Menu Close

Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)

The Auratus Cichlid, a vibrant and dynamic fish, is a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts. Known for its striking appearance and interesting behavior, it adds both color and life to any freshwater aquarium. This article provides a comprehensive overview of the Auratus Cichlid, covering everything from its profile to its care needs.

Auratus Cichlid Facts

Scientific Name Melanochromis auratus
Common Names Auratus Cichlid, Golden Mbuna, Malawi Golden Cichlid
Origin Lake Malawi, Africa
Size 4-5 inches (10-12.5 cm)
Lifespan Up to 8 years
Diet Omnivore (requires a mix of plant and animal matter)
Water Conditions Temperature: 72°F-82°F (22°C-28°C), pH: 7.5-8.5
Minimum Tank Size 50 gallons
Temperament Aggressive, especially during breeding
Compatibility Best kept with other cichlids of similar size and temperament

Auratus Cichlid Profile

The Auratus Cichlid, scientifically known as Melanochromis auratus, originates from the rocky shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. This species is known for its hardy nature and adaptability, making it a suitable choice for both novice and experienced aquarists. Typically, they grow up to about 4-5 inches in length and can live for up to 8 years in well-maintained aquarium conditions.

Auratus Cichlid Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Auratus Cichlid is its vibrant coloration. Juveniles and females typically exhibit a bright yellow and black striping pattern, while males develop a darker, more metallic blue-black hue as they mature. This dramatic change in coloration is not only a visual spectacle but also an interesting aspect of their behavior and social structure.

Golden Mbuna Habitat

In the wild, Auratus Cichlids are found in the rocky, sandy substrates of Lake Malawi. They are adept at navigating through rocks and crevices. Replicating this environment in the aquarium is beneficial for their wellbeing, providing them with a sense of security and areas to establish territories.

Auratus Cichlid Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal environment for Malawi Golden Cichlids in an aquarium is important for their health This section will guide you through the essential aspects of setting up and maintaining an aquarium suited to these vibrant fish.

  • Tank Size and Requirements

The minimum recommended tank size for Auratus Cichlids is 50 gallons. These active fish require ample space to swim and establish territories. A larger tank is advisable if housing multiple cichlids. Ensure the aquarium has a tight-fitting lid, as Auratus Cichlids can jump, especially if startled or during aggressive interactions.

  • Water Conditions

Auratus Cichlids thrive in water with a pH level between 7.5 and 8.5, and a temperature range of 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C). Regular water testing and changes are vital to maintain these parameters and keep the water clean. It’s also important to have a reliable filtration system to manage waste and maintain water clarity.

  • Substrate and Decoration

The substrate should consist of fine sand or smooth gravel, mimicking their natural sandy habitat. Decorate the tank with rocks and caves to provide hiding places and reduce stress. It’s essential to arrange these structures securely, as Malawi Golden Cichlids are known to dig and rearrange their environment.

  • Lighting and Plant Life

Moderate lighting is recommended to replicate their natural habitat and encourage the growth of aquatic plants. Plants not only add to the aesthetic appeal but also help maintain water quality. Choose robust plant species, as Golden Mbunas can be rough on vegetation.

  • Water Filtration and Circulation

A strong and efficient filtration system is crucial to deal with the waste produced by these fish. Additionally, proper water circulation helps in oxygenating the water, which is vital for the cichlids’ health. Be sure to regularly clean and maintain the filter to ensure its effectiveness.

Auratus Cichlid Breeding

Breeding Auratus Cichlids can be a rewarding experience for aquarium hobbyists. These fish exhibit fascinating breeding behaviors and require specific conditions for successful spawning. Understanding and replicating their natural breeding environment is key to encouraging them to breed in captivity.

Breeding Environment

To encourage breeding, set up a separate breeding tank to ensure a controlled environment and to protect fry from being eaten. A 50-gallon tank is suitable, with water conditions similar to their regular habitat: a pH of 7.5-8.5 and a temperature around 78°F to 82°F. Decorate the tank with ample hiding spots using rocks and caves to simulate their natural breeding grounds. This setup provides privacy and security, encouraging the breeding behavior.

Spawning Process

The spawning process of Auratus Cichlids is unique and intriguing. The female lays eggs and immediately collects them in her mouth. The male displays bright colors and uses his anal fin, which has egg-like spots, to trick the female into thinking there are more eggs to collect. As the female attempts to pick them up, the male releases sperm, fertilizing the eggs in the female’s mouth. This method is known as ‘mouthbrooding.’

Post-Spawning Care

After spawning, the female carries the fertilized eggs in her mouth for about 21 days until they hatch. During this period, she may not eat and can appear more reclusive. Once the fry are released, they can be fed finely crushed flake food or specially formulated fry food. It’s important to monitor water quality diligently during this stage, as the fry are sensitive to poor conditions.

Handling Aggression

Breeding Malawi Golden Cichlid can become territorial and aggressive. It’s crucial to manage this behavior by providing enough space and hiding spots. In some cases, separating the male from the female after spawning may be necessary to protect her from stress and aggression.

Malawi Golden Cichlid Diet & Feeding

Auratus Cichlids are omnivores and require a balanced diet of both plant and animal matter. High-quality cichlid pellets can be used as a staple diet, supplemented with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms. It’s important to feed them in small quantities to prevent overfeeding and maintain water quality.

Auratus Cichlid Compatibility

While Auratus Cichlids can be aggressive, especially males, they can coexist with other cichlids of similar size and temperament. Ideal tank mates include Lemon Yellow, Red Zebra, Cobalt Blue, Kenyi, Suckermouth catfish, Pindani, Johanni Cichlid, and Giant Danio. It’s advisable to avoid keeping them with very small or overly passive fish. Creating a community of cichlids with similar habitat needs can lead to a dynamic and engaging aquarium.

Auratus Cichlid Common Diseases

Golden Mbuna are susceptible to typical freshwater fish diseases, including Ich or White Spot Disease, caused by parasites, and bacterial infections like fin rot. They can also suffer from Malawi bloat, a condition specific to African cichlids, often due to dietary issues. Regular tank maintenance, proper diet, and monitoring water quality are crucial to prevent these health problems.


The Auratus Cichlid is a fascinating and rewarding species to keep in a home aquarium. With proper care, the right environment, and compatible tank mates, they can thrive and bring vibrant life to your aquatic setup. Their unique characteristics and behavior make them a perennial favorite among fish enthusiasts.