Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus Citrinellus): Ultimate Care Guide

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus Citrinellus) is a large Central American Cichlid found in the San Juan River and other nearby Costa Rica and Nicaragua watersheds.

They were first described in 1864. They range in color from gray to olive-brown and have dorsolateral bars. These bars are mostly black, but some fish have pink, white, yellow, or orange colors. These fish are often called “golds” and show up in nature. Due to selective breeding, other colorations and accentuated nuchal humps are seen in captive fish and cannot be found in wild populations.

They are closely related to Amphilophus labiatus, and share the nickname “Red Devil Cichlid.” These two are often confused because they look similar, but the Red Devil Cichlid will grow a bit bigger than the Midas Cichlid. The Red Devil is only found in Nicaraguan lakes. Midas and Red Devils have been bred, and the hybrids can be found for sale too.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus Citrinellus)
Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus Citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid Care

Midas Cichlids are moderately easy fish to care for and are generally peaceful as long as they have enough room to swim. They will become aggressive if kept in a tank that is too small. They also like a clean tank and are sensitive to pollutants and pH instability.


These tropical fish will thrive in temperatures between 72.0 and 82.0°F.

Water pH

Midas Cichlids are very sensitive to pH changes. This means they have a smaller pH range than many other fish. They need a pH of 6.6 to 7.3 to keep them from becoming stressed.

Midas Cichlid Size

They are large fish with thick body that can grow between 10 and 14 inches long. They have pointed anal and dorsal fins. All Midas Cichlids will develop a nuchal hump on their heads, but the males will be significantly larger than the females. Males will have a very prominent hump, while females will only have a small hint of one.

Midas Cichlid Lifespan

Midas Cichlids are moderately hardy fish that can live up to 12 years in the right conditions.

Midas Cichlid Tank Size

They need a large tank. They are territorial fish that will defend an area of 4 feet around their nest. They become more aggressive and territorial during their breeding cycle. This means the tank needs to be at least 6 feet long. This length increases according to the number of fish being kept in the tank.

A single female will need at least a 55-gallon tank. A male will need a 75-gallon tank. If the pair is together, the tank must be 125 gallons. If other large fish are added to the tank, that size increases to 200 gallons.

Food & Diet

Midas Cichlids are omnivorous fish that will eat live, fresh, and flake foods. They eat plant matter, mollusks, and smaller fish in the wild. In the tank, they will thrive on high-quality cichlid pellets, krill, frozen bloodworms, nightcrawlers, crickets, and similar foods. Adding some vegetables like lettuce or blanched cucumber is also recommended.

Aquarists recommend feeding these fish smaller amounts of food 2 to 5 times daily. This keeps the water quality higher for longer since less food will usually float around in the tank.

Some experts say giving the fish a treat of warm-blooded animal meats such as poultry or beef hearts will encourage them to grow faster. While this may be true, these foods should be an occasional treat. These foods have high fats and proteins not found in this fish’s natural diet. If they are given these foods too often, it can cause digestive problems such as blockages or ruptures.

Tank Setup

Midas Cichlids are avid diggers who like to swim in the center of the tank. Keeping the water in the tank clean is imperative to keeping happy fish. They are very sensitive to pollutants and pH fluctuations. 25 to 30% of the tank water should be replaced weekly. Gravel cleaner should be used when doing water changes to flush out the decomposing organic matter that may have built up. This should address most potential problems since the biggest issue in tropical tanks is usually decomposing organic matter.

The bottom of the tank should have a bottom of fine sand. These fish are avid diggers, so that plants will be eaten or shredded. Rocks should be well-bedded in the sand to not fall on the fish while digging.

If other fish are in the tank, the decorations should provide natural borders for the Midas Cichlid’s territory. This will help keep the other fish out of their view, which lowers aggression.

Oxygen levels must be maintained for the fish’s optimum color and health. Low to moderate water movement and strong, efficient filtration is recommended. 

Midas Cichlid Breeding

Male and female Midas Cichlids are easy to differentiate. The males are larger and have a bigger nuchal hump on their heads. Females are much smaller and have a smaller hump. The nuchal hump develops differently for captive and wild fish. In the wild, the hump only develops during spawning, while the hump seems to be permanent in captivity.

Midas Cichlids are cave spawners, so that they will need a cave made out of rock formations or flowerpots in the tank. This species has been successfully bred in captivity and is considered moderately easy to breed. They become sexually mature when they reach 6 or 7 inches long.

The spawning process is a lengthy one for these fish. The spawning ritual can go on for 2 weeks to 6 months. It begins with the male and female swimming circles around each other while slapping each other with their tail fins.

Next, the female will swim before the male and rub his nuchal hump with her side. Then the male will do the same to the female. This process makes the nuchal humps grow larger.

The male might become aggressive during this ritual. If this happens, aquarists can put a tank divider in the tank to protect the female. The divider can have holes large enough for the female to swim through but too small for the male to pass through. This gives her a space to escape and relax. When the fish start cleaning and digging to the bottom of the tank, the display is done, and the divider can be removed. It is important to keep an eye on them to make sure the ritual is truly over and the female is safe.

The female will lay her eggs in rows, and the male will fertilize them. They will hatch in 2 to 5 days and any eggs that do not hatch are then eaten by the parents. This species takes an active role in keeping the young safe. The parents will move them to a gravel pit when they hatch, and the fry is free-swimming in about a week.

Once the fry starts swimming, the male will become protective of them and view the female as a threat. He may attack her, so the barrier might need to go back up during this time. It is best to leave the fry with the male. If they are taken away, he will probably become distraught and may attempt to mate again. The female might not be ready and can be killed if not protected.


Midas Cichlids are subject to infections such as Ich, Hole-in-the-Head disease (HLLE – Head and Lateral Line Disease), parasites, bacteria, and fungal infections.

Ich is a common infection found in freshwater tanks. It can be serious, but it is easily treatable if caught early.

Hole-in-the-Head disease looks like pits, or holes, on the fish’s head and face. This happens when the fish is deficient in one or all of Vitamin C, Vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. Poor diet, lack of water changes, hard water, or over-filtration.

Other infections are possible too. One of the best preventions is ensuring anything added to the tank has been properly cleaned or quarantined before being added to the tank.

Midas Cichlid Tank Mates

Midas Cichlids are large, aggressive fish with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. They will fight over territory, so tank mates should be chosen carefully for this reason. For starters, if these fish are put into a small tank with any other fish, they will become aggressive, and this predator will attack.

Compatible tank mates include other aggressive fish, but they should be monitored. Sometimes these relationships work out, and sometimes they do not. Some aquarists have luck with Convict Cichlids, Oscars, Firemouths, Green Terrors, and African Cichlids.

The list of incompatible tank mates is much longer. Absolutely no small, peaceful fish. Slow swimmers, shrimp, crabs, snails, and even plants are not a good idea.

Where can I find Midas Cichlid for sale?

They can be found online and in pet stores. Prices range depending on how old the fish are and their color. They usually start around 20 USD each and go up in price from there.

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