Fish Care GuideFreshwater Fish

A Comprehensive Guide To Strawberry Peacock Cichlid Care

Species Overview

Common Names: Strawberry peacock cichild, peacock cichlid, strawberry sunburst cichlid

Scientific Name: Aulonocara nyassae

Adult Size: 4-7 inches

Life Expectancy: 6-8 years


Family: Cichlidae

Origin: Malawi and Tanzania

Social: Aggressive

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons

Diet: Omnivore

Breeding: Egg-scatterer

Care: Moderate

pH: 7.5 to 8.5

Hardness: 4 to 6 dH and 10 to 15 dKH

Temperature: 74 to 82 F

Do you want to add pizzazz and personality to your tank? The strawberry peacock cichlid is among the top favorites of many aquarists due to its bright pink and red colors.

This fish species come from a long line of peacock cichlids, but this article will focus on strawberry or pink peacock cichlids. The striking freshwater fish originated from Lake Malawi in Africa.

The fish may be classified as semi-aggressive, but don’t let the description dissuade you from getting them. They will remain calm as long as you give them adequate space they can claim as their territory.

Let’s learn more about these brightly-colored striking fish.

Strawberry Peacock Cichlid Overview

This fish species is a member of the cichlid family, which includes over 1,350 freshwater fish species. The male strawberry cichlids are brighter than the females.

They are part of the Genus Aulonocara, the species known for their bold coloration and maternal mouthbrooding. Similar to real peacocks, these fish are known to be sexually dichromic. Their colors are the main reason why they easily attract female fish.

In their natural habitat, they typically swim underneath the water near the sand. This makes it easier for them to scavenge food.

They seek the rocky caverns of the seas to feel safe and can swim freely. They also capture smaller preys that go to the caverns to hide from bigger predators.

Here are the top factors you have to know about the fish:

Size And Lifespan

The male pink cichlids are bigger than the females. They can reach the size of over six inches once fully grown. Meanwhile, adult female cichlids can only reach up to four inches in size.

If you raise the fish from a young, you must adjust the tank size as they grow. The female cichlids take two to three years before reaching their full size. As long as you give them optimal space, diet, and water conditions, they can live up to 6 to 8 years.

However, there have been cases when pink cichlids lived up to 15 years. While these may be rare occurrences, they only show that they can happen as long as you take good care of them.


The species are known for their bright pink colors, with the female hues being more muted than the males. However, the fins of both genders have dots.

Their color typically changes depending on the lighting. Additionally, their color can turn white when the fish is experiencing stress.

This indicates that you have to find out the source of their stress. You have to do something about it before it gets worse.


They are relatively peaceful but can be aggressive towards other fish if they feel threatened. Like the other peacock cichlids, the pink cichlids are also known to be semi-aggressive.

It’s normal for the males to begin their own territories, which shouldn’t pose harm to the other fish in the tank as long as it has ample space for all the creatures inside. If the space is too tight, the male cichlids may become competitive and feed on the smaller fish in the tank.

Many experts advise keeping a ratio of four females to one male to prevent them from showing semi-aggressive behaviors. Also, enough space will help to prevent them from showing their territorial traits.

The aggressive fish may suddenly chase one another if they feel uncomfortable. They may also nip or bite other fish or creatures of the same kind to show off.

You can monitor the behavior and remove the aggressor if they don’t change. But you have to try other techniques first, such as adding more caves and plants to the tanks that they can claim as their territories.

The behavior is due to how they are in their natural habitat. They prefer plenty of swimming rooms with warm water since they are active most of the time. However, they show more signs of activity during the day than at night.

Tank Size and Water Parameters

It is ideal to allocate at least 55 gallons of space per fish when setting up the tank. The more fish you keep, the larger your tank has to be.

Remember that they are used to large territories in their natural habitat, so they need ample space if you want them to thrive. They need the space because they move a lot and love to swim.

The water must be at a consistent temperature, similar to their natural habitat, ranging from 74 to 82 degrees F.

They require clean, fresh water with pH levels of 7.5 to 8.5. The hardness of water needs to be consistent as much as possible at around 4 to 6 dH.

Make sure the water is clean all the time. The strawberry peacock cichlid is used to the clear waters in their natural environment.

The fish’s health may likely suffer when the water condition is unhealthy. It is best to get an efficient water test kit to ensure you will give these pink cichlids consistency with the water parameters.

Here are the other elements you have to add to the tank to have more chances of your fish living longer:

· Sand Substrate

These pink cichlids love to dig since they do this often in their natural environment at the bottom of the lake in search of prey. They will show similar patterns in your tank, so make sure the bottom is lined with sand substrate. Also, avoid adding gravel with pointy edges that might hurt your fish.

· Rocky Scape

Since they are territorial, you have to provide them with plenty of hiding places. You can do this by adding rocky scapes to the tank.

Additionally, you can blend driftwoods with the sands. The outcome will recreate the natural feeling of Malawi lake.

· Plants

Since the sand substrate in the tank and the fish’s tendency to dig make it difficult for bottom plants to survive, the best options are hardy plants. The pink cichlids won’t eat the plants, so you can glue Java Fern or Anubias on the driftwoods or insert them between the rocks.

You can also add deep-rooted plants that they will find challenging to dig up. Some samples include Anacharis, Java moss, and Hornwort.

· Good Filtration System

These fish can be messy eaters, and you do not want the water turning murky. So, a good filtration system will help keep the water clean and clear.

Feeding And Diet

Pink cichlids are omnivores, but in giving them food, you have to remember that they are first and foremost predators. They would dig through the sands to find food.

It is best to include sinking pellets and live food in their diet. These fish feed on zooplankton, crustaceans, larvae, and insects in the wild.

You can also give them boiled vegetables, such as corn, lettuce, and broccoli, to add a variety to their diet. The foundation of their diet must be high-quality sinking pellets.

You can supplement the diet by giving them vegetables, meat, and live insects that sink. They will also enjoy common water fleas, Daphnia, and frozen or live brine shrimp.

The fish are prone to bloating, so it is essential to avoid giving them tubifex, beef heart, and bloodworms. Providing them with cichlid-safe flakes and granules is better than mammalian meat and worms.

Avoid obesity by minimizing the risk of overfeeding your pink cichlids. It is better to feed them several small meals per day.

This way, the fish won’t take in too many organic materials at once. This feeding habit will also help in keeping the tank’s water parameters stable.

Why is it crucial that you avoid overfeeding your fish? They are prone to bloating because they won’t stop until they no longer see food.

Bloating is a painful condition that can happen to most types of cichlids, including pink peacock cichlids. The condition, also referred to as Malawi bloat, can lead to their deaths.

Breeding Your Strawberry Cichlid

The male pink cichlids have the reputation of being a player. But this will change when they are ready to settle down.

You will know that they are ready to turn their backs on being bachelors once they start doing the mating movement or dance pattern. They do the routine in order to catch the attention of the female pink cichlids.

Since the male fish are territorial, give them enough space without touching each other in the breeding process.

Not having enough space will force the male fish to look and claim even the spaces already occupied. The behavior can lead to fighting, which can result in unsuccessful breeding.

It is best to put one male fish in each aquarium if you have several tanks. This will keep the tension low and give the breeding a higher chance to succeed.

You can encourage them to begin breeding by gradually raising the water temperature. Remember to do it slowly because they are not used to abrupt changes.

You can make the water warmer up to 82°F.

If the breeding is successful, the female fish will lay the eggs in front of the cave of the male. The latter will fertilize the egg, the reason why they need enough space.

The female fish are mouth brooders. They will gather the fertilized eggs into their mouths before incubating them in the cave.

The incubation period lasts for a month. The female fish will tend to the eggs during this period and spit them out when the fries are ready to go free-swimming.

Common Health Concerns Of Pink Cichlids

While these fish are easy to care for, they are prone to diseases that you have to be aware of. Some of these diseases include the following:

· Tuberculosis

This disease can be severe and contagious, even to humans. You are susceptible to getting infected with tuberculosis from your fish if you have an open wound.

Some of the symptoms of this health concern in these fish include white blotches in the body, frayed fins, and sunken stomachs. You will also notice the fish’ lack of appetite, or they may refuse to eat.

You have to act immediately when you see the symptoms. Remove all the fish in the tank and remove the dead fish.

The disease is highly infectious and can kill all the fish in the aquarium in a short time if you do not act promptly.

Use an antibiotic to treat the new tank. You can opt to disinfect the old one, but to be safe, it is best to get rid of it.

· Swim Bladder Disease

Since the fish love digging at the bottom of the tank, you will notice that something is not right when they suddenly prefer floating or staying on top. This is an indication that they have this disease.

They can obtain the disease from parasites or intestinal gas. It can also result from having a poor diet.

You can help them recover by making their diet healthier. You must also ensure they eat sufficient fiber every day.

You also need to avoid giving your fish too much dried food and protein.

· Malawi Bloat

If your fish stays at the bottom all the time but won’t eat, it’s already an indication that they are sick with Malawi bloat. Other symptoms include difficulty breathing and swollen stomach.

You need to switch 40 percent of the tank’s water. You need to put 50mg of Metronidazole for every gallon of water. You can also opt to add Metronidazole to their food.

This is a serious condition that you need to act on fast. It may happen as a result of overeating meaty foods.

If not dealt with efficiently, the condition may become severe and harm the swim bladder, kidney, and liver. If critical, it will kill the fish in a matter of three days.

Your fish will also lose their striking colors when they are overweight.

You have to check the health of your fish regularly. Keep an eye for any untoward symptoms and behaviors.

Here are some signs you need to watch out for to know that the fish are ill:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Sluggishness
  • Excessive mucus production
  • Color changes
  • Red, inflamed gills

On the other hand, here are the signs that your fish are healthy:

  • They are active and swim freely around the tank.
  • The stomachs are flat and not bloated.
  • The bodies have no redness or lesions.
  • The fins and tails are erect and in good condition.
  • The eyes are clear and bright.

Tank Mates

The strawberry peacock cichlid thrives well with fish that survive in similar conditions as the cichlids. You can pair them with non-aggressive fish.

When adding other pink cichlids, make sure that the number of females is higher than the males. You can also add other peacock cichlid species with peaceful characteristics, which include the following:

· Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid

They look similar to strawberry cichlids and are often mistaken for one another. You will spot the difference with this species’ light dots on their bodies.

They come from the same body of water as the pink cichlids. They also dwell on the bottom and dig through the sandy substrates to look for food.

They are territorial and need ample space to swim. However, they are generally peaceful and get along with most cichlids as long as they are given space they can claim as their territories.

· Blue Peacock Cichlid

The name suits this species because they are blue all over with vertical stripes in a darker shade of blue. The stripes are visible from their caudal peduncle to the front of the dorsal fins.

The color and vibrance of the fish depend on their age, gender, and location. They can survive in similar water parameters as the pink cichlids.

They also feed on the sandy bottom of the tank. However, they are carnivorous, unlike the pink cichlids that are omnivores.

But you can feed them similar foods the strawberry cichlids eat, such as frozen or live food, pellets, and high-quality flakes.

· Red Peacock Cichlid

The bright red color of the fish makes them among the most popular cichlids. They also have a tinge of blue on their fins.

The species is not found in the wild since this is a hybrid. They thrive in similar water parameters as the pink cichlids.

They also prefer caves and rocks in the tank. They are omnivores like the pink cichlids, so they will eat similar foods.

On the other hand, avoid putting other water creatures, such as crabs and shrimp. The pink cichlids will treat them as prey and might eat them.

The other species that make suitable tank mates for your pink cichlids include the following:

  • Sciaenochromis
  • Nyassachromis
  • Synodontis catfish
  • Rainbow shark
  • Copadichromis
  • Placidochromis
  • Plecos
  • Redtail shark

You will also want to add species that will make their beautiful colors stand out. The tank mates must also match the pink cichlid’s temperament, such as:

· Angelfish

This is among the best options as a tank mate for your pink cichlids. With their peaceful nature, angelfish will get along well with other fish in the aquarium.

They also prefer big aquariums since they like to swim. They have similar feeding habits as the pink cichlids.

They survive in similar water parameters as the strawberry cichlids. Aside from being a good choice for a tank mate, the species will also add colors and beauty to your aquarium.

· Clown Loaches

Clown loaches are peaceful freshwater fish and can live in the same environment as your pink cichlid. It has a calm nature and gets along with almost any other fish in the tank.

These loaches will help keep the tank clean and add some color to the environment. They eat similar foods as the cichlids, so you won’t have a hard time adjusting to the food.

It is important to remember to add them in moderation. Too many of these fish will make them compete with the cichlids for food.

Cichlids may become aggressive when provoked, so keep only a few loaches to help clean the tank.

Frequently Asked Questions About Strawberry Cichlids

How big can the pink cichlids get?

The fish species are not huge. Females will only grow up to 10 centimeters or 4 inches, while males can reach up to 15 centimeters or 6 inches.

They only require big tanks because they love to swim. They are extremely active and may become aggressive if kept in a space where they can’t move freely.

What do strawberry cichlids eat?

The fish are born predators, and they are omnivores. They feed on crustaceans, insects, and other invertebrates in their natural habitat.

Are the pink cichlids schooling fish?

When they are young, they frequently congregate in big groups near the tank’s bottom. However, they will begin to separate into more compact groups as they age. It does not mean that they are not social beings. They frequently surface when they notice someone watching them.

How many days can the fish survive without food?

While this is not advisable, healthy cichlids can survive without eating for up to 10 days. However, if you are keeping baby fish, you must ensure they eat daily.

If you have to go on an extended vacation and have fish under your care, it is best to ask someone to feed them daily. You wouldn’t want to come home with a tank full of sick or dead fish.


The strawberry peacock cichlid is a hardy species that will thrive long when you keep it well-maintained. You have to feed them right and keep the water parameters right.

They go along well with other peacock cichlid species and fish with peaceful temperaments. If you want to add them to your tank, ensure they have ample room to swim.

You can try with six to ten pink cichlids in the beginning. You can always add more after getting the hang of caring and ensuring they are always healthy and safe.


Passionate fishkeeper. Nature lover. Creative thinker. Music junkie. Adventurer.

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