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Midas Cichlid – Amphilophus citrinellus


Midas Cichlid - Amphilophus citrinellus

Cichlids are a very ancient and extensive classification of fishes dating back millions of years before, for example, dinosaurs. Cichlids probably originated around 550 million years ago (give or take a month or two 😀) and there are somewhere in the region of 2,000 to 3,000 different species, of which around 1,700 have been classified (at the time of writing).

Cichlids can make excellent community fish but you should take care because not all Cichlids are good community fish and may devastate an established aquarium, treating their tank mates as food, so before choosing a Cichlid, please ensure that you know whether or not your choice will be appropriate to your needs.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) should NOT be considered to be a community fish. It will co-exist with Corydoras, as is true of most species and, in a large enough aquarium, may coexist with other Central American Cichlids. Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is suitable for single-species aquariums. It makes an excellent parent although it can be extremely aggressive during breeding. 

Key Facts about Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Midas Cichlid
Scientific nameAmphilophus citrinellus
FamilyCichlidae
Originate fromCosta Rica and Nicaragua in Central America
Care requiredEasy to care for and very beautiful
TemperamentVery territorial, single-species fish
Colour & FormTall, oval body (can have huge nuchal humps) with very elegant finnage
LifespanUp to 15 years
Adult size12 to 14 inches – Male larger than female
DietOmnivorous – eats Daphnia, Bloodworm, Tubifex worms and pellet food in the aquarium.
Aquarium size72 inches in length or greater
Compatible withNothing
Avoid keeping withAny other species
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp72 – 82 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.0 to 8.0
Water hardness (dGH or dH)Up to 10 dGH

Origins of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is found in Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Central America. 

It is usually found in nature in lakes and ponds but is occasionally found in slow-flowing rivers. 

Basic Characteristics of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will grow to almost 14 inches in length (males) of up to 12 inches (females) in the aquarium. With this in mind, to keep a breeding pair of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) you will require a strong tank of at least 72 inches in length. In young fish, it is difficult (pretty impossible) to distinguish between the sexes so if you are purchasing young fish then buy half-a-dozen or more and you should have a mix of the sexes but please bear in mind that a group of what will become very aggressive fishes will require adequate space in which to live. When you find that two of the group have paired off then the remaining fish should be moved to a different tank, as the male can be particularly territorial (murderous) whilst breeding.

The lifespan of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is around fifteen years but this can vary enormously depending on tank conditions and general health.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) prefers neutral water, with a pH of 6.0 to 8.0 and a temperature range between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 10 dGH.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), being a Central American Cichlid, is a notoriously aggressive species and will become very territorial whilst mating and the male, in particular, will chase other fish to the other end of its territory (but is likely simply to kill them), should they come close – it will take on all-comers and almost invariably defeat them. Territorial behavior varies widely amongst individual fish, you may find that yours may chase other fish away whilst another may launch a full-on attack so you need to be particularly vigilant at spawning times.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), being an aggressive fish should ideally be kept in a single-species aquarium.

The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is both monogamous and biparental, so once a pair have formed they will stay together and are excellent parents. That said, it is recommended by experienced keepers of this breed that you always have a sturdy tank divider to hand, as the male may turn on his partner.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is a tank wrecker. Forget aquascaping, as Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will do its own aquascaping. Best advice is firstly to place some solid rocks on the bottom of the tank and than add a substrate of decent (pea-sized) gravel. You may also want to add some large, terracotta plant pots lain on their sides or upturned ithe the vottom removed. Your Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will rearrange the aquarium to its liking in a couple of hours and may well rearrange it again on a regular basis.

Breaking up sightlines helps to mitigate aggression somewhat but be aware the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) has a tremendous sense of territory and will claim the entire tank for itself. Any other fish in the tank will be cowering in the corner so move them to a more appropriate tank.

The physical appearance of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

  • The body of the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is a tall oval shape, slightly flattened at the bottom.
  • Overall, the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is gold in color but may well have significant patches of white on its body
  • The Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) (male and female) will probably develop a nuchal hump and, in aquarium specimens, these tend to be permanent. In the male the nuchal hump can be extremely large, as the videos below will illustrate.
  • The pectoral fins tend to have gold-colored rays but are clear (hyaline) between the rays
  • Behind the eyes of the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus), the body is grey but is distinctive in that it has around eight or nine columns of the black bands, fairly evenly spaced and running to the end of the caudal peduncle.
  • The dorsal fin is long and slender for the first half. Thereafter, the dorsal fin flares up and is extended at the rear, ending in a point. That of the adult male tends to be longer than that of the female. The fin may have gold rays (particularly at the front) and be clear (hyaline) in between the rays or may be gold throughout. 
  • The ventral fins have a thick, gold leading edge but may clear (hyaline) behind that. Like the dorsal fin, the outermost rays extend backward, beyond the fin as a whole.
  • The anal fin of the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) has a gold leading edge and can be more-or-less clear (hyaline) behind or may continue to be gold and this also extends to a point at the rear. The anal fin of the male tends to be longer to the rear than that of the female.
  • The caudal fin is fairly unremarkable, being that is is only slightly elongated. It is generally gold along the rays and clear (hyaline) between the rays..

The living environment for Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) enjoys being in and around rocks and caves. Only one adult pair should be kept in the aquarium unless the aquarium is of sufficient size to facilitate two (or more) territories.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will appreciate a soft substrate just as much as a gravel substrate, as they love to rummage around for food. You may well prefer the gravel substrate and Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is a renowned digger and will certainly churn up fine sand.

Note that Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is both monogamous and biparental so will generally make good parents for any brood that they are rearing. 

It is recommended that Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) are kept as a small shoal only until two of the adults have paired up, after which, the remainder of the shoal should be relocated to a different aquarium. The male, in particular, can be very territorial and will launch a physical attack on “trespassers” and even setting up the tank so that sightlines are broken up will not really mitigate the risks of the territorial behavior of a male preparing to breed. 

When purchasing Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) it is generally recommended to buy around six fish. It will be impossible to sex the fish when purchasing them as immature specimens but, in due course, they will find their own mate and are, from that point, generally both biparental. Remember that this fish will grow to up to fourteen inches in length so be certain that you have sufficient space in which to house them properly.

Make sure that you have a solid top on the aquarium – one that the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) cannot remove (or worse, break) because it is well known for jumping.

Overall, Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is the most attractive and unusual species if kept in the right environment. It has real personality but its environment needs to be managed.

The diet of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is primarily omnivorous. It loves live food, feeding on a range of invertebrates in nature. In the aquarium a diet of live or frozen Artemia, Bloodworm and Daphnia is recommended and Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will readily eat pelleted food and flake food. That said, they prefer to stay close to the bottom of the water column and browse the rocks and plants. For this reason, a fine substrate is recommended.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) can also be carnivorous and may eat small species of simply kill them and will happily take on and defeat species that are double its size.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is very big and, as a consequence, very messy so ensure really good (and well-built) filtration and regular water changes. In respect of heaters and any other objects in the tank, ensure that they are properly protected because Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) may elect to rearrange them. This applies to any tubes and especially to cables.

Sexual differences in Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

It is very difficult to distinguish the sex of the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) until it becomes an adolescent, at least. The adult male is larger than the adult female and can develop a much larger nuchal hump on its head whilst its dorsal and anal fins tend to be longer than those of the female. The male is also fuller-bodied when viewed from above or from the front.

Aquarium size for Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) 

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) should be one of at least 72 inches in length or more just for an adult pair. 

Plenty of rocks are advised for Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) because they will lay their eggs on rocks.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) – Videos

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) care guide video

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) breeding guide video

Are you keeping tropical fish as a hobbyist or as a breeder?

This is a question too often ignored in my humble opinion. If you are a breeder (either commercially or as a hobbyist who gives away young fish to other hobbyists) then you will need the resources to move fish into breeding tanks in order to maximize the yield of fry that will grow up either for sale or to give them away.

If you are keeping fish for the joy of observing them in something resembling a natural habitat then you may feel that it is appropriate to allow nature to take its course and, as and when different species breed, then many of the eggs (and surviving fry) will be eaten either by their parents or by other fish in your aquarium. This is the natural order of things because this is what will happen in nature. The fittest may well survive to reach adulthood.

Ultimately, the choice is yours to make.

How does Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) breed?

In total, the female Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) could lay 500 to 800 eggs (maybe as many as 1,000 during a single spawning. Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) will lay the eggs on a rock in the aquarium. The female will prepare the breeding area and then mating will occur.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) becomes sexually mature when they are six to seven inches in length.

The female will constantly fan the eggs to ensure that they are getting sufficient oxygen and she will eat any unfertilized eggs. In the meantime, the male will chase away (or kill) any and all threats to his territory.

Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) eggs will hatch in around two to three days, depending on water temperature and chemistry. The fry will become free-swimming around five to seven days later and the parents will take care of them. Don’t try to remove the fry, as the male will become extremely aggressive.

It is generally true that Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) make really good parents and will not prey on their own young. In general, the male will protect the territory whilst the female will tend to care for the eggs and fry but these roles are interchangeable.

The male will provide “overwatch” around the broader area, gently warding off potential predators.

Be warned, however, that the male may well become very aggressive towards the female so be sure to have the tank divider ready to insert if his aggression turns to his mate.

If Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) feels threatened, it will defend its brood.

Breeding tank for Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus)

In essence, your Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is kept in a single species tank, which is around 72 inches in length (at least) so its living tank is also its breeding tank.

It is recommended that the substrate consists gravel and there are substantial rocks in the floor of the tank.

Cichlids prefer to spawn where the water is flowing so a decent pump is required to synthesize that flow.

Feed up your Cichlids on bloodworm, which will sink to the bottom and burrow into the substrate. Your Cichlid will love rooting out the bloodworm and it can help to trigger spawning.

You may also wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or tubifex worms as an inducement to reproduction and live food will be very much appreciated. This will also tend to divert the attention of the Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) from preying on their own eggs and fry though cannibalism is not characteristic of Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus).

Reduce the water movement by turning down the pump once the eggs are laid – only regular aeration is now required. Keep the lights off (or very low) and the tank dark (or fairly dark)  because eggs and fry can be particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in two to three days depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around five to seven days more. 

Keep the tank more-or-less unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting. A collection of eggs is generally easy to spot, as they look like a collection of tiny, pearls.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac and remain fairly static but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. 

The main difficulty with Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) is the fact that it is something of a specialist species so having several hundred young Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) may give you a significant problem, simply because there may be no market for them, especially as experienced, specialist breeders are generally both few in number and well known amongst aquarists. I would caution against keeping Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) with a view to breeding them unless you intend to attempt to become a specialist breeder of the species.

Should your Midas Cichlid (Amphilophus citrinellus) have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Cichlids don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding tubifex, bloodworm, or mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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