Name: Melanochromis auratus
Origin: Lake Malawi (Africa)
The Auratus is an aggressive cichlid which has an oval body. The females have several black horizontal stripes trimmed with white and basically has a golden colour - more prominent on its underside. The caudal and dorsal fins have patterning whilst the anal fin is gold. The males are generally blue. A very hardy fish, it can be mixed with other Lake Malawi cichlids in a large aquarium consisting of rocks - NO WOOD - wood makes the water acidic overtime and Lake Malawi has hard water. It likes algae. Auratus is a mouth brooder.
This is the "bad boy" of the Mbuna. They are medium sized mbuna, and need all the attention an african cichlid requires. A high pH and water hardness is recommended, although mine have spawned in 7.0 water. They are very agressive and take on much larger fish than themselves. I had a male with 4 females in my tank and after about 2 weeks only 2 females were left after his vicious attacks. Now he's alone without any females and doesn't seem to bother the other fish as long as they do not get too close. This fish is incredible to watch, as it diplays incredible colors and shows a lot of "attitude" in its swimming style (It even attacks my hand when I go to change the water). An interesting characteristic that these fish have is that when no males are present a female auratus takes on the male colors and character and dominates the rest.
I had one male addition of this kind & after 3 weeks it had killed one peacock and injured another, both much larger than the auratus. Needless to say I returned it to the supplier. I would not recommend this kind for mixed cichlid aquarium.
Auratus is one of the more popular Africans, which is not necessarily a good thing since department stores routinely stock this pretty little devil along side community tank fish like Angels and Gouramis. Considering that Auratus might pound for pound be the toughest African on the block, un-knowing beginners will suddenly find their community tank decimated by their new aquarium member that is often not much larger than a jumbo neon when purchased. I've found Auratus easy to keep, but not an enjoyable fish. They tend to be either racing up and down the side of the tank oblivious to their surroundings, or terrorizing other fish. The males become much more aggresive when their color begins to change from the beautiful yellow and often spend quite a bit of time at a drab brown rather than blue. A friend of mine kept a 10 cm female in a small, 20 liter tank after she did considerable damage to a 200 liter tank full of much larger American Cichlids. The guy was a little wierd because he'd show off the ferocious behaviour of his 10 cm Auratus by feeding her 13 cm Goldfish and an occasional piranha. This fish requires a BIG tank, with lots of swimming room and the typical assortment of dense rocks, so they can launch guerilla attacks on other African Cichlids.
I agree with the comments concerning the aggression level of this fish. I must add, however, I have introduced this fish in my 380 liter with various M. Africans with success. The chemistry? Good sized tank, feeding 4-5 times per day (what they consume within 2 min.) introduce at least 4 new fish at a time, a little overstocking, good quality water/rock/plants. Try it!
Female Auratus displays the brighter coloration. Yellow on the lower half of the body with black and white stripes on the upper half. Male coloration, especially during breeding, is almost a reversal of the female's colors. The lower half of the body is black while the top half is yellow and white striped. I didn't know this until quite recently so don't be alarmed if you purchase two beautiful auratus and then one "just happens" to turn a different color. It's normal and there is nothing to worry about.