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Discussions about Apisto ID


  1. "Agacucho" (and species id)
    by Randy <carey/> (Wed, 30 Jul 1997)
  2. a. coriati
    by "Ed Pon" <edpon/> (Fri, 01 Aug 1997)
  3. distinction (agassizii & gephyra
    by Randy <carey/> (Fri, 01 Aug 1997)
  4. new subscriber to the apisto mailing list
    by Kathryn Knudsen <kk691111/> (Mon, 17 Feb 1997)
  5. njisseni aggro
    by Kathryn Knudsen <kk691111/> (Tue, 11 Mar 1997)
  6. Mayland (was:Stressed fish)
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Wed, 10 Jun 1998)
  7. List of Apistos
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Fri, 25 Sep 1998)
  8. A. norberti "Sunset" (was Apistos)
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Thu, 03 Dec 1998)
  9. A.sp.Malome-a possible answer
    by Marco Lacerda <marcolacerda/> (Fri, 19 Mar 1999)
  10. A. sp. aff. juruensis
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Wed, 20 Oct 1999)
  11. A. sp. aff. juruensis
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Mon, 18 Oct 1999)
  12. commbrae/inconspicua/linkei
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Tue, 22 Feb 2000)
  13. Ocean Aquarium & Mayland and Bork
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Wed, 16 Feb 2000)
  14. A. sp. Wangenflecken??
    by WnyZman/ (Mon, 31 Jan 2000)
  15. Apisto Groupings
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Sat, 27 Jan 2001)
  16. Sacrimontis or pulcher ?
    by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/> (Tue, 01 Aug 2000)

"Agacucho" (and species id)

by Randy <carey/>
Date: Wed, 30 Jul 1997
To: apisto/

Karen Eichorst wrote:

> I picked up some A. "ayachucho" at ACA. Does anyone have any
> information on them - not in Staeck and Link or Aqualog ?

Apparently you deciphered the label as "ay.." rather than "ag.." The
species is "Agacucho" or "Four Stripes" (see Aqualog page 62). I would
imagine they came from Milwaukee wholesaler, Fred Kraus, since he put
some through the auction.

I know the story behind Fred and the Agacucho. A knowledgeable and
veteran Milwaukee aquarist (Tom Wojtech) identified a shipment of wild
caught Apisto's as the ones listed in the Aqualog as "Agacucho." Fred
then labeled them as such.

I'm assuming that he got another shipment from the same exporter and of
the same name given by the exporter. So he assumes they are also
"Agacucho" as they could well be. (I didn't look at what he had at the
ACA, so I can't say.) I must warn that I have bought a a couple of tanks
of wild-caught Apistos (16-17 fish) which came from Fred's and each time
I got a mix of two or three species. What he bought as bitaeniata grew
out to about 60% agazissii, and of what he got as gibbiceps about half
developed into rotkeil and about 15% into pertensis. It's not Fred's
fault--its just the nature of collectors collecting from one spot and
selling the fish before they are completely identifiable. As we all
know, most wholesalers, stores, (and even) aquarists accept the species
name assuming that the previous party knew what they had.

Actually, I like buying a tank of wild-caughts and seeing into which
species they develop.

Regarding the "Agacucho," the following features should be present in
the adults: horizontal belly stripes, ventrals reaching well into the
anal fin, dorsal trailing back to about the widest portion of the caudal
fin, distinct vertical spot at the base of the caudal, vertical stripe
pattern in the caudal, and the first couple dorsal rays are separated.
Aside from those distinctions, the two photos are ambiguous of other
features (such as the male's dorsal shape).

Also, keep in mind that the Aqualog is primarily a picture book. We are
saying the fish is the one pictured as "Agacucho," but it is not
reliable in confirming [1] that what is pictured is a distinct species
or even [2] that what is pictured is the true "Agacucho" (if there
really is one). I have it on good word that some collector/contributers
to the Aqualog have deliberately mislabled the collection sites so as to
keep the sites their own secret. I've also heard that someone is
accruing a list of various id mistakes in the Aqualog.

So for pictures of potentially new species, the Aqualog is invaluable.
But for established species, rely on Staeck/Linke and their criteria of
species identification.

Sorry about the diatribe on species identification, but it's been on my
mind as of late.

--Randy Carey

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a. coriati

by "Ed Pon" <edpon/>
Date: Fri, 01 Aug 1997
To: apisto/

Earlier this year, the Water-line, a fish store in Mountainview 
California, brought in some A. coriati.  The fish turned out to be 
Pandurini.  I'd say you can't rely on geographical info, spelling, and 
just about any other info when getting Apistos through a store or 

Marc Weiss mentioned in an article on discus in the Cichlid News that he 
believed that every variety of wild discuss can be caught in a given 
lake (probably an inaccurate translation on my part)and that we receive 
certain types of discus from certain locales because the people in South 
America sort out the types and label according to what we expect to 
see--i.e. Alenquer Reds, Lake Tefe Greens, etc. Anyway--I expect the 
situation to be somewhat similar with Apistos based on what  I have seen 
has been arriving at my local stores under various names over the past 

A local wholesaler that I talked who is apparently is very experienced 
in tropical fish, said that he was recording what types of apistos 
appeared from what sources on what month so he can make a reasonably 
accurate guess of what will arrive as, for instance, apistogramma 
trifasciata on February from trans-shipper ABC.  The wholesaler thought 
that this was reasonably accurate based on his experience.  

Anyway--I always enjoyed getting unidentifiable fish to see what they 
grew into.  The sources labeling the fish before-hand has taken some of 
the fun out of searching through tanks to find that unidentified fish.  
Luckily for me, much of the uncertainty still exists when purchasing 
Apistos because of the inability of the sources to accurately label the 

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distinction (agassizii & gephyra

by Randy <carey/>
Date: Fri, 01 Aug 1997
To: apisto/ wrote:

> These Ayacucho may be closely related to agasizzii. I was at Dave
> Soares's
> place in March and saw A. gephyra in a tank right next to A.agasizzii
> "Rio
> Tefe" and except for the labels on the tank, the two were identical.
> How
> they are distinguished is beyond me.

The two are quite distinguishable. [1] A. gephyra's ventrals are much
shorter and have minimal extentions (adult males). [2] The pattern in
the caudal for gephyra has spots on the upper portion but not on the
lower. [3] The shape of the gephyra's caudal is shorter and more
rounded. Also, I seem to see the dorsal extension going back farther in
agassizi, but this feature is not as distinguishable as are the first
three features.

This distinction is clear in Linke. What about the Aqualog. Page 34
shows a spectacular gephyra. On page 36, the upper right fish betrays
the other gephyra on the bottom row of that page. The upper right
picture follows agassizii in all three accounts (longer ventrals, lack
of upper caudal pattern, and a more pointed caudal. I'll assume it is
actually a misidentified agassizii.

I had previously recognized the aqualog betraying the distinctions noted
by Linke in macmasteri and viejita. An associate of Linke argued that
the Staeck/Linke book is correct. He informed me that the Czechs often
inter-breed various species of this complex, so domestically obtained
specimens might lose the distinction of a species. Have photo's of these
cross-breeds found a way into the Aqualog?!? As I suggested earlier,
refer to Staeck/Linke before the Aqualog.


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new subscriber to the apisto mailing list

by Kathryn Knudsen <kk691111/>
Date: Mon, 17 Feb 1997
To: Randy / Deb Carey <carey/>

On Sun, 16 Feb 1997, Randy / Deb Carey wrote:

> As you can see, I have been obtaining my Apisto's through wild-caught 
> imports.  Recently I got to visit an out-of-town wholesaler who let me 
> buy through a friend.  Because I have studied fin shapes and patterns of 
> the Apisto's, I was able to recognize such things as a tank marked 
> "bitaeniata" having an additional species mixed in.  In that case I 
> bought the remaining 16 fish and the "additional" species (11 of the 16) 
> turned out to be the beautiful "gephra."  What a catch!  
> My recent interest in Apistos has been in identifying them--needed when 
> you deal with wild caught stock.  Too often, I've seen aquarists "pick 
> out a name" for thier Apisto because it looks mostly like one in a 
> picture--but they have never evaluated some of the key features which 
> are useful in identification.  Shortly, I will begin work on writing an 
> article and on developing a master identification chart based on visual 
> characterisics.

You have definitely picked up on one of my favorite hobbies.  Nothing 
grabs my attention like a mislabed apisto.  I love picking up those stray 
guys that come in as contaminants, unfortunately my limiting factor is 
tank space. 

I also felt that there was a need for an article of classification of 
Apistogramma, using key features for identification.  When I first picked 
up strays this was a challenge and so I went to the literature.  Not 
finding any one source that answered all of my questions I kept asking 
questions and collecting literature.  

I just recently finished an article for our local aquarium society 
(newsletter is Nortwest Aquaria Feb 97) and am sending it into PCCA as 
well.  I was thinking about submitting it elsewhere but Mike Wise is 
coming out with some incredible stuff this year and so decided that he 
was definitely the expert here and would let him have that arena.  If you 
would like a copy I can mail a copy of my article on to you or anyone 
else that would like it (depending on numbers may need to do self 
addressed stamped envelopes here).  I am curious what differences, or 
comments you would add and am always open to constructive criticism and 
	In the article I wrote I went through several of the 
published data...McMaster classified species into superdivisions based on 
the four major river systems (Amazonian, Peruvian, Guaianan and 
Paraguyan).  Some of the German sources listed almost every species as a 
group.  Later this year Uwe Romer is suppose to be coming out with a book 
in English which will cover the classification as well (per David 
Soares, can't wait to read this).  As well as work by Mike Wise, Kullander 
and Koslowski, David Soares (personal cummunication), Wayne Liebel, 
a few others and personal experience.

I liked a combination of Mike Wise's, Kullander and Koslowski's work (as 
well as a few others).  
	What I wanted was a summary of what I could use to ID stray fish in
stores and teach others to do so as well.  It had been so hard for me to 
find literature out there I wanted to share a workable application of 
what I found with others.  So that is what I covered in my article.
It is basically the classification of Apistogramma based on key features 
(that you can see and not do microscopic analysis on).  The schema I used 
the fish into groups with complexes as divisions of the above (vs the 
germans who go with complexes and subcomplexes).  There were 10 species 
groups and 14 complexes with additional bridging species.
(ie agassizii group characterized by a broad lateral band, dark head 
stripes and a lateral spot.  Within this group there are three 
complexes...agassizii, bitaeniata, and elizabethae...with key features of 
each that would place a fish into each complex.  And so on for each group 
and complex).  I kept the article short (3 8X11 pages), only hitting the 
highlights.  I wanted it to be a workable copy that people could use, 
Mike Wise goes into much more detail and theory in his article.  

Some of the information I have is from the latest work done by Mike 
Wise.  (I used his framework for the complexes and groups, the previous 
work I had was 9 groups but that lit was now 7-10 years out of date 
depending on which source I used)
Mike Wise is publishing 2 different articles this on 
"Distribution and proposed phylogeny on Apistogramma species and groups 
revisited", this article has the latest work done, and is remarkable.  
His other article is "Nominal list of Apistogramma species as of the 
latest research done through November, 1996".  I look forward to both of 
these articles, he has also done species maps by river system that are 
incredible to see.  You can actually see how different Apisto species 
evolved from one another.  Also great for identifing strays if you know 
the river system they came from.   I think these will be included in the 
last article but am not certain.

I would love to hear any additional information you have.  I am afraid I 
don't speak German, and so haven't read any of their work that is not 
translated, but learn as much as I can from people who do.  I always love 
reading on this subject as well so if you can suggest any other sources, 
let me know.

If I can get off from my residency training (in Internal Medicine) I will 
be at ACA as well.  It is a great place to go and meet/talk to people.  
Mike Wise may be going as well this year.  Last year I met several 
incredible people...several on this list :) !!!  I am definitely looking 
forward to it this year (I only wish Uwe Romer was going to be there again).

Love to trade fish if you're there, or with anyone else!
As well as talk.


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njisseni aggro

by Kathryn Knudsen <kk691111/>
Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997
To: lisa wrischnik <wrisch/>

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997, lisa wrischnik wrote:

> Hello,
> Matthew says:
> >
> >As to your comparison of species, the A. njisseni are described as being of
> >the macmasteri complex and for certain the A. macmasteri that I have are
> >extremely timid.
> I thought the nijsseni complex was likely derived from the cacatuoides
> complex (Kathy, help me here! I can't remember my Aqualog flow chart,
> either).


You're right.  The classification schemes have undergone several 
revisions recently.

In the 1980's the nijsseni were in their own complex and there was debate 
about norberti being a bridging species between cacatuoides and nijsseni 

Now in the 1990's the latest is that the nijsseni are a group (or as the 
Germans say...a subcomplex) in the cacatuoides complex.  (so they are a 
subset of the cacatuoides complex)

I am not aware of any literature that places them in the macmasteri group 
but perhaps this is an earlier classification than the 1980-present 
literature that I have seen.

I really like the suggestion about the aggressiveness of this complex.  I 
think it is a great idea, and will definitely collect any data on it that 
I can find and do my own research.  Any one else out there have any 
comparisions to make on the behavior of cacatuoides, nijsseni and norberti?


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Mayland (was:Stressed fish)

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998
To: apisto/

Doug Brown wrote:

> Now that I have the book (thanks Mike Evans!), it is pretty obvious that
> the photos have been "doctored" in some way, maybe just through the
> reproduction process used by the publisher.

I've had similar color changes when I copied color slides to color print film and
then had them printed without the photo finisher having reference to the original
slides.  The prints typically became "cooler", which made the flanks of the fish
more blue.  It also made red-orange area more orange.  It seems that without a
reference color (neutral gray or flesh tone) even the best mass photo finishers
have to make their best guess on negative filtration.  I don't know if this is
the same thing that occurred with the the Mayland book.  I can't imagine the
printer not having the original slides to base their work on.  There could also
be some subjective effects by having the fish photographed on a black
background.  Without a natural background (plants, rocks, etc.) the colors of the
fish stand out much more to your eye.

> the real utility of fish photos is ID'ing fish, for which many of these are
> useless.

Based on my (very extensive) experience in trying to ID apistos, I've found that
some of the best LOOKING pictures are worthless.  Colors are NOT a major factor
in apisto ID, the black markings are.  This is especially true with the species
in the regani-group (sensu Kullander) where so many have similar coloration on
the face and flanks, but subtle differences in the size, shape, and locations of
stripes and spots.  In many cases these dark markings are masked by the
pigmentation in males.  In these cases females of a species actually are easier
to use for species ID.  Probably the best ID photos are those of stressed
(frightened or dead) male fish.  The old "shake and bake" method works well for
this (bagging the male, shaking the bag, and then letting him loose in a bare
tank).  The question is, would anyone buy a book with pictures of stressed out
fish?  I doubt it.  Probably the best book for IDing apistos is still Linke &
Staeck's - not the photographs but the line drawings.

Mike Wise

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List of Apistos

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Fri, 25 Sep 1998
To: apisto/

Ken Laidlaw wrote:

> > I'm continually updating my apisto species list. Presently it has 53 valid
> Do you use Sven Kullander's list as the basis, if not what
> is different on your's?

Yes, I use Dr. Kullander's list for the most part. Since his list is usually a bit
dated, I add to it. For example, the last time I checked he still had A. maciliensis as
a part of A. trifasciata. He now considers it a separate species, but the last time I
checked he hadn't changed it in his list. Let's face it, he has more important things
to do. I've also kept A. roraimae as a questionable valid species. Kullander has
subordinated it to a junior synonym of A. gibbiceps. I keep it as a questionably valid
species mainly because the upper Rio Branco form of A. gibbiceps (= A. roraimae) not
only has subtly different finnage and caudal fin pattern, but also is a much easier
fish to breed. A. gibbiceps is a true black water species while the A. roraimae form is
a clear water species. Is this enough to make them two different species? I'm not sure,
but until more data is available I'll leave it this way. Dr. Kullander's list doesn't
have any undescribed species on it (as should be expected). I try to keep up with all
the new undescribed species in the hobby, but in the past few years this is becoming
increasingly more difficult. There are simply too many popping up, so I restrict my
list to apistos that have been published somewhere in a book or magazine. This isn't
just a one man project, believe me! I depend on several of my friends to let me know
what's new in the European, Japanese, and American hobby. To them, they know who they
are, all I can say is "THANK YOU!"

> > by my realistic estimate there are at least 50 undescribed species out there, not
> > including 2 domestic and 1 natural hybrid species.
> Please tell us more about these.

I assume you mean the hybrid species. The undescribed species would take entirely too
long to discuss. As I mentioned in my original message, when I get it formatted
properly to send email ASG members can get it from me. As for the two domestic hybrids,
they are A. sp. Orangeflossen/Orange-fin and A. sp. Mariae. A. sp. Orangeflossen was
originally discussed by Schmettkamp (1982) in his book Die Zwergcichliden Südamerikas.
It appears to be a cross between A. bitaeniata & A. agassizii. There's a very ugly one
pictured in Linke & Staeck's book. A. sp. Mariae appears to be a cross between A.
commbrae and some other regani-group species. Römer discussed this fish in his 1995
article, Warnung vor Zwergcichlidenhybriden: Apistogramma sp. „Mariae" (D.A.T.Z. 41(1)
18-20). A. sp. Schuppenfleck/Scale-spot was introduced in Koslowski's book Die
Buntbarsche der Neuen Welt - Zwergcichliden. This appears to be a cross between two
macmasteri-group species, possibly A hoignei X A. guttata?. Koslowski believed it's a
domestic hybrid, but about 10 years ago I was given a pair and asked what they were. I
knew they were Schuppenfleck right away, but asked a lot of questions trying to find
out where they came from. I was told that a wholesaler received an entire shipment.
They had come in small, pale, hollow bellied, and breathing very hard and fast - all
the classic signs of wild caught apistos shipped to heavy. They had all the reported
signs of hybrid apistos - especially the irregular rows of scales, particularly on the
caudal peduncle. I had thoughts of trying to breed the pair but never did (Serious
illnesses & resulting financial crises put a crimp in anyone's hobby.). I still wonder
if I would have gotten anything out of the pair and what they would look like.

ASG members who are interested in the above references can get them from me (including
English translations).

Mike Wise

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A. norberti "Sunset" (was Apistos)

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Thu, 03 Dec 1998
To: apisto/

Jota Melgar wrote:

> Thanks for the detailed explanation Mike.
> >Personally, I look at A. atahualpa & A. norberti as being bridge species
> >intermediate between the two subcomplexes, since they exhibit features
> >characteristic of both.
> Good. I thought I was the only one not placing them in the nijsseni complex
> (subcomplex). I was leaning more towards cacatuoides but after your
> comments it seems to make more sense to consider it a bridge species,
> perhaps A. atahualpa closer to the cacatuoides complex (subcomplex) and A.
> norberti closer to the nijsseni complex (subcomplex).

I agree.

> On another note, two of the largest males of the eunotus complex species
> (possibly A. sp. Orangestreifen/ Orange-striped) that we collected this
> year near the Rio Nanay have begun developing lyreate caudal fins. I am
> also happy to report that we have 3 broods that are between 10 and 14 days
> old.
> Thanks again,
> Julio

Great news. The short lyre tail is also found on a few other eunotus-complex
species. This is just another indication of how closely the macmasteri-group is
related to the eunotus complex, since both exhibit this feature along with
serrated dorsal lappets. Those of the eunotus complex are not as well developed,
of course.

Mike Wise

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A.sp.Malome-a possible answer

by Marco Lacerda <marcolacerda/>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 1999
To: apisto/

Mike & Diane Wise wrote:
> Since A. sp. Mamoré (Blue) is already used, we may as well use the commercial name
> - A. sp. Malome (yuck!). Is it any different from that of A. commbrae instead of
> the intended A. corumbae?
> BTW Marco, I love your "International Commission for Vernacular Fish
> Nomenclature". It made my day!
> Mike Wise

Yes, in the original description of Apistogramma commbrae, the author 
(Eigenmann) wanted to name it after CORUMBA, a city in Mato Grosso 
(nowadays Mato Grosso do Sul) State.
We interpret that someone typing Eigenmann's handwriting confused "r-u-
m" with "m-m". You know, many people write in a "wave" fashion, i.e., 
the letters "u", "w", "m", "r" etc. all look like the same "sea-wave" 
But according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, the 
first name published (commbrae) must be given priority, even if it was 
like so by an accident.

In regard to A. sp. Malome (argh!) the story seems to repeat, 
discounting it is not a scientific name, but a common trade name.
Now you should publish it (Malome) in an article, and then refer to it 
in your next "Nominal List of Apistogramma Species".

To the ones not familiar with this thoroughly done work, Mike Wise is 
publishing and updating it since long ago, in issues of "The Apisto-
gram", the publication of the Apistogramma Study Group.
He lists all popular Apisto names ever published, gives its 
distribution, group (complex), synonyms (if there is any) etc.

A. sp. aff. juruensis

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999
To: apisto/


This is speculation on my part (with a healthy bit of input from Ingo Koslowski -
an infamous splitter).

Both A. agassizii & the A. resticulosa => A. taeniata species-complex appear in
many forms that may be only populations but, because of their wide distribution,
may include many sibling species. He writes that he can recognize 6 different A.
resticulosa forms, 8 A. taeniata forms & 9 A. agassizii forms. Most of us have
problems separating A. taeniata from A. resticulosa, so think of the mess that
would happen if they each had a scientific name! This is why I strongly recommend
not breeding specimens from different locations together if at all possible. This
is why I personally steer away from domestically bred fish with no known
location. We just don't know if we are hybridizing closely related species or

Mike Wise

"Edison C. Yap" wrote:

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Mike & Diane Wise <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Monday, October 18, 1999 11:42 PM
> Subject: Re: A. sp. aff. juruensis
> Mike Wise Wrote:
> Why do you think that they are going broken up, could you explain your
> opinion on this?
> Thanks,
> Edison Yap
> >Sounds reasonable to me. Species like A. resticulosa  and A. agassizii
> (sensu
> >lato), on the other hand, will probably go the other way and be broken up
> into
> >several different species.
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A. sp. aff. juruensis

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Mon, 18 Oct 1999
To: apisto/

Frauley/Elson wrote:

> Hi Mike,
> I've been watching recent developments in Apistogramma 'knowledge', and
> I've come to the conclusion it's about to get really crazy. We have a
> wealth of new things coming in - last week at an importer's I saw six
> unidentified species from Peru, none of which I had never seen before.
> I've recently seen a wide range of pertensis types, the usual range of
> cacatuoides types and regani, rotpunkt types galore. And since Apistos
> are a commerce, much of the essential location knowledge is lost in
> collector's trade secrets and lies.


Thanks to Marco, Julio, & many of the hobbyist collectors from Germany we now know
more about where fish originate than at any time in the past. But I admit apistos
are coming in faster than they can be published in the hobby.

> What are we going to do with this?

Grin and bear it I guess.

> Guess honestly, I suspect.

As long as everyone uses a logical system we can at least get close to what a
species is.

> It comes down to lumpers vs splitters in taxonomy. Were I a scientist, I think
> I'd be a lumper (based on the morphology of the fish, which is all I
> know how to look at).

Me too, for the most part. That's the difference between us hobbyists and
professional taxonomists. The latter use so much more than external features now.
This is why so few new species are being scientifically described. We have the
preserved species, collecting/biotope data, etc. It just requires so much time and
effort (= money) to adequately describe an apisto these days. In 1980 Kullander
took about 5, half size, pages to describe most of his new species. Now it take 3x
the text space to do the same thing (e.g. Römer's description of A. arua took
about 8, full size, pages of text plus an additional 2 1/2, full size, pages of
photos and figures. The reason is because Uwe had to go into much more detail to
compare his new species with the many more similar species that are now known. As
the number of new forms increases, the length of descriptions will also increase.
All we can do is accept the common names and hope we don't duplicate names or give
a species more than one name.

> I'm still not 100% convinced panduro isn't a morph
> of njisseni, but that flows from a philosophical approach.

They are sibling species but you are looking only at the color pattern. The shape
& length of the jaws and dorsal fins on both males and females are different.
Cross breeding experiments show that they will cross breed only when there is no
member of their own species available. This occurs with many closely related

> There has been a proliferation of newly described species of killifish,
> with the descriptions coming from well-educated European hobbyists.

This is a very good reason for not allowing hobbyist to go wild scientifically
describing new species - especially in nonjuried publications. Kullander is an
extremist on this point.

> The scientists in the field are very skeptical, to the point where I've
> heard scientists say we should put more emphasis on geogaphic location
> than species name, as many of the new species names are going to be
> dumped once proper DNA work has been done on them.

Sounds reasonable to me. Species like A. resticulosa  and A. agassizii (sensu
lato), on the other hand, will probably go the other way and be broken up into
several different species.

> In effect, were the many cacatuoides forms killies, then they might well have
> names, but the
> names might well be invalid. So what's the use? "Black chin" is as good
> as Juruensis in those terms, as long as we don't end up with 47 names
> for black chin, or 47 different black chins ranging from Guyana to Peru.

The Black-chin species is distinct enough to NOT be considered A. juruensis (sensu
stricto) at this time. I would prefer a name like "A. sp. aff. juruensis
(Schwarzkinn/Black-chin)" be used to describe it. If, at a later time, it's found
to be just a population of A. juruensis all we need to do is remove the "sp. aff."
part of the name. I know you are using this species only as an example, but there
are many other species (sensu lato) in the genus with distinct population/sibling
species, too. The whole resticulosa => taeniata species complex easily comes to
mind. We could have only 1 variable species of a dozen or more distinct ones. It
will require a lot of detailed collecting and most likely DNA work to determine
this. Because of this I prefer to keep my populations/strains pure. I don't mix
them knowingly. I also don't buy fish that don't have known collection locales.
Domestic color/fin enhanced strains are an exception, of course. This is my
choice. I don't expect everyone to follow my lead however.

> Apisto naming has been more conservative than killie-work, (Meincken's
> difficulties aside) but how it will go is still to be seen. I think we
> just have to relax, sit down wherever we keep our fish and open a cold
> beer. You can try to figure out exactly which hops are in the beer if
> you want, but at the end of the day, just enjoy the whole thing. If you
> want to feel good and confused, borrow the Aphyosemions aqualog and look
> at the highly studied species Aphyosemion cameronense. It's a show.

I agree. We have to be careful. Until then, common names describing a collecting
location or a special characteristic would be best for now. Let's not get "hung
up" on having to have a valid species name for each fish we have.

Mike Wise

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by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2000
To: apisto/

Gary & everyone else,

Every time you try to ID an apisto please repeat: "Color is not used in IDing
apistos, color is not used in IDing apistos, color is not used in IDing apistos,
..." Now that we have have this very valuable piece of information memorized,
lets see what separates the 3 scientifically described species of the
commbrae-complex. All species have the commbrae-caudal patch made out of a caudal
spot and the last vertical bar (Bar 7). Now for diagnostic features:

A. commbrae: moderately deep body; narrow lateral band ends just in front of
caudal patch (Bar 7); 2-4 usually highly visible abdominal stripes; banded caudal
fin (at least the posterior end, but commonly over the entire tail). This species
is found throughout the Rio Paraguay system above the mouth of the Rio Paraná
(along with A. trifasciata & A. borellii, but not necessarily sympatric with

A. inconspicua: larger and slightly deeper bodied than A. commbrae; no abdominal
stripes (or very very weakly visible at best); caudal fin round to slightly
squared off with well developed rows of spots; lateral band sits higher on the
flanks and is never continuous to the caudal spot but ends at Bar 6. If you are
willing to count dorsal spines, A. inconspicua has only 15 instead of the 16
dorsal spines typical of most apistos. A. inconspicua is found in the headwaters
of the Rio Paraguay and Rio Guaporé systems. Both A. borellii & A. trifasciata
are found in parts of the same area, but not necessarily sympatric.

A. linkei: similar in size to A. inconspicua but deeper bodied; no abdominal
stripes, but instead has 1 or 2 horizontal rows of anteriorly darkened scales
that form rows of spots below the lateral band; caudal fin round with no rows of
spot (or at best 2-3 rows of very indistinct spots on the posterior part of the
tail); and a stipple-like pattern of dark spots on the top of the head. All
specimens so far collected show a yellow breast, thus the common name
Gelbbrust/Yellow-breast. This color, however, is variable in its intensity and
should NOT be considered a diagnostic feature since other apisto species (even in
the commbrae-complex!) show this. I wouldn't be surprised if we find populations
of A. linkei without a yellow breast in the future. A. linkei is found in the
upper Rio Mamoré & San Miguel of Boliva's Llanos de Mojos lowland plains. Other
apistos from this area include A. staecki & A. luelingi, but they are not
typically sympatric with A. linkei.

The combrae-complex species appear to be the southern ecological equivalent to
the macmaster-group of northern South America. Both groups contain fish that
inhabit streams and oases on open plains that are seasonally inundated.

Linke & Staeck show the correct species. Their A. commbrae is an extremely
colorful population. Their A. inconspicua if very drab and their A. linkei is
typical. Read their sections on morphologically similar species for each of these
species. It should be about the same as I have listed.

Gary doesn't mention the commbrae-like caudal patch. Perhaps it is some other
species like A. pleurotaenia, A. sp. Paraguay, or one of the unpublished species
from the Mato Grosso region of South America. Without a description of the dark
markings it's impossible to really ID an apisto. Remember, color is not used in
IDing apistos, color is not used in IDing apistos, color is not used in IDing
apistos, ... .

Mike Wise

Frauley/Elson wrote:

> Hi,
> I have a pair of fish here that were mixers with borellii and
> trifasciata. I'd say they're either commbrae, inconspicua or linkei. The
> male's body colour seems stable at clear blue. In the photos (Aqualog
> and other sources), all these fish have red and blue on the gillplates.
> Linkei may or may not have yellow on the chest (this fish doesn't),
> however, the very base of the pectorals is yellow.
> Can someone help with with a visual ID, or a feed to a trustworthy
> commbrae/inconspicua photo source?
> Thanks,
> Gary
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Ocean Aquarium & Mayland and Bork

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000
To: apisto/


You fall into the same trap when IDing apistos that many hobbyists do - thinking
color patterns are important. The only important color patterns on most apistos
are the black markings on the head, flanks and tail. All of the pretty colors can
be highly variable. Finnage, especially on domestically developed forms can be
very different than those of wild caught specimens, too. If you look at the
original descriptions of both A. macmasteri and A. viejita, neither report caudal
extensions. These extensions are the result of a combination of plentiful food,
quality water conditions, no competition, longer life spans, and selective
breeding. The potential for caudal extensions is in every wild specimen. They
just need help to grow them.

Obviously you haven't been reading the Apisto-gram for long since the Apisto
Species List has listed Rotflecken for over 10 years! Now a little history. Linke
& Staeck introduced 3 color forms of A. viejita in their book in 1984. In 1985
Koslowski gave each color form a specific name since he wasn't positive that they
were all forms of A. viejita. Koslowski called CF I "Rotsaum/Red-edged", CF II
"Rotflecken/Red-flecked", and CF III "Schwarkehl/Black-chin".  A. viejita CF I in
L&S (=Rotsaum) is from the type locality of A. viejita and is certainly the true
A. viejita. L&S's CF II (=Rotflecken) is found in oasis pools in the a different
major drainage than that of Rotsaum. CF III (=Schwarzsaum) comes from the same
drainage as Rotflecken, but is found in shaded stream borders in the Llanos of
Colombia. Although the coloration of Rotflecken (gaudy) & Schwarzkehl (drab) are
very different, their black markings are the same as are the appearance of the
females. Koslowski now believes that A. sp. Schwarzkehl is a species separate
from A. viejita and that A. sp. Rotflecken is merely a highly colorful color form
of Schwarzkehl. A. sp. Rotflecken is not a domestic form, but selective breeding
has enhanced its colors and finnage. Hüser is only one of many breeders worldwide
that has worked on enhancing this species. The fish shown in M&B is just the
variety that Hüser has developed.

Mike Wise

Dan Gottsegen wrote:

> I have looked at the pictures of the ACA prize winner again and indeed
> it is much like the one in Mayland and Bork, caudal extensions, very
> yellowish intense color, etc. I have not seen any reference anywhere to
> A. sp rotflecken (cf. viejita II) in Aqualog or any other source.
> Aqualog does mention three types of viejita though. I am curious whence
> the nomenclature? Also, the rotflecken variety is a captive bred (by
> Huser?) type? If so is it derived from a true viejita? I know these are
> general questions. I'm just curious, answer only if you have time.
> -Dan
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A. sp. Wangenflecken??

by WnyZman/
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000
To: apisto/

Regarding the names most of the stores label their fish as: I am very good 
friend with a large local store. They have almost 400 retail tanks and more 
than that in the basement for the wholesale plus 20 or so "kiddie pools" of 
plants. I often get to see the fish list from wholesale suppliers and 
trans-shippers from SA and almost 90% of the Apisto's are listed as A. 
agassizi or A. borelli. When I go back to see the fish upon delivery they are 
most always some other species of Apisto along with the Agassizi and Borelli. 
That's how the big chain stores must receive them but then are unable to 
label them correctly. It's much easier for collectors in SA to label them 
Agassizi instead of taking the time to sort them out when there may be a  
half dozen different species being dumped into the same holding vat at the 
shipping location.
    Maybe I'm wrong about this but it could be at least one answer regarding 
those names.

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Apisto Groupings

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 2001
To: apisto/


The reason we split the genus into groups and complexes is because we now
recognize nearly 200 different forms of Apistogramma. Certainly, many will be
found to be geographic populations of other forms (species), but we won't be sure
which are which without a lot of lab and field study. With so many forms out
there, breaking the genus down into various more closely related groups/complexes
greatly simplifies identifying species/forms. Now if only the books put showed
their fish in a similar fashion, but that's another story.

Let me expand on David Soares' abbreviated description with a little history.  In
1965 Hermann Meinken originally grouped the dozen or so then known apisto species
by using eye diameter/snout length ratio and shape of the dorsal and caudal fins.
This was a totally artificial system, but since there were so few species no one
tried to improve on it for 15 years. In 1980 Kullander published his first
monograph on Brazilian and Peruvian species. In it he suggested a better means of
grouping the species in the genus, then about 40 in number. He had 7
species-groups. Koslowski was the first to subdivide groups into
species-complexes in his 1985 book. Since then the number of
species-groups/complexes has expanded along with the number of new species/forms.
Probably the most recent published revision is mine that can be read on the
Apistogramma Study Groups web page: It
lists 11 species-groups with 14 species-complexes. This article is several years
old now and more new species have increased the number of species-groups. I now
recognize 15 species-groups and 26 species-complexes.

The regani-group is the most species-rich in the genus. I recognize 10
species-complexes containing 83 different species/forms. Regani-group species can
be recognized by:
1. relatively deep (high backed), laterally compressed body;
2. do NOT show a lateral spot;
3. low to moderate, even to very slightly serrated, dorsal fin (males);
4. round caudal fin (males), sometimes truncate (squared off) with small
extensions of the outer rays;
5. vertical flank bars often visible, especially when stressed;
6. casually monogamous to casually polygamous.

Mike Wise

"Edison C. Yap" wrote:

> Is there anyone on the list knows which Apistos belong to the Regani Group?
>  Also what are the different groups of Apistos and what Apistos belong to
> those Group?  Why are Apistos need to be grouped?
> Thanks,
> Edison C. Yap
> Philippines

Sacrimontis or pulcher ?

by Mike & Diane Wise <apistowise/>
Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2000
To: apisto/

Frauley Elson wrote:

> I think it's one of those many species where you have a long geographic range, with
> the fish at the two ends being classified as different species, but with the dividing
> line hard to find in the middle. It's something I find very difficult with killie
> species definitions. I haven't heard as much about this question with Apistos as I
> have with West African fish.Gary,

You may be right. At the ACA convention I mentioned the same problem with species of
apistos. Right now there are about 200 physically different forms (taxonomic species),
but I'm not sure that they are all "biological species". In actuality there may only be
30 - 40 different species. I have discussed this problem with other apisto people and
several of us have come to the opinion that, for now, it is best to split these fish up
as narrowly as possible, list them as possible species/populations, and not interbreed
them. If future evidence shows that some of the many populations are the same species, it
is simple to lump them back together. On the other hand, what happens if we lump several
populations together as a species, breed them together, and then discover that we were
actually dealing with multiple sibling species?

Mike Wise

> -Gary
> Mike & Diane Wise wrote:
> > I have never heard of any interbreeding but I imagine it is possible if the fish
> > are given no choice.
> -----Mike Wise
> --------------------------------------------------------------------

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