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Dwarf South American Cichlids-Part 2

Updated on June 20, 2013

Part 2 - The other Dwarf South American Cichlids - Apistogramma

South Americian Dwarf Cichlids come in two basic types, the Papiliochromis and Apistogramma families. Papiliochromis - the rams - were discussed in the first part. This second segment discusses the Apistogramma dwarfs. These are often sleeker in shape when compared to the various rams that show taller front fin spikes and taller bodies. The varieties discussed include agassizi, cacatuoides and macmasteri as well as Namocara anomela.

South American Dwarf Cichlids

Apistogramma agassizi-double red
Apistogramma agassizi-double red
Apistogramma agassizi-fire red
Apistogramma agassizi-fire red
Apistogramma cacatoides-double red
Apistogramma cacatoides-double red
Apistogramma cacatoides-fire red
Apistogramma cacatoides-fire red
Apistogramma macmasteri - red mask
Apistogramma macmasteri - red mask
Apistogramma njserii
Apistogramma njserii

Apistogramma species

In the earlier Hub, "South American Dwarf Cichlids - Part 1" I wrote about the most commonly seen dwarf cichlids. The ones discussed are the ones most often grouped together under the Papiliochromis label. These are by far the more popular fish, and deservedly were discussed first.

The rest of the fish that have been placed under the umbrella of Dwarf cichlids are quite a bit more diverse. The other large family of fish that are normally identified as part of the umbrella group are Apistogramma types. These include the Appistogramma agassizi, Appistogramma cacatuoides and Apistogramma macmasteri, as well as a few others. These make up a great number of the rest of the dwarf cichlids,

While is may appear that the above list is somewhat short, there are others available as well, with more types and colour variations becoming available as they are either discovered or created by imaginative aquarists. In the three Appistograma species included here, there are a number of colour variations that have become accessible in many markets.

In general, the dwarf cichlids prefer warm, soft acid water. The cacatuoides will tolerate higher pH than most of the others but even here, the softer and more acid (within reason) the better for the assorted varieties to develop their stunning colours and breed. These are beautiful fish, but like the Papiliochromis, these are also not especially good for the true novice. The need for carefully regulating the water characteristics and keeping the fish tank heavily planted with lots of places for the fish to hide and feel comfortable makes them best for well established aquariums that have been developed for their particular needs. In addition, they are not well suited to the standard commercial diets. Aficionados of these species recommend that small live foods and frozen make up the bulk of their diet, and some flakes or prepared foods only being used occasionally.

Breeding is not all that difficult if the fish are kept in proper conditions and provided witht he right combinations of fish. The males are often quite territorial, and often the strongest will eventually eliminate any competition. The most successful breeders have found that adding a male with a number of females seems to work the best.

Apistogramma agassiz:

These sleek fish come in at least two variants in the store I deal with, but the literature suggests there are many other colours found naturally.and probably have a few more available as well. The two colours I am most familiar with are the Double Red and the Fire Red strains. These fish,. like the ret of the varieties mentioned here require plenty of cover to hide in. Heavily planted tanks are the best, in nature they prefer somewhat shallower moving water with lots of dead leaves for cover.

Appistogramma cacatoides

These are a favourite species of mine, they are like small torpedoes in the tank, sleek and well shaped. However, they are extremely timid, and often will hide in any decorations or heavy plant growth. Do not add aggressive feeders to the mix of fish in a tank with cacatoides in them, they will often be overwhelmed by the activity and stay hidden for the the most part. If the fish are too fast they will end up starving. It may not be your experience, but that is what has occurred with the fish that I kept. The aggressive feeders were Botia lohochata, they enjoyed feeding from the top and the cacatoides only got what slowly fell to the bottom.

Apistogramma cacatoides are available in fire red and double red varieties as well as a number of other colours in nature. Like the rest of the the Apistogrammas, these fish should be kept with multiple females to the males. They are timid among other fish, but they are territorial as far as their own kind are concerned..

Apistogramma macmasteri are often labeled as Red Mask, but seem to have been quite interbred to onbtain the coilours they show in an aquarium. Wild caught specimens, althoiugh beautiful in their own right are definitiely not as colourful as the fish sold from breeders. Many of these fist are though to have been interbred with Apistogramma viejita. Thios has leant a vibtrrancy to the colours that are not often found in wild varieties.

Apistogramma macmasteri are some of the larger of the dwarf cichlids, some have reaches as large as four inches and they are also much more adapted to aquarium life on the whole. They are better able to take prepared foods. They still should be maintained in softer, acid water and given plenty of shelter in the form of heavily planted areas and lots of hiding placers in caves and roots.

These fish are a challenge to keep alive, mainly because they are so timid and often wil not get enough nutrition with prelpared foods. As time goes by, they have become much more adapted to standard fish foods, but seem more adaptable to micro pellets than flakes. If you do want to keep these South American jewels, be sure you are willing to keep both frozen and freeze dried foods in your fish pantry. If your local pet store regularly carries small live foods such as brine shrimp and other foods, you will have a much greater chance of having great success with these tiny treasures.


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