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Hi

We had four M. Auratus in our 4 foot mixed Malawi tank, and all was peaceful. One male, about 2-3 inches long, two females, about the same, and one female we've had for longer, who was over 4 inches long. Two days ago, the big female suddenly started to change colour, and seemed to be going into male colour pattern. A day later and he/she is terrorising the little male all around the tank. So I shifted some rocks about and netted the big fish and put him/her into a tank which only has a male Metriaclima Greshakei in it (also moved out of the big tank for bad behaviour, but that's another story) and they seem to have settled down. But his/her colours have gone back to the female stripes, with no trace of the darkening that was definitely there.

So. Two questions. First - is this a typical size for them to turn colour, because it seemed much bigger than when we usually see this happening. And secondly, are we definitely dealing with a male here? I think we must be, because females don't do the dark colour thing, and for some reason he's gone back to the less dominant colour, maybe because of the new tank mate, but it would be nice to have that confirmed.

Many thanks
 

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He may have been suppressing his coloration due to another fish having dominance over him. I'd guess something in the hierarchy changed and he decided it was his time to "shine."

I'd put money on the fact that it's a male, unless you've seen it hold before.
 

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Female Auratus are known to sometimes take on a false male color, when feeling dominant or when a mother is holding. This is not that unusual. Another reason why Auratus have a poor reputation... can be very aggressive and don't even look all that good when mature.
 

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yes, Auratus dominat females might take this pattern.

Mine were ugly, aggressive, very productive and a carefull mother.

The once i have seen, look at bit pale compared to males, and have very different coloration on esp the analfin, it seem more yellowish and without significant eggspot -

you can see one here, nursing:
 
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