Apistogramma Borellii (Umbrella Cichlid)

Apistogramma borellii

Last updated on July 20th, 2022 at 11:26 pm

The Umbrella Cichlid, also known as Apistogramma borellii, has an unmistakable name, but it might not be as recognizable to most of us in the fishkeeping hobby because they are not as commonly available to buy or breed as many other popular species of Apistogramma cichlids.

When it comes to choosing the right fish to add to your aquarium, many aquarists are unsure where to begin when looking at all of the different options available to them. One of the most popular fish that you can choose from when adding freshwater species to your tank or pond, however, is Apistogramma borellii. Also known as the umbrella cichlid, this fish has been kept in aquariums for quite some time and its popularity has shown no signs of slowing down over the years.

This fish’s scientific name is apistogramma borellii, but in the aquarium trade, you may also hear it called umbrella cichlid or simply Umbri. No matter what you call it, this cichlid from South America has many great qualities that make it an excellent fish for the community tank and one that can add some color to your aquarium.

This guide covers everything you need to know about keeping Apistogramma borellii in your aquarium and how to breed them successfully at home.

Origin and descriptions

Apistogramma borellii

The Apistogramma borellii is a freshwater fish belonging to the family Cichlidae of order Perciformes. It is native to South America, including Trinidad and Tobago. The species reaches sexual maturity at 4 months or 2 inches in length, after which its growth slows down dramatically.

After reaching sexual maturity in captivity, it can be expected to live up to 10 years if properly cared for and fed. As an adult, it will grow to about 1-1/2′′ long by 1-1/4′′ wide. They prefer water temperatures between 72°F and 78°F, although they can tolerate temperatures as high as 82°F in short bursts; they will begin getting stressed at 83°F degrees or higher, so make sure you keep that temperature under control with a heater or cooler depending on what season you’re keeping them in!

Species profile

The Umbrella cichlid is a tropical freshwater fish species native to South America. This small, undemanding species has become quite popular with aquarists, due to its coloration and behavior in captivity. In fact, it’s one of the few species that successfully live in a community aquarium—though some restrictions on tankmates are necessary to prevent hybridization.

An ideal home for an Umbrella cichlid features soft, acidic water, at temperatures between 68 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Other necessities include hiding places, as well as plenty of caves and other structures in which females will lay their eggs. Food is varied; try live food such as daphnia or tubifex worms, supplemented by flakes and freeze-dried bloodworms.

Alestopetersius caudalis (Yellow-tailed African Tetra)

This species is usually found in all sorts of water bodies like floodplains, rivers, reservoirs, and lakes where it feeds on crustaceans, worms, and insect larvae which can be found under rocks.

Being very territorial, they are unsuitable for most community aquariums. These small-sized dwarf cichlids have a slender body with characteristic black stripes covering their entire body except for their belly. They usually reach an average size of 3 inches (8 cm) when fully grown and are sexually mature after about 6 months.


Apistogramma borellii prefer water with a pH of 7.0-8.0, but they are very adaptable and can thrive in slightly more acidic or alkaline water as well. They do best when kept in moderately warm water, at a temperature between 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit. Many hobbyists have kept them in temperatures up to 86 degrees for short periods of time with no ill effects, though above 82 will probably be uncomfortable for most fish and may encourage disease outbreaks.

At night they like it on the cooler side; tank temperatures should drop down to around 73-74 degrees. While some species do fine in brackish water, Apistogramma borellii is not one of them – it’s recommended that you keep all specimens in freshwater only. These fish prefer soft, neutral to mildly acidic water conditions with lots of driftwood and rocks for hiding places.

Apistogramma borellii size

This fish species can grow up to 3 inches (8 centimeters) in length.

Apistogramma borellii tank size

Due to their small size, the minimum recommended tank size for this fish species is 10 gallons. A group of 4 to 6 fish can be comfortable in a 35 gallons tank or larger.

Tank set up

Start with a tank that is at least 60 liters in capacity, although bigger is always better. Apistos prefer to swim in open water rather than in densely planted areas, so aim for as much space between decorations as possible. The more room they have to swim, the more likely they are to settle and grow quickly. Filtering is not required due to its small size but could be useful if you’re keeping multiple fish in a large tank with very little water movement.

The substrate should ideally be made up of rough gravel or pebbles which can help to keep your cichlids healthy by acting as natural toothbrushes. These fish tend to graze on rocks and roots in nature, removing any harmful algae and bacteria from them; replicating these conditions through regular substrate cleaning is crucial for preventing the disease from developing.

Longear Sunfish "Lepomis Megalotis"

A good way of doing this would be using a siphon vacuum cleaner around once every week or two. If possible, plants should also be added to provide additional hiding places and aid in nitrate reduction through photosynthesis.

They will require live or artificial plants depending on personal preference as long as they offer adequate cover from other tankmates. Plastic plants may melt under higher heat levels, so bear that in mind when designing your set-up. Filtration will work best when it comes down to air-powered sponge filters rather than stronger power filters like box filters and hang-on filter tanks.

Apistogramma borellii tank mates

Apistogramma borellii

Apistogramma borellii are aggressive toward others of their own species and may also be territorial toward other fish. Other than that, these fish don’t usually pick fights with other tank mates – as long as they’re given enough space. Umbrellas do well in tanks with plants, rocks, driftwood, and caves to hide inside of. Keep in mind that it’s important to introduce more than one umbrella cichlid at a time since they tend to be loners.

Some good tank mates are armored catfish, tetras, barbs, and small cichlids from other generas. Avoid keeping umbrellas with large cichlids such as convicts and angelfish as they may become a snack. If you want to mix different fish together, it’s best to keep them all in one general size category. For example, if you want to put an Ancistrus catfish with umbrella cichlids, then stick with all umbrella or all ancistrus.


Because these fish are egg-scatterers and somewhat shy, some hobbyists prefer to remove male and female cichlids from their shared tank before they reproduce. If you decide to let them do their thing, watch for eggs on your decorations (such as live or plastic plants). Once you spot a dozen or so eggs hatching, it’s time to get both parent fish into a separate container with young.

The fry will be able to eat newly hatched brine shrimp. In fact, one of the best foods available to feed Apisto fry is frozen adult brine shrimp; newly hatched brine shrimp also works great if you don’t want to buy frozen adult brine shrimp. Ensure that freshwater flow is strong enough in order to create an oxygen-rich environment conducive for fry survival and growth.

Corydoras similis (Smudge Spot Cory)

These fish lay up to three clutches of eggs per spawn cycle, each consisting anywhere between 25 – 50 eggs depending on size and quality of care provided by parents. Eggs will hatch within 24 hours (or less) after spawning occurs if conditions are ideal—which means temperatures range between 77–80 degrees Fahrenheit, lower than 77 can cause longer incubation periods while temperatures over 80 degrees F can lead to higher incidences of deformities among offspring.

Water changes are usually unnecessary unless carried out every 3 days or at least once every other week during the breeding season. Water Changes should not exceed more than 10% each time to prevent pH fluctuations—they have sensitive skin! This species does very well in aquariums with proper filtration making regular maintenance easier.

Are Apistogramma borellii aggressive or peaceful?

Like other Apistogrammas, they are generally peaceful with one another. However, in their territory they can be aggressive towards any fish they view as a threat. They prefer soft water and will choose to not spawn if it is too hard or soft. It is recommended that you buy them as juveniles so you can adjust their water more easily once they’ve acclimated to your aquarium.

Apistogramma borellii care

Apistogramma borellii

The Umbrella Cichlid is a relatively hardy cichlid that requires low maintenance. It doesn’t require aeration, and can be kept in water as soft as 4 dGH and as hard as 15 dGH. The pH should be neutral to slightly acidic, between 6.0 and 7.0; if kept in harder water, make sure to provide some shell or snail shells for calcium supplementation.

Apistogramma borellii food

They are omnivores and will consume aquarium plants such as java moss, but they prefer meatier foods. You should feed your fish high-quality pellet food on a daily basis. Make sure you remove any uneaten pellets after approximately five minutes to avoid polluting your aquarium water.

In addition to pellets, provide them with live and frozen foods including bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, grindal worms, and krill. Feed these treats no more than once a week, preferably in small amounts each time. Foods that contain higher levels of fat help increase their coloration, so feeding sinking catfish pellets can be beneficial for maintaining their vibrancy. Do not forget about vitamin supplements; freshwater cichlids need vitamin A and saltwater cichlids need vitamins A and D3 added to their tank water every two weeks.

Water parameters

Apistogramma borellii

The water should have a pH of 6.5–7.5, hardiness from 55–75 degrees, and a temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. A PH fluctuation in either direction can cause health problems for your fish.

Astatotilapia Burtoni (Burtoni Cichlid)

Apistogramma borellii lifespan

This species can live between 5 to 7 years. With proper care and good water chemistry, they can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Parasites and diseases

​​Apistogramma borellii are prone to internal and external parasites and it’s recommended that new fish be quarantined for a period of time. Aquarists must also watch out for skin flukes in tank mates. Fish with active infestations should be treated immediately by an expert to prevent serious damage to their hosts.

Different kinds of worms, like nematodes, cestodes, and trematodes, can affect Apistogramma borellii if they do not get proper care, or if they live in dirty water with many other infected fish. Several different types of protozoa can infect Apistogramma borellii as well, including amoebas, which cause amoebic gill disease—an infection that destroys blood cells and eventually takes down its victims.

Species affected by parasitic infections will show signs such as rapid breathing or gasping at the surface of your aquarium, slime coat loss due to ulcers on your species’ body, white patches in mouth areas or fins/scales.


Small fry and eggs may be eaten by many different species of cichlids and other fish, but probably not on a regular basis. The Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi), many kinds of characins, killifish, and a few South American catfish such as Hypostomus spp. are known to eat Apistogramma borellii in their natural habitat.

Like all cichlids, they are also potential prey for larger fish like piranhas, large pike, eels, and other large predatory fishes that live in their native environment. They must therefore always swim with others of their own kind unless you provide them with a sufficient number of tankmates to keep them safe from predators large enough to see them as food!

Do Apistogramma borellii make good pets?

While not for everyone, these beautiful and bright-colored fish are a popular choice for people wanting to keep one cichlid species. Apistogramma borellii can make good community fish if they are put in groups of more than 3 and kept with fish large enough not to intimidate them. They should be kept in a tank that is at least 10 gallons or larger.