The aulonocara peacock cichlid aquarium

The aulonocara peacock cichlid aquarium

all male peacock aquarium
all male peacock aquarium

If you have previously kept a Malawi cichlid tank and want a change or are considering setting up a new one, then you may consider setting up a peacock cichlid aquarium. Rather than having a wide range of species from lake Malawi, concentrating on just peacocks will give you an aquarium full of colour. The most remarkable fish from lake Malawi are the Aulonocara species, commonly known as peacock cichlids. There are 22 different peacock species known at present – all with brilliant colours. Add to that the fact that most peacocks are less aggressive than mbunas and you have your recipe for a successful and colourful aquarium.

Types of peacock cichlid aquariums

There are three basic choices when it comes to setting up a peacock cichlid aquarium. Each of the following three choices comes with specific advantages and drawbacks:

  • All-male tank
  • Mixed species breeding colony
  • Single species breeding colony
all blue male peacock cichlid from lake malawi
all blue male peacock cichlid from lake malawi

Understanding which of these three options suits you best requires you to identify your main goal with the tank itself. If brightly coloured fish is your only consideration, then an all-male tank would be ideal, provided that your tank is large enough for them to create several distinct territories. An all male tank means choosing male peacocks from several species. An all-male tank precludes your fish breeding. To breed your fish you will need to set up separate female breeding tanks but be sure not to confuse which female you use for breeding because the females of the different peacock cichlids look pretty much the same. The all male aquarium is a display aquarium.

Single species and mixed species peacock cichlid aquariums

While an all-male tank is certainly the simplest and most colourful option, breeding is one of the most fascinating behaviours that peacock cichlids engage in, and creating the right environment for them to do so, will be hugely rewarding. A single species tank is the simpler of the two, since you will not have to deal with inter-species aggression or interbreeding. You can also get away with a smaller aquarium, but it will be less interesting. And you have the further problem of choosing which single species to include in your aquarium.

male aulonocara jacobfreibergi - yellow jake
male yellow peacock cichlid aulonocara jacobfreibergi – yellow jake

Just like the peacocks they are named after, you will find that the females of any of these species are less colourful than the males. While it may be tempting to add more males than females to your setup, this is unnatural for a peacock cichlid colony and will result in stress and territorial disputes. The ideal distribution is one or two males with a larger group of females, perhaps 5 or more females.

One of the benefits of a single species breeding tank is that you can turn it into a breeding colony that lets you examine and observe the entire life cycle of your fish, their fry, and later descendants as well. By keeping a single species of peacock cichlid in your tank and taking good care of them, they will be able to raise some fry naturally without requiring you to set up separate breeding tanks and raising the fry yourself. However, to maximise the spawn you will need to remove the fry or brooding male to another tank.

The mixed peacock tank allows you to create a biotope of lake Malawi. Mixed species tanks, however, are not likely to make efficient breeding colonies because of interspecies competition. Your choice of species for this kind of tank will have to be carefully chosen in order to minimize stress, aggression, and the risk of interbreeding.

Choosing aulonocara peacock cichlid species for a mixed tank

aulonocara rubenscens red peacock cichlid male and female
aulonocara rubenscens red peacock cichlid male and female

If you would like to enjoy the multiple colours and differing behaviours of peacock cichlids in a mixed species tank, you will have to choose species that can get along together. Luckily peacocks are less aggressive than mbunas so you have a head start. The males are usually only aggressive when defending their own territory. The key to choosing your selection of peacock cichlids is in choosing species with a wide variety of colouration: Different species with similar colouration will see one another as breeding rivals, which will cause fights and interbreeding.

Size can also play a role in interspecies aggression between these fish. Species such as the peaceful Long Nose Peacock (Aulonocara Rostratum) are significantly larger than most other members of their species, for example. A fish of this size is unlikely to view a much smaller specimen such as a Ruby Red Peacock (Aulonocara Rubescens) as a threat. In fact a single, large male may become, “king of the tank” and settle disputes between the other fish as well.

male yellow peacock cichlid
male yellow peacock cichlid – aulonocara hansbaenschi

Varying the fish sizes can also help ensure that interbreeding does not occur. Females of all the Peacock cichlid species tend to look similar and may mate with dominant males of other species to create hybrid fish. Hybrids are generally undesirable and should be avoided if you would like to maximize the colouration and good health of your fish. A mixed tank featuring fish with greatly varying colours and body size will help reduce the risk of interbreeding. For example where the female of one species is brown and the female of the other species is silver then interbreeding should not occur.

When choosing which species to place in your aquarium you should remember that each species has several colour variations depending on which part of lake malawi they come from. Having different colour variations of the same species will result in interbreeding.

Breeding peacock cichlids

Click here for in depth article on breeding peacock cichlids

Peacock cichlid care

male orangle blotch peacock cichlid
dominant male orange blotch peacock cichlid

Once you have spent some time researching which fish and set up you want, you will want to spend some time researching the aquascape that your fish will be living in. The more accurate and natural-looking the environment for your fish, the less stressed will be your fish in the long run. For peacocks, there are two basic choices of aquarium layout either a sandy area or a rocky area with caves. In a larger tank you can of course have both.

Making the environment work requires researching into the origins of your specific species. For a single-species tank, obviously, you should attempt to replicate the original environment as close as possible. For a mixed species tank, however, you may need to provide a kind of hybrid zone for the separate territories of your fish.

“Jakes” of the species Aulonocara jacobfreibergi, for example, are primarily cave-dwelling fish that prefer rocky aquariums with lots of hiding spaces. Mixing this species with a sand-dwelling northern peacock ,such as Aulonocara stuartgrantii, might be a poor compromise, unless you have a large enough tank to provide two large zones within the tank for each of them to inhabit. In fact, it is recommended that any mixed species tank be as large as possible for this reason.

male aulonocara ngara - flametail red peacock
male aulonocara ngara – flametail red peacock

If you have followed the above guidelines, you should have a successful peacock aquarium. The various species of peacock will peacefully live together in the aquarium without stress. This will enable the male peacocks to display their best colours with fins proudly spread. When this has been done properly, you will have an aquarium that will rival a typical marine aquarium for its beauty and colour. The reds of the rubens peacock, the blues of the stuartgrantii peacock and the yellows of the baenschi peacock will give a brilliant contrast of colours. Sit back and enjoy your fish with a sense of pride.

Alternative coldwater aquarium fish

round tailed paradise fish

Choosing alternative cold water aquarium fish

round tailed paradise fish
round tailed paradise fish a true coldwater fish from China

Making a coldwater aquarium beautiful used to be a problem because there weren’t enough coldwater aquarium fish to choose from. However, with the better availability of temperate fish and exotic species this is no longer an issue. Here you can choose from the best cold water aquarium fish species listed below. With the wide range of coldwater aquarium fish available these days, you can make your coldwater tank look just as enticing and beautiful as a tropical aquarium. There is no need to immediately associate coldwater tanks with dull, uninteresting fish—even if you have to do some searching for them, there are a number of excellent species available for these tanks.

With the right choices, you can have a coldwater tank that looks just as good as a tropical one. The truth is that a home aquarium is not actually a coldwater tank but rather a temperate water tank with temperatures the equal of most warm temperate waters.

Some alternative cold water aquarium fish species and how to choose

rainbow shiner group
The beautiful and very active rainbow shiner is a coldwater aquarium fish

Your choice of fish should show the same bright assortment of colours that makes tropical fish keeping such an attractive hobby. One of the best ways to approach your coldwater tank is by holding it to the same standards as you would a tropical one, but without buying into cliché fish choices such as goldfish.
If you spend some time looking for the right combination of coldwater fish in terms of colour, size, temperemant and water conditions, you can create a very impressive tank. Keeping various species from different parts of the world such as Chinese gobies and American red shiners together can help create a varied and lively atmosphere in your tank.

Coldwater Aquarium fish species worth considering include:

• White Cloud Mountain Minnows
• Golden Barbs,
• Whip Tail Catfish,
• Empire Gobies,
• Argentinean Pearl,
• Japanese Medaka – Rice Fish,
• One Sided Livebearer,

white cloud mountain minnow pair
white cloud mountain minnow male and female

• Rainbow Shiners,
• Emerald Shiners,
• Macropodus Ocellatus, (Round tailed paradise fish)
• Black Bullhead Catfish,
• Bloodfins,
• Banded Charcidium,
• Common Loaches,
• Two-Spot Barbs,
• Bengal Danios,
• Red-Tailed Goodeids,
• Sunset Platies,
• Pygmy Sunfish,
• Mudminnows,
• Chinese gobies – rhinogobius (eg rhinogobius zhoui or r. rubromaculatus)
• rosy barbs

rosy barb males
rosy barb males

• odessa barbs
There are quite a few different elements to take into consideration with these alternatives. Any one of them is more interesting and exotic than keeping a stereotypical goldfish tank, but the right combination can really shine. Some of these, such as the White Cloud Mountain Minnow, are very popular as alternative coldwater aquarium fish, while others are more unusual choices.
Barbs are a great choice because of their colour assortments and generally good community behaviour and activity levels. The two-spot and golden barbs can grow very colourful when properly taken care of and offer a uniquely exotic appeal to any tank they are a part of. Sunset platies are a great choice as well—people rarely expect to see any species of platy in a coldwater tank.
The two species of catfish presented above make fine additions to larger tanks: the whip tail does best in a small group of similar individuals, and the black bullhead is large; with a dominating presence in any tank.

Argentinian pearlfish male
Argentinian pearlfish male

Argentinean Pearls, especially the males, tend to feature bright, ornate spotted colouring that looks fantastic in a variety of environments. If you want to give your tank a tropical look with coldwater fish, these are a great choice, especially when combined with other coldwater fish with bright colouration and ornate markings like theirs.
As always, fish compatibility needs to be taken into consideration when making your choices: Barbs and gobies tend to do well in a variety of community tanks, and catfish will spend most of their time in the lower depths of the water avoiding other fish. Sunset platies, as an additional example, should be kept at a ratio of two females to each male in order to minimize harassment.

Coldwater fish in a coldwater tank: is a chiller necessary?

Naturally, one of the advantages to the coldwater tank setup is the fact that you do not need to keep a heater. However, some aquarists from hotter climates who keep coldwater tanks insist on the use of a chiller to prevent their tanks overheating.

Advantages of the coldwater aquarium

Round tailed paradise fish
Round tailed paradise fish

The fish mentioned above will do well in an unheated tank, temperate water temperature, eliminating the need to buy a heater, for the most part. For most aquarists, the primary appeal of these species and of this tank type is the fact that there is no need to keep an expensive temperature control tool on twenty four hours a day, and all of these species will thrive in temperate waters kept anywhere within the normal range of room temperature.
As an added benefit, these fish tend to be very tolerant of temperature changes, so if you live in an area with cold winters and hot summers, you may still find that your fish are capable of thriving without your intervention. This saves time, money, and electricity while providing you with all the benefits you would otherwise have with a heated tropical tank. This actually better mimics the fishes natural environment with warm days and cool nights and seasonal temperature changes.
Not having to heat your aquariums saves you having to buy a heater and pay for higher electricity bills and not worrying about a broken heater or power outs. Another advantage is that you can expand quite easily. A breeding tank set up is no problem. Any water tight container and a filter and your away. Also growing-on, breeder tanks can be set up as they are needed in the same way.

Rhinogobius Zhoui male
Rhinogobius Zhoui male

Also not having a heated tank means that you can have an open topped aquarium(no hood) because there is less evaporation. However care still has to be taken with jumpers. Perhaps a glass cover should be employed to prevent fish committing suicide. With an open top and temperate temperatures, the aquarist can then consider mini water lilies and floating plants.
One thing you have to consider is the aquarium plants. Most plants do okay at lower temperatures however some will not. A little bit of care in the selection of your plants will let you avoid plants that don’t thrive. On the other hand you can obtain plants from the coldwater and pond section of your local aquarist.

Where to buy coldwater fish

Often, the best way to purchase coldwater fish is online. Local aquarium stores and fish shops will often provide several species of coldwater fish alongside their more popular tropical ones, but the selection is often limited. In order to get your coldwater aquarium looking colourful and bright, you will need to do some searching to find the right fish.
Local classifieds in which you can find nearby fish breeders can also be of great help. Often, you can find rare or exotic species being raised only a short distance from your home. This gives you an easy opportunity to get your hands on some good alternative species that can give your tank the special, unique appeal that you are looking for.

One note of caution : Many fish stores keep these temperate fish at tropical temperatures. It might be a mistake to put these fish into a cooler aquarium overnight. Acclimatise them to the cooler temperatures slowly over time.