple peacocks, you will need to invest in a tank sized 100 gallons or up. 

Ideally, the tank should be long and deep to echo their natural habitat. 

Substrate For Blue Peacock Cichlids 

Blue peacock cichlids love to sift and dig through the substrate for amusement and hunting purposes. Thus, it’s crucial to use a fine sand substrate. Don’t use gravel or anything coarse that can tear apart their gills or skin. 

Decorations For Blue Peacock Cichlids 

Although peacocks aren’t aggressive, they’re highly territorial. Thus, your tank would be considerably peaceful if there are plenty of rocks and caves so the fish can claim their territory. 

Adding flat rocks and caves also helps with encouraging breeding. 

Place these rocks and caves strategically to create pathways and hiding places. 

And even though peacocks don’t have a taste for plants, they will occasionally uproot them. Thus, if you’re keen on adding plants, choose hardy species like anacharis and java fern

And don’t forget to properly secure and anchor all the decors and plants to the substrate. 

Don’t add driftwood to the tank since it will make the water acidic. And if you’re planning to add artificial plants, make sure their edges aren’t sharp or pointy. 

Our Top Picks Of Equipment For Blue Peacock Cichlid 

Peacock cichlids produce an impressive amount of bioload since they’re inclined to feed on protein-rich food. Thus, you need to invest in a sturdy filtration system that will eliminate the gunks and waste produced every day in the tank. We suggest using a powerful canister filter for that. 

Similarly, since the temperatures in Lake Malawi are exceptionally stable, these fish don’t take too well to the abrupt changes in the climate. So once again, it’s best not to cut corners when getting a heater for your cichlids. 

Here are our top recommendations following meticulous research and skimming through hundreds of reviews:

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

Suitable for tanks up to 200 gallons (options for smaller tanks available).

What We Love About It

  • Works at 350 GPH
  • 5 large capacity media baskets for customization 
  • Easy-to-use push-button primer 
  • Swimming pool-style rotating valves with flow control 
  • Ergonomic design 
  • Sturdy construction 
  • Quiet operation 

Hygger 800W Submersible Heater 

Suitable for tanks up to 120-180 gallons (option for smaller tanks available)

What We Love About It 

  • 3-digit digital display, accurate to 0.1°F
  • Over-temperature protection system 
  • A double temperature probe 
  • Remembers temperature automatically when used after power failure 
  • Outer casing made with ABS material 

Aquazoo Stackable Rock Caves 

What We Love About It

  • Made with natural, compressed sand 
  • Smooth surface and edges 
  • Available in small and large sizes 
  • Natural aesthetic 

Breeding Blue Peacock Cichlid 

Breeding blue peacock cichlids is relatively easy. However, you will need to keep 4-5 females for every male for the best result. If there are more than 2 males in the tank and the tank’s small, the situation will get pretty heated. 

Like most African cichlids, blue peacocks are polygamous mouthbrooders. The male will attend to several females simultaneously, whereas the female will incubate the eggs in her throat. 

A blue peacock female can lay eggs once every six weeks on average. But of course, the case differs from female to female depending on her age and health. 

In order to encourage breeding, you can perform big water changes and gradually increase the temperature. 

One telltale sign marking the onset of breeding is the male developing intense coloration. Another sign is a male looking for a suitable territory for egg-laying and fiercely guarding it. 

And if he’s unable to find a good spot, he will try to infringe on someone else’s – leading to fights. 

Once the spot is finalized, he will proceed to woo the gravid female. 

He will put up quite an entertaining show. He will dance, shimmy, shake his body, fan his fins and show off his colors. If that doesn’t work, he will resort to straight-up chasing and harassing. Not very courteous, you see. 

Once the female gives her consent, she will lay the eggs in front of his cave.

Next, she will swiftly scoop the eggs inside her mouth. The female will then nuzzle the male’s anal fin to release the milt into her mouth and fertilize the eggs. 

The male quickly moves on to another female once he fertilizes the eggs. In contrast, the female will fast for the entirety of the holding period, so she doesn’t swallow the eggs by mistake. 

The incubation period can last anywhere between 21 to 36 days. The bigger the eggs, the longer it will take. 

How To Strip Blue Peacock Cichlid Eggs?

Some hobbyists prefer stripping the cichlid eggs, so the mother’s risk of dying of starvation is nullified. However, we only recommend stripping if you have previous hands-on experience with it or someone experienced to guide you. 

Start by filling a small container with the tank’s water. Next, gently net the female and place her in the container. You’ll need to channel utmost delicacy because a stressed female can easily gobble up her eggs. 

Once the female is accustomed to her new location, gently hold her with your left hand and partially take her out of the water. Then, using the thumb and index finger of your right hand, slowly open her mouth, dip her in water, and gently rock her, so the eggs come out. 

Repeat the process until all eggs are transferred and move the female back to the main tank. 

As for eggs, transfer all of them into a tumbler and don’t release them until they’re free-swimming fry. 

When To Strip Cichlid Eggs?

We recommend stripping cichlid eggs only towards the end of the incubation period. This way, the eggs/fry will have a better survival rate. 

Care For Baby Blue Peacock Cichlids 

The newly hatched fry will rely on the nutrient-dense yolk sac attached to their bodies for the first few days. After that, the mother will care for them for a couple of days – occasionally scooping them inside her mouth if there’s danger nearby. 

Once the fry are free swimming, you can give them the following food:

Freshly hatched baby brine shrimp 

Spirulina

Pulverized flakes and pellets 

If you really want to raise the fry, it’s a must to do so in a different breeding tank. Their survival chance plummets dramatically in a community tank. 

Blue Peacock Cichlid Diseases 

Blue peacock cichlids are prone to the following diseases:

  • Malawi bloat 
  • Swim bladder disease 
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Ich 
  • Skin flukes 

Malawi Bloat 

Like all cichlids hailing from Lake Malawi, blue peacocks are susceptible to Malawi bloat. It’s usually caused by excess salinity in the water or the wrong diet. 

Besides the obvious bloat, other signs include lack of appetite, panting, and lethargy. 

If not treated on time, Malawi bloat can quite quickly kill your cichlid. It rapidly spreads to the kidneys, swim bladder, and liver. Fortunately, there’s a proven technique available to eradicate it. If you’re interested to know more about this, head over here

Swim Bladder Disease 

Yet another ailment caused by poor diet is swim bladder disease. Primarily, it is caused by parasites or buildup of intestinal gas. Sometimes, it also results from an internal injury. 

A fish with swim bladder disease will have difficulty maintaining its buoyancy and thus will swim in strange patterns. Depending on the cause, the effect could be temporary or lifelong. 

If it’s due to dietary complications, it will usually go away with the correct diet. If it’s caused by an internal injury, a fish surgeon can cut the bladder partially or put a stone on it to restore buoyancy. 

Tuberculosis 

Tuberculosis in fish is deadly if you fail to take the proper intervention at the right time. Basically, it is caused by one of many pathogens, all belonging to the mycobacterium genus. 

Its symptoms include lesions, panting, sunken belly, loss of appetite, frayed fins, and white blotches. 

If you think any one of your fish has it, immediately transfer it to the quarantine tank and treat the main tank with antibiotics. Unfortunately, for the affected fish, there’s no effective remedy other than supportive care. 

Ich

Ich is a common parasitic disease that’s caused by the ciliated protozoan ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This parasite often manifests in foul and poorly oxygenated tanks. 

Ich is a highly contagious disease that can transfer from one fish to another without additional hosts. Its symptoms include hiding behavior, lack of appetite, white spots, and frequent scraping of the body against a hard surface. 

To treat ich, gradually increase the water’s temperature and use a copper-based treatment. Don’t forget to remove water conditioners if there are any before using the treatment. And absolutely don’t forget to strictly abide by the manufacturer’s guidelines on how to and how much to use. 

Skin Flukes 

Like all fish, blue peacock cichlids will also develop skin flukes caused by parasites if they’re exposed to foul water. Some common symptoms include fast breathing movements, flashing, and holding the fins against the body. 

Final Words: Blue Peacock Cichlid Care Guide 

So, what do you think of blue peacock cichlids? Are you planning to get some? Or perhaps you already have!

TL;DR Blue peacock cichlids are stunning Lake Malawi cichlids belonging to the aulonocara genus. Their population in the wild is somewhat dwindling – so now is the best time to get some for your tank! 

Given their hardy nature and easygoing personality, these fish are well suited even for those just testing the waters in the hobby. 

However, these fish need at least a 55-60 gallon tank as they love swimming. Also, they produce an impressive amount of bioload owing to their high protein needs. Thus, you will be performing a fair share of water changes weekly! 


Happy Reading! 🙂

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rohit gurung author at urbanfishkeeping

About Rohit Gurung

My never-ending love and fascination with Aquascaping started when I received a red-eared turtle for my 10th birthday.

Apart from researching and writing, I spend hours gazing at my 3 turtles. And yeah, I bask alongside them too.