Auratus Cichlid  (Melanochromis Auratus)


Know Your Fish

Auratus Cichlids are among the most aggressive African Cichlids I know off; they are native to Lake Malawi in Africa; these fish are also referred to as Mbuna, which means rock fish or rock dwelling fish in the local language of Tonga speaking people who reside by these lakes. Mbuna refers to a lot of rock dwelling fish from this area. In their natural habitat these fish graze on Aufwuchs which grows on rocky shores they inhabit.

In the fish keeping hobby Auratus is very common as they a hardy fish, they can tolerate a wider range of water parameters & easy to breed. Common names of these fish across the world are: Golden Mbuna, Golden Cichlid, Malawi Golden Cichlid, African Golden Mbuna; however, Auratus remains the most common name. Scientific name of this fish is Melanochromis auratus. This fish can grow up to 4 inches in size & live past 5 years with good care.

Auratus Cichlids are highly aggressive, hence keeping them in a community tank of the same species or mixed African Community Tank requires understanding this fish behavior & requirements thoroughly. Once you provide these fish & understand their behavior, keeping them is as easy as keeping any other fish in the hobby.


Auratus can live past 5 years in an aquarium.

Male Auratus Cichlid

Male Auratus are highly aggressive, they would not tolerate other males in the tank, at maturity they turn dark with dark blue and golden stripes on their body.

Female Auratus Cichlid

Females & Juvenile Auratus Cichlids display the same color, with golden yellow coloring at the bottom, black and silver stripes on top. In case of absence of a male in the tank, the dominant female would mimic the color's of the male Auratus. Female's are less aggressive compared with males, aggression maybe higher in smaller tanks.

Auratus Cichlid Aquarium Care

Auratus Cichlid being one of the most aggressive Mbuna, for them to excel in an aquarium understanding their behavior & providing them with the right tank size, tank decoration, male to female ratio & a good filtration system is important. They can be mixed with other Mbuna in a mixed African Cichlid Community Tank, if its a overcrowded African Cichlid Tank with lot of hiding spots & good filtration system, you may get away with 2 or more males in the same tank, if its not a crowded tank the dominant male will charge & chase the less dominant male until its harassed to death. I have observed other Mbuna charge, they let the weaker fish escape into a safe hiding spot out of its sight, however Auratus Male does not stop, once he spots another male in the tank he will continue to harass the weaker male. Below information will help further in setting up a aquarium for Auratus Cichlids.

Tank Size for Auratus Cichlid

Minimum 50 Gallon (190 liters) for a single male & 4 to 5 females; 100 Gallon or bigger for African Cichlid Community Tank; bigger the tank, the better!

Tank Decoration

Rockscape is the way to go for a Auratus Cichlid; these are rock dwelling fish hence called Mbuna which translates to rock fish. Sand can be used for tank bottom, this would also help cushioning the rocks, use the rocks in a way to create lot of hiding places, escape paths & caves. I used less heavier Porous rocks & placed them on top of each other creating gaps between them, this created escape paths & hiding places for less dominant fish & Juveniles. 

Plants don't work in Auratus aquarium, they would uproot plants, I tried to secure plants in clay pots with small rocks & pebbles on top, however they were uprooted from the pots. These fish dig nests they start this as juveniles & as adults this would be their territory to be claimed & will fight off any fish close to its comfort.

Temperature Range for Auratus

75–82 °F (24 to 27 °C)

pH Range for Auratus

7.5 to 8.5 is the pH range ( there should never be drastic change's in the pH level)  

Water hardness for Auratus

Moderately hard to hard, between 61 to 180 ppm.

What to Feed Auratus Cichlid

Feed them spirulina based fish food, algae wafers, quality pellets and flakes preferably spirulina based, they also like to munch on cucumber & zucchini, I never fed them blanched spinach but it should work. Meaty food should be minimal in their diet. Even though these fish are Omnivores meaty food like live fish, frozen meat should be avoided, too much meaty food may cause digestive disorder in this fish, in their natural habitat they feed on Aufwuchs which refers to the collection of small aquatic species like crustaceans and plants that adhere to open surfaces in aquatic environments.

Tank Mates for Auratus Cichlid

Golden Mbuna Cichlid or Auratus Cichlid can be kept with same species in an aquarium or with other fish who share the same water parameters. As Fry & Juveniles I raised Auratus with other Mbuna. I have included them in Mbuna & African cichlid community tank with Yellow Lab, Snow White Cichlid, Kenyi Cichlid, Zebra Obliqudens, Red Zebra Cichlid, Demasoni Cichlid etc. 

Chances are there would always be aggression in African Cichlid Tank, monitor aggression, if you do have a problem fish consider changing decoration or removing the fish from the tank, also consider returning the aggressive fish to a pet store near you.

Breeding Auratus Cichlids

Breeding Auratus Cichlids are relatively an easy task; providing them with the right conditions is all it takes. Mating ritual usually starts with the male digging a nest in the sand or guarding his favorite spot  from other fish in the tank. Any fish too close to the nest is chased away, only females are allowed during breeding, male starts circling the female & then female lays the eggs, depending on the size & age of the female she may lay anywhere between 10 to 40 eggs. Female collects the eggs in her mouth like other African mouth brooders from Lake Malawi, the stimulated male releases sperm which fertilize eggs in females mouth. Eggs are held in females mouth for up to 3 weeks before they are hatched, during this time the female does not eat, to avoid female getting weaker, within a weeks time that female is holding the eggs, most breeders stripe her off the eggs & hatch it in a fish breeding tumbler or incubator. However, if the eggs are held in the females mouth in 3 weeks time you would have a free swimming fry. Female would care for the fry for few days. It's  highly recommended to raise the fry in a separate grow-out tank.

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Auratus Cichlid Gallery

Mbuna, rock dwelling fish | aquakri
Mbuna, rock dwelling fish | aquakri

Mbuna translates to rock dwelling fish, in the picture Auratus cichlid is hiding between the rocks.

Golden Mbuna | www.aquakri
Golden Mbuna | www.aquakri

Auratus is also know as Golden Mbuna due to bright golden coloration on its body.

Auratus community aquarium | www
Auratus community aquarium | www

Auratus can be kept in a community tank with same species or a mixed african cichlid tank.

Juvenile Auratus sizing each other
Juvenile Auratus sizing each other

Juvenile Auratus are not as aggressive as fully grown, however they do keep testing who is stronger & dominant.

Albino Auratus Cichlid | www.aquakri
Albino Auratus Cichlid | www.aquakri

There are 3 types of Auratus I know off, the other 2 are color morphs of Golden Auratus, this is a Albino Variant & the other one is Neon Blue Auratus.

Auratus Cichlid In rockscape aquarium
Auratus Cichlid In rockscape aquarium

Best aquarium decoration for mbuna is a Rock-scape; using lighter Porous Rocks helps to create escape routes, hiding spots & caves.

Golden Mbuna Cichlid _ aquakri
Golden Mbuna Cichlid _ aquakri

Golden Mbuna Cichlid, Golden Malawi cichlid, Auratus cichlid & Melanochromis auratus are few names for Auratus.

Auratus Cichlid hiding in the rocks
Auratus Cichlid hiding in the rocks

Auratus also know as Golden Mbuna are rock dwelling fish, Mbuna translates to rock fish.

Female Auratus Cichlid _ www.aquakri
Female Auratus Cichlid _ www.aquakri

Female Auratus caught Yawning.