Apistogramma species are a dwarf cichlid group that inhabits an area
from northern South America to the northern parts of Argentina, which
includes Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. For the most
part they inhabit soft water except on the slopes of the Andes Mountains.
They are always looking for a place to hide such as caves, crevices
and areas of low overhanging plants with a few fallen leaves thrown
in. The water temperature is usually between 76 & 78 degrees and
mostly has a brownish tint. To keep as display specimens, normal tap
water is adequate but for breeding I try to duplicate their natural
habitat as closely as possible. A few years ago I did have some success
without changing water conditions but lately have changed my methods.
For a group of six or eight young specimens I use a 10-gallon bare
bottom tank. A slate bottom type can be used but you will be unable
to "peek" from underneath to see if there are any eggs. Begin
with your regular fish tank water (RO can come later) as many will spawn
in regular water. One bubble-up box filter, Java moss/Java fern, a sinking
or floating yarn mop AND at least one 3" clay flowerpot for each
Apisto must be added. Each pot has a small opening cut into what is
normally the top, just large enough for the male to squeeze through.
If all the fish are small fry, cut an opening about the size of your
"pinky" finger, which should be about the right size. One
note about cutting into clay pots. You must use a hacksaw type blade
called a "carbide grit rod saw" as a normal blade which is
flat will split the pot if twisted ever so slightly and you will end
up with 2 or 3 shards which become of no use at all. Along with the
fish, a few Cory cats can be added if so desired to clean up excess
food if you overfeed. Make sure there are enough hiding places for everyone,
as sometimes things can become a little violent.
Now comes the hardest part. Just wait, and wait and wait. If you purchased
small fry, this can take almost eight months. Make your weekly water
changes and feed live baby brine shrimp daily. My long time breeding
adults still get live brine exclusively daily. About once a week they
get small portions of frozen brine very sparingly as not to foul the
tank water. When a female finally turns a bright yellow with deep black
markings, that's a sign telling me there are eggs somewhere. If she
stays half in the doorway of the flowerpot, it's a good bet the eggs
are inside. At this time you can look from below or if that is not possible,
just slowly lift the pot and check that way being careful not to disturb
the area too much. If there are eggs I just replace the pot and try
to remove all the other fish as quietly as possible. This just ain't
easy so take your time as usually all the others are forced up into
a far corner and will return there if you miss them the first time.
If you are lucky and all goes well, fry will appear in about ten days.
If she eats the eggs; they most likely were no good to begin with especially
with the first spawn. The eggs should be dark blood red in color or
they probably are infertile. If they are no good after a few times,
now comes the RO water.
If you don't have a soft water unit you can purchase some at the supermarket
IF they have a machine. Regular bottled water IS NOT soft water and
"Hey Culligan Man" is no good either. I usually remove all
but two inches of water and replace it with the same temperature RO
water that brings the ppm's down to about 20. A few degrees colder will
make the fish think the spring rains have come and may get an idea to
spawn quickly. By adding the RO water, the pH usually drops close to
6, which is ideal. Go through the same process as before and just keep
your fingers crossed. I have had many different Apistos go through my
fish room but have only been able to get a small number of them spawn
successfully so as you can see, they are not an easy species to work
At the last OCA Extravaganza in Cleveland, Ohio I purchased a trio
of Apistogramma gibbiceps from my good friend "Little John"
Wubbolt. I like this fish because of the black diagonal markings below
the lateral line and it's lyre tail The tail is not elongated as much
as others such as Dicrossus filamentosus but can very definitely be
noticed. Anyway most Apistos that I have bred lay from 20 to 50 eggs
at the most but one of the females is now leading a spawn of about a
hundred small fry around the tank. I didn't think that any Apisto could
have that many offspring at one time. To add to my amazement, she is
barely ¾" in length. After spawning 20 or so Apistos I now
learn something new. Some have a whole lot of fry!
When I purchased my first "Apistogramma" book in 1987 there
were 40 species listed. The updated version of the same book in 1994
listed 50 different and now the latest new book written by Hans Mayland
and Dieter Bork and published in 1997 list 69 species. As you can see,
new Apistos are being found almost daily. Of the 14 different I am working
with now, three are not listed anywhere. Oops, I forgot about the Internet.
Check through your browsers and club web sites and I'm sure you can
find some that just were found last month. Or so it seems. The problem
is that if you want the latest, you will pay through the proverbial
nose unless you have a contact that can supply you with the newest findings
as a trade. Like anything else, everybody wants the latest just to say
they have it. Start out with the old standbys and see if you enjoy them
first before spending a lot of money just to have something new.