Auratus Cichlid Care (Melanochromis auratus)

auratus cichlid

The auratus cichlid, also known as Melanochromis auratus, Malawi golden cichlid, or just golden mbuna, has been in the aquarium hobby since the late 1950s and since then, it’s grown in popularity. It’s one of the most popular African cichlids kept by home aquarists in the U.S., despite its reputation as a difficult fish to keep alive and well.

Finding the right kind of fish to keep as pets can be challenging, especially if you’re new to owning fish. Melanochromis auratus can be an excellent choice for both experienced and beginner fishkeepers alike, but there are some special requirements that should be taken into account when keeping them in captivity, and because of this, many beginners want to know how to care for this species.

Auratus cichlids (Melanochromis auratus) are a freshwater species of fish originating from the African Great Lakes region, but has been introduced to tropical regions worldwide and are now an invasive species in many areas, such as Puerto Rico and Florida in the United States.

The name auratus means gold, which refers to the color of its sides and belly, while melanochromis means black eyes, referring to the darker coloration around its eyes.

Auratus cichlids are a freshwater species of fish originating from the African Great Lakes region, but have been introduced to tropical regions worldwide and are now an invasive species in many areas, such as Puerto Rico and Florida in the United States.

The name auratus means gold, which refers to the color of its sides and belly, while melanochromis means black eyes, referring to the darker coloration around its eyes.

Origin and description

auratus cichlid

The auratus cichlid is a fish that is native to East Africa and was first discovered in Lake Malawi. Specifically, their range is from Jalo Reef to Crocodile Rocks in the southern regions of Lake Malawi. They are popular with aquarists because they don’t grow too large and have beautiful colors. Like other African cichlids, the auratus has a diet rich in vegetable matter.

If you want your auratus cichlid to reach its full potential, feed them vegetables such as peas, lettuce, and spinach in addition to small live or frozen foods such as bloodworms or brine shrimp. When you see their coloration start fading or get duller then it’s time for a change of diet! It’s best not to overfeed your fish so always make sure there is some food left on the bottom of the tank at all times.

Exasperatus Cichlid (Melanochromis Joanjohnsonae)

Species profile

This beautiful but aggressive fish is known as the golden mbuna cichlid (Melanochromis auratus). There are many distinguishing features of this yellow cichlid with black horizontal stripes, so it is not difficult to recognize them. Malawi golden cichlids have an elongated body. On the upper half of their bodies, Auratus cichlid males have dark brown or black stripes. The upper half of the body of auratus cichlid female and juveniles is bright yellow with black and white stripes.

Auratus cichlid male vs female

auratus cichlid
Auratus cichlid female

There are visible differences between the Auratus cichlid male and female cichlids. Identifying Auratus Cichlids by their color is the easiest way.

Auratus cichlid males are distinctive due to their brown or black bodies and light blue or yellow stripes, along with transparent yellow dorsal fins. A male Auratus cichlid has black anal and pelvic fins with a hint of neon blue, while an Auratus cichlid female has gold fins.

There is a bright yellow base on the Auratus cichlid female (the same applies to juvenile Auratus Cichlid males). The caudal fin of this species is marked by a series of black and blue lines starting from its eyes.

The upper part of the body is also distinguished by black and white stripes. There are usually gold edges on their fins, but there are black spots on their tail fins.

An Auratus cichlid female mimics the coloration of a male Auratus if the male is absent. Furthermore, the level of aggression is a reliable indicator between auratus cichlid male or female, as Auratus cichlid males are generally more aggressive than their female counterparts.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the auratus cichlid is Melanochromis auratus.

Common names

Auratus cichlid haved other names such as golden mbuna, Malawi golden cichlid, golden cichlid, or yellow and black striped cichlid.


It is possible to find Auratus cichlids primarily in the southern regions of the lake, especially from the Jalo Reef to the Crocodile Rocks on the west coast.

Pseudotropheus perspicax (Trewavas, 1935)

Auratus cichlid size and weight

The Auratus Cichlid is a relatively small fish that grows up to 4.3 inches (11 cm) in length. They can have a weight of up to 2 lb (32 oz).

Tank size

A minimum tank size of 50 gallons (190 liters) is recommended for Auratus Cichlids. One male and four to five females can be kept in a 50 gallon tank. An aquarium of 125 gallons (473 liters) or larger is recommended if you intend to keep more than one male in the same tank.

Auratus cichlid tank mates

Despite being highly attractive to the eye, Auratus Cichlids can be quite intolerant of tankmates!

There is no reason to consider this fish a community fish. Species-specific tanks are best for them. This fish should not be kept with peaceful cichlids. If you wish to keep them with other aggressive Mbunas, make sure that their shapes and colors are not the same or they will attack each other. A similar-looking male of another species can be aggressive toward them.

Some other species of Mbunas will not even spawn unless the Golden Mbunas are removed.
Cichlids such as the Electric Yellow Lab, Snow white cichlid, Cobalt Blue, Lemon Yellow, Johanni, Demasoni cichlid , Pindani cichlid, Kenyi, Red Zebra, and Tropheops are all compatible tank mates for the Auratus cichlid. They will also get along with Synodontis catfish.

Haplochromis and Peacock Cichlids cannot tolerate the Auratus’ aggressive behavior. Other species that are fairly aggressive, such as New World cichlids and barbs, may be ignored.


auratus cichlid

Breeding Auratus cichlids is relatively easy. After 6 months of life, they begin reproducing through mouthbrooding. In order to start the mating process, you need to provide them with the right conditions. The male digs a nest in the sand while moving his fins seductively.

The male is responsible for keeping other males away from the nest. The male starts circling the female when she approaches this nest, signaling her to lay eggs. It is possible for them to lay between 10 and 40 eggs. Breeding pair size and age play a major role in this.

Eggs are laid in caves by females, who collect them and carry them in their mouths. The stimulated male releases sperm in order to fertilize the female’s eggs.

Nimbochromis Livingstonii (Livingston's Cichlid)

It is possible for the female Auratus cichlid to hold her eggs in her mouth for up to three weeks. To prevent accidentally swallowing the eggs, the female does not eat while the eggs are in her mouth. The fry will become free-swimming after approximately 28 days. Females release their fry at this point.

A fish breeding tumbler or incubator can be used to hatch the eggs to prevent the female from becoming weak.

Transfer the free-swimming fry to a dedicated grow-out tank once the female has released them. Simple bare-bottom 10-gallon tanks can serve as this grow-out tank. Nevertheless, a sponge filter is necessary to ensure clean water in the tank. There is a risk of the fry being sucked up by other types of filters since the intake of these filters is quite large. Spirulina flakes and crushed Artemia nauplii should be fed to free-swimming fry.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The Auratus cichlid is a highly aggressive and territorial fish. A fish’s personality varies from one to another. More than 90% of auratus cichlid males are very aggressive to extremely aggressive. They may also become more aggressive during mating season. Normally, this leads to attacks among previously peaceful tank mates.

Auratus cichlid care information

auratus cichlid

The Auratus cichlid is a freshwater fish that is native to Lake Malawi, Africa. The Auratus cichlids like to inhabit the rocky areas of their habitat, so they need plenty of rocks in their aquariums. They prefer to live in tanks with small caves or shelters for them to hide and feel safe in.

What they eat

These fish are omnivorous and will eat both plants and meaty foods, but they enjoy a lot of plant-based food. They enjoy eating the eggs of other fishes, as well as live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, white worms, bloodworms, spinach, and lettuce. Auratus cichlids have an important role in their habitat because they help to keep algae levels down by eating them.

Tank requirements

The Auratus Cichlid is a very active fish, so the tank should be large enough to accommodate swimming, exploring, and hiding. The tank needs to have plenty of hiding spaces. Rocks and caves are recommended. Floating plants can help provide shade and cover for this fish.

Melanochromis dialeptos (Dialeptos Cichlid)

The water quality of the Auratus cichlid’s tank must be high because they are sensitive to changes in water chemistry. They will adapt slowly to new conditions but their colors may fade. For this reason, it is important not to make any drastic changes in the parameters without introducing them gradually. Water temperature also affects them: if it gets too cold, their colors will fade as well.


The average lifespan of an auratus cichlid is around 5 years in captivity.

Parasites and diseases

The Auratus cichlid is susceptible to a variety of parasites, including fungus and flagellates. They are also susceptible to pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. Common bacterial infections include gill disease and columnaris; viral diseases include herpesvirus, myxovirus-1; protozoal diseases include Amyloodinium ocellatum.

To prevent infection, it’s important to provide the fish with appropriate water conditions and an appropriate diet that includes all essential nutrients. If the fish has been diagnosed with a parasite or other illness, treatment should be administered immediately to prevent further complications and the spread of the disease to other members of the aquarium community.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

Many predators of the auratus cichlid exist in the wild, including both other fish and mammals. The fry is often eaten by other fish, while larger juveniles are hunted by mammals such as otters and eels.

Do they make good pets?

Auratus cichlids are one of the more popular African cichlids and can make excellent pets. They are aggressive, however, so they should not be kept with other types of fish. Their aggression is also why they are unsuitable for a community tank. They will eat any fish or invertebrate that they see as food and therefore need to be housed in a species-specific tank.