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Apistogramma agassizii

by Philip Ryti

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In the past year my favorite fish has become the Apistogramma genus. Over 70 species are included in this genus of which 48 species have been described. I have found that most dwarf cichlids are not commonly found in the standard pet shops. With the exception of the Pelvicachromis pulcher or possibly Microgeophagus ramirezi, the common Krib or Ram, respectively. Thankfully though, a few good stores carry these beautiful gems, one of which is Anchor Bay Aquarium in New Baltimore. This is a great place to find some of the more rare apistos offered for sale such as: A. eunotus, A. juruensis, A. norberti or the new A. sp. "Panderini". Occasionally, local hobbyist keep pairs of apistos for breeding, and offer fry for sale. Members of your cichlid club may have gone collecting in the Great Amazon. Ask around, sometimes you can get your hands on some beautiful specimens.

I obtained a beautiful pair of Apistogramma agassizii from a local hobbyist back in October, 1996. The female was ripe and round, approximately 2 inches in length. She had a distinct bronze yellow body, with a dark lateral band from her mouth to her caudal penducle. The male was however far different from his partner except for the similar horizontal stripe on its body. His body appeared elongated and slender in form. He was nearly four inches long including his lanceolate caudal fin. According to Aqualog- South American Cichlids II, these two closely resemble the Apistogramma agassizii "BLUETAIL". However, my male had a yellowish belly and a bluish speckled body with orange and blue caudal fins with a streamer extension.

The couple were introduced to an established fourteen gallon aquarium. The tank conditions similar to those found in the wild. The temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, a PH of 6.8, and a hardness of 14 ppm. The gravel in the tank was dark fine natural stone. Floating water sprite and java fern were put into the tank,. A small piece of Amazon driftwood with an Anubias barteri also helped to give the tank a natural look. Two overturned flowerpots with notched corners out of the rims were put into place with slate and round black stones nearby.

For the first week, the male was quite dominant, though not aggressive to the point of hurting her. With plenty of retreats, she was able to find safety if his advances were too strong. I offered flake food which was ignored. Being that the pair were wild, and had previously spawned together, real life feeding had to be simulated. Live daphnia, white worms, and newly hatched brine shrimp were given to them. They attacked the new style of food. Anything that moved was the trick. To increase spawning chances Tetra Blackwater Extract was added to the tank during the second week. When evaporation claimed water it was replaced slowly with R.O. water. Using these two methods, I hoped to copy the rainy season in the wild and drop the hardness of the water.

The female began to guard one of the flowerpots. If she would venture away from it the male would chase her back in the cave. I then knew that spawning was eminent. A few days later the male seemed to have disappeared. He could not be seen anywhere. I thought that he must have jumped out of the tank. At this point, I was about to give up on the pair. The next day he still was not seen in the tank. I searched the carpet and behind the tank but could not find a carcass. With the use of a flashlight I searched every crevice and crack I could see. Low and behold a reflection from under a rock caught my eye. Totally disappointed I grabbed my net to remove his remains. I moved the rock and to my surprise "awoke" him. He moved slowly to the top corner of the tank. The only apparent damage he had was to his caudal fin. His body was still in pretty good shape. When the female saw him out in the open it became obvious to me why he had buried himself under the rocks in the first place. She commenced to giving him another of a string of beatings. Needless to say he was immediatly transferred to a 5 gallon tank for some recuperation time.

I did not see the pair go through the spawning ritual. But I hoped that her actions meant that it had happened. With the male safe in his own tank my attention was again placed on the female. I watched her every move for the next half hour or so. When I moved close to the tank to inspect she would flare her gills at me through the tank glass. Within a short time, making me quite happy, she began to shoal around a group of 50 or so fry. What a great way to end the day.

The fry were fed whiteworms and newly hatched brine shrimp. Within a months time they were already 1/4" long.

This was my first experience with breeding Apistogramma. What a great experience it has been. Although the apistos are small they are still cichlids. Their actions taught me that. If you ever decide to breed the agassizii or any other of its genus, I recommend that my experience teaches that we have to respect its needs for space during spawning. Not doing so almost cost me a pair of spawning fish.

This article was originally published for the Michigan Cichlid Association.
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This page was last updated 29 October 1998