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Maximum size : 13 cm

Golden Mbuna Cichlid - Melanochromis auratus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Golden Mbuna Cichlids(Melanochromis auratus) is a stunning addition to any aquarium. However, these fish are not recommended for beginner aquarists due to their aggressive and territorial nature. In fact, many amateur fish keepers purchase Golden Mbunas only to find that they attack and kill their other aquarium inhabitants. If you are up for the challenge of maintaining these fascinating fish, you will need to provide them with plenty of hiding places in a minimum 225-litre aquarium for one male and several females or a group of females. These Cichlids can grow up to 11 cm in length, making sufficient space a must for their well-being. As males of this species are intolerant of other males or fish that share their appearance, keeping them in a species-specific aquarium is best. To distract them, adding fast-moving dither fish like Rainbowfish can help redirect their aggression toward other species. Golden Mbuna Cichlids have elongated bodies, rounded snouts, and narrow mouths with closely spaced incisor-like teeth, which they use for scraping algae from rocks. The males have a golden to light yellow back, a dark body, and a yellow dorsal fin with black specks forming an almost horizontal line. A thin yellow line outlined in neon blue runs horizontally down the body's centre, ending at the caudal fin, which is black with a yellow fringe. The pelvic and anal fins are dark with a neon blue edge. Females, on the other hand, are golden with a black dorsal fin edged in gold. Their backs are black, and the rest of their bodies are golden. The caudal fin is trimmed with a whiteish-blue line running horizontally through the middle of the body, and they have a white tail fin with black spots on the upper part and a golden tail fin on the bottom. The rest of the fins are also golden. Maintaining Golden Mbuna Cichlids requires appropriate tankmates, regular water changes, and a carefully set-up aquarium. But, with their stunning appearance and unique behaviour, these fish are well worth the effort for experienced aquarists.

Golden Mbuna Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

In Golden Mbuna Cichlids, distinguishing between males and females is a straightforward task. The two sexes exhibit strikingly different colourations, with males displaying neon blue and gold stripes over a brownish-black body, while females have neon blue and black stripes on a golden base. Furthermore, males tend to be larger than females, providing another useful point of differentiation.\r\n

Quick Facts

Scientific NameMelanochromis auratus
Year Described1897
Other NamesAuratus Cichlid, Malawi Golden Cichlid, Golden Cichlid
Max Size13 cm
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

Natural habitat

Endemic to the beautiful waters of Lake Malawi in Africa, Golden Mbuna Cichlids are a common sight along the lake's western coast from Crocodile Rocks to Jalo Reef. These vibrant fish can also be found throughout the lake's southern end and up the eastern coast towards Nkhomo Reef. Their preferred habitat is rocky areas along the reefs, shorelines, and islands, where they can dart and hide among the crevices and rocks.
 Lake Malawi - Malawi
Malawi Flag

How to breed the Golden Mbuna Cichlid

Golden Mbuna Cichlids exhibit polygamous behaviour in the wild, with males forming a matriarchal family by attending to several females. Similarly, in captivity, these Mbunas will spawn in the male's territory. During spawning, the males will undergo a dramatic change in colour, intensifying their original colouration. Females typically lay around 40 eggs and take them into their mouths before fertilisation. The female then stimulates the male to discharge sperm by mouthing his egg spots on his anal fin. She then inhales the milt cloud, fertilising the eggs in her mouth. After approximately 21 days, the eggs will hatch, and the female will keep the young in her mouth until she releases the free-swimming fry. You can tell if a female is carrying eggs as her mouth will be distended, but care must be taken when moving the fish to avoid predation or early brood release. During this period, the female will not eat. For the first week or two following their release, the female will continue to guard her brood, taking them into her mouth if she feels threatened. Young Mbunas can easily survive in aquariums with plenty of hiding places until they grow too big to be eaten. Newly hatched fry can be fed finely powdered dry foods and brine shrimp nauplii. They will reach around 2.5 cm in length within three months, and the males will develop their characteristic colours between six and nine months of age.

Diet & feeding

Golden Mbuna Cichlids have an omnivorous diet, but in their natural habitat, they tend to consume mostly plant matter. However, it's important to note that they may eat the plants in your aquarium. To ensure their health and vibrant colours, it's best to provide them with small, frequent meals of high-quality dry, fresh, and frozen foods that contain vegetable matter. Spirulina is an excellent choice for their staple diet, while beef heart should be avoided as it can cause digestive issues. Feeding your fish small amounts several times a day is recommended, only providing what they can eat in 3 minutes or less. This approach helps maintain higher water quality for an extended period, promoting a healthier aquarium environment.

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