Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

Fish Profiles & Photos
South American  
    sp. "Abacaxis"
    sp. "Putumayo"
    sp. "Steel Blue"

West African 

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Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue"

     Apistogramma Sp. "Steel Blue" (no A number) is one of the most commonly available apistos in many pet stores. Unfortunately, it is one of the biggest mystery Apistos of all times. The problem is that no one has ever taken credit for discovering this species and no one has ever reported collecting a similar species anywhere in the Amazon. Their markings and characteristics don't match any of the known species groups and the original imports all came from Asia. To top it all off, almost all of the fish that were initially imported were males and the fry that resulted from spawnings of the few females available suffered from a lack of vigor and poor survival.
Male Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue"
      This is a typical  male Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue". The highly iridescent blue markings on the face of these fish make the name "Blue Face" an obvious match. There is a lot of color variation in this fish and some males are metallic blue on their entire body. This photo is courtesy of Mr Steven Chester, Cheshire, England. Mr. Chester has put a number of photos and videos (See below) on the Internet that show both the males and females of this easy to keep Apistogramma.

      All of these oddities resulted in there becoming a common perception that we are dealing with an artificially created fish that is the result of mixing two or more different species. Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue" was first imported into Germany from Singapore in late 1994 and by mid 1995 large numbers of them were being available from wholesalers. They are a very striking fish and there was great interest in determining their origin. However, despite intensive efforts, no one was ever able to pinpoint the source of these fish.      

      They were quickly made available in the rest of the world and many hobbyists purchased these Apistos. by the mid 2000's it was not uncommon to see large numbers of them in the tanks of shops that rarely carried dwarf cichlids. Obviously they were quite common from distributors. However, almost all imports continued to be exclusively male. Finally, there began to be a few reports of successful spawning and the fish appears to reproduce in normal fashion. Today it appears that they are firmly established among a number of commercial Apistogramma hatcheries and I understand that they are routinely offered by distributors in Eastern Europe.

    This video of a pair of Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue" shows both the male and female. If you are interested in seeing additional videos of this fish be sure to visit YouTube and type Apistogramma Steel Blue n the search bar. There are several additional videos from Mr Steven Chester of Cheshire, England  that you will find interesting.
      Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue" has been sold under a lot of different names including "Blue Head", "Blue Steel", "Blaukopf", "Bali", "New Blue", "Blue Face" and are now most commonly sold as A. agassizii or A. borellii. Of course, it is neither of these well known species but since most of these fish are sold by stores with no specialized knowledge it is often an innocent naming mistake. However, the on-line forums are full of people looking for info on the weird looking agassizii or borellii they just picked up.

      So, if these are "created" fish, what are they? There has been a lot of speculation about this. It seems to generally accepted that they are at least partially Apistogramma resticulosa. Which, it is speculated, have been crossed with either Apistogramma borellii or A. caetei. It has been reported that the East Europeans who first succeeded in spawning this species were crossing "Steel Blue" males with A. caetei females. This apparently resulted in viable spawns and I would suspect that they then back crossed resulting females to other "Steel Blues" males. Regardless of how the fish has become established, it is now not uncommon to find females and there are many reports of successful spawnings.

      Although females are not as rare today as when this fish first appeared, it is often very hard to select a pair. This is because there is not much difference in appearance between males and non breeding females. As with most Apistos, female "Steel Blues" get an unmistakable yellow color during breeding. However, when not sexually active they look remarkably like males. Darrell Watts of Wiltshire, UK has put together a photo guide to identifying female "Steel Blue". Darrell has generously allowed us to put it on the site so be sure to check out the Guide to sexing Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue".

      Keeping and breeding A. "Steel Blue" is a straight forward undertaking. They are hardy fish that are easy to feed and keep. They are undemanding of water conditions provided you avoid very hard alkaline water. They can be a very aggressive species so be sure to offer them a habitat that provides lots of cover and complexity. If you are uncertain how to set up the tank learn more about creating good Apistogramma habitat.

      Apistogramma sp. "Steel Blue" is a very attractive fish that is widely available. Although it is likely a hybrid fish there remains the possibility that they are a natural species. They should provide you with much enjoyment, so don't hesitate to add them to your tank.

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