Just like the Protomelas mbenji Thick Lips, the Protomelas ornatus has enlarged lips. It uses these enlarged and thick, fleshy lips when hunting small Mbuna and crustaceans in the transition zone. He then presses his lips over the cracks and crevices where the young Mbuna is hiding and sucks them out. This species occurs throughout Lake Malawi in the rock and transition zones in relatively shallow water (1 to 10 meters depth).
Males can reach a total length of about 25 centimeters. The women remain somewhat smaller at 17 centimeters.
Synonym: Haplochromis festivus
In the wild, Protomelas ornatus develops thicker lips than in the aquarium. Due to the frequent contact with the rocks, the lips really grow into impact pads. Due to the lack of need and young cichlids, the lips remain smaller. They use their lips to retrieve small fish and invertebrates from cracks and crevices for food.
In the aquarium you can feed them with frozen or live food. Flake food and granules are also eaten. As with all Malawi cichlids: don’t feed them bloodworms or tubifex to prevent them from getting Malawi Bloat.
Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. Provide some rocks with holes in between. The females can then take shelter if the male becomes too pushy. In any case, leave sufficient swimming space in the middle. Plants are not immediately necessary in a Malawi aquarium, but if you do want to keep some plants you could consider Vallisneria, for example.
Provide clean and oxygen-rich water with a temperature between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius. pH may be between 7.5 and 8.5 with a GH of 12 to 16.
Breeding Protomelas ornatus
The males occupy a cave with sand on the bottom as their territory, in which they dig a hole where they can mate. In the aquarium, a hole dug in the sand by the man is sufficient. The female lays the eggs in the sand and takes them into her mouth after fertilization. The female hatches the eggs in her mouth and then keeps the young safely in her mouth for quite some time. After about three weeks the young fish are released.
The females, together with the immature males, form small schools of around 20 fish.
John de Lange