Breeding peacock cichlids from Malawi

How to breed peacock cichlids

peacock cichlid aquarium
peacock cichlid aquarium

Equipment Needed

  • 30inch/75cm aquarium or 48inch/120cm aquarium
  • Thin layer of sand or bare bottom
  • 2 or more female peacock cichlids and 1 male
  • 200w heater set at 80F or 27C degrees
  • 2x air powered sponge filters
  • air pump
  • 2 or more large slates (clay or grey) or large flat stones
  • Water ideally at ph 8.0 and hardness at 15dh
  • Aquarium divider

male orangle blotch peacock cichlid
dominant male orange blotch peacock cichlid


Peacock cichlids, which are fishes of the various Aulonocara species such as Stuartgranti, Jacobfreibergi, etc, are endemic to the lake Malawi. They are called peacocks because like the peacock bird, the male is larger with splendid colours such as blue, red and yellow while the females are smaller and duller – usually silver or brown.

male and female red rubens peacock cichlid
young adult pair red rubens peacock cichlid male and female


Although from lake Malawi, they are not as aggressive as the mbunas or other Malawi cichlids. Most peacock cichlids live in open water just above the sand. So the ideal aquarium set up is one of fine sand with a few rocks for breeding and perhaps hiding places.

To prepare for breeding, you can feed live or frozen foods, but avoid tubifex and blood worms. Daphnia, brineshrimp, chopped earthworms, and white worms are all good foods to prime the fish to breed. Feed live foods every other day alongside the normal fish food.
Usually, you will notice the female will have a slight swelling in the abdomen and you might notice a slight bud near the egg vent. The male will start flirting, mostly by chasing the female. When she is ready she will follow him to the breeding site.

At the breeding site they will follow each other in a circle, pausing every half circle for the female to lay eggs and then picking them up on the turn. The male will fertilise the eggs by spraying his milt as she picks up her eggs and tries to pick up the fake egg on the male’s ventral fin. There may be occasional breaks where the male will chase away other curious fish. But mating continues for quite a while.

When mating has finished the male may continue to pursue the female. If this continues there is a strong chance she will swallow or spit the eggs. So, it is better to partition the female in one end of the aquarium. Disturb her as little as possible. When she is at one end put the partition in. If any other fish have been caught behind the partitioned end then just net them out, to leave her alone.

After 18-21 days, depending on the temperature, the female will start to release a few of the more developed fry. She will also re-take the fry in her mouth and she might start feeding at this point. Peacock cichlids are quite good mothers, better than some of the mbuna who might just abandon them. Once all the fry have been released and she does not take them back and she is feeding it is best to net the mother and put her in another aquarium to rest and recuperate.

The fry can be fed with baby brine shrimp and may even take crushed fish food. After three weeks the fry can be moved to a large grow out tank, where they will grow much faster.
10% or more partial water changes are a must for the fry who will benefit and grow faster. Always used water that has been left to stand for 24 hours or preferably more. Use an air power sponge filter, because other filters can suck up small fry and damage them.
The peacock cichlid fry will take a long time to colour up and will mostly look like the mother in colour until they are juveniles. Young peacocks because of their drab colours are less expensive than their mbuna equivalents. However, when they reach juvenile to adult size and start colouring up, they become more valuable.

If your fish are not breeding then check the water parameters, especially ammonia, nitrite and nitrates. Also the ideal temperature is 78F for breeding. Try some partial water changes on a daily basis. Also try giving the females a rest by separating from the male behind the partition, then releasing back after a week or two. Another thing to try is to reduce feeding of the adults to once a day. Eating as much as they can within 5 minutes and removing any excess food. Another vital ingredient is patience. The female must be mature enough to breed. Most females when first bred will lose the first batch of eggs. In that case you will have to wait several more weeks.
Another thing to consider is to be careful of interbreeding between the various peacock cichlid species. Because they are closely related the females may breed with a dominant male in the tank rather than a male of their own species. Hybrids fry are valueless amongst fishkeeping hobbyists.

More about peacock cichlid aquarium.

Leave a Comment