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Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

Welcome to a fascinating journey into the world of Midas cichlids! These vibrant and intelligent fish are a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique characteristics and bright coloring. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various aspects of the Midas cichlid, providing valuable insights for both beginners and experienced fishkeepers.

Midas Cichlid Quick Facts

Fact Detail
Scientific Name Amphilophus citrinellus
Common Name Midas Cichlid
Origin Central America, mainly Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Average Size Up to 14 inches (35 cm)
Lifespan 10-12 years, sometimes longer in captivity
Diet Omnivorous – requires a mix of plant and animal-based foods
Aquarium Size Minimum 60 gallons for a single fish
Water Conditions Temperature: 72°F to 82°F (22°C to 28°C), pH: 7.0 to 8.0
Behavior Aggressive and territorial, especially during breeding
Color Variations White, Yellow, Orange, Red; changes with mood and environment
Breeding Substrate spawner, forms monogamous pairs
Compatibility Best with similar-sized and similarly aggressive fish

Midas Cichlid Profile

The Midas cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), native to freshwater lakes and rivers in Central America, is known for its impressive size and vibrant coloration. Growing up to 14 inches in length, these fish display a variety of colors, ranging from white and yellow to orange and red. They are characterized by their robust body, large lips, and a prominent nuchal hump on their forehead, especially in males.

Midas Cichlid Coloring

One of the most striking features of the Midas cichlid is its coloring. These fish are known for their ability to change color based on their mood, environment, and social status. Juveniles usually start with a grey or olive base color and gradually develop vibrant hues as they mature. The intensity of their color can also be influenced by diet and water quality.

Midas Cichlid Habitat

The Midas Cichlid, native to freshwater lakes and rivers in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, thrives in warm, tropical environments. They prefer habitats with sandy bottoms, abundant rocks, and submerged tree roots, offering hiding spaces and territorial boundaries. These waters are typically clear with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH, mirroring the conditions needed in aquarium setups to ensure their well-being in captivity.

Midas Cichlid Aquarium Setup

Creating the right environment is crucial for the wellbeing of Midas cichlids. 

Tank Size and Layout

  • Minimum Size: Start with at least a 60-gallon tank due to their large size and territorial behavior.
  • Substrate: Opt for a sandy substrate to mimic their natural habitat.
  • Decoration: Include plenty of rocks and structures to provide hiding spots and reduce aggression.

Water Conditions

  • pH Level: Maintain a pH range between 7.0 and 8.0 for optimal health.
  • Temperature: Keep the water warm, ideally between 72°F and 82°F (22°C – 28°C), to suit their tropical nature.

Additional Tips

  • Regularly check water parameters to ensure stability.
  • Consider adding live plants for a more natural environment, although Midas cichlids may uproot them.
  • Install a robust filtration system to handle the bioload of these large fish and keep the water clean.

Midas Cichlid vs Red Devil Cichlid

The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) and the Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus) are often mistaken for one another due to their similar coloration and aggressive behavior. However, key differences lie in their physical traits and origin. The Midas Cichlid, typically found in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, has a more oval body and a pronounced nuchal hump, especially in males.

In contrast, the Red Devil Cichlid, native to Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua, is characterized by a more elongated body and distinctly thicker lips. Despite their territorial nature, Red Devil Cichlids are generally considered more aggressive than Midas Cichlids. Recognizing these differences is crucial for appropriate care and aquarium management.

Midas Cichlid Breeding

Breeding Midas cichlids can be a rewarding experience. They are substrate spawners and form monogamous pairs. The breeding process starts with courtship behaviors, followed by the female laying eggs on a flat surface, which are then fertilized by the male. It’s essential to provide a stress-free environment for breeding, as Midas cichlids can become aggressive during this period.

Breeding Environment

The breeding process of Midas Cichlids is both fascinating and demanding, requiring a well-prepared environment. These fish are known for being attentive parents, and the breeding process starts with selecting a mate and establishing a territory. Ideally, the breeding tank should be at least 75 gallons, providing ample space for the pair to interact and establish a breeding area. The water temperature should be slightly increased to between 77°F and 82°F (25°C to 28°C) to encourage spawning behavior.

Spawning Process

During the courtship phase, Midas Cichlids exhibit vibrant colors and engage in ritualistic displays. The female selects a flat surface, such as a rock or a piece of wood, to lay her eggs. These surfaces should be smooth and flat, allowing the female to easily deposit her eggs. She can lay hundreds of eggs in a single spawning. The male then fertilizes them, and both parents guard the eggs fiercely against potential threats. The eggs hatch in about three to five days, depending on the water temperature. Post-hatching, the fry are often moved to pre-dug pits in the substrate by the parents, where they continue to receive care and protection until they are ready to fend for themselves.

Midas Cichlid Diet & Feeding

Midas cichlids are omnivorous and require a balanced diet for optimal health. A combination of high-quality cichlid pellets, live or frozen foods like shrimp and bloodworms, and vegetable matter should be provided. Regular feeding, preferably twice a day, is recommended, but be cautious of overfeeding as it can lead to health issues and water quality problems.

Midas Cichlid Compatibility

When it comes to tank mates, careful consideration is necessary. Midas cichlids are known for their territorial and aggressive nature, especially during breeding. They are best housed with fish of similar size and temperament. Smaller or more timid species should be avoided, as they can be bullied or harmed by the Midas cichlid.

Midas Cichlid Diseases

Midas Cichlids are susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases like Ichthyophthirius (Ich), which presents as white spots on the skin and fins, and bacterial infections causing fin rot or ulcers. They can also suffer from parasitic infestations and fungal infections. Proper tank maintenance, stable water conditions, and a balanced diet are crucial for prevention.


In conclusion, Midas cichlids are a fascinating and vibrant addition to any large aquarium. Their unique characteristics, from striking coloring to intriguing behaviors, make them a favorite among aquarists. With proper care, the right environment, and compatible tank mates, Midas cichlids can thrive and bring dynamic energy to your aquatic world. Remember, understanding and catering to their needs is key to enjoying the full splendor of these magnificent fish.