Lethrinops auritus

Lethrinops auritus, also known as the Golden sand-eater, is a peaceful cichlid from Lake Malawi. They feed on invertebrates from the sand. It is best to keep them in a species aquarium.

Lethrinops auritus

The species Lethrinops auritus was first described by Charles Tate Regan in 1922. The genus name Lethrinops can be divided into two parts: ‘Ops’ means ‘appearance’ and Lethrinus is a reference to the genus of seawater fish Lethrinus (Lethrinidae), which they somewhat resemble. Together they give the meaning that these species have the appearance of the genus Lethrinus. The species name auritus means ‘ears’, a reference to the black spot on the gill cover.

They can also be found commercially under the name Letrinops “Orange Cap”. Their common name is Golden Sand-eater.


Lethrinops auritus has a streamlined body typical of cichlids. Ze hebben een lange rugvin die doorloopt tot aan de staartvin, en een goed ontwikkelde anaalvin. The pectoral fins are relatively large, and the pelvic fins are long and pointed.

The color of Lethrinops auritus varies, but they are known for their attractive colors. Males often have a golden or orange color on their heads, which has earned them the nickname “orange cap”. The rest of the body may be bluish or silvery with iridescent scales. Females tend to be less colorful and have a more silvery or gray hue.

In the wild, males can reach a length of about 10 cm, while females remain slightly smaller, around 9 cm. In an aquarium, males can grow slightly larger, up to about 12 cm, while females remain around 9 cm.

Behavior and Temperament

Lethrinops auritus is a peaceful and tranquil cichlid. They are not aggressive and can live well with other peaceful species found in a similar environment. They are shy fish and can be skittish, especially if they feel threatened.

Life expectancy

In a well-maintained aquarium, they can live between 7 and 9 years, depending on the care and environment.


Lethrinops auritus is a fish species endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa, mainly in the southern part of the lake. They live in shallow, sheltered bays with sandy and muddy bottoms. Their habitat has few plants.


In the wild, Lethrinops auritus feeds mainly on small invertebrates that they find in the sandy bottom. They sift the sand through their mouths to find food particles.

In the aquarium, Lethrinops auritus is an easy eater and accepts almost all types of food. It is important to offer a varied diet rich in protein.

The aquarium

Lethrinops auritus needs an aquarium of at least 150 centimeters in length. It is a peaceful cichlid and is best kept with other peaceful species found in a similar environment. It is recommended to keep them in a “species aquarium”, which means that only this species is kept in the aquarium, but they can also live together with peaceful representatives of the Aulonocara group.

It is best to keep them in a harem where one male is kept with two or three females. In a larger species aquarium, a larger group can be kept with two or three males. Maintain a ratio of one male to two or three females.

The Aquarium

Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. Make sure that the sand is not sharp and use a grain size of approximately 0.4 to 0.8 millimeters. The fish search for food in the sand and sift it through their gills.

Make some shelters with rocks. Here the females can seek shelter when they breed or want to escape the male’s attention.

Water parameters

The temperature of the water may be between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. The pH may be above neutral with a pH of 7.5 to 8.5.

Breeding Lethrinops auritus

Breeding Lethrinops auritus is not always as easy as with other Malawi cichlids. They are somewhat stressful fish that do not breed when stressed. Hence the advice to keep them in a species aquarium.

When the male senses that a female is ready to lay eggs, his colors intensify. With widely spread fins and trembling movements, he tries to lure the female to a spot in the sand.

While circling each other, the female lays a few eggs in the sand. The male circles with her and fertilizes the eggs. The female continues to circle and takes the eggs into her mouth. This continues until all eggs have been laid and the female has taken the eggs in her mouth.

The eggs hatch after a few days. The female does not yet release the newly hatched fish. They still live on their egg yolk sac. Only after about 20 to 21 days are the young fish released.

The fry provide a tasty snack for the adults. If you want to keep more fry, you can remove the female on day 17 or 18 and place her in a breeding aquarium. Set up this aquarium with sand on the bottom and a hiding place for the female. Once the female has released the fry, place her back in the normal aquarium. The female does not eat the young fish for the first few hours. So you have enough time to remove the female and put her back with the male.

You can feed the young fish with artemia nauplii, crushed flake food and other small food.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Carsten Jensen GisselFacebook

Additional information






Haplochromis auritus

First described by

Charles Tate Regan

Breeding behaviour






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