by Don Kinyon
This tiny Apistogramma comes from the soft, very acidic black waters of the Rio Negro in Venezuela and Brazil. It was first introduced into the hobby in 1981 by Schmettkamp and officially described in 1987 by Kullander. Being relatively new to the hobby, fairly rare in nature, very attractive, and more difficult to breed than some Apistos make this fish hard to find and very expensive when you find it.
The male can get to a length of just over 2", including the tail, and the female gets to 1 1/2". Both the male and female of the species develop a black double stripe that runs the length of the body. The stripes meet behind the eye at one end and just before the tail at the other. Males are the more colorful of the two, with color ranging from blues to yellows to reds. The body is a white/silver, with most of the color restricted to the fins. The dorsal develops a separation of the first few spines and a filament at the rear. The rounded tail has colored bars that run in arcs concentric with the outer circumference. The fish I am working with are the blue variety, and it’s hard to describe with words just how beautiful they are.
I kept the parents together in a 20 gallon tank filled with rain water; very soft and acidic. I further lowered the pH with dilute phosphoric acid to 5.5 or below. The temp was kept around 82°. For cover, there was sunken locust wood and several clay pots. I used no gravel in the tank, but most of the bottom was covered with a layer of oak leaves and the rest with hair algae an inch tall. The only filtration in the tank was a simple sponge type, but water was kept fresh by a 30 percent water change twice weekly.
Feeding the adults was no problem, as they ate anything given to them, including flake foods. In the morning, they got some kind of dry prepared food; either flake or freeze-dried, and in the evening either live or frozen food. Every second day or so, they got some newly hatched brine shrimp. With this diet and water change schedule, the fish showed their breeding colors in no time.
The first thing that clued me that the parents had spawned was a very bright yellow female guarding a patch of oak leaves in the corner of the tank next to the sponge filter. She continued this behavior for the next six days, at which time she emerged followed by a troop of about 75 fry! The male patrolled the tank perimeter, but was kept away from the shoal by the ever-watchful mother.
For the first few days, the fry ate microworms. They were very tiny and probably too small for even newly hatched brine shrimp. In a few days, they had grown enough for brine shrimp to be added, but microworms were also kept on the menu for the first three weeks.
After the fry had been free-swimming for two weeks, the male started to harass the female, so he was removed. The female continued to keep watch of the young for an additional week, at which time the youngsters no longer paid any attention to her, so she was also removed.
The young grow very slowly; at one month they were between 1/4" and 3/8". In another month’s time, they were at just under 1/2". They continued on newly hatched brine shrimp, along with finely chopped white worms and crushed flake food, until they were two months old. After two months, they were given all the same foods as the adults, though some foods had to be chopped or crushed.
One can only hope that many more hobbyists and breeders take the time to raise this small Apisto. I believe anyone who attempts it will find it well worth the effort.
For more information: South American Dwarf Cichlids, Mayland/Bork pp. 58-60, picture & text American Cichlids I, Dwarf Cichlids, Linke/Staeck pp. 45-46, picture & text Aqualog - South American Cichlids II, Glaser/Glaser pp. 30-32, pictures & information
This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 32, # 3