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Apistogramma nijsseni

Updated: Dec 2, 2018

by Francine Bethea

When I first decided to start this hobby last year, my intent was clear. I wanted to raise and breed South American Dwarf Cichlids. My species of choice was the Apistogramma Nijsenni. I read most information available and badgered the lfs manager with many, many questions.

In the beginning I was disheartened to learn that my water, which is off a well, was measuring at a pH of 7.6 and a general hardness of liquid rock. These were certainly not the proper parameters for Dwarf Cichlids. I should have stopped there and looked into African Cichlids.

Although my tank was set up and already running with a few fish for dithers, I immediately ran out and bought a bale of Canadian Spaghum Peat Moss. I bought a charcoal pack for that filter and dumped out the contents and replaced it with peat. I placed the bag on top of the sponge in the canister. After a few days the ph measured at 6.5 and the general hardness was at 4. A few days later, the ph stabilized at 5.0.


Finally, it was time to purchase the Nijsenni. Ouch. But I was determined and took them home. Before putting the fish into the tank, I acclimated them to my water for an hour. Once in the tank, the fish began to forage for food. I took this as a good sign.

As the lfs guy had mentioned, these fish were wild caught. So I was determined to recreate their natural biotope. In this 30 gal tank, I began with a large piece of driftwood, small round stones and layers of slate scattered haphazardly. I strategically placed clumps of java moss and fern with a bunch or two of Ludwigia repens, Hygrophilia polysperma, Hygrophilia difformis, Sagittaria subulata, Echinodorus tenellus and dwarf Vallisneria spiralis to create open areas and thickets.

In the meantime, I changed the diet of the fish to live and frozen shrimp. 25% water changes were done with distilled water. Ouch. But as I have said, I was determined.


The fish colored up nicely and began to court. The male began cleaning a depression in the driftwood that was very visible. There was Java moss growing around the site, but I still got a clear view. Within a few days there were rows of oblong red eggs hanging from the curve of the depression.

Once the eggs hatched, the wrigglers were being protected vigilantly by the female. The male protected the area around the driftwood. I had removed the other fish that I used as dithers and left the Otocinclus to take the brunt of their attacks.

I did not see the fry much when they became free swimming. However, as they began to appear, their numbers were reduced. Once they got older, they began to eat the frozen and live shrimp that fell to the substrate. Usually the shrimp were much larger, but the fry would go at them anyway.

As the fry began to surface for feeding, I removed them to a bare-bottomed 2.5 gal with their water and some java moss. I also used a hydro sponge for filtration. Their diet then consisted of microworms and frozen bbs. Occasionally, I would throw in a few small white worms.

As they began to grow out, I noticed that the fry grew at varying rates. Usually the larger ones were male. Also there seems to be one alpha male that grew the fastest. So as their size increased, they were moved to a larger tank. By the time they were 2 months or more I was able to sex them.

Once the fry were removed from the breeding tank, the original pair began their courtship again.

This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 30, # 2-3

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