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Apistogramma elizabethae
by Don Kinyon
used with permission of the Apistogramma Study Group

This jewel of a fish was described in 1980 by Kullander and named in honor of Professor Louis K. Agassizís second wife. Mrs. Elizabeth Cabot Cary Agassiz. It closely resembles Apistogramma agassizii, named in the professor's honor. It comes from the Rio Uapes area in Brazil, from slow-moving streams where the water is soft and very acid.

Apistogramma elizabethae comes in several color forms from blue to red to yellow, depending on the location. In the particular fish I am working with, the male has a base color of blue/gray, with brighter blue markings along the top of the dorsal fin and through the ventrals. He has a slender body, much like A agassizii, with a spade shaped tail and elongated rays on the front of the dorsal fin. From the lower jaw to the beginning of the anal fin, it is a bright orange-yellow, and this arcs intensifies in color greatly when courting and caring for young. The femal is olive-colored, but when courting and caring for the young. she become a brilliant yellow, with contrasting black spots on her sides.

I was fish-sitting this pair for a friend that was on a collecting trip to Peru (I love opportunities like this). I decided it was a fine chance to try and breed these beautiful animals. They were clearly in very good condition when they arrived, and I was impressed by the male's color from the start.

The pair was housed alone in a standard twenty gallon long style tank, with straight rain water; 0 GH pH6.2 at a temperature of 89 degrees F. The tank had no subsrate, a good bunch of sunken locust wood, several clay pots, and a covering of oak leaves about two inches thick over half of the bottom. I reduced the pH to 5.3 with dilute Phosphoric Acid(yes, it grows great algae more on this later).

Both fish had a good appetite. They ate anything put in front of them including lives frozen, and dry prepared foods. Mosquito larvae white worms, black worms. chopped earth worms, daphnia, frozen blood worms, adult artemia and shredded beef heart were offered on a rotating basis in the evenings and flake and freeze dried food was mornings meal. On this diet along with twice weekly 30% water changes the fish were in prime breeding condition in no time.

The first unusual thing that I noticed was that the female had not been out for a few days to eat. Being a little concerned (they aren't my fish remember), I checked a little close. The pots were empty, but ona closer examination of the oak leaves, the bright yellow female was found along with a large group of eggs buried in the middle of the pile! The female had laid the eggs on the underside of a leaf, ignoring the post in the tank for her use. I left them alone, othe than feeding and water changes for the next few days. During this time the female did come out from under the leaves occassionally to eat, and the male patrolled the tank, keeping away imagined intruders.

In four days, the female and fry emerged from under the leaves. The half of the tank not covered in oak leaves had a fine crop of hair algea about half inch tall( thank you Phosphoric Acid), and the fry took to it naturally. Iím not sure if the young fed on it, but once they were into it they never left. The female was confortable with the situation and led her brood around that section of tank most of the time.When any threat arose, the young fish disappeared into the dense growth, and mom stood guard over the top. Every one was satisfied.

The Fryís first food were microworms fed twice a day. After a few days newly hatched artemia shrimp were added. The young fish grew quickly on this diet and at one month of age ate Grindal wormsand finely chopped frozen Blood worms.

The pair proved to be good parents. They remained in the tank until the young were six weeks old, at which time the fry paid no attention to them. Once the parents were removed, the young dispersed throughout the tank, still remaining in the hair algea for the most part. Some already staked claims to territories.

At present, the brood is ten weeks old and starting to show some adult coloration.

Although had to find and on the pricey side, these Apistogramma are some of the more sought after dwarf cichlid from South America. Once youíve seen them in brooding dress itís no mystery why.

 

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