These cichlid are a far cry from their counterparts in South America. Measuring no more than 4.5" (11.5 cm), these cichlids have rightfully earned their title of New World Dwarf Cichlids. These fish can be found in small streams and oxbow lakes throughout tropical South America. The largest group of Dwarf Cichlids are of the genus Apistogramma . More than 50 species make up this genus. Other fish included in the category of Dwarf Cichlids are Microgeophagus ( Papiliochromis) species. Many other genera are included in this group, although they are not included in this book.
SIZE : Dwarf Cichlids range in size from 1-4.5" (2.5-11.5 cm).
TANK : Most Dwarf Cichlids are content in a tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a capacity of 20 gallons (75 L), although some species requires more space. Since these cichlids often inhabit overgrown,rainforest streams and lakes, heavy vegetation should be included in the tank. Provide many hiding places with small"forests," rocks, roots, and wood; as many Dwarf Cichlids are shy. The lighting should be dim and there should be a partial cover of floating plants because these species frequently live in shaded areas. The filter should create little water disturbance. Leave open swimming areas and use a dark substrate.
WATER : Most Dwarf Cichlids inhabit soft acidic blackwater. The recommended values are as follows:a pH from 5.5-6.8, a water hardness from 0-8 dH, and a temperature from 75-84°F (24-29°C). Although some species can tolerate wider variances, nearly all Dwarf Cichlids are sensitive to changes in water chemistry. Many species prefer peat filtration.
SB : Dwarf Cichlids are, for the most part, shy and peaceful. Each fish will establish a favorite spot (cave, overturned flowerpot) and will defend it against other fish. Dwarf Cichlids can be combined with each other and small schooling fish of the upper swimming levels. Most Apistogramma form harems, thus it is necessary to keep one male with several females.
SC :Dwarf Cichlids can be combined with other small fish that can tolerate black water conditions. Small,schooling species of the upper swimming such as tetras, pencilfish, and hatchetfish are excellent companions. Dwarf Cichlids can also be combined with small catfish like Corydoras and Loricarids. However, around spawning times, catfish should be removed as Apistogramma species have been observed picking out the eyes of the catfish in their efforts to protect their brood. Some aquariasts combine Dwarf Cichlids with Discus.
FOOD : Dwarf Cichlids require a varied diet including live foods in order to thrive. Live foods such as Brine Shrimp , Cyclops , Daphnia , Bloodworms , mosquito larvae, Tubifex can be fed. Some species may accept flakes.
B : In most cases, soft acidic water (pH 5.5-6.5, dH 0-4) is needed for spawning. Make frequent partial water changes and feed the fish a variety of live foods to bring them in to top condition. The eggs are deposited on the underside of a rock or flowerpot. The eggs hatch in 2-5 days and the young are free-swimming 4-6 days later. The female will guard the young and parade them around the tank. The delicate fry can be raised on small Daphnia , Artemia nauplii, and roftiers.
BP : 8. Dwarf Cichlids are challenging to breed.
R : Dwarf Cichlids are highly sensitive to water pollutants and medications. It is important to make frequent partial water changes as a result of their sensitivity. Many of these species have wide distribution,thus many color morphs are known. Occasionally males will assume the coloring of females so as not to be considered as rivals over territory. These males are then able to mate with the females of another male's harem when he is not present.
DC : 6. Many of these species are delicate and require live foods. Dwarf Cichlids are not recommended for beginners.

Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid [
Apistogramma agassizi
SYN : Biotodoma agassizi, Geophagus agassizi, Mesops agassizi
PD : An elongated with moderately compressed sides. In males, the caudal fin is highly elongated and comes to a point. In females, the caudal fin is rounded. Several different color variations exist mostly depending on if the fish was wild-caught or its geographical population. Males are much more colorful. The upper back is red, while the forehead is yellow. Below these areas, the back is green which parallels a wide, horizontal,black band that extends from the tip of the snout, back through the eye, and to the tip of the caudal fin. The lower parts, just below this band, can range in color from gold to green to blue. The belly is usually yellow. The face is usually marked with green or gold markings. The dorsal fin is a fire orange-red color that comes to a sharp point. The other fins are often blue to green. On the caudal fin a white to blue set of lines come to a point near the end of the fin. A black stripe extends from the eye, down to the corner of the gill cover. Females do not have the elongated fins or colors of the male. They are usually yellow in color with similar markings.
SIZE : Males to 3.5" (9 cm), females only reach 2.4" (6 cm)
SS : None
HAB : Inhabits shallow areas of blackwater ponds and slow-moving water with a substrate of decaying leaf litter. South America; found in the tributaries of the Amazon in Bolivia and Brazil .
S: bottom, middle
TANK : A 24" (61 cm) tanks with a capacity of 20 gallons (75 L) is sufficient for a small group. A more preferable size would be a 32" (81 cm) tank with a volume of 30 gallons (114 L). In either case, the tank should be arranged with a dark gravel bottom. Use lots of plants to serve as shelter along with rocky caves, roots, and pieces of wood. The filter should be efficient as this species requires clean, nitrate-free water. Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid thrives in peat filtered water. Provide a good source of oxygen.
WATER : pH 5-7 (6.4), 2-10 dH (6), 73-81°F (23-27°C)
SB : A peaceful, but territorial species that will not harm plants. A male forms a harem and as a result,should be kept in a ration of one male to every three or four females. Males defend a large territory in which several females may guard their own brood.
SC : Corydoras , tetras, pencilfish, hatchetfish, Loricarids.
FOOD : Live; crustaceans, insects, insect larvae ; flakes; pellets; tablets; finely chopped meat.
SEX: Males are far more colorful and considerably larger than females. The males fins are also more elongate.
B : The water should have a pH from 6.0-6.5, a water hardness from 5-8 dH, and a temperature from 79-84°F (26-29°C). Frequent partial water changes should be made. A single male will defend a large territory containing several females. He will court each female and mate with them. The female will lay up to 150 eggs in a previously cleaned cave or over-turned flower pot. The eggs will be carefully guarded by the female. They hatch in three to four days. The fry are lead into a shallow pit and are free-swimming four to six days later. The young can be first fed with roftiers and liquid foods, and later with Artemia nauplii. The female attracts the young by her movements.
BP : 8. Breeding Agassiz's Dwarf Cichlid is difficult and the eggs are sensitive to fungus.
R : A fish highly sensitive to the build-up of toxic compounds and medications. Different color variations including red, gold, and blue are available. Wild-caught specimen are even more delicate,but more colorful than tank-bred fish. This species requires frequent partial water changes in order to prosper.
DC : 7. A delicate species which is difficult to care for.

Yellow Dwarf Cichlid [
Apistogramma borellii
SYN : Apistogramma reitzigi, A. ritense, A. aequipinnis, Heterogrammas borellii
PD : A laterally compressed cichlid that has a stockier, less elongated body than A. agassizi. The caudal fin is fan-shaped with in the male, the dorsal and anal fins meet at a point. The head and the area just behind the gill cover are golden-yellow. The belly and the very top of the back may also be golden-yellow in color. The middle area of the body is pale blue as are the dorsal, pelvic, and front parts of the anal fins. The dorsal and pelvic fins are gold-tipped. The caudal fin and most of the anal finis golden-yellow. Often a red area develops on the caudal peduncle. When a fish is excited, several transverse marking develop on the sides of the fish. A short, black stripe extend through the eye and to the snout.
SIZE : Males to 2.8" (7 cm), female to 2" (5 cm)
SS : None
HAB : Found in shallow swampy regions along rivers. South America; the Rio Paraguay and the Pantanal (Matto Grosso).
S: bottom, middle
TANK : A tank measuring 24" (61 cm) with a volume of 20 gallons (75 L) will do. Follow the recommendations under A. agassizi .
WATER : pH 5-7 (6.5), 1-10 dH (4), 77-81°F (25-27°C).
SB : A peaceful, although territorial fish that can be combined with other Apistogramma species, catfish, and small characins of the upper swimming levels. Keep one male with several females. This species will not harm plants.
SC : Corydoras , tetras, pencilfish, hatchetfish, Loricarids, Apistogramma .
FOOD : Live; crustaceans, insects, insect larvae ; flakes; pellets; tablets; finely chopped meat.
SEX: Males are more colorful, larger, and have elongated anal and dorsal fins.
B : Follow suggestions for A. agassizi . Fewer eggs (40-70) are laid than A. agassizi . The fry are carefully paraded around the tank. In cases where the eggs fail to hatch,the female is said to collect a shoal of Daphnia to protect as if they were her own brood.
BP : 8. A. borellii is a difficult fish to breed.
R :This species is sensitive to medications, disease, and poorly maintained water. Make frequent partial water changes. Recently this fish has begun being bred in Singapore for export.
DC : 7. A delicate species that is only recommended for those aquariasts wanting a challenge.

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid
Apistogramma cacatuoides
SYN : Apistogramma marmoratus, A. U-2
PD : Males have highly developed fins. The dorsal fin's first three to five rays are elongated and stand out among the others. The dorsal tip comes to a sharp, elongated point. The caudal fin is forked and the anal fin's tip comes to a point. Females, by contrast, have less elaborate fins. The male's coloring depends on its population,and thus can be varied. The most common variety has a brown to gray body coloring. The belly is golden-brown as are the anal, pelvic, and dorsal fins. The anal fin is edged with a blue-green fringe, as are the pelvic fins. The pointed dorsal rays are tipped with orange, that become green before reaching the main part of the fin, which is gold. The body is marked with one lateral stripe that extends from the eye to the caudal fin. Below this stripe are three shorter lines. Depending on the mood of the fish, five to seven broad bands are visible on the upper back. The eye is marked with a stripe that extends down to the corner of the gill cover. The tail green with a series of red spots on the upper lobe. Females are much drabber in color.
SIZE : Males to 3.5" (9 cm), females to 2" (5 cm)
SS : Banded Dwarf Cichlid ( A. bitaeniata )
HAB : Shallow, still to slow-moving bodies of water with leaf litter as a substrate. This species inhabits clear and white water bodies of water. South America; Yavari River along the border of Brazil and Peru .
S: bottom
TANK : The tank should measure around 32" (81 cm) with a capacity of 30 gallons (114 L). Use a cover of floating plants to diffuse the lighting. The substrate should be dark. The tank should be heavily planted with many hiding areas among rocks, wood, and roots. Cover the tank well.
WATER : pH 6.2-7.7 (6.7), 5-16 dH (10), 75-81°F (24-27°C)
SB : A territorial fish that can be combined with other Apistogramma species, catfish, and schooling fish of the upper swimming levels. Males form harems, thus one male should be kept with several females. Males are pugnacious during the spawning season and may attack other fish in the tank-including the females.
SC : Corydoras , tetras, pencilfish, hatchetfish, Loricarids, Apistogramma .
FOOD : Live; crustaceans, insects, insect larvae ; flakes; pellets; tablets; finely chopped meat.
SEX: Males develop the characteristic 'peacock' crest, are larger and more colorful. The male's caudal fin is forked.
B : Use water with a pH from 6.8-7.2, a water hardness of 10 dH, and a temperature 79-84°F(26-29°C). Each female should be provided with a cave or over-turned flower pot to defend. The females lay up to 100 eggs on the ceiling of the site. The female guards the eggs, while the male guards the harem territory. The eggs hatch after three to four days. Start feeding with roftiers, after a week or two, the fry can be fed with nauplii. As the fry grow, they may change from one mother to another.
BP : 7. Breeding is fairly difficult.
R : The Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid requires frequent partial water changes in order to prosper. Several different color variations have been exported including a popular red-spotted form. Well-maintained water leads to the beautiful colors that this fish is known to develop.
DC : 5. The Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is among the hardiest of all Apistogramma species.

Blue Apistogramma , Three-Stripe Dwarf Cichlid [
Apistogramma trifasciata
SYN : Apistogramma trifasciatum, Biotodoma trifasciatum, Heterogramma trifasciatum
PD : An elongated fish with its first rays being very similar to those of the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid. These rays are pointed and usually tipped with red. The red tips actually continue on all the rays. The rest of the dorsal fin is dark violet in color. The caudal fin is rounded and has a red tinge. The anal fin is violet-red, while the pelvic fins in white and elongated. The body is whitish-yellow in color and marked with three lateral stripes. The first runs along the base of the dorsal fin; the second runs from the snout, through the eye, and to the caudal fin; the third runs near the belly.
SIZE : Males to 2.3" (6 cm), females to 1.5" (4 cm)
SS : None
HAB : Inhabits black water lagoons and ponds along that have leafy bottom. South America; Southwestern Brazil in the headwaters of the Paraguay and the Guapore Rivers.
S: bottom
TANK : A tank measuring 32" (81 cm) with a capacity of 30 gallons (114 L) is fine for a harem of fish. Be sure to provide a cave or flower pot for each female. Follow suggestions for A. borellii .
WATER : pH 5-7.2 (6.5), 0-12 dH (3), 79-84°F (26-29°F)
SB : A territorial fish that should be kept in a ratio of three to four female to everyone male. This species is peaceful, outside of the spawning season, towards other fishes. Males form harems.
SC : Corydoras , tetras, pencilfish, hatchetfish, Loricarids.
FOOD : Live; crustaceans, insects, insect larvae ; finely chopped meat; possibly flakes.
SEX: Males are larger, more colorful, and have more elaborate fins. While caring for the brood the female may develop a bright yellow body color.
B : Use water with a pH from 6.0-6.5, a water hardness of 1-4 dH, and a temperature from 82-86°F (28-30°C). Follow suggestions for other Apistogramma species. The female lays up to 100 eggs which are very carefully cared for. The fry will be guarded for several weeks after they are free-swimming. Females may steal other female's broods. Occasionally,females may round up groups of Daphnia to care for, when they have lost or failed to produce a brood. Start feeding with Artemia nauplii.
BP : 7. A moderately difficult fish to breed.
R : Perform only partial water changes as this species is sensitive to changes in water conditions.
DC : 6. A fish that requires live foods in its diet.

Ram, Butterfly Cichlid, Ramirez' Dwarf Cichlid, Venezuela n Ram, Butterfly Dwarf Cichlid [
Microgeophagus (Papiliochromis) ramirezi
SYN : Apistogramma ramirezi, Microgeopha ramirezi
PD : A moderately elongated fish with a long caudal peduncle. The dorsal fins stands tall and the caudal fin is fan-shaped. The head and throat region is pale yellow. The belly is delicate pink, and the rest of the body is blue. The iris of the eye is blood-red with a black stripe running through it. This stripe begins at the forehead and ends at the underside of the head. The first rays of the dorsal fin are taller than the other rays. These are black in color. Just below the black rays is a pale black spot. On the mid-section is an obvious black spot. The pelvic fin is orange-red (female) or black and blue (male) in color. The anal fins are blue with a pink tinge near the tip. The caudal fin is blue with red along the edges. The dorsal fin may have a red edge.
SIZE : To 3.5" (9 cm)
SS : Bolivia n Ram ( Microgeophagusaltispinosa ), which reaches 4" (10 cm)
HAB : In sunny swamps, lagoons, and brooks in the savannas of the Orinoco River. South America; Venezuela and Columbia
S: bottom, middle
TANK : A 20" (51 cm) tank with a capacity of 10 gallons (39 L). Provide hiding places with plant thickets,roots, wood, rocks, and over-turned flower pots. Leave open swimming areas. A cover of floating plants to diffuse the lighting is welcomed.
WATER : pH 5-7 (6.5), dH 0-10 (3), 73-86°F (23-30°C).
SB : A peaceful, timid fish that can be kept in a community tank with other non-aggressive fish. Do not combine the Ram with aggressive cichlid species for they will disturb this fish. Pairs form monogamous bonds.
SC : tetras, pencilfish, hatchetfish, Discus, Apistogramma , Corydoras, Loricarids.
FOOD : Live; Artemia , bloodworms, glassworms, small insects, insect larvae , Tubifex ; pellets; occasionally flakes.
SEX: Females are slightly smaller and develop a pink underside during the spawning season. The first ray of the male's dorsal fin is considerably longer.
B :Increase water temperature to 84-88°F (29-31°C). The water should have a pH from 6.5-6.8,and a soft hardness of 1-3 dH. The female spawns on wood or stones, or in small cavities. A good brood has 250-300 eggs, although clutches up to 400 have been reported. Both parents guard the eggs, which hatch in 2-3 days. The fry are very small and difficult to care for. They are free-swimming after 5-6 days, when they should be fed liquid foods, roftiers, microworms, and later Artemia
BP : 7. Breeding the Ram is fairly difficult, and the fry are challenging to raise.
R : The correct genus of the Ram has yet to be determined. The Ram and the closely related, Bolivian Ram are now usually commercially tank bred in Southeast Asia. Two variations from selective breeding of the Ram are widely available; a gold (xanthistic) morph, and a veintail variety. Frequent partial water changes are necessary for this colorful cichlid to prosper. Always use a good water conditioner after a water change. The Ram is a short-lived fish, usually not living more than 2-3 years even under the best circumstances. Wild-caught fish are larger, and more colorful than the more commonly available tank-bred specimen. The ram is very sensitive to change sin water chemistry, disease, and medications.
DC : 6. The ram is a delicate, fish, sensitive to pollutants, chemicals, and disease. However,its beauty is rewarding.

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