By Don Kinyon
Out of the new Apistogramma that seem to pop up every day, some you’ll have for a while then tire of, while others you will want to keep around for the long run. Apistogramma "Jurua" is not yet described, but one can assume from the name that it comes from the area of Jurua in eastern Brazil.
From the look of the head of the fish, one will assume that it is part of the cacatuoides complex, because of the large facial features, especially the mouth. The male of my pair grew to over three inches total length, while the female was not much over two. The first few rays of the male’s dorsal fin are elongated, along with the ventral fins and the trailers on the top and bottom of the caudal fin. The basic body color is tan, with a white belly, but the major portion of the head is bright yellow, with iridescent turquoise markings. There is a single dark broad band from the eye to the base of the tail, and a black eye stripe. The body is also flecked with turquoise, as is the anal fin and the top of each dorsal ray. The tips of the first few dorsal rays and the top of the tail are orange.
The female is much smaller less colorful, but during courtship and brood caring is spectacular. She turns a bright yellow, with jet black eye stripe and center spots. Her ventral fins are black at base and yellow at the tips, and she develops a turquoise-crowned dorsal fin that rivals the color of the male.
When I first saw these fish, they were young, drab, and washed-out, but they were a new species to me, so I was interested. I put them (seven unsexed juveniles) in a twenty gallon tank full of rainwater and pretty much forgot about them for a while. They got regular water changes of about 30 percent a week, and a mix of live, frozen, and dry prepared foods. The water had a TDS of 35 PPM and pH of six. The temperature stayed around 75. While I was busy with other things, the fish matured.
When I noticed a male showing off around the tank, I was taken by the color. Then I saw the female and was completely surprised by her appearance. She was hovering over a small upturned flower pot, shamelessly turning sideways and wagging her tail at the male, who was obviously interested (shown by "flexing"- holding all his fins erect and turning sideways in a fish/bodybuilder pose). The next day, the female was inside the pot and the male patrolled the rest of the tank, chasing any one of his siblings that dared show its self. I pulled up the pot to look inside and found about 40 pink/coral eggs attached to one side, and a very disturbed female guarding them. It’s probably best to leave the fish alone when you think they’ve spawned, but I’ve never been able to do that; I’m too nosy.
At this point, to save the fins of the tank mates, who were all now "target" fish, I removed them to another tank. I’ve found an easy way to do this that causes very little stress on the pair, or even fry if there are any. I keep a couple of larger clay flowerpots in the fish room with a small piece of filter sponge blocking the hole in the end. When I need to remove fish from a breeding tank, I put the bigger pot over the breeding container, having made sure the female (and fry) is inside. Then all the contents of the tank can be removed, if necessary, to net out the remaining fish. If the male is to be left in the tank, he doesn’t seem to be put off by the commotion. Once everyone is out that needs to be out, the filters, heater, wood, leaves, or whatever can be replaced, the large pot removed, and all is well with mom and fry.
Once the pair had the tank to themselves, things were quiet for a few days. The male still patrolled and even chased imagined intruders from time to time, but he wasn’t allowed too close to the egg site. The female stayed either in the pot or was directly over the entrance most of the time, only moving momentarily to eat.
In six days the fry followed the female out of the cave for the first time. There were only about twenty-five fry, but they were active and seemed healthy. The female led them around the tank, still not letting the male too close to them. They ate baby brine shrimp and ground up flake food, and they ate a lot. This went on pretty much the same way until the fry were nearly a month old and close to half an inch in length. At that time, they no longer followed the mother, much to her frustration. This in turn led to problems between the pair, and the male ended up cowering under a stick to hide from the female, who had decided to take her aggravations out on him. I removed both of the adult fish and put them into the tank with their siblings, and all was well with them again.
The fry, now the lone residents of the twenty-gallon tank, were still constantly hungry. They stayed more-or-less in a group, always searching for food. Along with baby brine shrimp and flake, they now could handle most of the same food the adults ate, either frozen or live, as long as it was more finely chopped. With water changes now twice a week, still using rainwater, they grew very quickly for Apistogramma. I tend to over feed fish, especially fry, but the amount they ate along with the frequency of water changes kept the water fresh and the young fish showed no ill effects.
In another month the juvenile fish were staking claim to territory in the tank. None were showing any sure signs of sexual maturity, but they were very aggressive. I soon split the brood up into two twenty gallon tanks so that I could cut down on water changes, which by this time had progressed to three times a week (I’d like to think that I do more in this life than haul buckets of water). They were a little less hostile to each other now that they had more room, but they still had their own space and wanted no one else in it.
When the fish were close to three months old, there were several males starting to show color and spar with each other. A few were looking like they would be females, but it wasn’t as obvious. In one of the tanks, four males had each acquired a corner and all others were unwelcome. A good hand full of oak leaves broke up the landscape enough to give the other fish a place to lay claim to, or at least hide in.
They ate all the same foods as the adults by now, and were from three-quarters of an inch long to well over an inch. These young fish were one of the most aggressive towards each other that I’ve seen, but other than a few tattered fins, there weren’t any injuries. As they grew they tended to keep out of each other’s way and didn’t fight as much.
I said at the beginning that there are some Apistos you have for a while and some you keep for the long run. This one’s definitely a keeper.
This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 33, # 2