This is the photo of a 5 month old Melanochromis auratus born in my tank. What you see is the female coloration which the fish will keep till the age of 6 months. When adult males are present in the tank, young males will keep the female coloration much longer as a "camouflage" which will protect them from their father. A really beautiful species which is among the few giving females with more intense colors than males.
The species grows to 12 cm (even more in an aquarium) and is regarded among the most aggressive mbunas. It should be housed with species of equal or bigger size and of the same temperament. Keeping more than one male in a tank is almost impossible in tanks smaller than 150 cm (450 liters). Even then, all other males will be probably killed by the dominant one. Despite the presence of two females, my dominant female killed the submissive one in less than a month. Females are also territorial and intolerant of their own species and are extremely aggressive when carrying eggs. It is not unusual for a male M. auratus to kill one or more of the females. This is especially true in small tanks so I recommend you take the minimum tank size seriously into account if you plan to keep this fish.
It will eat almost anything offered. A good spirulina containing food should be given regularly. The fish (as with almost all mbuna) is mainly a vegetarian. It will graze the algae from the rocks of the tank and will also eat the soft edges of the plants. Its dietary needs are to be followed otherwise the fish may develop "malawi bloat" which is usually fatal. I recently donated all parents and kept their fry to "refresh" the tank. Many species (Haplochromis nyererei, Maylandia lombardoi) spawned immediately after the removal of the parents and managed to release the fry. Minimum tank size 150 cm / 450 liters.
Close-up shot: 100 ASA film, 50 mm lens, f/11, 1/60 sec, auto-bellows, Sunpack flash taped over the lens, shot from a distance of 9 cm. Hand-held camera (a manual Pentax MX)
See next page for close ups of adult fish