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The peacock cichlid (genus Aulonocara) belongs to the Hap group of Lake Malawi cichlids in Africa. This handsome fish requires pristine water conditions and very specific water chemistry to thrive.
Hardness and pH
The waters of Lake Malawi have absorbed calcium and bicarbonate from the surrounding bedrock. These minerals buffer the water, giving the hard water a neutral pH. The peacock cichlid has adapted to this environment. In the home aquarium, you need to keep these fish at a pH of 7.5 to 8.5, the high range for freshwater fish. Peacock cichlids require these conditions to survive and thrive in home aquariums. Water with a lower pH will stress a peacock cichlid and leave it vulnerable to disease.
Like most cichlids, the peacock cichlid hails from the tropics. It needs water that's between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. A steady temperature is important. Sudden changes in water temperature -- even changes toward the species' desired range -- can place stress on fish. Use aquarium heaters to maintain a constant temperature.
Rift Lake Salts
You can maintain the proper water chemistry for this fish with rift lake salts. Pet shops sell these salts, sometimes called African cichlid salt, which contain calcium and bicarbonate. Dissolved in aquarium water, these products buffer the pH and increase the hardness to mimic the water conditions of the African Great Lakes. Always mix these products into water in a bucket before adding them to the main aquarium. This allows you to correct the pH and hardness before exposing your fish to them.
Passive pH Control
In addition to salt mix, you can maintain the proper water chemistry for these fish with aquarium decorations. Calcium-rich minerals, found in rocks such as tufa or substrates such as coral sand, slowly leach calcium and bicarbonate into the aquarium water. This mimics the process that created the hard alkaline conditions that this fish has adapted to.
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