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Main Index > Detailed Fish Profiles > The Cichlids > Auratus
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This page will give a completely detailed profile of the selected fish, from A to Z. The profiled fish will be chosen randomly by Badman, and will come from the complete genre of tropical fish. New profiles are added on a regular basis. If you would like to submit a profile for the site please contact me. Don't forget to let us know you experiences with this fish by filling out the

Lake Malawi



Female auratus

Melanochromis auratus

    One of the first of the African Cichlids to be imported the Auratus is still one of the most striking. Its belligerent and aggressive behavior makes it suitable only for the African Cichlid specialist.

Quick stats:

    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: 3 1/2 - 4 inches (11.0 cm)
    Tank: 30 inches +
    Strata: All, mostly middle
    PH: 7.5-8.5
    Hardness: Medium hard to hard
    Temperature: 72°- 79°F (22 to 26°C)


    Order: Perciformes
    Suborder: Percoidei
    Family: Cichlidae
    Genera: Melanochromis

Common name:

    Auratus, Malawi Golden cichlid

Image gallery:

    Additional species photographs


    Badmans' Forum


    Africa, The southwestern shore of lake Malawi

General Body Form:

    The Auratus has a general elongated appearance. The profile of the dorsal area is more curved in than the belly area. The anal and dorsal fins end in a round shape. They do not reach the tail area. The caudal fin is somewhat triangular in shape with a concave end. Females are smaller than males.


    The Auratus have two distinct coloration patterns differentiating the sexes. The females body is a golden yellow. She has a series of three Black to brown stripes running lengthwise down the body. These are fringed by White strips. The bands are separated with the Golden color of the body. The fins are also yellow in color. The upper part of the tail fin and the dorsal fin have black markings on them, with the tips being highlighted in Red. The male is completely different in color. His body is Black to brown in color. He has a Yellow stripe edged in white running the length of his body. The males fins are very dark Brown fringed in White. The top of his body is a mustard color which is followed up through the dorsal fin. The upper part of his tail fin has pale yellow spot. Looking at these fish you would not think that they are the same species. Another interesting aspect of the auratus is its ability to change sexes, in an environment devoid of males a female will switch sexes and become male. It has also been stated that the same is true of the males.


    Melanochromis auratus is an aggressive fish and intolerant of others in its territory. The set up should be a typical Lake Malawi biotope. Provide plenty of rockwork and caves with hard alkaline water with a pH of at least 7.5. The bottom substrate should be of a material that will aid in the pH buffering capabilities of the water. Good substrate choices could be Dolomite or crushed coral to aid in buffering the water. Tankmates should be from the same area and be able to fend off their attentions. Feeding is not difficult as they will accept all types of flake frozen or live. In their home territory they would graze of the algae covered rocks called Aufwuchs, so it is important to supplement with food containing spirulina and this should be given regularly.

    The rubble and rocky area of lake Malawi.

    Not really difficult, they are a typical African mouth-brooder incubating the eggs and protecting their fry in special sacs in the mouth. They are excellent and protective parents and have been known to raise young in crowded community set ups. During this brooding the female will not eat. The young fish will leave the mothers mouth after about twenty five days and be about 1/3 of an inch in length. They will accept all types of food and can grow quickly.


male auratus
Photo from "an illustrated encyclopedia of tropical fish" Howell books.
female auratus
Photo from "Cichlids from Eastern Africa" Tetra press.

Your comments:


Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.


From: Kaleb
Date: 03/29/2016
I absolutely love this fish very aggressive yes... But I have one in my 250 community cichlid tank which contains many species both African and South American along with two 6-7" catfish and it seems like the only one he doesn't like is a salvini cichlid who he chases relentlessly u till he's lost in the crowd so to speak. This tank contains fish ranging in sizes from 3.5" to about 16" I have several smaller convicts I have on peacocks some sort of tilapia some Venestus cichlids and I also have a fully grown jaguar cichlid all of which seem to be just fine together. I just bought another auritus along with an electric blue Acara a yellow fin acei and an Oscar as well once they grow out they will be joining the family in the large tank
From: Florin
Date: 04/09/2010
I got 5 Auratus in my 65 gallon tank and the aggression spreads around easier so that over all no fish is bullied excessively. Would recommend the same: not 2-3 fish but 5 if possible, so the dominant one will not kill the weaker. The fact that the fish changes sexes is not actually true. The fry have the female coloration, regardless of their sex. At around 2 inches or so, they become adults and the males change their colour, only if no other dominant male is present. If the father or other male is around, they will keep the fry-female coloration for a bit longer. When purchased and brought home, with no other male to intimidate them, they will become black. And that's all. No actual sex change.
From: Devin
Date: 12/22/2008
When my husband and I started losing fish one by one overnight that looked perfectly healthy before, we blamed our male auratus knowing he had just mated with the female...turns out it was clout because of our feeding habits and food choices for them. Now we have about 12 cichlids, a pleco, and a bottom feeder cohabitation. The male and female auratus have been breeding and we've kept 3 babies after the rest were inevitably consumed. The female is ready to spawn again within days. The male gets more aggressive as she gets closer, but with the variety of cichlids we have together in the tank, we haven't seen many problems of attacking or killing. We have auratus, elongatus, peacock, electric blue, frontosa, sydontis catfish, and pseudotropheus mixed. We have 5-inch fish with 2-inch fish and they all get along "swimmingly"! As long as you have tons of hiding places, lost of fish in the tank, and obviously good water quality, they shouldn't get out of control.
From: Tim
Date: 9/30/2008
I have kept this fish successfully in an 80 gallon tank for almost a year. And yielded many batches of fry. Since they are very aggressive,I would recommend they be kept in nothing less than a 55 gallon tank (48" long) but ideally a 75 gallon. These fish are not "pairing" fish but are harem breeders. Provide at least 4 females to one male. Can be kept with other African cichlids as long as they are in adequate numbers to prevent cross breeding and aggression. I have done this and had no deaths at all or serious aggression issues.
From: Cassie
Date: 9/15/2008
I would definitely NOT suggest these fish to "any aquarium." I am only 3 months into my endeavors with cichlids, but I don't consider myself to be unintelligent... except that I didn't research this breed before I got one! My auratus turned into killing machine and no matter what I tried to do to change things up in the tank, nothing helped. She was a hunter, killing and eating the other cichlids, regardless of their size. I took her back to the petshop yesterday, and have since been thoroughly enjoying the peacefulness of my remaining three fish.
From: Brenda
Date: 8/7/2007
I bought a female auratus and as soon as I got home it already started turning black. Overnight she developed more pronounced male colouration and signs. 2 days and it's now a "he". Aggression level is fairly mild for a male auratus.
From: Steve G.
Date: 9/19/2006
I have 4 of M. aurtaus in my community cichlid tank, and they get along well with all the other Cichlids (5 different kinds). I think the secret is that all the fish were placed in the tank at the same time, all were babies at that time, everyone grew up together, and everyone staked out territories. There's the odd fin nipping, and lots of chasing about, but no major damage to any of the other fish (so far!!!). I have had them all together for about 2 years now, and most have matured and are getting ready to breed, so the agression may come out now. My challenge now will be dealing with all the babies I'll have to find new homes for! The M. auratus is a beautiful fish, very active, and it's amazing that they can change their sex from male to female, and visa versa. When I bought them they all had the female markings, as they matured one became a male while the other 3 stayed female. I was sceptical at first about buying them because I had read that they are very agressive and should be in a species tank, but so far things have turned out fine. M. auratus is a beautiful fish now that they're full grown, and now I'm glad I bought them. I would recommend these fish to a person experienced in keeping cichlids. Water conditions seem to be very important to M. auratus, so I do frequent water changes (25% twice a week) and I find good filtration is necesary to keep them happy; all are in a 55 gal. tank and the filters circulate about 1000 gallons of water per hour. All in all, M. auratus has turned out to be an enjoyable addition to my tank.
From: JoeFish
Date: 12/25/2003
I currently have a breeding pair of Auratus along with roughly 16 other mbuna in a 75-gallon aquarium. They definitely hold their own but they have not gone as far as killing any of my other fish. My male is around 4 1/2" and my female is only about 3". It is a really great experience owning and/or breeding these fish. I recommend these fish to any aquarium owner, just be sure to keep the tank stocked with a community of other Africans and they shouldn't be the overwhelming aggressor's as many people claim to have trouble with.
From: Steve
Date: 05/08/2001
These unassuming, cute little guys killed off 8 of my African Cichlids. I was not aware of how aggressive they were. Be careful in how you keep these fish. They should really keep them with their own species
From: Matt
Date: 07/15/2001

one of my favorite fish. I have them in a 125 gallon community cichlid tank and they are showing they're colours beautifully. a word of advice... keep many females for each male in the tank they are very aggressive, both males and females.

From: Grubbavitch
Date: 03/03/2002

Beware of this feisty little critter! I had to get rid of my Auratus after he nibbled the feelers off my native Australian Eel-Tailed Catfish (Tandanus tandanus - awesome fish, everybody should have one). When he was done tormenting the poor defenseless catfish, he would usually fight with either my male Zebra, or my female Blue Acara who were both around 3 inches at the time. The Auratus was barely an inch long!

From: Brandon
Date: 06/08/2002
My auratus is very aggressive and does well in my 40 gallon community tank full of Africans she holds her ground very well up against my 4 inch electric yellow and 3 1/2 inch rusty

From: Brian
Date: 10/24/2002

I have a 30 gallon tank with only one female Auratus. When fed flake food she enjoys darting to the top and splashing water out. Aside from flakes, she loves small rosie reds. She also loves chasing my 2 other African Cichlids. If you enjoy fish on fish violence these are one of the meanest and Rosie Reds are only 5 for a dollar!





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