Comprehensive Guide to Midas Cichlid: Size, Care, Tank Mates, and Lifespan

Author: Hasty Fish

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Midas Cichlid

Like any other aquarium species, Midas Cichlids require specific conditions and care to thrive.

Their vibrant colors, intriguing behaviors, and interactive nature are only part of the package. To unlock their full potential and ensure their well-being, it’s crucial to understand their needs – from diet and tank conditions to social interactions and health management.

This guide is your go-to resource for understanding and caring for Midas Cichlids, allowing you to create an environment where they can truly flourish.

Midas Cichlid Stats
OriginCentral America
Lifespan10-12 years
TemperamentHighly Aggressive
Size10-14 inches
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons
Ease of CareHard
Water Temperature72°F to 82°F (22-28°C)
Water Hardness10 to 20 dGH

Brief Overview of Midas Cichlid

The Midas Cichlid, scientifically known as Amphilophus citrinellus, is a fascinating freshwater fish renowned for its striking coloration and feisty personality. Originating from the warm waters of Central America, particularly Nicaragua and Costa Rica, this fish species has become a popular choice among aquarium hobbyists worldwide.

Fun Fact: Midas cichlids are closely related to Red Devil cichlids, with whom they share many similarities, which in fact, are often confused with each other.

The Midas Cichlid’s Origin & Natural Habitat

The Midas Cichlid was officially classified by Gunther in 1864. This fascinating species graces the waters of Central America, particularly along the Atlantic slope.

A significant population of Midas Cichlids can be spotted across several lakes in Costa Rica and Nicaragua, with Lake Apoyo, Masaya, Nicaragua, and Managua among their top habitats.

Until the middle of the 1980s, over 100 species were categorized under the genus Cichlasoma. However, subsequent scientific understanding decided these species didn’t suit that genus, prompting their move to other genera.

Midas Cichlids primarily reside in placid, slow-moving waters at depths ranging from 3 to 114 feet, and they typically seek areas enriched with rocky formations and tree roots.


The Midas Cichlid is a hardy fish with a respectable lifespan. With proper care, they can live up to 10-12 years, although some have been known to live even longer.

Their longevity is a testament to their resilience but also a commitment to their caretakers, who should be prepared for over a decade of care.

Appearance, Colors, & Markings

In the wild, these fish exhibit a predominantly dark brown, gray, or near-black body marked with six dark bars and a substantial black blotch on the side. Interestingly, a yellow variant also naturally exists.

When a wild Midas Cichlid finds its way into an aquarium, it tends to shed this natural barred pattern and usually displays more solid coloring.

In captivity, Midas Cichlids showcase an exciting array of colors. The spectrum of color morphs includes all yellow, all white, white and orange, piebald, and even orange.

The most frequently encountered color variant is a creamy yellow to orange fish, which may display blotches. A recently developed strain of Midas retains the original bars of wild specimens, named “Redhead Barred Midas.”

Like all cichlids and certain saltwater species like parrotfish, Midas Cichlids possess a highly-developed pharyngeal set of teeth in their throat, besides their regular dental set.

They are also armed with spiny rays in the posterior part of their anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to deter potential predators. The front parts of these fins are soft, aiding in precision positioning and effortless water movements rather than speedy swimming.

Uniquely, they have a single nostril on each side, unlike most fish that have two pairs. This singular nostril is used to “smell” the water by sucking it in and expelling it after a brief sample period, a feature shared with saltwater damselfish.

Size & Growth Rate

Midas Cichlids are known for their large size, averaging 10 to 14 inches long when fully mature.

Their growth speed is equally remarkable, particularly during their early life stage. They can gain up to 1 inch per month until they reach approximately 7 inches. Following this phase, their growth rate significantly reduces to about half an inch per month or less.

Note, though, that both their final size and growth rate are dictated heavily by environmental conditions. When kept in a small aquarium, they can become stunted and never reach their full potential.

Midas Cichlid Care

Midas Cichlid Tank Setup

While Midas Cichlids are hardy fish and can adjust to various water conditions, they demand specific attention and care for them to truly flourish. Here is your quintessential guide to ensuring their wellness and longevity.

1. Optimum Tank Size

One common question for potential owners is, “What is the ideal space for a fully matured, 15-inch Midas Cichlid?” The answer lies in an aquarium size of no less than 55 gallons for a single fish.

If you aspire to accommodate a breeding duo, consider upgrading to an aquarium of at least 125 gallons. For a tank hosting several large fish, aim for a 4′ long tank that can hold 200 gallons or more.

Remember, Midas Cichlids are active swimmers requiring plenty of room to roam. In restrictive tanks, these fish will quickly outgrow the limited space as they mature.

2. Ideal Water Parameters

A critical aspect of Midas Cichlid care involves ensuring optimal water conditions. Although a minor degree of flexibility exists, adhering to the following parameters is pivotal to preventing health complications and growth issues:

  • Water temperature: 72°F to 82°F (22-28°C)
  • Water hardness: 10 to 20 dGH
  • pH level: 6.5 to 8.0

Regular aquarium maintenance is crucial to your Midas Cichlid’s health. Weekly water changes, about 25 to 30%, help maintain water quality, eliminate waste materials, and regulate the levels of ammonia and nitrates.

3. What To Put In Their Tank

Designing an ideal Midas Cichlid aquarium requires meticulous planning. These fish are notorious for rearranging their surroundings, which, without careful planning, can lead to a chaotic environment and impact your aquarium’s aesthetics.

Considering these fish’s inherent digging habits, opt for a fine sand substrate, as gravel or rough substrates may lead to potential harm.

Generally, you’ll want to avoid incorporating aquatic plants in a Midas Cichlid tank. The reason is that they are infamous for dismantling any plant life within their reach, often uprooting aquatic flora during their enthusiastic digging sessions.

Instead, offer abundant hiding spaces using rocks and wood. Ensure to anchor rocks securely within the substrate to prevent accidental toppling. For smaller rocks, consider using fish-safe glue to affix them to the tank.

When it comes to filtration, it’s a good idea to employ a dual filtration setup using a traditional canister filter and a sump. Also, as these fish thrive in highly oxygenated water, consider adding airstones to your aquarium setup.

Finally, ensure to shield all exposed equipment to prevent damage to either the equipment or the fish and have a tightly fitted lid to deter these energetic creatures from leaping out of the tank.

4. Lighting

Midas Cichlids have modest lighting requirements, favoring low to medium-intensity lights that replicate their natural habitats.

On average, Midas Cichlids should receive 8 to 10 hours of full-spectrum light each day. Extended light exposure may stress these fish, potentially triggering increased aggression. Similar reactions can occur under excessively bright lighting.

5. Common Midas Cichlid Diseases: What To Look Out For

Like any freshwater fish, Midas Cichlids are susceptible to infections and other diseases, especially under poor water quality and oxygenation conditions.

One of the most common ones is Ich, treatable by increasing the tank temperature to 86°F (30°C) for three days. If ineffective, copper-based treatments, carefully managed to maintain proper levels, can be introduced.

Large cichlids, including the Midas, are also prone to the infamous ‘Hole-in-the-Head’ disease (HLLE – Head and Lateral Line Disease), which manifests as pits or cavities on the head and face. The condition is associated with poor diet, inadequate water changes, or over-filtration with chemical media like activated carbon. Treatment often involves dietary improvements and specific medications.

Apart from that, Midas Cichlids are prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial diseases.

Understanding these common tank diseases is vital, as early detection and treatment can make a significant difference.

Also, any addition to your aquarium can introduce diseases. Not just fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor harmful bacteria and chemicals. Therefore, ensure to clean or quarantine anything before adding it to an established tank.

Food & Diet

Midas cichlids, in their natural environment, are opportunistic feeders consuming aquatic insects, insect larvae, invertebrates, plant material, occasionally smaller fish, and other benthic creatures. Being omnivores, these fish are far from picky eaters and display impressive dietary adaptability.

When housed in an aquarium, it’s critical to provide these fish with a balanced diet. A mix of high-quality cichlid pellets, spirulina-based foods, and occasional live and frozen treats makes up the ideal diet for these fish. And to prevent common ailments like the Hole in the Head disease frequently seen in large cichlids, you’ll also want to add vegetable-based foods such as lettuce or blanched cucumber to their meals.

As for the feeding regimen, offering 2 to 5 small pinches of food per day is best. Also, make sure to spread out feedings several times a day instead of giving them one large portion once a day. This helps keep the water clean and prevents excess waste from building up.

And as always, avoid overfeeding. A good rule of thumb is to provide a quantity they can finish within 5 minutes.

Behavior & Temperament

One of the significant challenges of caring for Midas cichlids is their assertive behavior. Particularly, male fish are notorious for their heightened aggression and territorial nature. Unlike other territorial fish species that defend only their immediate surroundings, Midas cichlids take it a notch higher, often guarding areas up to 4 feet around their nests.

When it comes to respecting territorial limits, Midas fish tend to deviate from the norms of other cichlid species. Dominant males frequently trespass into other fish’s territories, leading to potential violent encounters.

Despite certain measures to temper their aggression, controlling the behavior of dominant males remains challenging. Their large size often fuels their boldness, intimidating their tank mates continuously. Their aggression intensifies even more when they guard their young, reacting fiercely even when the owner approaches the aquarium.

Midas Cichlid Ideal Tank Mates

Midas Cichlid Tank Mates

Midas Cichlids, equipped with powerful jaws and sharp teeth, are capable of causing significant damage. Therefore, adopting a Midas Cichlid often implies a single-species tank. In fact, they’re typically kept alone due to their highly aggressive nature. While cohabitation with other species is possible, it demands strategic planning from an early stage.

Juvenile Midas Cichlids, when raised alongside their siblings, tend to be less aggressive. However, this camaraderie often diminishes as they mature, leading to territorial conflicts over shared space in the tank.

While a large, spacious tank might somewhat mitigate their hostility, it doesn’t ensure the safety of the other tank inhabitants. Many aquarists recount instances where Midas Cichlids have harmed or even killed their tank mates.

However, if you insist on establishing a community tank, potential tank mates could include Jaguar cichlids, Jack Dempsey cichlids, Red Devils, and Oscar fish. These species have a similar size and comparable temperament to the Midas Cichlids and are, therefore, capable of fending for themselves.

Breeding Midas Cichlids

Being cave spawners, Midas cichlids require specific arrangements such as slate, rock-formed caves, or flower pots for successful reproduction when they attain sexual maturity at about 6 to 7 inches.

The spawning ritual is fascinating, beginning with the two fish swimming in circles around each other. They slap each other’s sides using their tail fins while keeping their mouths wide open.

Subsequently, the female swims ahead of the male and brushes her side against the male’s nuchal hump. This is also the behavior the male reciprocates, contributing to the enlargement of their nuchal humps. This intricate mating dance can last anywhere between 2 weeks to 6 months before completion.

1. Safety Measures During the Breeding Process

During the spawning ritual, monitoring the male’s behavior is crucial, as it might display aggressive tendencies towards the female. In certain cases, installing a tank divider for the female’s protection might be necessary. You can create dividers with holes large enough for the female to traverse but too small for the male to provide the female with a safe haven.

Once the mating display is over, the fish will begin cleaning and digging down to the bottom of the tank, right to the glass base. At this point, it’s safe to remove the divider, though it’s essential to ensure the ritual has truly concluded and the female is out of harm’s way.

The female will then proceed to lay her eggs, and the male fertilizes as she deposits a few rows at a time.

2. Post-Spawning Care

The eggs typically hatch in about 2 to 5 days, and the parents will consume any unhatched eggs. You’ll then see the parent fish relocate the hatchlings to another gravel pit, and the fry will usually become free-swimming within 5 to 7 days.

Post-spawning, the male becomes increasingly protective, to the point of perceiving the female as a threat. At this stage, it may be necessary to reinstall the tank divider to safeguard the female.

If you opt to remove the fry from the tank, the male could become exceptionally distressed and attempt to spawn again with the female. However, the female won’t be ready for another mating cycle, potentially risking her life if not protected. Therefore, leaving the fry with the male is a good idea to ensure the female’s safety.

Differences Between Male & Female Midas Cichlids

Recognizing gender differences in Midas cichlids during their juvenile phase can be challenging. At this young age, males and females look remarkably similar. However, with maturity comes the onset of visible sexual dimorphism.

Males tend to outgrow females significantly, boasting elongated dorsal and anal fins and a pronounced nuchal hump on their heads. This nuchal hump is a distinctive feature of males in captivity, whereas, in the wild, it develops primarily during the spawning season.

On the other hand, female Midas cichlids are considerably smaller and display only a subtle hint of the nuchal hump.


I hope this comprehensive guide has shed light on the fascinating world of Midas Cichlids, providing you with the essential knowledge needed to care for these beautiful but assertive fish.

Whether it’s understanding their size and growth, diving into their care needs, exploring suitable tank mates, or getting to grips with their lifespan, each aspect plays a crucial role in ensuring a healthy and harmonious aquarium environment.

While the Midas Cichlids’ vibrant colors make them an attractive choice, they are not for the faint-hearted or the novice aquarist. Nevertheless, with proper care, a well-set-up tank, and an understanding of their unique behavior, they can be a rewarding addition to your aquarium.

Keep in mind the key points I’ve talked about – from feeding them a balanced diet, ensuring an appropriate tank size, and providing the right water parameters to understanding their aggression and effective breeding strategies. With a commitment to these aspects, you can enjoy the captivating presence of Midas Cichlids in your aquarium.

Lastly, let’s not forget that every Midas Cichlid is unique, and part of the journey is learning and adapting to your fish’s unique personality and behavior. With patience, understanding, and a pinch of enthusiasm, your journey with Midas Cichlids can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience.

FAQ About Midas Cichlid Amphilophus Citrinellus

Q1: What kind of diet do Midas Cichlids need?

A: These fish are omnivores and enjoy a balanced diet that includes both dry and live foods. They appreciate cichlid-friendly pellets, krill, earthworms, bloodworms, and spirulina-based foods.

Q2. Are Midas Cichlids aggressive?

A: Yes, particularly the males. They are known for their territorial behavior and can become highly aggressive, especially during breeding periods.

Q3. What kind of tank mates are suitable for Midas Cichlids?

A: Due to their aggressive nature, Midas Cichlids are best kept alone. However, if you’re determined to house them with other fish, ensure the tank mates are of similar size and have similar temperaments, such as Jaguar cichlids, Jack Dempsey cichlids, or Oscars.

Q4. Can you breed Midas Cichlids in captivity?

A: Yes, Midas Cichlids have been extensively bred in captivity. However, the male fish may display aggressive tendencies towards the female during spawning. Therefore, it might be necessary to use a tank divider for the female’s protection.

Q5. How can I distinguish between male and female Midas Cichlids?

A: Males tend to grow larger than females, have elongated dorsal and anal fins, and have a pronounced nuchal hump on their heads. Female Midas Cichlids are usually smaller and display only a subtle hint of the nuchal hump.

Q6: What kind of tank setup do Midas Cichlids need?

A: These fish require a spacious tank to accommodate their size and territorial behavior. A tank size of at least 55 gallons is recommended for a single fish. It’s also best to use fine sand substrate, and you’ll want to provide them with plenty of hiding spots.