Max Size: 13cm

Golden Mbuna Cichlid (Melanochromis auratus)

Golden Mbuna Cichlids are considered reasonably tricky to care for and are not recommended for beginner aquarists. These fish, especially the males, are aggressive and territorial. Frequently, amateur aquarists purchase these fish only to find them killing off the fish that are already in their aquarium.

Golden Mbuna's are medium-sized cichlids that may reach up to about 11 cm in length, and sometimes they may grow more significant than that in the aquarium. The ideal aquarium for these fish would be one with a minimum size of 225 litres for one male and several females or a group of just females.

The males are utterly intolerant of other males of the same species or other fish that look similar to them. Therefore, you will need a lot of hiding places to keep this fish successfully. Some fishkeepers suggest that you add dither fish to the aquarium, such as fast-moving Rainbowfish, to distract the male. These will help keep the males from focusing their attention and aggression on only one or two other fish.

Golden Mbuna Cichlids are not considered a community fish and should ideally be kept in a species-specific aquarium. It would be better if you did not keep Golden Mbunas with any fish other than Cichlids, and you must be willing to provide a correctly set up aquarium with appropriate tank mates and be ready to do frequent water changes. These fish are susceptible to Malawi bloat and the specific diseases that affect all freshwater fish if the tank is not maintained properly.

Golden Mbuna Cichlids have elongated bodies, a rounded snout and a somewhat narrow mouth. Their teeth are incisor-like and closely spaced, which is excellent for scraping algae and aufwuchs from the rocks in their natural habitat.

Like all Cichlids, they have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, pectoral, dorsal and pelvic fins to help deter predators. The front part of their fins is soft and ideal for accurate positions and effortless movements in the water instead of fast swimming. Again like all Cichlids, they have one nostril on each side while other fish have two.

When it comes to the colour of these fish, males have a much different appearance than females. The male's back is a golden yellow to a light yellow, and the rest of the body is black. They have a slightly transparent yellow dorsal fin with black specks that form almost a horizontal line through the top. They also display a thin yellow line edged in neon blue that runs horizontally through the middle of the body, starting from behind the gill area to the caudal fin. In addition, their tail fin is black with yellow at the outside edge, and the pelvic and anal fins are black with neon blue trimming.

In contrast, the females are golden in colour with a black dorsal fin edged in gold. Their back is black, and the remainder of their body is golden. They display a whiteish-blue-trimmed black line that runs horizontally through the middle of the body from behind the eye to the caudal fin. Their tail fin is white with black spots on the upper part, and the bottom is golden. The rest of the fins are also golden.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameMelanochromis auratus
Other NamesAuratus Cichlid, Malawi Golden Cichlid, Golden Cichlid
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
DifficultyIntermediate - Advanced
Best kept asPairs
Lifespan3 - 5 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH7.5 - 8.5
GH10 - 25
73 - 82℉
22.8 - 27.8℃

Photos of the Golden Mbuna Cichlid

Golden Mbuna
Golden Mbuna
Golden Mbuna

Natural Habitat

Golden Mbuna Cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi in Africa. This species is commonly found across the entire western coast of the lake from Crocodile Rocks to Jalo Reef. You will also find them all along the lake's southern end and up the bottom end of the eastern coast through to Nkhomo Reef. The Cichlids inhabit the rocky areas of reefs, shorelines and islands.

Lake Malawi

What to feed the Golden Mbuna Cichlid

Golden Mbuna Cichlids are omnivores; however, they have a very herbivorous diet in nature; therefore, they may eat the plants in your aquarium.

It would be better if you fed your fish with small meals of dry, fresh and frozen fare full of vegetable matter several times a day. Spirulina is highly recommended as the staple food. These foods will help keep your Cichlids colours bright and your fish healthy. You should avoid foods like a beef heart as they can aid in digestive problems.

It is always better to feed them small amounts several times a day, only providing what they can consume within 3 minutes instead of one large feeding. That way, you will be able to keep your water quality higher for a more extended period.

How to sex the Golden Mbuna Cichlid

It is effortless to distinguish between male and female Golden Mbuna Cichlids. For a start, males and females are completely different colours, with the males displaying gold and neon blue stripes over a brownish-black body, whereas the females have black and neon blue stripes over a golden background. In addition, males are usually larger than females.

How to breed the Golden Mbuna Cichlid

Golden Mbuna Cichlids are polygamous in the wild, and the males attend several females forming a matriarchal family. These Cichlids have been bred in captivity and, like other Mbunas, will spawn in the male's territory.

When ready to spawn, the males will change their colour, becoming an intense enhancement of their original colouring.

Females will usually lay around 40 eggs and immediately take them into their mouths before they are fertilised. She will then excite the male to encourage him to discharge sperm by mouthing his egg spots on his anal fin. Next, she will inhale the cloud of milt, which then fertilises the eggs in her mouth.

Depending on the temperature in your aquarium, the eggs will hatch after about 21 days. The female will keep the young in her mouth until she is ready to release the free-swimming fry. You will be able to tell if she is carrying eggs as her mouth will be distended. However, if a female gets overly stressed, she may spit out the brood early or eat them, so you must take care if you decide to move the fish to avoid fry predation. The females will not eat during this period.

The female will continue to guard her brood for the first week or two following their release, taking them into her mouth if she feels threatened. As long as your aquarium has plenty of hiding places, your young will have an easier time surviving until they get too big to eat.

The newly hatched fry will be able to eat finely powdered dry foods and brine shrimp nauplii. They will reach about 2.5 cm in length within three months, and the males will develop their colours somewhere between 6 and 9 months.

Other Cichlids of interest

African Butterfly Cichlid(Anomalochromis thomasi)
Banded Apistogramma(Apistogramma bitaeniata)
Blue Panda Apistogramma(Apistogramma panduro, Apistogramma pandurini)
Bolivian Ram Cichlid(Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)
Checkerboard Cichlid(Dicrossus filamentosus)
Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid(Apistogramma cacatuoides)
View all Cichlids
Date Added: 02/07/2021 14:04:08 - Updated: 07/12/2021 13:27:31