Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

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Apistogramma agassizii

   Apistogramma agassizii (A 234 - A 243) is one of the best known and most widely kept Apistogrammas. They are the species upon which both the Agassizii Group and Agassizii Complex of Apistogrammas are based. (For more about Apistogramma groups, complexes and the A number system see Apistogramma.) Apistogramma agassizii are found all throughout the Amazon basin and have the largest geographic distribution of any Apistogramma species. They are found in a wide variety of habitat types and water conditions. As might be expected of a fish with so wide a distribution, there are many different color forms found in nature.
Apistogramma agassizii "Rio Madiera" pair with fry
    This pair of Apistogramma agassizii cf. Rio Madiera have formed an excellent bond and each parent helps to care for their newly hatched fry.
   Apistogramma agassizii was first described in 1875 from specimens collected in 1865-1866 by Professor J. L. R. Agassiz. They were first imported into Germany in about 1909 and have remained available in the hobby ever since. This species has historically been one of the few Apistogramma species that has consistently been correctly identified by hobbyists.

    Most of the Apistogramma species that were discovered early in the hobby were kept and distributed under a variety of different names. However, since it was originally described Apistogramma agassizii has always been properly identified. This is probably due to the distinctively banded, spade shaped tail.

Male Apistogramma agassizii "red tail"
        An adult male Apistogramma agassizii "Red Tail" - this is an aquarium strain that has been developed through captive breeding. Variations of this strain are sold under many different names.

    Agassizii are typically quite dimorphic with the male being larger and more colorful than females, making them easy to sex. Females are typically a dull color that can range from gray to brown to dusky yellow until they put on their brood colors. At this time they become a vibrant yellow with a very contrasting black pattern that may appear as a stripe or as a single spot on their side.

   There are many different forms of A. agassizii in the wild and in the hobby. throughout the native range, the different river systems yield fishes in a variety of colors and patterns. Many of these are obviously Apistogramma agassizii while others seem different enough that they might be sub-species or entirely different species. A good example of this is Apistogramma cf. "Tefé". When first introduce in the 1990s,
Apistogramma agassizii "Red Tail" female
click photo to enlarge
    Female Apistogramma agassizii  express a variety of colors ranging from dull gray/brown to bright yellow. 
Apistogramma cf. "Tefé" was thought to be a color variant of Apistogramma agassizii. However, today they are recognized as a distinct species. I suspect that we will see additional splitting of the Apistogramma agassizii forms in the future.

     There has been a lot of mixing of various forms of Apistogramma agassizii in the hobby and some very colorful aquarium strains have been developed. There are many variations of the most popular aquarium strain; "Red Tail", "Double Red", "Red-Black", "Double Full Red", "Super Red", "Blue-Red", "Red-Gold" and many more names have been used to describe this widely available color form.

    Although these aquarium strains are spectacular, wild Apistogramma agassizii have a beauty of their own and if you ever have a chance to acquire wild fish I encourage you to do so. If you do receive a wild strain and you have reliable collection locality you should take care to keep the strain pure, or to sell any offspring as an aquarium form if you breed them to other forms.
female Apistogramma agassizii with fry        This female A.agassizii is caring for her 2-day old fry. The black markings on the side of the female can change rapidly and combined with fin motions and swimming posture allows her to clearly communicate with her brood and other apistos.
     Apistogramma agassizii are found in a variety of waters in the Amazon and will tolerate a wide range of water conditions in the aquarium. However, they generally do best in soft acid to slightly acid water. This is especially true for wild fish and breeding.  They will do quite well in pairs but in a large enough aquarium they may exhibit harem breeding if you keep a single male with several females. Breeding is straight forward in the typical Apistogramma fashion. Females seek out a small cave and entice the male to enter and spawn. After the spawning is complete, the female chases away the make and guards over the eggs and larval fry for the next week. Typically after about 7 days she will emerge with her newly free-swimming fry.

     From fry through adult, baby brine shrimp are a great food for Apistogramma agassizii. Most Apistogramma agassizii will thrive on all types of live food but will adapt to many different foods in the aquarium. For advice on feeding see our section on feeding Apistogrammas.

    Apistogramma agassizii is one of the all time classic dwarf cichlids and if you ever have a chance, get some. You'll find them to be great aquarium fish in a species tank or in the community aquarium.
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