Apistogramma Care and Breeding Guide

Apistogramma Care and Breeding Guide

Apistogramma is a small fish that is a favorite for many aquarium enthusiasts that is classified in the family of cichlids. The fish is native to the South American continent, almost covering the entire South American region than previously thought. Some of the regions in South America that you will find the fish include; the Amazon, the region Paraguay basin area, and also in the Parana area as well. They are a tropical aquarium fish that is highly prized in the aquarium fishing circles especially amongst hobbyists. You will find as many as 250 Apistogramma species with new more species being discovered every year! Even though the species of the fish are diverse they share some few common characteristics that make them to be classified together. Basically, the adult fish usually have very small sizes to be confused with the fry of other fish.

Appearance of Apistogramma

Like many other varieties of cichlids Apistogramma appearance is usually influenced by different factors. Some these factors may include sex, social hierarchy, and mood. Apistogramma are usually small in size just like other cichlid species but it appears brightly colored.

The males

The males are usually larger in size than the female species and will measure up to 10 centimeters or 4 inches. There are males that are highly aggressive while there are those that slightly aggressive often opting to avoid direct conflicts with other aggressive males. The males will show ventral fins that are long and flowing which are attached on the front and lower part of their bodies.

The Females

Female apistogramma are not as big as the males and are also not very aggressive like the dominant males. There are females that are aggressive though but not so much to the level of aggressive males that are dominant. The average body size of an adult female will be 5 centimeters or 2 inches. This is the maximum body size the female will have. Generally the female appear gray to brown in color but will show a shade of yellow during breeding


Naturally, apistogramma are found in the South American continent where it is a native. The species is found on most parts of this continent but usually are most common in; Amazon, Solimoes River Basin, in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ucayali. It likes to stay in narrow and shallow rivers that are tributaries of the Amazon.

It is a fresh water fish that will require to be put in a fresh water aquarium for it to thrive. Lots of care must be observed with the fish because some of the male are so aggressive that they can feed on others. Due to the high polygamous nature of the males, the fish will leave in groups called harems consisting of one male and several females!

Tank requirements

A good tank for this aquarium fish should be able to hold up to 50 gallons of water with a sponge filter. The fish can be kept in relatively small tanks as long as you ensure that the water quality in the tank is kept intact at all times to avoid the possibility of problems which may cost you your fish in the long run.

Water quality need to be well maintained at all times because Apistogrammes are highly sensitive and will easily die due to poor water conditions. A 55-gallon aquarium is usually advised for keeping a group of the fish that should also not be too many. Please take note that the fish both the males and females are highly territorial and will need sufficient space to mark their territories.

For the well-being of the females, having a decorated aquarium will help every female in the tank to claim a territory of her own however small it may be! For decorating the tank you could use plants, driftwood, and rocks.

In order to encourage breeding, you could include flower pots that will act like some sort of caves for them to breed in. These will also offer them excellent places to hide when need arises. Ensure that water is soft enough but not too soft to cause problems in the tank.

The pH of the water in the tank should be kept to not below 5 there are species of Apistogrammes that will easily die in waters with incredibly low pH.

As for the temperature that is required of the tank and because this fish is adapted to the tropical type of climate, ensure that you keep temperatures optimum. This should be almost the same with those you will find in the Amazon but don’t let the temperature to go too low!


The Apisgramme is naturally a carnivore feeding mostly on insects that usually feed on the leaves that fall on the bottom of the Amazon or its tributaries. In the tank you will find feeding the fish quite easy because you can give live food, frozen or artificial food. Just ensure that you keep changing the food in order to make variety for your fish in the aquarium. Feeding them one kind of food over and over again may not work best for them so it is best to feed them a balanced diet just like they would if they are in the wild.


The Apisgramma are highly polygamous and a single male will have several females following it in a group known as a harem. The females will protect the harem from other females making a sort of a territory and even defending it.

A single female will spawn up to 80 eggs in a cave by attaching them on the top part of the cave. After spawning, the female will look after the eggs while male will be guarding the whole territory until the eggs are hatched. This therefore calls on the fish keeper to provide lots of cave-like structures in the tank to facilitate easy spawning and breeding.

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