Apistogramma Lifespan, Types, Care, Tank Mates & More

These fascinating fish come in various types, each with unique characteristics and care requirements.

There is much to learn about these captivating creatures, from their lifespan to their tank mates.

This article will guide you through everything you need to know about Apistogramma care, including their diet, behavior, and breeding habits.

We’ll also discuss the different types of Apistogramma available and what makes each one special.

Whether you’re a seasoned fish owner or just starting, this article will provide all the information you need to give your Apistogramma the best possible care.

Species Summary

Apistogramma, or Dwarf Cichlids, are a delightful and lively fish species. They are visually stunning and love to explore their surroundings, often peering through the glass to check out what’s on the other side.

The Apistogramma is a genus containing several species of fish that fall under it. As the name ‘Dwarf Cichlids’ suggests, they are part of the Cichlidae family.

In their natural habitat, these fish are typically located in the Amazon basin, living in slow-moving rivers and streams or on the fringes of larger lakes.

Thanks to their captivating personalities and vibrant coloring, they have become very popular in the fish-keeping world.

That said, they are not advised for beginners. Apistogramma needs a clean environment and stringent water quality to be healthy and happy.


You’ll be amazed at how long these colorful fish can live if you give them the care and attention they deserve. Apistogrammas can live from five to ten years if their surroundings are appropriate and they receive a well-balanced diet.

To make sure your Apistogrammas live their best life, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Maintaining a consistent water temperature and avoiding sudden changes is important.
  2. Keep the pH level Apistogrammas prefer slightly acidic to neutral water.
  3. Provide a varied diet that includes high-quality pellets and frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms.

Providing your Apistogrammas with an optimal environment and diet’ll help extend their lifespan and ensure that they remain healthy and vibrant throughout their years.


Take a closer look at their unique and striking appearance, and you’ll see why Apistogrammas are a must-have for any aquarium enthusiast. These fish have a distinct body shape, slightly elongated and compressed from the sides.

The males have more vibrant colors than the females, with some species having a bright orange or red hue on their fins. They also have a distinctive head shape that is rounded and slightly pointed, with a small mouth that is perfect for their diet.

In addition to their physical features, Apistogrammas are known for their unique behavior. They are territorial and can be aggressive towards other fish during breeding season or when they feel threatened. However, they are social and thrive in a community tank with other peaceful fish.

With their striking appearance and interesting behavior, Apistogrammas will surely be a conversation starter in any aquarium.


Apistogrammas come in various sizes, with the smallest species reaching only 1 inch long and the largest growing up to 3 inches.

The size of your Apistogramma will play a crucial role in its behavior, as larger species tend to be more dominant and territorial than their smaller counterparts.

Here are three things to consider when it comes to Apistogramma size in your aquarium:

  • Larger species may require more space and hiding spots, as they can become aggressive towards smaller fish or their kind.
  • Smaller species may be more suitable for community tanks, as they are less likely to cause conflicts with other fish.
  • Consider the size of your tank before choosing an Apistogramma species, as some may require larger tanks to thrive and exhibit their natural behaviors.

Remember, the size of your Apistogramma can greatly impact its behavior and the overall health of your aquarium. So, choose wisely and provide the best possible environment for your fish.

Types Of Apistogramma

Apistogramma has a wide variety of species, with more than 90 known to exist! Some of these species are newly discovered and still require extensive research and evaluation by the scientific community.

Despite the similarities in care and environment, each Apistogramma species has unique traits. These fish can be found in various locations across South America and are easily identifiable by their distinct physical features.

For aquarium owners, several common types of Apistogramma are available:

Apistogramma Cacatuoides


Dwarf Cockatoo Cichlids are a beloved species in the fishkeeping community, often bred in captivity. It’s not hard to see why they have the nickname “Cockatoo” – males have a tall, spiky dorsal fin that resembles the feathers of a Cockatoo.

Their pelvic, anal, and tail fins are also airy and feather-like. These Apistogrammas are truly vibrant, with males often sporting bright red spots on their fins.

The body has a more muted yellow hue, with a striking “racing” stripe running from head to tail. Altogether, these fish are a stunning sight to behold.

Apistogramma Agassizii


Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlids come in a few spectacular color patterns. The most common is a shining gold body with a bold black stripe or spot – some males even sport bright red tails.

Females are usually a bit duller and smaller than their male counterparts. There are also blue-hued specimens, with an upper half in rich blue color and a golden-yellow underside. These fish boast a slender shape, with fins that taper off towards the tail.

Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlids tend to be more territorial, so they need plenty of space to escape.

Apistogramma Borellii


Introducing the Apistogramma Borelli, which has a calm and subdued color scheme. These fish are often called Umbrella Cichlids or Yellow Dwarf Cichlids.

As the name suggests, yellow is their primary hue, though they also boast beautiful blues that cover their bodies. Dark blue spots can also be seen on the body of the fish.

The head of this species is particularly eye-catching, with a shimmering blue covering the head and possibly some red markings.

Yellow Dwarf Cichlids are one of the more docile Apistogramma varieties well-suited to a community tank.

Additionally, their hardiness allows them to handle varied water conditions.

Apistogramma Macmasteri


The Apisto Macmasteri has an impressive and menacing appearance. This fish can easily be identified with its large dorsal and pelvic fins.

Adult males have long fins, a squared-off tail, a dorsal fin extending the entire body length, and striking spikes.

In nature, the coloration of this species tends to be more muted than those bred in captivity, which have been bred to produce the most vibrant colors.

Therefore, most specimens found in the market display bright red spots. The fins often have the tips tipped in red, and some specimens boast large spots of red and a striking black stripe.

Apistogramma Hongsloi


Honglo’s Dwarf Cichlids are renowned for their vibrant colors. Males are usually adorned with a pink hue that blankets the belly and face and is highlighted by dazzling red accents.

These accents can come in the form of swirls on the fins or spots on the tail and face, and those bred in captivity may even have more red than pink!

Regarding tank mates, these cichlids tend to get along quite well with other peaceful fish.

They’ll remain in their claimed territory at the bottom of the tank but will keep an eye out for any troublemakers.

Apistogramma Viejita


These fish look strikingly similar to Aposti Macmasteri. They are often mistaken for one another due to their similar colors and body shapes.

Viejeta is incredibly vibrant, particularly when bred in captivity. These fish boast red spots, dark specks, light dots, and a defining black stripe.

Look at their dorsal and tail fins to tell the difference between a Viejeta and a Macmasteri. Viejeta has a rounded tail fin, sometimes with two points at the top and bottom. Their dorsal fin features a large hump at the front and an extended section at the rear.

Apistogramma Baenschi


The Inca Dwarf Cichlid, or Apistogramma Inka, is a relatively new species discovered only in 2002. Despite its short existence, it has become a top pick among cichlid aficionados.

Distinguishing features include a bigger head and lips that protrude more than usual, and these parts also have a deeper shade, making them easier to spot.

Coloration is quite diverse, with yellow and blue being the most common. Some specimens may even have vertical black stripes. A black dot and a wide ring of orange can be found at the tail end of the fish.

Apistogramma Elizabethae


This majestic species has an appearance that befits its grandiose name – Fisherman’s Dwarf. Males boast a slim physique, but the fins give the illusion of a much larger size.

The dorsal and anal fins are shorter and flatter than those of other similar species and merge seamlessly into the tail fin. The latter makes them stand out, as it has a spade-like shape with thin stripes running across it.

The fish’s body is adorned with gold, blue, and red spots, with the red usually concentrated around the face and fins.

Apistogramma Trifasciata


This fish is aptly named the Three-Striped Apisto due to the three thick black stripes running the length of its body. Two are found on either side of its body, and the third is beneath the dorsal fin.

Its bright blue fins complement the stripes, which are longer than typical Apisto species. This gives the fish a wispy mohawk-like look, with the upper portion of the dorsal fin being longer than the rest.

Adding to the beauty of this fish, some specimens have red accents, typically found at the tips of its fins or on its face.

Overall, the body is a stunning combination of blue, yellow, and red.

Apistogramma Care

Caring for Apistogramma can seem daunting, but the effort is worth it! Keeping these little cichlids healthy isn’t as complicated as it looks, and the reward is great.

Here are some essential tips to ensure they stay happy and healthy.

Tank Size

Choosing the right tank size is important if you want your apistogrammas to thrive and live a healthy life.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Tank size: Generally, a healthy group of fish should be provided with around 20 to 30 gallons of space. More room is always better, although they can adapt to smaller nano tanks. It’s important to create an enjoyable and spacious environment for them.
  • The number of fish: Apistogrammas are territorial fish that need space. A good rule of thumb is to have at least 10 gallons of water per fish.
  • The size of the fish: Apistogrammas can vary in size, with some species being smaller than others. Make sure to research the specific species you have to determine the appropriate tank size.
  • The tank layout: Apistogrammas are known for their love of hiding spots, so make sure to include plenty of caves, plants, and other d√©cors. This will also help them establish their territory and reduce aggression.
  • The filter and water quality: A larger tank means more water, which can dilute toxins and maintain better water quality. A good filter is also essential to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish.

Choosing the right tank size is crucial for the health and happiness of your apistogrammas.

With the right amount of space, hiding spots, and clean water, your fish will thrive and live a long, healthy life.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the proper water parameters is essential for creating a picturesque environment that promotes the well-being of your vibrant aquatic pets.

Apistogramma fish require slightly acidic water with a pH of 6 to 7 and a 72 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit temperature range. Water hardness is an important factor to consider for the health of your aquatic life. Depending on the species in question, it must range from 2 to 15 dKH.

Make sure to test the water regularly using a reliable water test kit to ensure that the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels are within safe limits. High levels of these chemicals can cause stress and illness in your fish.

In addition, make sure to perform regular water changes of at least 25% every week to keep the water clean and healthy for your fish.

Avoid using tap water directly as it may contain harmful chemicals and heavy metals. Instead, use a water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and other harmful substances.

Remember that maintaining proper water parameters is crucial for the health and longevity of your Apistogramma fish.

What To Put In Their Tank

Keep in mind that apistogrammas are territorial creatures. When setting up the aquarium for Apistogramma Elizabethae, it’s important to choose decorations that won’t overcrowd their space.

Stick to a natural-looking tank with plenty of hiding spots, such as caves, driftwood, and plants. These hiding spots will allow your apistogramma to feel safe and secure in their environment. When selecting plants for your apistogramma’s tank, remember that they prefer dimly lit areas.

Java fern, Cryptocoryne, and Java moss are excellent options, as these plants don’t require high lighting and are easy to care for.

Consider adding floating plants to the tank, as they will help to create shaded areas and give your apistogramma plenty of cover.

Choose a substrate suitable for your apistogramma’s natural habitat. Sand or fine gravel is ideal as it mimics their natural environment and makes it easier for them to forage for food.

When it comes to the necessary equipment, having a strong filtration system is key. These small fish generate a lot of waste, so a high-grade canister filter (such as the Fluval FX4) with carbon filtration media will help maintain good water quality.

On the other hand, it’s important to avoid pumps and air bladders that are too powerful. Apistogramma prefers low water flow and will not breed in a fast-moving environment, and they need the water to be nearly still to reproduce.

Creating a suitable environment for your apistogramma is crucial to their health and happiness.

You can ensure they thrive in their tank by providing plenty of hiding spots, natural-looking decorations, and suitable plants and substrate.

Common Possible Diseases

Let’s dive into some common diseases that can affect your beloved fish. Fish are also susceptible to diseases and infections, as with any living creature.

They can acquire a few common freshwater illnesses, such as Ich and parasitic infections; these troubles usually arise from poor water quality, which causes the fish to be under stress and even fatal.

Therefore, you must be extra vigilant when keeping the water clean. If you ensure the water is soft, and the pH level is neutral, your fish will stay healthy.

Taking preventive measures and seeking prompt veterinary care when necessary can ensure your fish remain healthy and happy for years.

Food & Diet

Feeding these beautiful fish is like treating them to an array of colorful and nutritious foods that cater to their every taste bud. Apistogrammas are omnivores, so their diet should comprise plant- and animal-based foods.

You can feed them with high-quality commercial pellets for cichlids, flakes, frozen, and live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and mosquito larvae.

It’s important to vary their diet as much as possible to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients. You can feed them twice daily but don’t overfeed them.

Apistogrammas have small stomachs and can only consume what they need. Overfeeding can lead to health problems, so it’s best to feed them in small amounts and observe how much they eat.

Your apistogrammas will show vibrant colors and playful behavior with the right diet.

Behavior & Temperament

You’ll love watching these colorful fish interact with each other and their environment as they exhibit unique behaviors and temperaments.

Here are some interesting facts about the behavior and temperament of Apistogramma fish that will fascinate you.

  • Apistogramma fish are known for their curious and social behavior, and they love to explore their surroundings and interact with other fish in their tank. They often swim in and out of caves, hide behind plants, and even play with their reflection in the glass.
  • These fish can be quite territorial, especially during the breeding season. Male Apistogramma fish can become aggressive towards other male fish if they feel their territory is threatened. It’s important to provide enough hiding places and territories in the tank to avoid conflicts among the fish.
  • ¬†Apistogramma fish are also known for their unique mating behavior. The male often displays vibrant colors and performs elaborate courtship dances to attract a female. Once the female lays her eggs, the male will protect the nest until the eggs hatch.

Overall, Apistogramma fish are fascinating creatures to observe. Their social behavior, territorial instincts, and mating rituals make them a joy to watch in the aquarium.

With proper care and a well-maintained habitat, these fish thrive and provide endless entertainment for their owners.

Apistogramma Tank Mates

As a responsible fish owner, you want to ensure that your Apistogramma has the right companions in its tank.

These fish are territorial, so you must carefully select their tank mates. You can add small fish like tetras, rasboras, and pencilfishto the tank without any problems. However, it’s essential to avoid large and aggressive fish that can harm your Apistogramma.

Some good tank mates for Apistogramma include other dwarf cichlids and small catfish.

With the right selection of tank mates, your Apistogramma can live happily and healthily in its tank.

Breeding Guidelines

First and foremost, make sure you have a breeding pair. It’s important to note that some species of Apistogramma can be difficult to sex with, so purchasing a group of juveniles may be beneficial and allow them to pair off naturally.

Once you have a confirmed male and female, set up a breeding tank with plenty of hiding places and a soft substrate for the female to lay her eggs.

Next, ensure that the water parameters are suitable for breeding. Apistogramma prefers slightly acidic water with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also add a small amount of tannins to the water to mimic their natural environment.

Female and male Apistogramma is renowned for their parental dedication; they will guard the eggs with their lives. They’ll normally pick a secure spot to lay the eggs, such as a cave system or a flipped clay pot.

It takes just two to five days for the eggs to hatch. During this time, the male and female fish will protect the area and chase away any fish that gets too close. This is why it’s best to breed the fish in a separate tank.

Once the eggs are hatched, the baby fry will feed on whatever food the mother brings them, and she’ll lead them to algae and other sources of nourishment. After a few days, you can feed them baby brine shrimp to help them grow.

By about five months old, the baby’s Apistogramma will fully mature.

You can successfully breed and raise healthy Apistogramma fry with proper care and attention.


By now, you should understand the lifespan, types, care, tank mates, and breeding guidelines for these fascinating creatures.

Remember that apistogrammas require specific water conditions, such as a pH range of 6.0-7.5 and soft to moderately hard water. They also need plenty of hiding places and a varied diet to thrive.

Regarding tank mates, choose peaceful fish that won’t bully or outcompete the apistogrammas for food.

With proper care and attention, apistogrammas can be an excellent addition to any aquarium.

If you provide them with a suitable environment and companions, these colorful and intelligent fish will bring joy and fascination to your aquatic hobby.