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Aulonocaras: The Peacock of Malawi

The Aulonocara fish is a genus of haplochromine cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa. All species of Aulonocara are mouthbrooders (they care for their young in their mouths). Particularly in the aquarium hobby, Aulonocara species are also known as peacock cichlids, aulonocaras, or simply “peacock cichlid fish”.

Aulonocara common name

Commonly known as the CichlidPeacock.

Types of Aulonocara Cichlids

More than 20 types of Aulonocara are known, these are the following;

•             Aulonocara aquiloniu

•             Aulonocara baenschi

•             Aulonocara brevinidus

•             Aulonocara brevirostre

•             Aulonocara ethelwynnae

•             Aulonocara gertrudae

•             Aulonocara guentheri

•             aulonocara hansbaensch

•             Aulonocara hueseri

•             aulonocara jacobfreibergi

•             Aulonocara kandeense

•             Aulonocara koningsi

•             Aulonocara korneliae

•             Aulonocara maylandi

•             Aulonocara nyassae

•             Aulonocara rostratum

•             Aulonocara saulosi

•             Aulonocara Steveni

•             aulonocara stonemani

•             aulonocara stuartgranti

•             Aulonocara trematocephala


The coloration of the Aulonocara fishit can range from blues, reds to yellows and will stand out in any aquarium. The most popular of which is the blue (Aulonocara Nyassae); Most cichlids have a reputation for being fishaggressive, while peacock cichlids are quite peaceful. Males can be territorial, but in general they are fishpeaceful and can be good community fish.

They are some of the most colorful fish you will find, from blue, gold, orange to yellow. You will also notice that instead of a matte color, its color is actually iridescent. Interestingly, their color is permanent, while the color of other cichlids depends on their mood and reproductive status.

The Different Varieties of Aulonocara Cichlidsthey are essentially the same fish with different coloration; this color varies depending on the region of Lake Malawi from which it comes. It is important to say here that both the AulonocaraBoth juveniles and females are typically a drab gray, so if you want to add color to your aquarium, make sure you purchase a male.

Peacock Cichlid Size

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

Aulonocara cichlid habitatand aquarium requirements

As mentioned above, all Peacock Cichlids come from Lake Malawi, therefore your aquarium should closely resemble the conditions found there. The lake is known for having alkaline water that is known for its clarity and is extremely stable in terms of its pH level and other key parameters.

The areas of the lake where peacock fish live are characterized by sandy and rocky areas. Therefore, we recommend that you mimic these conditions inside the aquarium. Matching the natural environment will reduce your fish’s stress levels and provide them with the optimal conditions they require to stay healthy.

Now to set up your aquarium for peacocks

First of all, you will need at least a 55 gallon aquarium. This aquarium should have a sandy substrate and lots of rocks. Since they like to sift through the substrate, don’t use gravel because it can cut their gills. You must place the rocks to create many caves and hidden spaces.

While Aulonocara cichlids are not known for their aggression, they are territorial. Decorating the aquarium with many caves helps reduce their territorial behavior.

If you want to decorate your aquarium with plants, you can. They will not eat the plants, but like other cichlids they tend to dig and ‘reposition’ the plants. For this reason, you should only use hardy plants (think Java Ferns or Anacharis) and be sure to anchor them.

If you plan to keep a community of them, then an aquarium of at least 100 gallons is needed. The larger the aquarium, the fewer territorial problems you will have.

Also remember that they are active swimmers, so a long, shallow tank is preferable, as it gives them more open space to swim.

One last point about habitat and aquarium requirements; If you are mixing different varieties of peacocks, be sure to accommodate their individual needs. Some prefer rockier environments, while others prefer sand. This is why a larger aquarium is needed when mixing Aulonocara so that you can adequately cater to their needs.

Water parameters

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

Interestingly, as Lake Malawi is a large body of water, it is not subject to rapid changes in water chemistry due to sudden drops in temperature. For this reason, you should ensure that the temperature of your aquarium water is kept as constant as possible.

What size aquarium do Aulonocara cichlids need?

An Aulonocara cichlid will need an aquarium that is at least 55 gallons. If you plan to keep a community of them, then a 100 gallon aquarium is needed.


Aulonocara cichlids are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants/vegetables.

In the wild they are bottom dwellers, meaning they will sift through sandy substrates to feed. These will usually be insects, larvae, zooplankton and other crustaceans.

You should try to emulate this within your aquarium.

Start by making quality cichlid pellets the core of your diet; You can then supplement this with meat and vegetables.

For the meat you can use:

•             Brine shrimp (live or frozen)

•             Frozen daphnia

Interestingly, you should avoid tubifex worms and all mammalian meat as it can cause bloating in the Aulonocara.i.

However, you can feed them flakes, just make sure it’s suitable for cichlids.

In terms of feeding frequency, you should aim to feed several smaller portions throughout the day rather than one large feeding; This helps maintain the chemistry of the water.


Cichlids in general have a bad reputation for being aggressive, and they generally deserve this reputation.

Fortunately, Peacock Cichlids are not like other cichlids and are the ‘quiet’ members of the family and are 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 that are also native to Lake Malawi.

•             Copadicromis

•             placidochromis

•             Nyassachromis

•             Sciaenochromis

However, not all Lake Malawi cichlids can be tank mates with Aulonocara. Other more active fish such as Petrotilapia, Labeotropheus, Pseudotropheus and Mbuna should be avoided.

Can you keep Aulonocara cichlids together?

In a nutshell, 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 groups within the aquarium.

Also remember that males are territorial, so make sure you give them plenty of space; A 100-gallon aquarium is enough for a community of six.

Reproduction of the Aulonocara

As mentioned in the compatibility section, 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 that each male has his own territory to avoid conflict.

Fortunately, like other cichlids, they are fairly easy to breed in a home aquarium. If they need stimulation, you can raise the water temperature to 82°F, as spawning generally occurs in warmer waters.

Once they have established their territory (usually a cave), the courtship process can begin; This is very entertaining to watch.

To attract females to his cave, the male will ‘perform’ at the entrance to his cave. Usually he will look like the male making quick, sudden movements and lunging to get his attention.

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

It will stay inside the cave and incubate them in its mouth for up to 28 days until they hatch (you should expect between 12 and 50 little peacocks). After the fry have hatched, in an aquarium the female will usually leave them alone.

Is the Peacock Cichlid Right for Your Aquarium? (Resume)

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

Remember when setting up your tank to create many different territories using caves and rocks to prevent aggressive behavior.

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

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