Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids
Apistogramma steindachneriApistogramma steindachneri (A 138) is the type species of the steindachneri group of Apistogrammas. It was first described as Heterogramma steindachneri in 1908 and was named in honor of the noted Viennese ichthyologist Franz Steindachner. As with many other Apistogrammas, A. steindachneri was misidentified several times after it was first described. In 1936 specimens were described as Apistogramma ornatipinnis and it 1960 it was described as Apistogramma wickleri. Each of these names was subsequently discovered to be a synonym of Apistogramma steindachneri and it is unlikely that you will find the fish under any other name unless you are visiting old aquarium literature.
Apistogramma steindachneri are among the largest Apistogramma species. Males can reach nearly 4 inches in length and at about half that size develop the lyrate caudal fin that is characteristic of the species. The large black patch on the side of the fish is a diagnostic feature of the fish in the steindachneri group. In A. steindachneri the patch will include the lateral line of the fish, while in the similar species the patch lies above the lateral line. The appearance of the black patch in males is dependent on the individual fish and their mood. At times the spot may be completely gone. While male A. steindachneri lack the flash colors and finnage that make some Apistos so attractive, they have a more subtle beauty with a golden yellow shoulder area and red highlights tipping their dorsal and caudal fins. In many males rows of red spots are found striping the caudal fin.
Apistogramma steindachneri are found in Northeast South America where they inhabit a variety of waters in Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela. they are most commonly found in soft acid black and clear water environments with low pH values. The documented pH range for A. steindachneri is rather extreme ranging from lows of 3.9 to 7.3 with water temperatures ranging from 75º to 87º F. Most of the collection reports recorded temperatures in the 80's and far fewer in the 70's. This is to be expected given the geographic range of these fish.
The native habitats of A. steindachneri range from small streams to lake type habitats. Generally they are found over sandy substrate and many of the collection accounts have them near vegetation and complex habitats. In at least one instance the collector noted that they were not found in high abundance and significant effort was required to get a good collection.
In the aquarium Apistogramma steindachneri are generally pretty easy to keep and breed. They will eagerly feed on most high quality foods and are rather undemanding of water conditions. They seem to do fine in water that is neutral or even slightly alkaline but do best in soft acid conditions. Male A. steindachneri are much larger than females. In the wild a single male will have a harem consisting of a number of females. This will also occur but, with this robust species you must make sure that you have a large enough aquarium to house a harem.
When kept in pairs it is possible to keep young fish in tanks as small as ten gallons. However, you must make sure that you have a complex environment for the fish. Males can be very aggressive so there must be multiple places for a female to hide. If you are trying to keep more than one male in a tank you probably have a problem as the dominate male will surely spend his time chasing the weaker. If you have this situation you must add a lot of complexity to the tank. The other alternative is to put a lot of males together. In these situations the aggression is spread between a flock of fish and no one becomes a target. Of course, you can't appreciate the beauty and behavior of these fish if you keep them in a crowded group.
Breeding is typical for the genus. The female will select a breeding cave and lure the male in to fertilize the eggs. He will lie outside the cave and occasionally enter in to release his sperm. After egg laying is complete the female takes sole responsibility for the eggs and fry. She becomes the dominate aggressor and keeps the male patrolling the perimeter of their territory. On several occasions I have noted males actively joining the female in bi parental care. This is particularly true in smaller tanks housing single pairs. In larger harem situations it is rare to see the male in any sort of active care role.
Apistogramma steindachneri are very prolific and spawns of 150 - 200 are normal with 250 fry from a single spawn not unheard of. From the mid 1980"s through the mid 90"s A. steindachneri were often available. However in the mid 1990's they seemed to become much less common in the American hobby. today they show up on lists from time to time and they are offered to shops by wholesalers.
I had not kept A. steindachneri for many years until I found a wild pair in a shop I visited about 18 months ago. They proved to be excellent parents and quickly provided me a with a spawn. At about 3 weeks free swimming I moved the pair to a different tank where after two days of chasing and fighting the pair spawned again and produced another healthy batch of fry. Both batches have grown out in excellent condition but both groups appear to be 100% male fish. This despite being spawned and reared in completely different tanks at different temperatures. Another example of why you must always expect that anything can happen when you keep dwarf cichlids!