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Gold Severum Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Gold Severum Cichlid Care Guide | Diet, Habitat, Breeding, Accessories

Credits: Matt Frahm on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Cichlids are infamous for their anger problems, and rightly so. They won’t think twice before beating up a tank mate for reasons only they can fathom. So, if I tell you there exists a cichlid that’s simply brilliant to look at, easy to care for, and only mildly aggressive, would you bet your money on it?

Meet gold severum cichlids – large and beautiful enough to be your tank’s centerpiece but not hostile to be in-house tank busters. 

Gold severum cichlids are low-maintenance, breed easily, and have a long lifespan – and these are the reasons they’ve been a mainstay in the aquarium hobby for decades now. 

Now, without further ado, let’s read up all the essential info you need to successfully raise gold severums. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Introduction

Credits: James Green on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Quick Facts On Gold Severum Cichlids 

NameGold severum cichlid 
Scientific Name Heros efasciatus 
Species Severus
Origin Amazon, Northern South America
Size 6-8 inches
Care Level Easy
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Diet Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size 55 gallons
Temperature 74-84° F (23.3 to 28.9° C)
pH Range6-6.5 

Gold Severum Lifespan 

On average, gold severum cichlids live for up to 5 years. Although, with proper care, some report they can hang on for around 10 years! 

What We Like About Gold Severum Cichlids 

  • Has beautiful coloration that gets intense as they mature 
  • Easy to care for and breeds readily in captivity 
  • Top contender to be your tank’s centerpiece 
  • Will eat food willingly from your hands 
  • Beginner-friendly, hardy fish 
  • Compatible with most species in a spacious tank 

Gold severums are purely the product of selective breeding – meaning they are not found in the wild. 

But they trace back their lineage to wild green severums that originally inhabit South American rivers like the Orinoco river basin and Negro river basin, and Venezuelan and Colombian drainages. 

Since these fish don’t appear in the wild, they’re not listed in the IUCN red list. 

Gold severum cichlids are ‘leucistic’ versions of regular severums (more on this later). So, if they were to survive in the wild, their bright golden coloration would have proved deadly for them – attracting predators of all kinds. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Appearance 

You can quickly identify a gold severum cichlid by looking at its unique coloration and compressed body. These fish are leucistic versions of their wild cousins. However, they’re often mistaken to be albinos. The distinction between leucism and albinism is that leucistic have reduced coloration in their body, but albinos have reduced melanin. 

Likewise, albinos also have pink eyes, but leucistic have regular-colored eyes. 

Don’t get dispirited because of gold severum’s reduced coloration – they are quite a vision in their golden yellow bodies.

The anal, pectoral, and pelvic fins are all yellow, while the dorsal fin and tail sport shades of white with beautiful yellow specks. The eyes are yellow as well.

Gold severum juveniles have a uniformly colored golden body. 

Their forefathers AKA their wild cousins, have greenish-brown bodies with a yellowish belly. They’ve been selectively bred in tanks to create turquoise, gold, green, and brown variants. 

For example, the deacon severum cichlid has a regal green color with vertical brown lines running their entire length. On the other hand, the most popular red-spotted golden severum has a warm gold base dotted with red speckles. 

Like all cichlids, these fish have a well-developed set of pharyngeal teeth in the throat, as well as regular teeth. And once again, like all cichlids, they have one nostril on each side as opposed to the 2 sets most fish have. 

Also, the ends of their anal, pelvic, pectoral, and dorsal fins feature spiny rays to deter predators. In contrast, the foreparts of these fins are soft and smooth to facilitate better movements underwater. Impressive! 

These fish look pretty similar to their distant cousins, discus – thanks to their stocky body shape and a laterally compressed oval frame. However, primary deviations from discus cichlids are in terms of size and color. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Size 

Gold severum cichlids can grow around 6-8 inches long. Therefore, the approximate purchase size is 1 inch and above. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Male VS Female 

Both male and female gold severum cichlids have almost similar coloration. So it can be pretty tricky to tell them apart at first glance. But usually, males are a tad bit bigger in size and have pointier fins. Likewise, females lack markings on the gill. 

And lastly, mature males, when fed a well-rounded diet, may develop a nuchal hump. 

Gold Severum Temperament 

Even though gold severums are on the larger side, they’re known to be a lot more peaceful. They have an amicable disposition going by a cichlid’s standards. However, the dark side of their personality does manifest during the breeding season. 

Even then, they will only resort to pushes and nudges – not engaging in intense jaw-locking behavior like most other cichlids. That being said, they do need plenty of space to swim. 

Also, they’re more tolerant of other species than those of their own. They’re tolerant of other severum species only if the tank has ample space for them to carry their ‘tasks’ without bumping on each other time and again. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Tankmates

Credits: James Green on Flickr under Creative Commons license

Gold severum cichlids should be kept only with other fish of the same size and temperament. 

Some suitable tankmates for gold severum cichlids include:

  • Flag cichlids
  • Pearl cichlids
  • Angelfish
  • Gouramis 
  • Silver dollars 
  • Loaches 
  • Tiger barbs 
  • Redtail black sharks 
  • Bristlenose plecos 
  • Hope catfish 
  • Porthole cichlid

Gold Severum And Yellow Lab Cichlid?

These two fish come from different corners of the world and have totally contrasting needs. For instance, the pH level for golden severums should clock in at 6-6.5, whereas yellow labs need alkaline water with a pH ranging around 7.2-8.8. 

Thus, although these two would go really well and complement each other in a community tank owing to their mellow personalities, it’s best not to raise them together in the same tank. 

Gold Severum And Jewel Cichlid?

Gold severums shouldn’t ideally be housed together with jewel cichlids. For starters, they come from entirely different environments. And although their pH needs slightly overlap with one another’s, it’s best to raise them separately due to the jewel cichlid’s aggressive nature. 

Gold Severum Cichlid Diet 

Gold severum cichlids are omnivores. And since they are born and bred in commercial settings, they can be easily raised on regular dry fish food like pellets and stick food. They will also appreciate occasional treats like mysis shrimp and bloodworms. 

Their diet should contain a good portion of blanched veggies. And since they thrive on a diet with high veggie content, you can give them spirulina algae wafers. 

To maintain their bright and vibrant coloration, you must feed them prepared food rich in carotenoids. 

Here’s a definitive list of food you can give your gold severum cichlid:

  • Flakes 
  • Pellets 
  • Bloodworms
  • Earthworms 
  • Mealworms 
  • Krill
  • Dried spirulina 
  • Brine shrimp 
  • Mysis 
  • Chopped prawn 
  • Marine crustacean
  • Mosquito larvae 
  • Peas 
  • Blanched zucchini 
  • Romaine lettuce 
  • Blanched squash

Don’t give food like beef, heart, or liver, which is super hard to digest and could lead to illness. 

How Often To Feed Gold Severum Cichlids?

Make sure to feed small amounts 3-4 times a day and avoid giving one big meal a day. This feeding style will help manage their aggression over food and keep the water cleaner for a more extended period. 

You can also fast your cichlid once every week as it’s reported to help them with digestion and metabolism. 

And if you’re up for some helpful information on creating an ideal diet for your cichlids, don’t forget to head over here

Gold Severum Cichlid Water Parameters 

Temperature74-84° F (23.3 to 28.9° C)
Breeding temperature 78.8-80.06° F (23.3-28.9° C)
pH range6-6.5
General hardness4-6 dGH
Nitrate level< 10 ppm
Phosphate level <0.05 ppm
Water movement Moderate
Water region Middle 

Caring for gold severum cichlids is easier compared to discus or African cichlids. As long as you have reliable filtering and heating mechanisms in place, coupled with frequent water changes, you’re good to go. 

Make sure the water is clean and soft to emulate the Amazonian water condition in which they thrive the best. 

Aim for 10-20% water change every week depending on the tank’s population. 

The water’s hardiness will naturally increase over time due to the decomposing organic matter, evaporation, and phosphate and nitrate build-up. So, don’t skip water changes. 

These fish do well in both freshwater or brackish freshwater tanks. And the water’s current movement should be slow to moderate. 

You must ensure the water isn’t brewing toxic chemicals, which is often the case in tanks with big fish and large bioload. For that, I rely on API Freshwater Master Kit, which is more accurate and offers more value for money than test strips. 

If you are interested, here’s the link:

To tackle algae blooming on panes, use a scraper or algae magnet. 

Lastly, remember, the tank should be well-oxygenated to enhance gold severum’s colors to their best extent. 

Minimum Tank Size For Gold Severum Cichlid 

Gold severums are big that need plenty of space to swim around. Thus, 55 gallons is the minimum tank size for these fish. And you will at least need 100 gallons or above for a breeding pair. 

For fry and juveniles, the minimum tank size is 20-30 gallons. However, since these fish grow quite large and fast, it’s wise to invest in a bigger tank in the first place. 

Substrate For Gold Severum Cichlid 

You can add fine sand or smooth gravel substrate for your severum cichlid. However, make sure to avoid big, rough gravels and rocks as these fish have a tendency to dig around, and anything rough can inflict injuries. 

Tank Decorations For Gold Severum Cichlid 

Align the decors in such a way that they facilitate ‘natural division’ of the territory. You can also create caves and alleyways for them to retreat into or guard using rocks and driftwood. 

Adding driftwood will help maintain the water’s acidity while giving your tank a tea-stained look quite similar to the Amazonian rivers. 

Gold severums love a planted tank – so make sure you add a couple of those too. Especially, add floating plants where they love to hang out. 

And if you add plants that grow on the substrate, make sure to anchor them well, as these fish love to dig around. Anubias and cryptocoryne are two popular options for gold severums. 

If you plan to keep artificial plants, don’t forget to check if they’re safe for aquariums. Also, avoid anything with sharp or jagged edges. 

And lastly, don’t forget to add plenty of flat, rounded rocks as females lay eggs on them. 

Top Equipment For Gold Severum Cichlid 

Since gold severums are big fish, they produce plenty of bioloads naturally. Thus, you mustn’t pinch pennies when buying a filtration system for your fish. And they definitely don’t do well with sudden temperature fluctuations – giving rise to the need for an efficient heating mechanism. 

Have a look at our thoroughly researched and handpicked choices of equipment for your gold severum cichlid.

Penn-Plax Cascade Canister Filter 

Top Features 

  • 5 large-capacity media baskets 
  • 360-degree rotating valves 
  • Filters 350 GPH 
  • Suitable for tanks up to 200 gallons 

Hygger 500 Watt Submersible Aquarium Heater 

Top Features

  • Rapid Heating 
  • External LED digital temperature controller 
  • 5-seconds warming 
  • Intelligent thermostat 
  • Anti-dry protection
  • Titanium Steel Material 

Breeding Gold Severum Cichlids 

Gold severums breed in the general manner of all American cichlids. Gold severums are open breeders like their wild cousins, and both parents will care for the fry. However, they go through an intricate process of selecting their partner. 

Your best bet would be to buy around 6-8 juveniles and leave them to their own devices. They will compete via wrestling and other strange antics to test each other’s strength before choosing a partner. The pairs should form within 6-8 months of purchase. 

Over time, one pair will rise to be dominant – and they will often push other fish away from their predetermined spot of mating. So, when you see a pair has formed, you should either move them to a new tank or others. 

The ideal breeding environment is characterized by softer, warmer, and more acidic water so the eggs can develop healthily. The temperature should clock in around 78.8-80.06° F (23.3-28.9° C). 

A bare tank with flat rocks, wood chunks, and airstone works the best. Also, add a heater and perform lots of water changes to encourage them to breed. 

Some believe feeding cricket encourages them to spawn. 

Once ready, the male will begin to develop dark and intense coloration. He will also chase around the female. Once she is wooed, they will lock lips and slap each other’s tails. 

The female will then proceed to lay eggs on the wood chunks or flat rocks. Depending on her age and size, she can lay up to 1000 eggs at a time! The male will then swiftly fertilize them. 

Both parents will fiercely guard the eggs. At this time, they’re entirely intolerant of intruders and curious onlookers. They will fan the eggs and often move them in a typical cichlid manner so they don’t develop fungus. 

The eggs will then hatch in about a week or so. 

How To Care For Gold Severum Fry?

When the eggs hatch, the fry are still in the pre-swimming larval stage. At this point, the parents will scoop them inside their mouth and release them when they’re free-swimming. The parents will also teach them to hunt. 

You can give the fry freshly hatched baby brine shrimp, micro worms, daphnia, and pulverized pellet or flake food.

The parents will attend to their fry’s needs and provide for them for around 6 weeks. 

Gold severums grow quite fast in their early, formative years. In little under 2 years, they’ll have reached their maximum size. 

Disease In Gold Severums 

Like most fish, gold severums are susceptible to skin flukes and parasitic infections. However, most diseases are preventable if you maintain water quality and feed nourishing meals at all times. Some common diseases in gold severums are ich, swim bladder disease, and HLLE. 


Gold severums are prone to ich like most freshwater species. Ich primarily occurs in the fins and skin, resulting in white spots that look like salt grains. It itches the fish, who then resorts to rubbing its body against rough surfaces – causing wounds and injuries. 

Your fish will also eventually lose appetite and display very odd hiding behavior. On top of that, ich is highly contagious! 

But thankfully, copper-based treatments can successfully work to eradicate it. You can couple this treatment with elevated temperatures for a few days for a more effective solution. 

If you want to find out what we use to treat ich on cichlids, click here!

Head And Lateral Line Erosion (HLLE)

Also known as the hole-in-the-head disease, HLLE is a deadly fungal infection that can swiftly kill your fish if timely treatment isn’t provided. 

It manifests as pits in the head and the face. And although it isn’t contagious, you should treat the infected fish separately in the quarantine tank. 

The most common reasons behind this are foul water conditions, chemical media with carbon, and suppressed immunity due to an impoverished diet. 

Luckily, you can reverse it by removing all activated carbon from the tank, conducting significant water changes, and using an anti-fungal treatment. 

Swim Bladder Disease 

As the moniker suggests, this disease is caused by injury to the fish’s swim bladder. This could be caused by physical trauma, malnutrition, or secondary and grave conditions like cancer and tuberculosis. 

The fish will have a hard time staying afloat and will swim in strange patterns. And it can be temporary or permanent. 

If it’s caused by dietary conditions, it can be reversed by feeding a healthy, fortified diet. If it’s due to an injury, a fish surgeon can help correct the buoyancy by placing a small stone in the swim bladder or partially removing it. 

Final Words: Gold Severum Cichlid Care Guide 

Gold severum cichlids are beautiful and hardy aquarium fish suitable for both beginners and seasoned hobbyists. They’re often known as poor man’s discus since these are available quite easily at low prices! 

But let me tell you, gold severums aren’t a downgrade from discus. They have their own unique personality and attractive appearance – capable of being your tank’s centerpiece in all departments. 

Recommended Readings!

Rope Fish With Cichlids? These Cichlids Can Live Together With Rope Fish

How Long Do Cichlids Hold Eggs? How To Tell If Eggs Are Fertilized? 

How Many Cichlids In A 40-Gallon Tank? Cichlid List For A 40-Gallon Tank

How Often To Feed Cichlids? How Long Can Cichlid Go Without Food?

Why Do Cichlids Shake? 4 Reasons You Must Know!

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