|Synonyms||Chromis auratus, Pseudotropheus auratus, Tilapia aurata|
|Distribution||Lake Malawi, Africa.|
|Sexual Dimorphism||Juveniles, females, and sub-dominant males are a golden colour. Mature males are larger and black/blue in colour.|
|Maximum Size||11cm (4.3")|
|Temperature||24-26 deg C (75-79 deg F)|
|Water Parameters||Hard, alkaline water essential. pH: 7.5-8.5, dH: up to 25 degrees.|
|Compatibility||Malawi cichlid tank only.|
|Lighting||No special requirements|
The Auratus cichlid is known only from the sediment-rich rocky habitat, at Jalo Reef to Crocodile Rocks. The aquarium should be at least 4ft long and aquascaped to emulate a rocky reef effect with plenty of caves/visual barriers and a sandy substrate. Décor such as ocean rock can be used to build sturdy structures which stretch from the base of the tank to near the surface of the water. These structures should be built with the purpose of creating many crevices for the fish to explore but constructed in such a way so as to keep the rocks stable if the fish start to dig around and underneath them. Although a substrate of coral sand or Aragonite is often recommended to help to keep the water hard and alkaline, Mbuna feel safer and show better colours over a darker substrate. The Aragonite or coral sand can always be placed into a mesh bag and kept inside the external filter for buffering purposes. Most rock-dwelling species are extremely aggressive and need to be kept under conditions of 'controlled-overcrowding' to prevent territorial disputes ending fatally - additional filtration may also be required to cope with a heavy bioload. The Auratus cichlid is a particularly belligerent example, and it is best to keep just one male in a harem situation with several females (keeping just one female with a male will result in continual harassment and death). This species can be kept successfully alongside other outgoing Mbuna that can hold their own, although it is best to avoid fish with a similar colour pattern. Not suitable for housing with peaceful fish. We recommend that Auratus cichlids are the last addition to an aquarium, as otherwise they can be extremely territorial when introducing new tankmates into what they perceive as their established domain (particularly the male fish). Also known as the Golden Mbuna. An albino variety is sometimes available.
Omnivorous. A good quality flake food can be offered along with appropriately sized granular foods specifically developed for Mbuna. An occasional treat of Mysis shrimp, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp, and mosquito larvae can be given, and vegetable matter such as cucumber, blanched spinach and romaine lettuce can be fed on a regular basis.
This maternal mouthbrooder has been bred in the home aquarium, but it is difficult and somewhat risky due to the highly aggressive nature of this species. It should be spawned in a species-only aquarium and in a harem situation with one male and at least 5 females in order to help dissipate aggression. Ensure there are plenty of visual barriers within the aquarium, as the male has been known to kill female fish that are not receptive to his advances. When ready to spawn, the colouration of the male will intensify and his aggression level will heighten further. He will choose and clean a spawning site, then display to the female fish until one accepts him. They will circle each other in a head to tail manner a number of times, until the female deposits her eggs. These are deposited just one or two at a time and after doing so, she immediately turns around and picks them up. At the same time, the male will rotate so that he is almost on his side, at the same time shaking and extending his anal fin, releasing his milt. The female sees the egg spots on the male’s anal fin and attempts to pick up those “eggs” whilst she is picking up the real ones that she deposited, and at the same time taking in milt. This is the method of fertilisation, and this ritual may go on for some hours. The eggs may be incubated for up to 25 days until they hatch and the resultant fry held for a further few days afterwards. Typical brood size for a good sized female would number between 20-40.