by Francine Bethea
As with all Apistogramma species, A.hippolytae is easy to breed. However, there are a few basic requirements to be met in order to have a successful spawn.
First off, a 20-gallon tank should be used for a breeding pair. A 10-gallon tank could be used, but the male will have to be removed once the fry become free swimming. Within this tank there should be plenty of hiding places for both the male and the female. As for plantings, Java moss is most essential. Not only does this plant provide ideal cover for your future spawns, it will also furnish the necessary microorganisms for the fry.
Secondly, water quality plays a major role in breeding success of the small cichlids. To imitate the required water parameters of the any Apisto, one must invest time in the conditioning of the water source you will be using. Tap water must be chlorine free, of course. If the pH is at 7.0 or greater and the hardness is medium or above, your first step is to lower both. One method to accomplish this is to filter the water through sphagnum peat moss. The peat can be placed in an air driven corner filter, in a sack placed in a filter instead of the charcoal or in a sack hung in the tank. Using rainwater, distilled, or RO are other alternatives to using peat. Nevertheless, whichever method is used you will need to maintain the tank’s water changes with the water very similar to the water in the tank. So unless you are filtering over peat in large quantities, you will need to plan ahead to have change water ready.
Next, the conditioning of your selected pair is paramount. A diet supplemented with live foods is imperative for healthy fish. A female will become gravid more quickly by using a lot of the live foods that include, white worms, grindal worms, tubifex worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and mosquito larvae. Frozen bloodworms are an excellent addition.
Finally, one should have cultures of micro food started. Microworms and baby brine shrimp are by far the easiest to culture. The fry will be ready to consume these foods once they become free swimming. Although with the bbs you may want to start your hatch as soon as you see the fry. Starting these cultures at the first sign of courtship will keep you ahead of the game. In a large tank, a good idea to ensure the fry will get enough food is to have turkey baster or a syringe on hand to inject the feast into the group.
My breeding experience with A. hippolytae began with a trio in a 20gallon high. The pH was 5.0, dGH <4 degrees, and the dKH was 0. A trickle filter filtered the tank and the temperature was maintained at a constant 78 degrees. There were coconut shell domes and bogwood overgrown with java moss. The majority of the greenery was supplied by hair algae covered pygmy grass.
During courtship the true beauty of this somewhat mediocre colored species really shines through. Both fish, male and female, have an overall golden amber coloring with a rectangular shaped spot above the lateral line. This spot extends to the bottom of the dorsal. The male, however, has a hint of blue on the lower region of his body. The dorsal fin is lined with red along the top of each spine. The female, on the other hand, turns the typical yellow of a spawning Apistogramma female. With the yellow being a little less intense as the A. nijsenni female coloring and a little brighter than an A. cacatuoides female.
The A. hippolytae began courtship with a lot of side-by-side, head to tail flaring of the fins and gills. The female would flap her tail at the male while he would seem to take on a submissive position by pulling in all of his fins and listing to one side or the other. On occasion, I watched the male lock lips with this female. When this happened, I was unsure of whether it was a case of tug of war or if the male was pushing the female towards the cave. Whatever the case, the female ended up with scarring on the upper lip that remained permanent.
Once the pair spawned, the female blocked the entrance to the cave. The male hovered nearby. Any time another fish came near the cave, the male would slowly advance in a head down position before streaking towards the intruder. After about 7 days, the female emerged with a cloud of fry ready to forage for food. At this time, activity in the tank becomes more hectic. While the male is busy trying to defend his territory he must also avoid the wrath of the female. If you notice that the female is also preventing the male from getting to close to the fry and pretty much has him pinned in a small area of the tank, it is probably best to remove him and any other fish.
This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 32, # 2