Auratus Cichlid – Species Profile & Facts

Looking for an aggressive fish to keep at home? The Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis Auratus), also known as the Golden Mbuna is not only beautiful but it might also be the challenge you are looking for as a fish enthusiast.

They are golden with black stripes running through their body. Add their wild personality to the mix and what you get is a very interesting little pet that will be a delight to take care of.

Now, if you are determined to get one of these little guys, then you should be well-aware of all their behaviors and requirements.

Otherwise, it can be problematic to keep them even in a single species tank. After all, this is why we wrote this article.

Here, you will be able to learn more about this wonderful species. You will learn how to feed them, breed them and keep them at home in general. Although the Auratus Cichlid is one of the hardy fish species out there, keeping them together with other fish is not easy.

They also require a specific tank setup that mimics their natural habitat. Without further ado, let’s go through all this essential information!

Auratus Cichlid Natural Habitat

Auratus Cichlids were initially found in Lake Malawi in Africa back in 1897. Most of them can be found in the southwestern part of the lake, to be more precise. Thanks to their attractiveness, they quickly became the favorite of many fish enthusiasts.

In fact, they are among the first fish species that got imported from Africa. They are available for the wider public since 1958. In the lake, they got accustomed to living in the deep, with plenty of rocks around them. This species got its name after its appearance, as Auratus means Golden.

Its other popular names are Rockfish and Mbuna. The Auratus Cichlid is well-know of its aggressive temperament. They are not afraid of fish even twice as big as them.

Auratus Cichlid Tank Requirements

If you want to keep an Auratus Cichlid at home, then you need to buy a tank between 55 to 75 gallons of size. However, in case you want to keep more males instead of a single one, then a 125-gallon tank is recommended.

Now as we mentioned, this species is living in a rocky environment out in nature. This is what you should replicate at home by adding rocky caves and rocks of various sizes. When it comes to the substrate, it should be something small-grained such as crushed coral or fine sand.

Of course, the Auratus Cichlid will be quite territorial with its particularly aggressive nature. Therefore, it requires plenty of space to be available for swimming.

Keeping this species at home is not recommended for beginners either way, so our advice to you is to start with only one male Auratus Cichlid.

A rocky aquarium with some decorative live plants would look awesome, you might think. And you are not mistaken either but unfortunately, this cichlid destroys all the live plants he runs into.

Arrange the rocks in a way that provides plenty of escape routes and hiding places for your cichlid.

Auratus Cichlid Water Conditions

We want to emphasize right away that the Auratus Cichlid will require you to change the water rather frequently. Not only that, but you should use high-quality filtration systems as well in order to keep the water clean. Although they are sensitive to water pollution, otherwise they are quite hardy fish.

By keeping the temperature between 72 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit and the pH between 7.5 to 8.5, you can keep your Auratus Cichlid healthy and comfortable.

Out in the wild, they got used to hard alkaline water so that’s what they prefer in the aquarium too. This means a water hardness of 10 to 15 dGH.

Auratus Cichlid Diet and Feeding

The main meal of the Auratus Cichlid should be algae. To be more specific, it is best to feed them spirulina in the form of flake food.

You can get a package of this from pretty much any pet store. Since they are omnivores, they can eat meat-based foods as well.

Besides algae, they are more than eager to eat freeze dried foods, vegetables, pellets and plants. One thing you should keep in mind is to avoid live foods at all costs.

They can cause bloating, which might sound harmless but it can kill your fish if you are not careful.

Prepare them some frozen brine shrimp, bloodworms or ghost shrimp instead. Keeping them on a vitamin rich diet is the best way to go about it.

It is enough to feed the Auratus Cichlid twice each day. Give them the amount of food that they can eat in 2 or 3 minutes.

When it comes to their diet, variety is key. Besides flakes and pellets, it is important to add some freeze-dried foods and vegetables to the mix occasionally.

You can even prepare some blanched spinach, zucchini or cucumber at home.

Don’t feel generous when giving them meaty food, as that should be a smaller.

A great way to reduce their aggression is to feed them smaller amounts. In this case, you should feed them 5-6 times a day.

Auratus Cichlid Tank Mates

Our recommendation is to keep the Auratus Cichlid in a single-species aquarium and keep only one male. Since they are very aggressive, this is the best way to handle them. If you want to take it to the next level, then there are some safe tank mate alternatives.

The rule of thumb is to keep some additional Malawi species together with them that have different coloration and markings. Auratus Cichlids tend to bully tank mates that look similar to them.

You can set up a pretty exciting community tank with Mbuna and African Cichlids. The only exception is the Synodontis Catfish which gets along quite well with them.

The most popular suggestions include Snow White, Red Zebra, Kenyi, Electric Yellow Lab, Cobalt Blue, Demasoni Cichlids and Zebra Obliqudens.

In general, you should look for fish that are from the same area, which is Lake Malawi. However, none of them will guarantee no aggression in your aquarium.

You will need to monitor your fish from time to time and maybe even rearrange your aquarium decor to make them less frustrated.

In the end, some of these fish might even turn out to be overly aggressive despite your best efforts.

In this case, you should place them in a separate tank. Since their level of aggression depends on so many different factors, it is very hard to keep any of these together.

Your best shot is always to set up a fish tank with only Auratus Cichlids.

Auratus Cichlid Breeding

This is probably the easiest part. Pretty much all mouth-brooder fish are easy to breed. They simply incubate their eggs in their mouth sacks so that there is no way they can get hurt.

Even if you have a well-populated community tank at home, your Auratus Cichlid is still going to raise their fry successfully.

The fertilization process is very simple. The female approaches the male as she notices the egg-like spots on his anal fin. This makes her think there are some eggs to brood.

Then, when she tries to gather them, she gets fertilized with the sperm that gets released by those spots.

This happens after the female lays the eggs – usually in a rock crevice – and collects them for brooding. Thus, when the sperm enters her mouth, all those eggs get fertilized.

During the incubation period, the female won’t eat. This goes on for approximately 25 days, which is when the Auratus younglings leave her mouth and join the community.

The fry is rather small, being only 1/3 inches in length on the first few days.

From the time when their mother sets them free, they will eat everything you feed them. It is going to be very easy to take care of them by feeding them and keeping the water conditions consistent.

You will see them grow day by day. Just make sure to have a plan in advance for the time when they reach adulthood.

Things can get complicated when those adults start to get territorial with others. You will need to buy a bigger tank or to place them in a separate one in order to reduce tension.


That is all you need to know about the Auratus Cichlid. You can set up an exciting community aquarium just by populating it with fish that live in Lake Malawi out in the wild.

The only thing that can make things complicated is their aggressive temperament.

This is why we don’t recommend them for beginner fish keepers. If you consider this a challenge, then you can try it out yourself by using the information you can find in our article.

As you can see, the tank setup, their diet and the whole breeding process are rather straightforward.

If you do it the right way, you can set up a fish tank that will bring you a lot of joy for years. Are you ready?

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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