Cichlids / Africa / Lake Malawi / Mbuna / Auratus

Auratus, Malawi Golden Cichlid
Melanochromis auratus

Synonyms: Pseudotropheus auratus
Physical description: Young individuals have females coloring which consists of a golden-yellow base color with three black bands. Each black band had small white stripes running parallel with it. The caudal fin is spotted and the anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are golden. When the male reaches two inches (5 cm), he begins to develop mature male colors. The female colors are reversed on the male, making the base body color black with yellow stripes. Sometimes the yellow stripes are turquoise or blue depending on the location where the fish may be found. The caudal fin is black with a few white stripes and the dorsal fin is yellow. The anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are black and have a white fringe.
Size/Length: Males to 5" (12 cm), Females to 4" (10 cm); some have reported fish up to 8" (20 cm)
Similar species: Young fish resemble the Golden Julie ( Julidochromis ornatus) from Lake Tanganyika. Similar Lake Malawi fish include the Johannii (M. johannii) and the Parallel-striped Mbuna ( M. parallelus).
Habitat: East Africa; caught along the rocky shores of Lake Malawi
S: all
Aquarium: 32" (80 cm) or 30 gallons (114 L) is sufficient for fish to 4" (10 cm) in length. Larger fish require at least a 40" (101 cm) tank. The tank should have a similar set-up to that of other Mbunas. See the Mbuna description.
Water chemistry: pH 7.5-9 (8.0), 10-25 dH (20), 72-81°F (22-27°C)
Social behavior: An aggressive, territorial, and intolerant fish. Provide a retreat for each fish. The Auratus is especially aggressive to its own and similar species. Keep one male with several females.
Suggested companions: Small Haplochromines, mbunas, Synodontis
FOOD: Algae; flake; live; snails, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, microorganisms, crustaceans, snails, Tubifex ; pellets; tablets; plant matter; vegetables; peas, lettuce, spinach; fruit.
Sexual differences: The males is larger, has more black coloring, and has yellow dummy-eggs on his anal fins. See "Physical Description."
Breeding techniques: The parents form a matriarchal family. Raise the water temperature to 79-81°F (26-27°C) to initiate spawning. Place at least 4 females with one male in a breeding tank. 10-30 eggs are laid and are immediately taken into the female's mouth. The male should be removed just after spawning is complete. The eggs are incubated there for three weeks, until they hatch. The fry remain in her mouth for another week and then leave, to feed on small crustaceans and other small live foods.
Breeding potential: 6. Breeding is fairly easy as long as the male does not kill the female is his aggressive spawning attempts.
Remarks: A pale blue variation is sometimes imported from the waters around the Likoma Islands in Lake Malawi. These fish are "Aufwuchs" feeders in nature. When disturbed, the male can undergo rapid color change, assuming the colors of the female.
Difficulty of care: 5. The Auratus is a hardy, but highly aggressive fish. Usually this problem can be solved by providing a cave or other structure for each fish, and by using non-similar species as companions.

By Rhett Butler   Mongabay.com