BuildYourAquarium.com is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

Peacock Gudgeons Care Sheet: Behaviour, Feeding, Health and More

Fans of freshwater aquariums may think they’re limited in color when it comes time to choose their fish. But if you’re a fan of brilliant patterns, you can’t go wrong with peacock gudgeons.

This tiny fish shares a color palette with the bird of the same name – not to mention an eyespot on the tail! And as long as you prepare for a few key challenges, they’re a cinch to manage.

Quick Facts

CategoryResponse
Common NamePeacock gudgeon, Peacock eye gudgeon, Peacock goby, One-eyed sleeper goby
Scientific NameTateurndina ocellicauda
FamilyEleotridae
Care LevelEasy
TemperamentPeaceful
Size2.5-3 inches (6.4-7.6cm)
Lifespan4-5 years
Minimum Tank Size15 gallons (58L)
CompatibilityPeaceful community
DietOmnivore

Peacock Gudgeons History

Peacock gudgeons history

Peacock gudgeons (Tateurndina ocellicauda) inhabit shallow waters throughout Australia, Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand. They prefer ponds with little water movement, warm temperatures, and plenty of foliage to hide within. It just so happens those are the perfect conditions to let their brilliant colors pop. (Something you’ll want to note for your tank setup)

You’ll often find them listed as peacock gobies, but it’s a bit of a mislabel. They’re part of the Eleotridae family, or sleeper gobies – which aren’t true gobies. They lack the fused pelvic fins that form the “suction cups” you see in the family Gobiidae. And when you look at the remainder of the other sleeper gobies, all you see are bland scale patterns. So peacocks stand out from the crowd – in the best way possible.

Appearance

Peacock gudgeons blend shades of blue, silver, yellow, and red. It’s a brilliant color combination that shows up best against a planted background. The base scales are a bluish-silver mix, set off against the yellow of the fins and abdomen. Interspersed along the lateral line, you’ll see red spots. And at the caudal peduncle (base of the tail) is the famous eyespot. It put people in mind of the peacock, which is how the fish earned its name.

Male gudgeons develop a nuchal hump. This is a prominent rounded shape to the forehead. They also get slightly longer than the females, topping out around 3 inches (7.6cm). In comparison, females usually only reach 2.5 inches (6.4cm). But they get a brighter shade of yellow on their bellies. And you’ll also see a thin black line bordering the fins. It makes the two easy to tell apart.

Female peacock gudgeon
Female peacock gudgeon (Image courtesy of JimmyOrangeSeed from Wikimedia)

Peacock Gudgeon Behavior

Peacock Gudgeon Behavior

The perfect nano-aquarium residents, peacocks have a peaceful temperament. You rarely see troublesome behavior out of these colorful fish. Of course, that’s partially due to their shyness. They prefer to hide within a tank’s plant life, out of view of other tank residents (and you).

But if you bring home a proper shoal or 6-8 of these little charmers, you may get lucky. In a school, stress levels go down, and they start to relax. When peacock gudgeons feel calm, they start swimming in plain view. And then you can really appreciate the brilliance of their scales and patterns.

Male peacocks will occasionally show aggression with one another. This behavior escalates during the spawning season and when fry are present. The tension doesn’t last, though (they’re not like some colorful freshwater species), and you rarely see injuries result from the confrontations. If you’re worried about problems, get a harem, so you don’t need to worry about male posturing.

Peacock Gudgeon Housing

Due to their diminutive size, you can get away with a nano-aquarium for peacock gudgeons. It’s one of the things that makes them so popular. However, it’s important to remember that the smaller your tank size, the more you may struggle to keep water quality up. And peacocks DON’T do well with poor water conditions. If this is your first tank, you may want to spring for the upgrade and make things easy on yourself.

Tank Size

Even if you want to keep a proper school of six peacock gudgeons, you won’t need more than 15 gallons (58L). They’re small enough that you don’t need more space than that. The tank will give them plenty of room to swim, hide, and feel comfortable. Make sure you have a tight lid, though. Peacock gudgeons are STRONG jumpers. And you don’t want to come home and find a brightly-colored fish gasping on the floor.

Water Conditions

You’ll find gudgeons in still or slow-moving waters in their native habitat. And that region? It’s tropical. As such, you’ll want to make sure you have a heater that’ll allow you to keep your tank properly warm. And while “still” may sound similar to “stagnant,” they’re not the same. You need to keep the tank as close to pristine as possible if you want your peacocks to remain healthy.

Their water conditions should mimic their natural environment as closely as possible:

  • Temperature: 72-79F (22.2-26.1C)
  • pH:0-7.8
  • Hardness: 5-12dH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <30ppm
 Planted tanks help a peacock's colors stand out
Planted tanks help a peacock’s colors stand out (Image courtesy of Cisamarc from Wikimedia)

Décor

You want your peacock gudgeons to feel at home. And that means recalling they prefer waters with a hefty plant load. True, it means you’ll need to take some extra care, so your plants don’t lead to a mold problem. But you’ll appreciate how beautiful that green background shows off your peacocks’ natural rainbow.

Of course, that shy temperament means peacocks often dart in and out of the plant stems. This can cause the plants to break apart if you’re not careful with your choices. You’ll want to make sure you pick hardier species that can handle the abuse. The best options include:

  • Anubias
  • Java fern
  • Water wisteria

And while a darker substrate will also help your peacock gudgeons stand out, you want to think carefully about the type. They’re small, delicate fish. And gravels? They can cut into those scales. You’re better off sticking to sand. It’s more like their native habitat, anyway.

Suitable Tank Mates for Peacock Gudgeons

There’s nothing better than a vibrant community aquarium. And as long as you’re careful in your choices of tank mate, there’s no reason you can’t incorporate peacock gudgeons into a colorful community tank.

You (obviously) want to avoid fish that might put them on the menu. But if you consider other nano species, you have plenty of choices that will allow you to establish a peaceful environment:

And while cherry shrimp often feature in many nano-aquariums, they’re not ideal as tank mates for peacocks. Cherries tend to end up as midnight snacks for the gudgeons. If you want to try setting up a mixed tank, consider ghost shrimp instead. (They’re more challenging for the peacocks to hunt down)

Feeding Peacock Gudgeons

When it comes to diet and peacock gudgeons, that’s where most aquarists struggle. The fish are picky and STUBBORN omnivores. You’re not going to get away with commercial fish foods – even if you purchased a captive-bred school. They’ll snub the offering, leaving the food to break down and turn to excess waste – which you can then fight to clean, so the tank doesn’t turn into a mess.

Peacocks want live foods, thank you very much. And if they can’t have live, they’ll tolerate frozen or freeze-dried options. But they expect the same protein sources they’d encounter in the wild. That means:

Rotating the options you present will help those beautiful colors stay as bright as possible. It’s the natural proteins and fat content that help them with their scales, as it is. So you want to make sure you provide variety.

Proper rotation of proteins keep your peacock's scales looking their best
Proper rotation of proteins keep your peacock’s scales looking their best (Image courtesy of Dirk Godlinksi from Wikimedia)

Peacock Gudgeon Health

Unfortunately, improper diets (or trying to get them to eat foods they don’t want) and poor water quality take their toll on peacock gudgeons. And if you don’t stay on top of their care needs, you won’t see them achieve their average lifespan of 4-5 years. (Which isn’t all that long, so you don’t want to shorten it)

Peacocks have four significant health issues that aquarists struggle with. And all of them relate to water quality and proper diet:

  • Anchor Worms: This copepod likes to attach itself to peacock gudgeons. And while there isn’t always something to see due to the gudgeon’s size, you’ll pick up on a behavior change. The fish scrapes against the décor and tank walls to “itch” themselves.
  • Flukes: You won’t necessarily see these parasites, but you CAN spot the lesions left behind by the pest. They usually appear on the skin, especially around the gills. And if you DON’T see them in time, the fish may pass away.
  • Hole in the head disease (HITH): You may need to break out a magnifying glass to notice, but hole in the head leads to open sores and pits in the head. It’s a disease spread through feces. And an unclean tank? It’s the perfect breeding ground.
  • Ich: If you’ve managed an aquarium for any length of time, you’ve come up against Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. The ciliate thrives in unclean conditions, producing white spots on a fish.

You’ll find medications to handle each problem. But some of them may pose a hazard to other residents in the tank.

(For instance, you can’t introduce copper-based medicine if you have shrimp) And, really, it’s better to AVOID these problems by keeping the tank clean in the first place. Your peacocks will have less stress and remain happier.

Breeding Peacock Gudgeons

As peacock gudgeons are sexually dimorphic, it’s easy to tell if you have males or females in your school. And if you’ve set up the perfect environment with ideal water conditions, you may not need to do anything special to find yourself with tiny peacock fry. When these colorful fish feel comfortable (and find a suitable match with one another), they’ll happily spawn in captivity.

However, if you have your gudgeons in a community, those fry may present a tempting snack. So your best bet for success is to set up a separate breeding tank. You’ll want to match the setup of your aquarium, but add in a few more caves and open cavities the fish can select from for their egg-laying sites. Then you’ll want to look for the “romantic spark” between any of the pairs in the shoal to choose your breeding couple.

Peacock gudgeons spawn in response to environmental cues in the rainforest system. You can simulate that by performing a water change and increasing their live food quota. This lets their systems know conditions are right for baby peacocks. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you see the pair inspecting the available cavities and cleaning them out.

The “Dance”

Similar to avian peacocks, male gudgeons “dance” to attract the female. He spreads his pectoral fins (in lieu of a fancy bunch of tail feathers) and swims around the chosen cave. When the female’s impressed with his display, she swims into the cave and deposits the eggs. Gudgeon eggs are sticky, and they adhere EVERYWHERE: the sides, the bottom, and even the ceiling. Peacock gudgeons can produce anywhere from 25-100 eggs at a time (though 30 is the average number). When she finishes, she’ll swim away, and that’s when the male takes over.

He fertilizes the eggs and then stands watch over the cave. This is important if you don’t use a separate breeding tank as those eggs are tasty morsels for PLENTY of fish. And they take around 8-10 days to hatch. Male peacocks typically wait until the fry absorb their yolk sacs, and then they feel their paternal obligation is up. Once he swims away, it’s okay to remove the parents from the breeding tank.

Males exhibit some parental care of the fry
Males exhibit some parental care of the fry (Image courtesy of Andrew Bogott from Wikimedia)

Fry Care

Peacock gudgeon fry are small (as you might imagine). And they can’t swim for several weeks. That means you’ll need to provide plenty of special care to get them healthy and strong. Initially, you can start them out with powdered fry food options or infusoria.

Once they CAN swim on their own, you can switch them over to baby brine shrimp. It’ll take a few weeks, and you’ll need patience. Make sure to keep the breeding tank clean. Don’t add them into the community tank until they’re strong enough (and fast enough) to compete with the adults and other members of the aquarium.

Frequently Asked Questions About Peacock Gudgeons

How Expensive are Peacock Gudgeons?


While aquarists love their pattern of colors, you may not find peacocks in every fish store. And online store costs can vary. However, in general, most fish range in price between $10-$20. This is on the pricier side of things (considering how small these vibrant nano-fish are), especially as they’re happiest in schools of 6-8. You can offset the cost by keeping that tank in tip-top shape at all times, so your gudgeons stay as healthy as possible.

Are Peacock Gudgeons Aggressive?


While you may see posturing and arguments among males in a school, the overall temperament of the peacock gudgeon is peaceful. They’re shy, preferring to hide rather than confront other fish in a tank – even those their size. And while males might challenge one another, the squabbles don’t last very long. The confrontations also won’t result in the wounds or injuries you may see in other, genuinely aggressive species.

Can You Keep Peacock Gudgeons With a Betta?


While your peacocks wouldn’t dream of bothering a betta fish, you may want to pause before you decide to pair the two species together. Peacock gudgeons aren’t a fish known for nipping behaviors (something you need to watch for whenever you have a betta). And they don’t have an aggressive scale anywhere on their bodies.

But bettas? They’re not always the same. Some bettas will do fine with their colorful neighbors. They may not have a problem with the shoal swimming along behind them. But others have a more aggressive streak that prompts them to chase after ANY fish they share a tank with. You’ll want to proceed carefully and monitor the temperament of your betta in this mixture.

Can You Keep Peacock Gudgeons With Guppies?


Guppies and gudgeons share many of the same vibrant colors and patterns on their fins. And combining them into a gorgeous nano-aquarium? It sounds too hard to resist. As both species have calm demeanors, you can also get away with the pairing – with a few words of caution.

Live-bearers AND peacock gudgeons enjoy live food. So you’ll want to observe mealtimes and make sure everyone’s receiving enough nourishment. (No starvation diets, please) Also, if you decide you’d like to breed either fish, you’ll definitely want to set up a breeding tank. Because the guppies and peacocks will end up eating the fry of their tank mates, leaving you back at square one.

Colorful, Dancing Fish

Sometimes, when you’re starting with a freshwater aquarium for the first time, you may feel stuck with an “ordinary” fish (as if there’s any such thing).

But peacock gudgeons are vibrant AND delightful. And with proper care and diet, they’ll provide you with hours of entertainment as they swim in and around the plants. Who knows? You may even get to see that dance and watch the male set up watch over the fry. They’re the perfect little fish for anyone who loves color and patterns.

Resources

Leave a Comment