Julidochromis Ornatus (Golden Julie) Care Guide

julidochromis ornatus

Last updated on July 18th, 2022 at 09:53 am

Julidochromis ornatus, commonly known as the Golden Julie, is an incredibly popular fish in the aquarium trade due to its stunning coloration and docile nature.

Julidochromis ornatus is one of the easiest cichlids to keep in the home aquarium. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about these fish, from their ideal water conditions to their diet and even how to determine their gender.

Golden julie is one of many beautiful species in the Julidochromis genus native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa. While all Julidochromis are incredibly colorful and quite active, this particular species is one of the most popular due to its vibrant coloration and relatively hardy nature in captivity.

Learn more about how to care for the Golden Julie fish by reading our guide below!

Origin and description

julidochromis ornatus

Originating from Lake Malawi, Julidochromis ornatus is a freshwater fish native to Africa. They are schooling fish and need to be kept in a group of six or more individuals. Females are generally larger than males and can reach lengths of over 6 inches, while males generally remain smaller than 5 inches.

These fish are known for their bright golden coloration, making them popular with hobbyists. Their beautiful appearance makes them perfect candidates for a community aquarium or terrarium tank! This species prefers cooler water around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s important to keep an eye on your water temperature, as your fish may become ill if they get too cold. Additionally, keeping these African cichlids above 77 degrees Fahrenheit may stress out your pet and make it susceptible to disease. As long as you take care not to keep temperatures at either extreme, they will thrive without any special equipment or lighting requirements.

If you plan on adding any other species that have strict requirements (e.g., live plants), it might be best to upgrade your aquarium setup beforehand in order to ensure that all necessary conditions are met.

Species profile

julidochromis ornatus

Julidochromis ornatus, or golden julie for short, is a small species of cichlid that originates from Lake Tanganyika in Africa. The fish reaches a maximum length of approximately six inches and can be a little difficult to keep in captivity. You’ll need to create an aquarium with highly filtered water and have plenty of covers such as rocks or driftwood. Be sure to give your fish plenty of space and watch for fish aggression.

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Habitat and disitribution

Julidochromis ornatus inhabit Lake Tanganyika in Eastern Africa. This habitat contains a diverse range of temperatures, salinity levels, and dissolved oxygen levels. Juveniles inhabit shallow lagoons with grasses and algae.

Adults usually move onto deeper reefs. A Julidochromis ornatus has been recorded at an impressive 10cm long! It is also one of many fish that have color variations between males and females, with male Golden Julie’s having more golden colored stripes along their body to attract mates.

The Golden Julie requires minimal upkeep to thrive in captivity because its natural environment provides them with all they need to survive on their own inside aquariums.

Julidochromis ornatus size and weight

Juveniles are less than 2 inches long, and adults are 4 – 6 inches on average making them one of the smallest “julies.” They weigh between 1.8 and 2.2 ounces when fully grown.

Julidochromis ornatus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 70 litres, you want a tank that’s at least 3 times longer than your Julidochromis is long, and 2 times as wide. Large tanks are generally easier to maintain, as they tend to be better-stocked with algae-eater fish that clean up excess food and keep your water parameters in check. Tanks smaller than 70 litres will still work; however, they may not be able to accommodate all of these fish simultaneously.

Tank set up

The Golden Julie needs a large tank, with plenty of hiding spots. They do well in either a freshwater or brackish water setup. The parameters are as follows: pH 6 to 8, water temperature 72 to 77 degrees F, and dH range 1 to 10. This is not a community fish. These fish need lots of caves and crevices to hide in during feeding time, as they will be picked on by other fish if kept with them for too long.

There should be plenty of driftwood pieces, pipes, and rocks to provide sufficient space for these fish. The substrate should consist mostly of sand/gravel mixture at least an inch deep; it’s crucial that there’s a lot of room between pieces so these catfish can bury themselves when they sense danger approaching. Provide big clumps of Java Moss so they can flee into those patches when necessary.

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Julidochromis ornatus tank mates

This fish can be combined with other Julidochromis species, as well as Lake Tanganyika cichlids such as Cyprichromis sp. yellow and Lamprologus callipterus. They can also be combined with certain non-aggressive Mbuna such as Pseudotropheus crabro or Taeniolethrinops maculatus. Not compatible with non-Julidochromis conspecifics, or Lake Malawi mbuna.

Julidochromis ornatus breeding

julidochromis ornatus

In captivity, Julidochromis ornatus is commonly bred using a temperature range of 22 to 28 degrees Celsius. They spawn during the rainy season in their natural habitat and when they are bred in captivity.

Males will use their mouths to pull out any existing eggs from females as a way to prevent cannibalism. This method is called mouthbrooding and it allows males to care for fertilized eggs and newly hatched fry until they have reached an age where they can take care of themselves.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The Julidochromis ornatus, or Golden Julie is a very aggressive cichlid and should only be kept with other tank mates of equal size and temperament. They are okay to keep with tank mates that are not too much smaller or bigger than them.

If you have multiple fish, they should be put in at different times because if one female notices another she will become aggressive. If they were together before, you might see their colors change as well as fin shape.

Julidochromis ornatus care

julidochromis ornatus

Julidochromis ornatus is a relatively easy fish to care for but you must provide it with clean water and plenty of room. It comes from Lake Tanganyika, where there are two types: One lives in very deep waters and feeds on plankton, while another stays near the shore where it eats detritus.

Therefore, you should mimic their natural habitat. Many people recommend changing 25% of your goldies water every few days.

What they eat

Julidochromis ornatus are omnivores, and in their natural habitat, they consume all sorts of plant matter, including algae. As aquarium inhabitants, they enjoy a mixed diet composed of spirulina flakes, blanched vegetables, and vegetable-based pellets. They also love tubifex worms.

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Water parameters

Good water parameters are vital to your Golden Julie’s health and longevity. This fish needs very clean, hard water with a pH between 7.0 and 8.0 and a KH of at least 150 ppm, not including GH or hardness additives like Epsom salt or crushed coral, which tend to be added to soften tap water.

It is extremely sensitive to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate; all three must be kept in single-digit concentrations at all times!

They prefer clean, well-oxygenated water with a temperature of 76 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Gold Julies can tolerate a wide range of conditions; however, extremes can cause problems and are best avoided.

Optimal water conditions will keep them healthy and in peak coloration for many years to come.

Julidochromis ornatus lifespan

Julidochromis ornatus will live between 5 and 10 years with good care. However, they are considered to be a slow grower which means that, even though they can live longer than other dwarf cichlids, they don’t reach maturity until their 4th or 5th year of life. This is great news for people who like smaller fish but still want their aquarium fish to have a long lifespan.

Parasites and diseases

Aquarium fish are very susceptible to a wide variety of external and internal parasites. Some of these parasites include protozoa, worms, crustaceans, copepods, nematodes, and flatworms.

These pests are typically introduced into your aquarium by live foods, plants, and other aquarium inhabitants. Proper quarantine and treatment are essential when trying to rid your aquarium of these parasites. Quarantine any new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them into your tank.

It is important to treat ornate Julies for parasites and disease, especially early on in life. However, if you maintain a clean environment, you can avoid many common diseases. Fish are susceptible to parasites, bacterial infections, and protozoan infestations; all of which can cause death.

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To minimize stress and infection:

  • keep conditions consistent in terms of water quality and temperature; do not overstock your aquarium with fish;
  • feed your fish twice daily with a high-quality diet designed for omnivores or carnivores;
  • Quarantine new fish before adding them to an established tank; d
  • Do not house different species together;
  • Use an aquarium vacuum or gravel siphon regularly to remove uneaten food and waste from inside rocks and crevices.


Golden Julies are often caught and eaten by larger fish such as Tropheus. In fact, given their similar habitat requirements, they share a number of predators with Tiger Barbs or Angelfish.

These include smaller cichlids, other barbs, larger tetras, and even Large Plecos. Do not house with these fish if you want your Julidochromis to survive! There are also plenty of other issues that can occur from mixing Julidochromis with non-cichlids.

They should be kept in schools at all times to improve their chances of survival. If keeping in a community tank, it is always best to keep them with small schooling fish like tetras and rainbowfish as these will be too small to pose a threat to these cichlids. Large barbs such as tiger barbs may have an adverse effect on Jullies.

Do they make great pets?

Absolutely! The Golden Julie is a very peaceful and friendly fish that loves to swim around in groups of 5 or more. They will get along well with other peaceful community fish, but we recommend keeping them away from larger predatory species. If you are looking for a hardy African cichlid, look no further than Julidochromis ornatus!