Male in Chiofu Bay
A male of Aulonocara gertrudae in Chiofu Bay, Lake Malawi [Malawi]. Photo by Ad Konings. (25-Oct-2006). determiner Ad Konings








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Aulonocara gertrudae Konings, 1995


Original description as Aulonocara gertrudae:


  • Konings, Ad. 1995. "A review of the sand-dwelling species of the genus Aulonocara, with the description of three new species". The Cichlids Yearbooks. 5:26-36 (crc00002)

Taxonomic history:

Etymology: Named after Gertrud Konings, the author's wife.

Common names: United States: Aulonocara Jumbo Blue, Aulonocara Lupingu, Aulonocara Multispot.

Diagnosis: A small to medium-sized sand-dwelling Aulonocara attaining about 110 mm standard length. It differs from A. nyassae and A. brevinidus in the shorter caudal peduncle; from A. guentheri and A. rostratum in the larger eye and shorter snout; and from A. aquilonium in the shorter caudal peduncle and wider interorbital. Beside the large and peculiarly shaped A. rostratum and some populations of A. guentheri, A. gertrudae is the largest and most robust species of the genus. Females are readily identified by the yellow pelvic fins and the yellow spots on the anal fin. It does not resemble any known species but might be closely related or even conspecific with the large specimens collected by Dr. C. Christy in 1925-1926. These specimens of unknown origin have a similar shape as Aulonocara gertrudae but a larger size (about 18 cm). A rediscovery of this population may clear some confusion among the identity of some sand-dwelling Aulonocara.

Type locality: South of Nsinje River, Masinje, Malawi.

Distribution: This species has a lake-wide distribution. The holotype was caught near Masinje in Malawi.

Habitat: Lake Malawi pH of the water is about 8.3. The temperature of the water in Lake Malawi fluctuates with the seasons. In the dry season it can be as low as 20° C and in sheltered bays in the rainy season as high as 30° C. Aulonocara gertrudae prefers the somewhat muddy sand-floor near river outlets. It is usually found at depths of 20 meters and more. This depth seems to be the upper limit of most sand-dwelling Aulonocara; only A. guentheri is found in shallower water.


Conservation: Aulonocara gertrudae is evaluated by the international union for the conservation of nature in the iucn red list of threatened species as (LC) least concern (2006). It is rather common at depths of 20-30 meters near river outlets, in particular in bays where the bottom does not abruptly drop to deeper levels.

Feeding: Food is collected in the characteristic way seen in all Aulonocara. Prey, small invertebrates, are located with the aid of the enlarged sensory pores in the head. Aulonocara gertrudae is normally found in a "listening" position, hovering motionlessly over the substrate, usually just 1-2 mm over the sand.

Breeding: Males dig deep craters which are about 60 cm in diameter and which have no rim like the spawning sites of most other sand-castle builders. When rocks are available the crater can also be excavated alongside a rock but most spawning sites are dug about 50 cm deep into the sand. The male almost constructs a cave in the sand. Females occur in small groups and feed from the sand which is between the territories of the males. Mouthbrooding females are usually found solitary.

Aquaristics: Malawi cichlids are rather robust and can stand some fluctuation in the pH, but it is recommended that the pH of the aquarium water be maintained between 7.0 and 8.5. It is advisable to keep the temperature constant at a value between 23 and 28° C. Overheating to about 32° C can be sufficient to kill these cichlids. Males of Aulonocara gertrudae may reach a maximum length of about 16 cm, females remain at a size of approximately 12 cm. In captivity Aulonocara species usually grow to a much larger size than in the wild. This is because of the enormous quantities of food these and other cichlids are given in the aquarium. Aulonocara gertrudae is a very placid cichlid and as such don't expend very much energy living in the artificial environment of an aquarium. An important factor in keeping this cichlid is to provide it with fine sand on the bottom and with enough space to build a spawning site. Aulonocara gertrudae should be kept in an aquarium with a length of at least 125 cm. When several bower-building cichlids are kept together enough space should be available for them to build spawning sites or at least to defend a territory.

Comments: Males of the populations of Aulonocara gertrudae found north of the Ruhuhu River in Tanzania have a little more orange on the neck and shoulders and are often found defending caves as territory. Those of the other populations are normally found over sand or mud near river mouths.

References (4):

  • Konings, Ad. 2007. "Malawi cichlids in their natural habitat (4th edition)". Cichlid Press. 424 (crc01558)
  • Konings, Ad. 1995. "A review of the sand-dwelling species of the genus Aulonocara, with the description of three new species". The Cichlids Yearbooks. 5:26-36 (crc00002)
  • Konings, Ad. 1990. "Ad Konings's book of cichlids and all the other fishes of Lake Malawi". TFH Publications. 496 (crc01893)
  • Spreinat, Andreas. 1994. "Malawisee-Cichliden aus Tansania". Unitext Verlag, Bovenden, Germany. 316 . (crc01773)


Konings, Ad. (Apr 14, 2008). "Aulonocara gertrudae Konings, 1995". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 01, 2023, from: (crc10030)