Apistogramma Fish “Dwarf Cichlid”

apistogramma fish

Last updated on August 27th, 2022 at 10:56 pm

Apistogramma fish are a large group of cichlids. They include more than 100 species in ten genera, depending on the exact definition used. Their natural distribution is in South America and they occur in many types of freshwater habitats that range from slow-moving rivers to fast-flowing streams and waterfalls.

Many species have adapted well to human-modified habitats such as farm ponds.

The Apistogramma species are mouthbrooders, which means that the female carries the eggs, and later on after they have hatched, she will carry around the young fish in her mouth for a short while before releasing them. This behavior is unique to this group of cichlids and is one of the reasons they are so popular in aquariums.

Origin and descriptions

apistogramma fish

Apistogramma fish originate from South America. They vary in size and color, but they’re generally small freshwater fish with long fins that can be either orange or red. The male is usually more colorful than the female, which has relatively plain coloring.

Apistogramma fish can be a great pet for those who have some experience caring for tropical freshwater fish. They’re easy to feed and fun to watch, as they enjoy swimming around their habitat and interacting with each other or even playing fetch! If you want something more exotic than the average goldfish but don’t have a large amount of experience caring for fish, then check out the Apistogramma species.

Apistogramma fish are generally not aggressive to other types of tropical freshwater fish, but can be somewhat territorial with each other and should only be housed one male per tank because they may fight over territory or females if there’s more than one male in a tank.

Apistogramma fish are relatively easy to care for and make great pets, if you want something exotic but aren’t quite ready for the responsibility of caring for saltwater marine life or large reptiles like an iguana!

Species profile

apistogramma fish

Apistogramma is a genus of fish in the cichlid family. They are small to moderate size freshwater fish from South America that come from habitats ranging from peat swamps to fast-flowing rivers and streams. They are popular with aquarium owners and breed readily in captivity.

Many species of Apistogramma have been bred and they will produce broods on a regular basis, even if just one pair is kept. These cichlids can be found at local pet shops or online for purchase. Each fish has its own unique personality making it a great addition to any tank.

Green Terror Cichlid Care Tips

Color and appearance

The fish can adapt to a wide range of water conditions but are sensitive to low oxygen levels. Their colors vary depending on the species and their environment. Some have bright red or yellow patches while others are black with spots that glow under blue lighting. Males will develop more vivid coloration when they are ready to breed which is shown by an intense blue on the face and body.

The fish are small in size with females growing to be about two inches and males growing up to three inches. They have a streamlined body shape with varying patterns of stripes, spots, or blotches that help them blend into their habitat when they are resting on the bottom. Their heads are extended outwards which helps give them more visibility when looking for food.

Since the fish are small in size, they do best with a tank of 30 gallons or larger with plenty of hiding places for retreat when they feel threatened. They prefer to live in tanks that have subdued lighting and a soft bottom since hard surfaces can damage their mouth as they feed on biofilm and invertebrates living along with them.

Range and habitat

The fish are found in South America where they have a vast range of habitats. Some species live exclusively on the surface while others can be found at various depths. They tend to prefer areas that have clean water with plenty of vegetation but also come from rivers and streams that may contain muddy or sandy bottoms.

Their habitat ranges from peat swamps to fast-flowing rivers and streams. They are common in parts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, and other countries along the Amazon River basin.

They feed on a wide range of invertebrates including insect larvae that live in biofilm or algae attached to rocks or plants. Some species include fruit flies in their diet as well.


Apistogramma fish generally grow to be around two inches in length. However, some species can get much bigger and live up to ten years or more!

Glowlight Tetras: Amazing Fish Species Profile

Tank size

Apistogramma fish are very active and need a lot of space to swim around.  A ten gallon tank is recommended for one male, but it will be crowded for two males or more than one female. A 20-30 gallon aquarium size works best for many Apistos! Be sure to provide plenty of hiding spots such as driftwood, plants, rocks, and caves.

Life cycle

Apistogramma are mouthbrooders. Some species take several weeks to complete their life cycle but in the wild, only a few days. The female usually lays about 200 eggs per spawn at one time and can have multiple spawns during her breeding season which lasts from May through October depending on latitude.

The male guards the eggs and young fries, which hatch in anywhere from three to four days. The fries are very sensitive during the first few weeks and need a well-planted tank with lots of hiding places, especially if you have other fish that will eat them.

As they get bigger, Apistogramma becomes quite pugnacious and will often fight each other for territory or food at this point.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Apistogramma fish are peaceful when given adequate space and appropriate tank mates. However, if they feel threatened or their territory is invaded, they may become aggressive towards another species in the aquarium.

Apistogramma fish care

apistogramma fish

The Apistogramma species are very hardy and easy to care for. To keep them healthy, you should maintain a water temperature of around 20-25°C, ensure the pH levels are between six and eight, do weekly water changes of at least 50% in volume, have proper filtration systems so the tank doesn’t become polluted and feed them a varied diet, including flakes and live food like bloodworms, brine shrimp or daphnia.

Apistogramma fish diet

The Apistogramma species are carnivores and the staple of their diet should consist of a variety of insects like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia. You can also supplement this with high-quality flakes to ensure they get all the nutrients they need for optimum health. It’s important to remember that these fish require both meaty foods and vegetation.

Tank mates

Since the Apistogramma species are quite aggressive, you should not keep them with other types of cichlids or any large tank mates. Some people do however recommend keeping some bottom-feeders like Corydoras catfish if your aquarium is at least 70 gallons since these catfish tend to coexist well with Apistogramma cichlids.

Lemon Oscar Care And Species Profile

If you have a smaller aquarium, then the best tank mates for them are other small to medium-sized fish like tetras and barb species. Another option is to keep them alone since they fare much better when they only have themselves to worry about.

Water conditions

The Apistogramma species are from the lowland tropical waters of South America and as such they prefer soft, slightly acidic water with a pH range between six and eight. The temperature should be in the 20-25°C (68 to 77°F) range so you need to invest in an aquarium heater if your tank doesn’t have a built-in heater.

Regular weekly water changes are essential for maintaining good water quality so you should aim to do at least 50% of the tank volume each week if not more.

Many Apistogramma lives in very shallow waters in the wild which means they don’t like to swim against currents, so you shouldn’t have any water pumps or filters that direct the flow downwards.

The Apistogramma species are also very sensitive to nitrates, and even though these fish can handle some degree of organic waste in their diet, your tank should always be cycled before you add any fish to it.


apistogramma fish

These species are relatively easy to breed since they’re open spawners. They build bubble nests both in the wild and in captivity so it’s a matter of giving them an appropriate environment with lots of plants, no large fish tank mates, and plenty of food for them to be healthy enough to lay their eggs.

Breeding is fairly straightforward but it’s important to remember that the fry is slow growers and needs lots of tiny foods like rotifers, paramecia, or infusoria at first.

It takes around three months for them to become self-sufficient, so during this time, you should feed them very small amounts several times a day until they’re big enough to eat standard flake foods.


In the wild, Apistogramma lives for around six years but in captivity, they can generally go on for much longer. Some people even claim that their fish lived over 20 years, and like other cichlids from South America, some of these species may not reach sexual maturity until they’re three or four years old.

Alligator Gar Fish "Atractosteus Spatula" Care Tips

Parasites and diseases

The Apistogramma species are highly susceptible to ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), which is a common parasite among aquarium fish, and they’re also vulnerable to other diseases like hole-in-the-head.

They can be difficult to diagnose because these symptoms can easily resemble the signs of stress due to poor water conditions, so you should always keep an eye out for any signs of weakness or unusual behavior.

As with all cichlids from South America and especially the Apistogramma species, make sure to quarantine your fish before adding them to a new tank since they can be carriers of various parasites and diseases that may not manifest until later.


Many types of predators attack the Apistogramma species in their natural environment, including mammals like jaguars and large birds like hawks.

In an aquarium however, they don’t have many threats except for larger cichlids that might see them as a potential snack or opportunistic fish that will not be deterred by any defensive behavior from them.

Does it make good pets?

Yes, Apistogramma makes very good pets since they’re relatively easy to breed and take care of. They only grow to about five or six inches in length, so it’s possible for almost anyone to keep at least one even if you don’t have a huge tank.

The best part is that the Apistogramma species are also very beautiful to look at so you can enjoy watching their colors even if they are not actively breeding.


Apistogramma fish make very good pets. They are relatively easy to breed, grow only to about six inches in length, and have a beautiful coloration that can be admired even when they’re not breeding.