Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)

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The Auratus Cichlid Melanochromis auratus has a gorgeous golden coloring with stripes of black and blue. However the males and females have opposite coloring. Females and juveniles are yellow with stripes of black and white on the part of the body. Males are just the reverse, having a black or dark brown body with the stripes being light blue or yellow.

Having opposite coloring makes keeping both sexes in the aquarium desirable, but while females are moderately aggressive with tankmates, males are highly intolerant. A solution if you are not planning on breeding, is to only have several females. Females are less aggressive and have the uncanning ability to change their coloring to appear as males if there is no male present, but without changing sex. The dominant female will usually assume the male coloration while the others will retain the female appearance. Males will very rarely change to female coloring.

This fish is one of the first cichlids introduced into the aquarium trade. It belongs to a group of cichlids called Mbunas. There are 13 genera full of very active and aggressive personalities of Mbuna cichlids. The name Mbuna comes from the Tonga people of Malawi and means “rockfish” or “rock-dwelling”. This name aptly describes the environment these fish live in as opposed to being open water swimmers like the Utaka cichlids and other “haps” . Some other common names this fish is known by are Golden Mbuna, Golden cichlid, Malawi Golden Cichlid, Golden Pseudotropheus, and of course Mbuna.

Auratus are considered moderately difficult in care and not suggested for beginners. These fish, especially the males, are territorial and aggressive. They are belligerent even beyond that found in other types of Mbuna’s. Often novice aquarists purchase this fish only to find it killing off the fish that are already in their tank.

These Golden Mbuna are medium sized cichlids, reach up to about 4 inches (11 cm) in length. Sometimes they will grow even larger in the aquarium. A minimum of 50 gallon tank is suggested for one male and several females, or for a group of just females. The males are totally intolerant of other males of their same species or other fish that look like them. There will need a lot of hiding places to successfully keep this fish. Some suggest addomg dither fish, such as the fast moving rainbow fish, to distract the male. This will help to keep it from focusing its attention and aggression on only one or two other fish.

These cichlids have an elongated body with a rounded snout and a somewhat narrow mouth. Their teeth are incisor-like and closely spaced, a design that works great for scraping aufwuchs and algae from the rocks in their natural habitat. They will extend this natural habit towards taking care of any algae that forms in the tank, thus minimizing the need for large plecostomus or other  types of algae eaters. These fish are also easy to breed in the home aquarium, but because they are very aggressive they do need a lot of room and lots of places for retreat.

 


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Video of Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)


Infographic of Auratus Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)


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