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Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Credits: B W on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Red top lwanda peacock cichlids are amongst the most striking-looking Malawi cichlids we know. They’re also quite beginner-friendly and easy to keep. 

Natives of the deep waters of Hai Reef in Tanzania and Chiwindi in Mozambique, these fish are pretty popular in the aquarium hobby given their bright colors. 

These cichlids are listed as an endangered species as their population in the wild is dwindling quite rapidly.

Here’s a short introduction to Red Top Lwanda Cichlids before we dive deep into the details. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Introduction

Scientific NameAulonocara sp. Lwanda
NicknameRed Top Peacock
OriginLake Malawi
Care LevelModerate
Maximum Size6 inches
Temperature 72-82°F

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Lifespan 

On average, these cichlids live for around 6-8 years. However, there have been reported cases of these cichlids living for 10-15 years. 

A good tank environment and nutritious diet definitely help in extending their lifespan.

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Appearance 

Male red top lwanda cichlids boast a deep blue color on their head and most of their body parts. The shoulders and pelvic regions are yellowish in color and turn dark orange or red when they mature. The tail, anal fins, and dorsal fins are also yellow in juveniles and turn reddish-orange once they reach adulthood. 

On the other hand, female cichlids sport a rather dull grayish shade with specks of orange here and there. 

Likewise, male cichlids have longer and sharper anal and dorsal fins, whereas females have shorter and rounder ones. Sexual dimorphism is quite strong with these cichlids.

They have a pharyngeal set of teeth in the throat, in addition to the regular teeth. And they also have one nostril on each side, which they use to sample water by smelling. 

Like all cichlids, red top lwanda peacocks also have spiny rays in the back parts of the pectoral, pelvic, anal, and dorsal fins, which helps in deterring predators. However, the front parts of these fins have a soft texture, which helps with effortless swimming. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Size

Males reach a maximum length of about 6 inches. Females are a tad bit smaller than males. 

Likewise, males will start showing their true colors at around 3 to 4 inches. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Temperament 

These cichlids can be categorized as semi-aggressive.

Red top lwanda peacock cichlids aren’t as aggressive as some Malawi species, but they are no saint either. Males are known to get quite aggressive towards other males of the same species during the breeding season. 

Like most African cichlids, these fish live in small groups of 1 male and several females. They tend to claim a territory that offers adequate feeding opportunities and will defend the territory aggressively against other similar-sized or similar-looking species.

Since red top lwanda cichlids are carnivores, they’re also active hunters that will prey on small prey items in the tank. 

That being said, they are peaceful enough to happily coexist with similar species in a big tank. Make sure the tank’s really big to rule outbursts of territorial aggression. If there are enough resources and space for everybody, these cichlids will stay on the tamer side. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Tankmates

Suitable tankmates for red top lwanda peacock cichlid include:

  • Victorian Haps 
  • Malawi Peacocks 
  • Malawi Haps 
  • Synodontis 
  • Blue Neon Peacock 
  • Lemon Jake Peacock 
  • Azureus cichlid 
  • Cunningham cichlid 
  • Plecos 
  • Cuckoo catfish
  • Haplochromis cichlid

Make sure you don’t pair them with aggressive mbuna cichlids. This can only result in endless bullying, nipping, and injuries. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid’s Diet 

In the wild, red top lwanda peacock cichlids scrounge up the sand to hunt aquatic invertebrates. They push the sand through the gills and extract small invertebrates. You can give them good quality cichlid flake or pellet food as a regular meal and some meaty supplements in the tank. 

Tank-raised specimens thrive on a mixed diet of frozen and dry foods. 

Frozen, freeze-dried, live, or pelleted meaty food like brine shrimps and bloodworms are some excellent food options to give. Plankton-based pellets are another great option. This nutrient-dense food help to bring out the dark orange and metallic blue colors in these cichlids. 

Here’s our handpicked choice of pellets for your cichlids: Omega One Super Color Sinking Cichlid Pellets

We love this particular brand of pellets because it is made with a mix of fresh seafood, ocean kelp, and spirulina to meet a carnivore cichlid’s dietary needs. 

On top of that, these pellets are naturally insoluble – meaning they won’t dilute in the water and make it dirty. 

Don’t give tubifex worms since they’re known to trigger Malawi bloat. 

As for feeding frequency, give around 2-3 small meals a day instead of one big meal. This will contribute to clean water for much longer.

Water Parameters For Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlids 

General Hardness15-25° dGH
pH Level 7.8-8.6
Reef Compatibility No
Plant SafeNo
Specific Gravity Less than 1.0002
Water Movement Moderate
Nitrate Less than 25 ppm
Minimum Tank Size 75 Gallons 
Lighting Moderate 

Lake Malawi is over 600 kilometers long and more than 700 meters deep in some places. So, you can call Lake Malawi a small, freshwater ocean if that makes sense. Nonetheless, the point is, given the lake’s large size, the water parameters are almost always stable. The temperature doesn’t fluctuate easily, and the water’s chemistry is almost always the same at all times. 

Thus, stating the obvious – these cichlids aren’t fond of frequent or significant water changes. You can conduct a 15% water change twice a week or a 30% water change weekly, depending on the number of fish you have and the status of the filtration mechanism. 

The lake has a very minute concentration of pollutants. Any waste – manmade or natural – will simply dilute in the mass of water. Thus, you need to ensure the nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia levels are at their lowest in the tank. 

You need to test the water frequently for optimum parameters. 

Here’s a link to the API master kit that can test your water for 5 critical parameters on the go. 

In addition, Lake Malawi is a highly oxygenated lake. Thus, you need to keep the bubbler switched on day and night. 

Although Lake Malawi cichlids don’t live in brackish water, they need hard alkaline water to thrive. Therefore, salinity less than 10% of the regular saltwater tank is desirable for these cichlids. 

To increase the water’s hardness, you can add salt to the water. However, adding our regular salt won’t work. It will, in fact, backfire and cause Malawi bloat. 

Thus, you need to use specially formulated cichlid lake salt. Here’s a link to one by Seachem:

This salt mix is formulated to replicate African cichlids’ natural environment. It contains essential minerals required to raise the water’s hardness, like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 

There’s one more option you can give a shot – the chemical filtration method. In this method, the water will pass through layers of crushed coral or coral sand. However, to what extent the water will be hard is not guaranteed with this method. 

Red Top Lwanda Peacock cichlids require iodine in water to regulate their thyroid function, responsible for their physical growth. For this, you can use iodized salt tablets. But make sure to channel moderation because excess salt in the water will lead to bloating. 

Tank Size For Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlids 

These cichlids are active swimmers, hunters, territorial, and have a knack for anger. Thus, the minimum required tank size is 55 gallons. Anything smaller can potentially result in dwarfism and aggressive behavior. 

The ideal tank sizes are 75-gallon and up. However, suppose you are housing quite a few of these cichlids, which helps with managing aggression. In that case, we recommend getting at least a 120-gallon big tank. 

Substrate For Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlids 

To emulate the natural setting as much as possible, you should use sandy substrate. Fine gravel substrate is equally good too. Make sure to add rock piles and a few decors here and there to create caves and passageways. 

This will help the fish claim their respective territories and also a getaway to hide when stressed. 

Since these cichlids are carnivores, they won’t nibble on plants. You can add hardy plants like java fern, anubias, and sword plants. These will help to increase the fry and juvenile fish’s survival rate

Our Pick Of Top Equipment For Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid 

When buying equipment for your cichlids, there’s no room for skimping. First, they’re aggressive – so you need to provide ample space for claiming territory. Second, they produce a considerable lot of bioload – so you need a sturdy filtration mechanism. Finally, they are used to stable water temperatures = so you need a reliable heating system. 

Here’s our cherry-picked list of equipment for your red top lwanda peacock cichlid:

SC Aquariums 150-Gallon Starfire Glass Aquarium 


  • Minimalistic design 
  • 150 gallons 
  • Built-in overflow box
  • Dimensions: 60 x 24 x 24

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 


  • For aquariums up to 200 gallons 
  • Functions at 350 GPH
  • 360-degree rotating valves 
  • 5 large capacity media baskets 

Hygger 500W Submersible Aquarium Heater


  • Anti-dry Protection 
  • Rapid heating 
  • Intelligent thermostat 
  • 5-seconds warming 
  • Titanium steel material 
  • External color LED digital temperature controller 

Breeding Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid 

Red top lwanda peacock cichlids are pretty easy to breed. You don’t really need to coax them into breeding by performing water changes, altering temperature, or feeding live food. 

However, raising the temperature to around 79-84° F and feeding live food like mosquito larvae, crustaceans, and bloodworms does help with triggering spawning. 

Like all aulonocara cichlids, red top lwanda peacocks are mouthbrooders. For best breeding probability, you can pair 4 to 6 female cichlids with one male. If you have several males in the same tank, make sure there’s an individual rock pile for each of them – otherwise, only the dominant male will mate with the females. 

Here’s a link to beautiful and realistic-looking rock decor from PINVBNY:

Buying adult red top lwanda peacock cichlids can cost you quite a bit of money. So start out by raising a school of juveniles. Then, you can go on removing the aggressive male until you have the desired sex ratio. 

When the mating season commences, the male will begin his courtship and will try to make the females swim close to the spawning site so they can check it out. During the courtship period, the male can be quite a nuisance – sometimes even resorting to violence for attention. 

Thus, it’s imperative to add several hiding places in the tank for the females to take refuge in. 

Females will lay eggs on a flat surface and scoop them inside her mouth. In one cycle, the female can produce up to 25-50 eggs.

Next, she will nuzzle the male’s vent so he can release the milt right inside her mouth and fertilize them. It’s also believed the egg spots on the male’s anal fins will lure the female towards him. And as the female tries to pick her’ eggs’, the male cichlid will release sperm into her mouth.

It’s quite easy to spot the holding female by looking at her distended mouth. The matriarch will fast for the entirety of the holding period. 

Like all aulonocara cichlids, red top lwanda peacocks are known to be excellent holders who seldom swallow or spit their eggs. However, the female will prematurely spit out the eggs or gobble them up under a stressful condition. First-time mothers are especially prone to this. 

Thus, you have to be very careful if you’re going to move the holding female into a new tank. Shifting to a new environment can induce stress in the holding female, jeopardizing the survival chance of the eggs. 

The female will hold the eggs for around 4 weeks before releasing free-swimming fry. Therefore, it’s recommended to only transfer her to the new tank near the end of the holding process. This way, even if she spits out the eggs, the eggs/fry will be developed enough to survive independently. 

There’s one more benefit of waiting until the end. The female will lose her status in the pecking order if she’s gone for too long. As a result, she will be bullied and tormented relentlessly upon her return. 

To minimize the extent of bullying when she makes a comeback, turn off the lights and cover the tank with a blanket for several hours. 

How To Strip Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Eggs?

Some owners like to strip the eggs and incubate them artificially. This is cumbersome, but it minimizes the chance of the mother cichlid dying from starvation or her gobbling up the eggs. However, this should only be done if you have a fair bit of experience with handling aquarium fish. 

Start by filling a small container with the tank’s water. Next, turn off the tank’s light and let its inhabitants adapt to the new environment for some time. Finally, slowly net the female and transfer her to the container. 

Once she’s all settled, gently hold her with your left hand and open her mouth using your right hand’s index finger and thumb. You can slowly rock her, so she spits the eggs. Once she’s all done, transfer her to the main tank. 

As for the eggs, put them in the tumbler and don’t release them until the fry are free-swimming. 

How To Care For Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Fry?

The fry hatch with a yolk sac attached to their body. For the first few days, they will rely on the yolk sac for nutrition, which indeed is very nutritious. Once they are free swimming, you can give them the following:

  • Brine shrimp 
  • Pulverized flake food 
  • Powdered dry food 
  • Spirulina flakes 

If you are serious about raising the fry, you need to raise them in a separate tank or use a breeding box. Otherwise, bigger fish in the tank will snack on them in a wink of an eye.

The mother will continue to care for the hatchlings for some time. For instance, she will hide them inside her mouth if there are hazards nearby. 

The fry will start showing their adult coloration at around 4 months of age. Until then, both male and female fry will sport drab female coloration.

Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Diseases 

Like most cichlids hailing from Lake Malawi, these fish are quite prone to Malawi bloat. Unfortunately, there’s no agreed consensus on what causes it – but it’s widely believed that it’s caused by a protozoan parasite. 

Malawi bloat often occurs due to unsolicited stress, excess salt in water, and a poor diet. 

If not treated on time, Malawi bloat is straight-up fatal. Luckily, there’s an effective solution to cure it: metronidazole. If you are interested in knowing more in-depth about treating Malawi bloat, check out this article. 

Another common disease they’re susceptible to is ich, which results from stale water and less oxygenation. You can treat it at home by elevating the water temperature to around 86° F for 3 days. You can also use copper-based treatment, but make sure to remove water conditioners first. And don’t forget to strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines, so there’s no toxic mishap. 

And like most other fish, red top lwanda peacock cichlids are vulnerable to flukes, bacterial infestations, parasitic infections, and so on. So, you must maintain the water parameters and a healthy diet at all times. 

Detecting the symptoms early on and taking necessary measures early on can significantly increase the survival chance. 

Conclusion: Red Top Lwanda Peacock Cichlid Care Guide

Red top lwanda peacock cichlids are definitely one of the prettiest cichlids to own. But, unfortunately, their population is quickly declining in the wild. Thus, now’s the best time to bring home a school of these beautiful fish. 

They aren’t too aggressive as some Malawi species and are quite easy to breed. Thus, they’re suitable for any level of fishkeeper. However, when you bring them home, make sure to carefully examine for any defects or signs of injury – especially spinal defects. 

All in all, these cichlids will amp up your home’s aesthetic appeal by many folds and offer you a rewarding fishkeeping experience. All the best!

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