Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’

Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ grows to a maximum length of 20 cm in the aquarium. It’s best to keep them in a harem.

Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’

Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ has not yet been officially described. The genus name Protomelas is derived from Greek and can be divided into two parts. Protos means primary and Melas means black. A reference to the black melanin pattern on the flanks that is present in all Protomelas species.


Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ can reach a maximum total length of about 17 centimeters in the wild. In addition, the females remain a few centimeters shorter. In the aquarium they get a bit bigger because we give more and more powerful food. The males then grow to about 20 centimeters in length.

The males turn a beautiful blue on the back and flank. Behind the head, the scales are provided with a red spot. The abdomen is soft yellow in color, as is the anal fin. The anal fin has egg spots. The upper edge of the male’s dorsal fin shows 3 colors, red, white and black from top to bottom. Below that, the dorsal fin is blue with red dots. The Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ females and young males are silvery grey. The lips of both the man and the woman are thickened.

Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ is very similar to Protomelas ornatus and Protomelas sp. ‘mbenji thick lip’.


It is suspected that this is a fairly old Malawi cichlid species. They occur in rather separate parts of the lake. In the south, they live around Maleri Island and Thumbi West Island. More north, they can be found around Likoma and Chizumulu Islands.

Because they forage for food between cracks and crevices in the rocks, they live near rocks in the transition zone from sand to rock. You can usually find them at a depth of 5 to 15 meters.


This is a carnivore. They have developed thicker lips because they cover cracks and crevices in rocks with their mouths. They then suck in invertebrates, young fish and the like. The thickened lips probably form a kind of cushion between the rocks and the fish.

The Aquarium

This large Malawi cichlid needs a spacious aquarium. The males can reach a total length of about 20 centimeters in the aquarium and therefore need an aquarium of at least 200 centimeters in length.

Set up the aquarium with (filter) sand on the bottom. Place a few piles of rocks with some caves in between. The rocks cause the lines of sight to be interrupted. The females can then (temporarily) escape the attention of the male or hide between the rocks.

Males are aggressive among themselves and fight each other over the females. It is therefore better to keep one male with two or more females. By keeping them in a harem, the male has to divide his attention between the females present.

Don’t keep Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ together with Protomelas ornatus or Protomelas sp. ‘mbenji thick lip’. These are too similar that they could intersect.

Breeding Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’

In the wild, Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ man a territory. They fiercely defend this against other males. They build a spawning ground in the sand next to a rock. However, they prefer to use a hole between the rocks between which they build a spawning place.

The female lays her eggs while circling with the male. They keep circling with the male fertilizing the eggs. The female picks up the eggs and holds them in her mouth. They continue to do this until all eggs have been laid and fertilized.

After a few days the eggs hatch in the mouth of the Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ female. However, she keeps the newly hatched fish in her mouth for a total of about three weeks. After this, she releases the fry so that they can look for food. In case of imminent danger, the fry can hide in her mouth for another 1 to 2 weeks before they can take care of themselves completely.

In the aquarium you can feed the Protomelas sp. ‘hertae’ crushed flake food or small live or frozen food.



John de Lange

Copyright images

Markus Bredehöft – Instagram


Malawicichliden in hun natuurlijke omgeving 3e oplage – Ad Konings

Additional information






sp. 'hertae'


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Breeding behaviour


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