The Auratus cichlid is a beautiful yet very aggressive cichlid species endemic to the Lake of Malawi. They make a stunning aquarium, and a tank full of them is many things, but dull is definitely not one of them.

However, owing to their aggressive nature, it is recommended that Auratus cichlid be raised in a single species tank with one male and numerous females.

As a beginner, raising a community of this striped African cichlid can prove tough. Thus, before you bring them home, you should find out all there is to know about them here.

Auratus Cichlid Stats

Quick stats:

Experience Level Intermediate
Average Fish Size 4.3 Inches
Average Tank Size 50 Gallons
Temperament Aggressive
Recommended Hardness Moderate
Recommended Temperature 73 to 83℉

Scientific Classification

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Order Perciformes
Family Cichlidae
Genus Melanochromis
Species auratus

Fish Overview

The Auratus cichlid, also known as melanochromis auratus, is a beautiful freshwater fish belonging to the cichlid family. Other names by which the Auratus cichlid is referred to include the Golden Mbuna and Malawi golden cichlid. Already, from the last name, you can tell that it is endemic to Malawi, the southern parts, to be precise.

Auratus Cichlid is very vibrant and brings a lot of spice to your aquarium. However, they are difficult cichlid species to raise; thus, they are not recommended to beginners.

Before you give up on the dream of having a tank of Auratus cichlid, you must know that though difficult, it is quite possible with the right knowledge. Let’s look at all you need to know about the Auratus cichlid.

– Appearance

The Auratus is a yellow cichlid with black horizontal stripes and has many distinguishing features; thus, recognizing them is not much of a chore. They have elongated bodies with closely spaced teeth that almost resemble incisors. With these teeth, they can feed on algae, critters, biofilm, and a whole lot of other fish.

Their mouth is narrow and paired with a rounded snout. Auratus cichlid also has continuous dorsal fins.

– Average Size

The average size of the Auratus cichlid is 4.5 inches that is around 12 centimeters. With proper care, they can grow bigger than 4.5 inches. The male Auratus cichlid, however, is bigger than the female.

– How To Differentiate Between Female and Male

The auratus cichlid is coveted for its beautiful colors. These colors, however, differ between the genders.

We shall learn how to tell the male and female Auratus cichlid apart in the next section.

1. Male Auratus Cichlid

The adult male is distinguished by its brown or black body decorated at the upper region with light blue or yellow stripes. The male Auratus cichlid also has dorsal fins that are transparent yellow. These dorsal fins also have a thin yellow line running horizontally down the middle of the body from the gill all the way to the caudal fin.

2. Female Auratus Cichlid

The female Auratus cichlid, on the other hand, has a bright yellow base with the upper part peppered with black and white stripes. Most of their fins are edged in gold except for the tail fin, which has white coloration peppered with black spots. Another distinct marker of the female Auratus cichlid is the black and blue lines that run from their eyes down to their caudal fin.

The female Auratus cichlid also has the uncanny ability to take on the male’s coloration when there is no male present. The male, however, cannot change their coloration to that of the females.

– Natural Habitat

The Auratus cichlid is native to Africa, the Monkey Bay on the west coast of Lake Malawi to be precise. They are primarily found in the rocky regions, and their closely spaced teeth are adapted for their feeding. They feed on zooplankton, insect larvae, snails, crustaceans, aufwuchs, etc.

Auratus cichlid are polygamous. Thus, it is not surprising to find the male setting up a harem of many females.

– Why Does the Auratus Cichlid Change Color?

The female Auratus cichlid changes color in the absence of a male. Please don’t get confused; we’ll explain it in a bit. The female Auratus is also aggressive, and in the absence of a male Auratus, the female begins to dominate over the other fishes. When this happens, the dominant female fish switches its colors to that of the male Auratus cichlid.

– Life Expectancy

On average, the Auratus cichlid has a lifespan of 5 years. With proper feeding and water conditions, you can extend the life expectancy of Auratus. Let’s learn of easy ways you can care for your fish to improve its life expectancy, shall we?

Auratus Cichlid Care

The importance of caring for your Auratus cichlid cannot be overemphasized. Proper care not only helps your fish live longer it also helps prevent them from coming down with the common freshwater diseases. To care for your Auratus cichlid, you must learn all there is to know about this cichlid species.

– Breeding

Breeding the yellow and black cichlid is a fairly easy task; provide them with favorable conditions and they are good to go. Usually, at the higher spectrum of the temperature range, you can induce breeding.

A telltale sign of an Auratus about to breed is increased aggression. Another is an increased fervor with which the male digs into the substrate.

1. Breeding Behavior of Auratus Cichlid

Usually, the mating ritual begins with the male making a nest in the sand and guarding it against other fish in the aquarium. Any male fish that comes close to the intended breeding spot is chased off.

Next, the male starts to circle the female, who then lays the eggs and collects them in her mouth. Oh yes, you should know that Auratus cichlid are mouth breeders. The male then fertilizes the eggs in the mouth of the female.

2. How Many Eggs Does they Lay at a Time?

The amount of eggs the female Auratus cichlid lays is largely dependent on its size. However, the average female can lay anywhere from 10 eggs to 40 eggs.

3. How Long Does It Take the Eggs To Hatch?

It takes the Auratus eggs three weeks to hatch. Within that period, the female Auratus will hold the eggs in her mouth and will not eat. Most breeders simply retrieve the eggs from the female Auratus cichlid’s mouth and hatch it in an incubator to prevent her from dying of starvation.

After the incubation period, the free-swimming fry are formed. Typically, the female will take care of these fry for a few days.

4. After Hatching, What Next?

After hatching the eggs, it is advised that you move the fry to a different tank for them to grow in. The reason for this is that the parent fry often turns against the fry once another breeding season starts.

5. What To Feed the New Auratus Cichlid Fry?

The Auratus cichlid fry can eat almost everything the adult Auratus can eat. These include finely powdered food, leafy greens, and brine shrimp nauplii.

Remember to feed your Auratus cichlid small bits of food that they can finish in no more than 3 minutes.

The feeding should be at regular intervals.

– Tank Setup

The Auratus cichlid, both male and female, are very aggressive; thus, you will need a big tank. The bigger the tank, the less fights over territory you’ll have since each will have enough space to retreat to and breed.

Let’s look at the important things to consider when setting up a tank for Auratus cichlid.

1. How Big Should the Auratus Cichlid Tank Be?

Your Auratus cichlid tank should measure at least 50 gallons for a single fish. If you intend to raise more than one fish, then you will need a bigger tank. Preferably, one that can hold at least 120 gallons. The bigger tank size reduces the fight for territory between the very aggressive Auratus cichlid and other fish species.

Of course, with these requirements, you will realize that a Nano tank is a no-no for raising Auratus cichlid.

2. How To Set Up a Tank

There are several things to bear in mind when setting up a tank for your Auratus cichlid.

We have taken the trouble to list these requirements to help make the task easier for you:

  • Recommended Tank Size – 50 -120 gallons. The actual gallon size you use depends on if you intend to raise a single Auratus cichlid or a community of Auratus cichlid.
  • Water Type – The truth is the Auratus cichlid can thrive in any water, brackish or freshwater. However, you will need to ensure that the water has good movement alongside strong and efficient filtration.
  • Substrate Type – Auratus cichlid prefer regular gravel or sand mix. The substrate you choose influences the pH of the tank. Crushed coral, for one, will favor a higher pH while sand keeps the pH at a lower level. Beyond their influence on the pH of the water, these substrates provide a space for the Golden Mbuna’s to dig, thus, reducing the natural aggression.
  • Temperature – It is important that you keep the temperature in the tank between 73 – 82℉.
  • pH – The recommended pH range for a tank with Auratus cichlid is 7.7 to 8.6.
  • Hardness – It is advised that you keep the water hardness between 6-10 dGH.
  • Lightning – Keep the lightning in the tank moderate.
  • Filtration – Use a sponge filter for the first 15 days. After that, you can switch to any submersible filter that has a good flow rate.
  • Water Change – It is recommended that you follow a 10% daily water change routine. That or changing 25% of the water weekly to maintain good water quality.

It is important to maintain the recommended water conditions because sharp deviations can stress out your Auratus cichlid. The stress will inevitably lead to Auratus cichlid being more susceptible to diseases, and eventually, death.

3. Suitable Tank Decoration

The Auratus cichlid are rock-dwelling fish species. Thus, the tank they inhabit must have lots of rocks to mimic their natural habitat. You can place the rocks on top of the sand to create a form of cushioning and a hiding place for the Golden Mbuna.

You can try decorating the tank with plants. However, we must warn you that it would not work. Auratus cichlid love to uproot plants.

– Diet

The Auratus cichlid is omnivorous, but most at times, they feed on a more herbivorous diet.

Common food you can feed your Auratus cichlid with include:

  • Flakes of food
  • Pellet
  • Leafy greens
  • Meat
  • Diatoms
  • Shrimps
  • Fishes
  • Worms, etc

Ensure that you meet the Auratus cichlids herbivorous diet with quality food. Failure to do that would expose your fish to a high risk of falling prey to Malawi bloat, a common disease that affects Auratus cichlid.

1. Quantity of Food to Feed Auratus Cichlid

We recommend that you feed your fish small portions of this listed food several times a day instead of one heavy meal. Feeding Auratus small portions of food will help prevent overfeeding. Throw them food that will take no more than 3 minutes to finish to prevent overfeeding and stress.

– Compatibility

Like it or not, the Auratus cichlid is not regarded as a community fish thanks to its aggressiveness. Thus, we do not recommend that you store it with other peaceful cichlids.

If you can, raise the Auratus cichlid in a separate tank from the rest of your other fish.
However, if you cannot afford to get a separate tank for them, you can learn of Auratus cichlid compatibility.

– Tank Mates

The Auratus cichlid is best kept in a tank with more females than males to reduce aggression. If you choose to raise them in the same tank as other fish, you must know this rule of thumb. Do not keep Auratus cichlid in the same tank as similar-looking males of other species.

The aggression is not limited to the male Auratus cichlid alone; the females also are aggressive. The dominant females can even go as far as killing subordinate males.

  • Yellow lab
  • Snow white cichlid
  • Kenyi cichlid
  • Zebra obliqudens
  • Demasoni cichlid

Tank Mates to Avoid

Avoid placing two males into your small tank or aquarium; the result can be quite catastrophic. With a larger aquarium, you can risk adding extra male Auratus cichlid without much fear of it becoming a disaster.

Follow this rule of thumb, and you’ll be fine.

  • If you have a smaller tank, keep only one male Auratus
  • With a larger tank, you can add more males
  • Do not house shy, stress-prone fish with the Auratus cichlid

– How to Tell When Your Auratus Cichlid Is Stressed

Like humans, fishes can get stressed, and when they do, it can lead to serious health complications. It is important to avoid stressing your Auratus as much as you can. Sadly, you may fail sometimes.

Thus, it is crucial that you can tell when your Auratus cichlid is stressed.

  • Gasping at the Water Surface – One way to recognize that your fish is stressed is it gasping at the surface of the water. Often, it is a clear indication that the stress your fish experiences is brought on by poor water conditions. If you investigate, you discover that the oxygen levels in the water is low.
  • Appetite – When your fish suddenly loses appetite, it is not much of a jump to infer that your Auratus cichlid is stressed.
  • Disease – Auratus cichlid, when stressed, will often come down with some form of the freshwater disease. One of such diseases is Ich.
  • Strange Swimming Pattern – An odd swimming pattern is often a good indicator that your Auratus cichlid is stressed. Common strange swimming patterns include:
    – Swimming frantically without really going anywhere
    – Rubbing against the sides of the rocks
    – Crashing at the bottom of the tank, etc

So if you see your precious Auratus cichlid acting in these strange manners, you should know that it is significantly stressed.

1. Stress in Auratus Cichlid: Causes

Now that you know how to identify a stressed Auratus cichlid, you must understand what causes the stress. Understanding the factors responsible for stress in Auratus will help you prevent it.

  • Poor Water Conditions – The water quality in your fish tank can cause a significant degree of stress to your fish. If you get any indication that your fish is stressed, perhaps you see it gasping at the surface, you should perform a water test. The water test will help you determine which parameter is out of range: ammonia, oxygen, nitrite, nitrates, pH, hardness, temperature, and salt level.
  • Issues with Other Fish – If you have a community of other fish, you must get a tank capable of housing them all. A cramped tank may result in over-competition for the scarce resources each fish needs and have a negative impact on the water quality.
  • Other Factors – Aside from water conditions and issues from other fish in the same pond with your Auratus cichlid, there are quite a number of factors that can induce stress. One of such factors is the presence of harmful chemicals in the water. Medications used to treat other sick Auratus can also cause other healthy fish to suffer from significant stress levels.

2. What to Do With a Stressed Auratus Cichlid

Once you have identified that your fish is stressed, you must take the necessary steps to cure it from this stress.

To excel at this, you must identify the source of the stress: disease, diet, water condition, chemicals, etc. Once you identify the exact cause of the stress, you can eliminate it and place the Auratus cichlid on a strict healthy diet.

– Common Diseases

Auratus cichlid can become susceptible to the common diseases that plague freshwater fishes, especially if they are kept in poor water conditions.

Here are a few of the diseases that so often plague Auratus cichlid:

1. Swim Bladder Disease

As the name suggests, Swim Bladder Disease affects the swim bladder of the Auratus cichlid. A fish suffering from swim bladder disease has issues staying underwater.

Causes

  • Physical trauma
  • Poor nutrition
  • Secondary diseases like tuberculosis and cancer

Treatment

You must identify the underlying cause. If it is dietary, try feeding the Auratus cichlid, a diet rich in plants and other high fiber foods.

2. Malawi Bloat

The Malawi bloat is a disease endemic to the African cichlids. Common symptoms of Malawi bloat include sudden loss of appetite, difficulty breathing, swollen abdomen, and discolored feces. Malawi bloat can prove fatal if left untreated.

Causes

  • Intestinal protozoan common to cichlids
  • Poor water condition

Treatment

The first step to treating Malawi bloat is changing the water in the tank. After that, you should remove the filters of activated carbon. Once all these are done, you can begin treating the water with Metronidazole.

3. Ich

Ich is also known as white spot and is caused by ichthyophthirius multifilis, a protozoan parasite. It often manifests as tiny white spots on the gills, fins, and body of the Auratus cichlid. Asides from the appearance of white spots, you may also notice lethargy, labored breathing, a strange swimming pattern, and a general loss of appetite.

Cause

“Ichthyophthirius multifilis”

Treatment

Quarantining the affected Auratus cichlid simply won’t be enough. Thus, it is smarter to treat the entire tank.

Potent treatments include:

  • Potassium permanganate
  • Malachite green
  • Salt baths
  • Acriflavine

Conclusion

  • The Auratus cichlid is a stunningly beautiful fish that is polygamous by nature
  • It is omnivorous and thus easy to feed
  • One pitfall of the auratus cichlid is that it is quite aggressive and will often fight and kill other males in the tank

To manage the aggression, it is advisable to limit the number of males in a tank. We trust that our article has helped you with all you need to know to raise the Auratus cichlid.

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