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Apistogramma agassizii

Updated: Nov 30, 2018

by Don Kinyon

On a recent trip to the western New York area, I was lucky enough to find a tank full of these Apistos that had just been brought into a pet shop by a hobbyist. Most of the fish were too young to sex, but there were two coloring up that were obviously males, so I bought them along with three that I guessed to be female.


The only tank I had available when I got them home was a ten-gallon, so I set them up in it with a sponge filter, some fairly fine gravel and lots of rock and wood for caves. The heater was set to 81°F, the tank was filled with rain water of 1° total hardness and a pH of about 6.3.

I fed all the fish on chopped earthworms, mosquito larvae, white worms, several frozen foods and a few different kinds of prepared dry foods.


In a couple of weeks, the fish had all grown enough so they were sexable, three males and two females. The largest of the males had paired off with the largest of the females and both were keeping all the others out of the corner they had chosen for themselves. I then moved the other three fish to another tank.

The remaining pair spawned under a large flat stone after they removed most of the gravel from under it. The female stayed under the stone caring for the eggs most of the time and sometimes would chase the male away but never would be vicious towards him, so I left him in the tank. In three days, the coral-colored eggs hatched. With the limited view I had of the brood, it was difficult to count, but there seemed to be between fifty and sixty young. In four more days the fry were swimming, following the mother around the tank. They fed on microworms, vinegar eels and newly hatched Artemia.

It was a pleasant surprise to find what good parents these fish were. The male didn’t take direct responsibility for the school of youngsters, but he would patrol the tank, I assume to protect the territory. The female, on the other hand, took charge of the fry, leading them around the tank, catching stragglers in her mouth and spitting them back into the group, and sometimes threatening the male, but still never to the point that he appeared to be in any danger.

The young grew quickly and in about two weeks, stopped following the female. I then removed both adults for fear the parenting instinct would give way to a big meal at the expense of the young. I was also concerned for overcrowding the small tank; I’d been changing 25% of the water every day, but the young fish were growing quickly and running out of room (and I still didn’t have a place for them).

With all the water changes, the fry continued to grow and at a month old were 3/8". I finally was able to free another tank to split them up, but will keep doing water changes every one or two days until I can further thin them out. The fish are close to two months old now and eat all the same foods as the parents, sometimes chopped a little finer.

The pair has since spawned again in a tank with other South American dwarf cichlids and some Corydoras. The fish that were removed to make room for the pair in the first tank have spawned in another South American community setup. These Apistogramma agassizii must be a very prolific dwarf cichlid.

This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 31, # 1

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