Care Level: Easy
Live Plant Safe: No
General Description: The Auratus Cichlid is endemic to shallow rocky areas and reefs of Lake Malawi. One of the more aggressive African cichlids, Auratus may be referred to as a ‘mbuna’, which is a general term to characterize various Malawian cichlid species that share a similar body shape and belligerent temperament. Males are unmistakable for their dark black coloration coupled with bluish-white horizontal stripes and a pale dorsal fin while females, or immature males, are a solid pale yellow color with black horizontal stripes. Both male and female Auratus are extremely similar in appearance to male and female Chipokae (Melanchromis chipokae). Given the predatory nature of Chipokae however, their mouths are more noticeably pointed vs. the herbivorous algae-grazing mouths of Auratus that are rounder. Some color or patterning differences have been suggested between the species, but the individual level variation seen among both Chipokae and Auratus make these traits less reliable. Auratus are relatively easy to care for but their territorial nature requires them to be kept in an overcrowded tank with other like-temperamented heterospecific fish to spread out or reduce aggression, especially if you are trying to keep multiple Auratus together. It is not recommended to keep Auratus with other Melanochromis species, such as Electric Blue Johanni (M. johannii) or Chipokae (M. chipokae), because they will readily hybridize. An adult Auratus can reach a size of approximately 4″.
Diet Requirements: Auratus are primarily herbivorous and such foods should make up a large portion of their diet. Various high quality vegetable and spirulina based flake foods and sinking pellet foods are ideal. Frozen spirulina brine shrimp can be fed in moderation. Blanched vegetables are excellent options. Variety is the spice of life in order to maintain color, immune function and longevity of your fish. Auratus should not be fed a diet high in protein, and avoid beef heart altogether, as this disturbs their digestive system.
Care Requirements: An established minimum 55 gallon aquarium is ideal for a single or pair of Auratus. Several males will require more space and crowding of other Malawi cichlids. Biweekly water changes are encouraged to keep water parameters up to standard for African cichlid aquariums (Nitrates < 30 ppm). The aquarium should be aquascaped generously with stacked rocks to create many hiding spaces and caves, but some open swimming space should also be provided. A sandy or fine substrate is preferred and the aquarium needs to be well oxygenated. African cichlid specific substrates, or even marine Aragonite substrate, are great choices because they will buffer the pH and alkalinity to levels characteristic of Lake Malawi. Auratus will do well with other pugnacious Malawian cichlids; use caution or observe the addition of more “peaceful” species, such as peacocks. Recommended water conditions, 74-80° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.5.
Purchase Size: Small: 1-1/4” to 1-1/2”; Medium: 1-3/4” to 2-3/4”
Note: Your item may not look identical to the image provided due to variation within species. Purchase sizes are approximate.