Auratus Cichlid: Care, Tank Mates, Aggression & Breeding

Common Name(s)Auratus Cichlid, Malawi Golden Cichlid
Scientific NameMelanochromis auratus
OriginLake Malawi
Temperature75-82°F (24-27°C)
Size4.3 inches (11 cm)
Minimum Tank Size50 gallons (190 liters)
Food & DietOmnivorous diet (Live bloodworms, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, Spirulina-based flakes, etc.)
Lifespan5 years
Water pH7.5-8.5
Tank MatesSince they are highly aggressive species of cichlid, tank mates should be selected with careful consideration.
DiseaseMay be susceptible to Malawi Bloat disease.
Auratus Cichlid
Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)

The Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus) are well-known for its aggressiveness as well as its unique features. They are considered the most aggressive member of the Mbuna group. Auratus cichlid are so aggressive that they are known to terrorize fish that are double their size. They are native to Lake Malawi in Africa. In their natural environment, they can normally be seen in groups of 8-10. 

The Auratus cichlid is definitely not a species for beginners and prospective owners should do their research to thoroughly understand the needs of the Auratus cichlid. However, with a proper tank setup and care, they are an absolute joy to own.

Auratus Cichlid Care

Due to the Auratus cichlid’s level of aggression, many different factors need to be taken into consideration to allow good conditions. For example, providing the right tank size and decoration, male to female ratio, and an excellent filtration system.

It is paramount to take proper care of your Auratus Cichlid. Therefore, to avoid the Auratus cichlid from deteriorating you must maintain good water conditions. Their dietary needs also need to be met to avoid Malawi Bloat, which is a common disease for the Auratus cichlid. The Auratus cichlid are omnivorous fish, however, have a highly herbivorous diet and mainly eat Aufwuchs and invertebrates in the wild. Their diet should consist of a range of meaty foods, this can include live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and ghost shrimp as well as Spirulina-based flakes. The Auratus cichlid must be fed at least twice a day – for a total of 14 feedings per week. Additionally, during each feeding, they should be fed as much as they can eat within 2 minutes. 

Free-swimming Auratus cichlid fry should be fed Artemia nauplii and crushed Spirulina flakes.

Water changes are essential, and it is recommended to change 20-50% weekly. This depends on the bioload. Furthermore, several changes a week are recommended if ‘overstocking’ is used to reduce aggression of the Auratus cichlid (Auratus, 2021).

Tank size for Auratus cichlid should be minimum 190 liters (50 gallons) for a single male and 4 to 5 females. For more than one male, over 125 gallons is recommended; the bigger the tank, the better! 

The best tank decoration for the Auratus cichlid is Rockscape with plenty of swimming space as the Auratus cichlid are rock-dwelling fish*. Stacking porous rocks with gaps in between them is a good idea as this creates a lot of escapes paths and hiding places (this is essential for juveniles and less dominant fish). The natural substrate for the Auratus cichlid is sand, so ideally the aquarium should be filled with it. However, gravel is also a good option for the Auratus cichlid. Either way, it is important to clean the substrate beforehand and to fill the tank with at least 2 inches of substrate. 

The Auratus cichlid dig nests to claim their territory and they usually start doing this as juveniles.

Plants can be added however, it is recommended to add plants that are a hardy species that can be attached to rocks. Examples of hardy plants include Anubias nana and Java Fern.

The Auratus cichlid is also called Mbuna which translates to rockfish. 

The Auratus cichlid can get stressed when conditions in the tank are inadequate. The signs that show that your Auratus cichlid is stressed include the following:

  • If your fish loses their appetite all of a sudden – although this is not a clear indication of whether the Auratus cichlid is stressed.
  • Gasping at the water surface is a very clear indication that their stress is caused by poor water conditions. Usually, this is due to low levels of oxygen. 

Diseases are also common for stressed Auratus cichlid who are stressed. They will usually come down with some sort of freshwater disease. For example Ich. This freshwater disease is also known as ‘White spot’ and is caused by ‘ichtyopthirius multifilis’ which is a protozoan parasite. This disease can also be spotted through signs of lethargy, labored breathing, and odd swimming patterns.

  • To treat Ich, it is best to treat the entire tank rather than quarantining the single Auratus cichlid. 

In terms of lighting, if you want maximum comfort for your Auratus cichlid, you should try to mimic the amount of sunlight they would receive in their natural habitat. For well-lit rooms, the aquarium lights should be turned on for 2-3 hours per day. 

Auratus Cichlid Care & Tank Set up Guide

Auratus Cichlid Temperature

75-82 degrees Fahrenheit 

24-27 degrees Celsius 

Auratus Cichlid pH

Auratus Cichlid require a 7.5 to 8.5 pH range.

The pH range should never change drastically. 

Auratus Cichlid Size

The Auratus cichlid can grow up to 4.3 inches or 11 cm.

However, in some cases, they grow bigger in the fish tank. 

How Fast Do Auratus Cichlid Grow?

Many different variables affect how long it takes for your Auratus cichlid to grow to full size, however, usually, it can take from 1 to 2 years for the Auratus cichlid to be the full adult size. 

Auratus Cichlid Lifespan

Auratus cichlid can live past 5 years in an aquarium.

Auratus Cichlid Tank Mates

The Auratus cichlid is a very aggressive species of cichlid and therefore one must be extremely careful with tank mates. Both the male and female of the Auratus cichlid are extremely aggressive and therefore a relatively larger tank is needed. To provide enough space for the Auratus Cichlid to retreat and breed, the larger the tank the better. This will also avoid fights over territory. Thus, a nano tank is a definite no for the Auratus cichlid. 

To provide the best condition for your Auratus Cichlid(s) it is ideal to keep more females than males in the tank. It is also recommended to keep Auratus Cichlid away from your other fish, however, if you are unable to do this there is guidance on how to reduce aggression towards another peaceful Cichlid. 

Tip: If you do decide to raise other fish in the same tank as Auratus cichlid, make sure that none of these are similar-looking males of other species. 

Auratus Cichlid Aggression

The Auratus cichlid is a highly aggressive cichlid. The main way to reduce aggression is to keep it with fish of similar size and temperament. 

The female Auratus cichlid becomes more aggressive just before breeding. If the tank is small, it is highly possible for a dominant female Auratus cichlid to find a subordinate male and kill it. 

If Algae is present over the stones, the Auratus cichlid also browses the algae. The Auratus cichlid sometimes even attacks the plants. Therefore, it is important to take care of fragile plants that may suffer from the appetite of the Auratus cichlid.

How aggressive are Auratus cichlid in comparison to other cichlids?

The Auratus cichlids are probably the most aggressive Mbunas and will go to great lengths to violently defend their territory. Even if you could keep other fish in the same tank, you are advised not to. They will most definitely hybridize with any other Melanochromis. 

How to Stop Auratus Cichlid Aggression?

Due to the Auratus cichlid’s level of aggression, it is highly recommended to keep it as an independent species rather than in a community tank. Furthermore, to keep Auratus cichlid aggression at a minimum, it is best to keep one male and several females and to decorate the tank so that there are enough hiding spaces. 

If there is more than one male, the dominant Auratus cichlid will attack them as soon as they begin coloring up, to stay the title of being the only dominant fish in the aquarium. 

The female Auratus cichlid is also highly aggressive, especially in the absence of the dominant male Auratus cichlid. As soon as they notice the absence of the dominant male, they take on the dark coloration of the male. Dominant female Auratus cichlid is known to kill subordinate male Auratus cichlid. 

One way to avoid aggression is to increase feeding frequency, in addition to this combining fish different coloration and patterns, providing enough horizontal space for the fish, overstocking and rearranging your aquarium from time to time.

Auratus Cichlid Changing Color

Coloration is a feature that plays an essential role in terms of natural and sexual selection (Liang, Meyer, and Kratochwil, 2020). The Auratus cichlid morphological color change has been described to be ‘perhaps the most remarkable case’ of color change reported for any cichlid. 

The Auratus cichlid changing color can be as a result of different factors and there is a difference between the male Auratus cichlid and female Auratus cichlid changing color.

The male Auratus cichlid usually changes from yellow to brown and then to black later on when they have matured. 

The Auratus cichlid female is aggressive and can change color when there is no male Auratus cichlid present. This change of color usually happens by the dominant female Auratus cichlid and is the colour of the absent male Auratus cichlid. 

Auratus Cichlid Male or Female: How to Tell the Difference?

The Auratus cichlid male and female have visible differences. The best way to tell Auratus Cichlid apart is through their color. 

The male Auratus cichlid can be recognized through their distinctive brown or black body and has either light blue or yellow stripes as well as transparent yellow dorsal fins. The anal and pelvic fins of the male Auratus cichlid are black with a hint of neon blue, whereas the female Auratus cichlid has gold pelvic and anal fins. 

The female Auratus cichlid, however, has a bright yellow base (this is also the case for male Auratus cichlid juveniles). Their distinctive feature is the black and blue lines that start from their eyes all the way down to their caudal fin. Another distinctive feature is the black and white stripes on the upper part of the body. Usually, their fins have gold edges, however, the tail fin has is peppered with black spots. However, if the. Male Auratus cichlid is absent from the tank, the female Auratus cichlid mimics the colors of the male. Furthermore, the level of aggression is a good indicator of whether it is male or female, as males are relatively a lot more aggressive. 

Auratus Cichlid Breeding

Auratus cichlid are mouthbrooders and therefore easy fish to breed. Their reproduction process begins after 6 months of life. All you have to do is to provide them with the right conditions and allow the mating ritual to start. The ritual consists of the male moves his fins in a seductive manner or starts digging a nest in the sand and making sure no other (male) Auratus cichlid comes close to the nest by chasing them away. When the female Auratus cichlid approaches this nest, the male Auratus cichlid starts circling the female which signals the female Auratus cichlich to lay eggs. They can lay between 10 to 40 eggs. This is dependent on the size and age of the Auratus cichlid. After the female Auratus cichlid lays her eggs in a cave she gathers them up again carries the eggs in her mouth. The stimulated male Auratus cichlid then releases sperm to allow the eggs in the female cichlid’s mouth to fertilize. 

The female Auratus cichlid can keep the eggs in its mouth for up to 3 weeks. While the eggs are in the female’s mouth, the Auratus cichlid does not eat to avoid accidentally swallowing the eggs. After this 28 day period, when the fry are free-swimming, the female Auratus cichlid releases the fry. 

Once the female Auratus cichlid has released the free-swimming fry, you should transfer the fry to a 10-gallon aquarium with no decoration or substrate to avoid causing difficulty in the feeding of the baby fry. This aquarium should have a sponge filter to avoid the baby fry getting sucked up. 

Tip: To avoid the female Auratus cichlid from getting weak while carrying the eggs, it is advised to to hatch the eggs in an incubator or a fish breeding tumbler. 

Source(s) 2021. Auratus. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed July 2021].

Liang, Y., Meyer, A. and Kratochwil, C., 2020. Neural innervation as a potential trigger of morphological color change and sexual dimorphism in cichlid fish. Scientific Reports, 10(1).

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