Butterfly Peacock Cichlid

Butterfly Peacock Cichlid Care Guide

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Although some kinds of cichlids have a reputation for being aggressive fish, Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are benign creatures that are one exception to that rule. So, if you want a colorful, peaceful fish to add to your tank, you might want to consider the Butterfly Peacock Cichlid.

Read this comprehensive guide to learn how to care for these gorgeous fish, including what to feed them, ideal tank mates, and breeding Butterfly Peacock Cichlids in your home tank.


Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are native to Lake Malawi and belong to the Astatotilapia genus of fishes. 

There are 22 different species of Peacock cichlids; most are extravagantly colored yellow, red, and blue, with the most popular being the Aulonocara Nyassae variety, which is a beautiful metallic blue.

Although these are relatively peaceful fish and make a good addition to a community, males can be territorial.

Butterfly Peacock Cichlid Behavior

These fish are bottom-dwellers, living at depths of between 20 and 130 feet in their wild environment of Lake Malawi.

The fish spend much of their day hovering above the substrate, watching for any movement that might give away the presence of invertebrates that might make a meal. You’ll also observe that common behavior in the tank environment.

Butterfly Peacocks are active swimmers that seem to enjoy swimming in loose groups with other community members.

What Do Butterfly Peacock Cichlids Look Like?

As you might expect from their name, Peacock cichlids are some of the most colorful freshwater fish you’ll find in the aquarium hobby. Their beautiful colors range from iridescent orange, gold, blue, and yellow, including combinations of all those shades. The fish have the typical cichlid body shape and finnage.

Unlike other cichlid species whose color varies depending on their breeding condition and mood, Peacock cichlids retain their intense colors permanently. However, the color variants of the fish depend on which area of  Lake Malawi it comes from. Generally, males are the brightly colored specimens, with female fish being rather drab in comparison. So, if you want a pop of color in your aquarium, always choose males.

What Size Are Peacock Cichlids?

All species of Peacock cichlids grow to an adult size of around six inches in length, reaching sexual maturity at around four inches. Females are typically a little smaller than males.

The fish grow around one inch every year, taking several years to reach their full size.

How Long Do Peacock Cichlids Live?

These fish live for up to eight years when given the proper care and a healthy diet. 

Peacock Cichlid Varieties

As mentioned above, there are around 22 different species of Peacock cichlids. Interestingly, the fishes’ colors vary, depending on their whereabouts in Lake Malawi.

In the fishkeeping hobby, these are the most popular varieties:

  • Flavescent Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)
  • African Butterfly Peacock (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi)
  • Sunshine Peacock (Aulonocara stuartgranti)
  • Nkhomo Benga Peacock (Aulonocara baenschi)

The colorways most commonly seen in the trade are red and blue.

Red Peacock Cichlid

The Red Peacock is a type of Flavescent Peacock cichlid. This variety is actually an artificial colorway and isn’t found in nature.

You might see these fish advertised in fish stores and online as Rubin Red or Ruby Red Peacock Cichlids.

Blue Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara nyassae)

These fish are a stunning metallic blue and brilliant yellow, and during the spawning season, the fishes’ brilliant colorations are even more vibrant.

In contrast, the female cichlid is a dull gray color.

What are OB Peacocks?

OB Peacocks are sometimes seen in the trade. These fish are hybrid versions of the Peacock Cichlid that are produced by crossbreeding pure Peacock species. These fish can be exceptionally beautiful, offering combinations of shimmering, iridescent colors.

Butterfly Peacock Cichlid Care Guide

The key to keeping any fish species healthy and happy is to replicate their natural environment as closely as possible. If the fish feel at home and safe, stress is unlikely to be a problem, so your fish will be much less likely to succumb to diseases and will probably enjoy a longer lifespan, too.

In the case of the Butterfly Peacock Cichlid, you need to mimic their Lake Malawi habitat. The lake has alkaline water, is very stable in its key water parameters, and is amazingly clear. The Peacocks’ environment is rocky with a sandy substrate.

Tank Size

To accommodate these large fish, you’ll need at least a 55-gallon aquarium. Choose a rectangular aquarium that offers plenty of space for swimming for these active fish.

If you want to keep a few of these gorgeous fish, then you’ll need a larger aquarium of at least 100 gallons. Basically, the larger the tank, the fewer territorial issues you’re likely to have.


To replicate the lake’s topography where these fish are found, you need to use a sandy substrate. Peacock Cichlids like to sift through the substrate, looking for food scraps, and gravel can injure the fishes’ sensitive gills.

You should also include plenty of rocks, hiding spaces, and dark caves. That’s crucial if you have a few male Peacocks in your tank, as breaking up the habitat with solid objects can help to prevent territorial behavior and aggression.


Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are plant-safe, so you can include some living plants in your setup if you want to. Plants are excellent for the environment, helping to remove nitrates from the aquarium water and providing shelter for the fish.

However, like all cichlid species, Peacocks tend to dig, which can disturb plant roots. For that reason, choose hardy plants, such as Anacharis, Java Ferns, and the like, that will tolerate being repositioned by the fish.

Water Parameters

Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are tropical species that need a stable water temperature of between 76° and 82°F. The water pH must be kept in the range of 7.8 to 8.6.

You must monitor your tank conditions carefully and keep them constant and consistent. Lake Malawi has a very stable environment, and water chemistry and temperature fluctuations will stress your fish, leading to health problems.

Diet And Nutrition

Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are omnivores. That means that these fish enjoy a diet of plant matter, veggies, and meat.

In nature, the fish feed on zooplankton, larvae, insects, and small crustaceans that they find by sifting through the substrate. In captivity, you can feed your cichlids on high-quality cichlid pellets and quality cichlid flake foods as a basic diet, supplemented with a meaty diet of live or frozen brine shrimp and daphnia.

Don’t feed cichlids mammal meat, such as beef heart and tubifex worms, as they can cause a serious condition called Malawi bloat.

How Much To Feed Butterfly Peacock Cichlids

As with most aquarium-kept fish species, you should feed your fish several times each day, offering only what the fish will eat in a few minutes.

Don’t overfeed your fish! That can lead to health problems for the fish and poor water quality. Uneaten food will rot in the tank, releasing ammonia into the water column and overloading your biological filter.

What Are Good Tank Mates For Peacock Cichlids?

Although many species of African cichlids are known to be quite aggressive, Peacocks are relatively peaceful if kept in a well-furnished tank with plenty of hiding places.

Ideally, you want to choose a tank mate that needs the same water parameters. For that reason, we recommend that you choose other fish that are native to Lake Malawi.

Other hobbyists have had success with fish species, including various types of Haplochromis, such as Copadichromis, Sciaenochromis, Placidochromis, and Nyassachromis.

Can Butterfly Peacock Cichlids Live Together?

Yes, they can. However, you need to keep a ratio of one male to four females. That helps to create schools within the tank and can minimize spawning aggression.

Remember that you will need a 100-gallon tank as a minimum to accommodate a group of six Butterfly Peacock Cichlids.

Breeding Butterfly Peacock Cichlids

If you want to try Butterfly Peacock Cichlid breeding, remember that males will need a territory to take ownership of, which will prevent squabbles from breaking out. Courtship usually begins once the male fish have established a territory, usually a cave.

To encourage spawning, you can try raising the water temperature to around 82F since wild cichlids tend to spawn when the water warms up. 

Male fish perform a courtship dance at the cave entrance to attract a female. Once she has decided she’s interested in the male’s antics, the female joins him in his cave. The female lays her eggs in a nest that the breeding male has prepared. He then fertilizes the eggs. 

Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are mouth-brooders. So, the female fish collects the eggs in her mouth and tends to them until the fry are ready to emerge, typically after around 28 days. These fish usually have between 12 and 50 tiny little Butterfly Peacock fry. Once the babies have emerged, the female takes no further part in raising them, and the fry are left to their own devices.

Health And Disease

The Butterfly Peacock Cichlid is generally a healthy, robust species that are pretty long-lived compared to many popular tropical aquarium fish. 

However, if the fish don’t have a suitable habitat or diet, they can become stressed. Stress leads to a compromised immune system, which makes the fish vulnerable to diseases, such as fin rot, White Spot Disease, fungus, and Velvet. Flukes can also be a problem for this fish, as well as Hexamita (Hole-In-Head).

Preventing Disease

You can prevent outbreaks of common fish diseases by keeping the water quality well within acceptable parameters, maintaining the tank and filters properly, and carrying out weekly water changes. 

Take care not to put too many male fish in a small space, potentially leading to aggressive encounters. Also, don’t put the fish tank in a spot where external noises and activity levels might disturb the fish.

Treating Diseases

Butterfly Peacock Cichlids are tolerant of pretty much any over-the-counter antibiotics and other freshwater fish treatments. You can also use aquarium salt to treat some conditions if appropriate. 

Don’t use antibiotics or medication designed for use in saltwater setups, as that could be harmful to your fish. 


You can find most of the common, popular species of Butterfly Peacock Cichlids for sale in your local fish store or online. Generally, the fish are available for $15 to $50, depending on the rarity of the color morph and the species.

In Conclusion

So, is the African Butterfly Peacock Cichlid a good choice for your aquarium?

If you want a brightly colored, peaceful fish to add to a community of African Lake Malawi cichlids, then the Peacock Cichlid would be an excellent choice. Adult males can be territorial during breeding, so be sure to include plenty of rocks and caves to prevent disputes and aggressive behavior.

The beautiful Butterfly Peacock Cichlid is a great choice for experienced cichlid keepers and beginners and would make a wonderful addition to most freshwater aquariums.

If you have Peacock Cichlids in your tank, we’d love to know about them! Tell us about your fish in the comments section below. 

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