|Genus & Species: Apistogramma Agassizii
|Common Names: Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid, Apistogramma Agassizii
|Temperature: 73.5 – 84ºF (23 – 29ºC)
|pH: 5.0 – 6.5
|GH: 0 – 8 dGH
|Max Size: 5 – 7.5 cm (1.96 – 2.95 inches) in length
|Lifespan: 8 years
|Depth Preference: Bottom dweller
|Tank Size: 30 gallons
Within the Cichlidae family, Apistogramma is the most species-rich genus, which explains why they are also the most popular in the aquarium hobby. Due to their vibrant colors, Apistogramma like the agassiz’s dwarf cichlid has been highly sought after.
Origin & Habitat
Agassiz’s dwarf cichlids are a freshwater species of fish that is endemic to the Amazon basin, which spans the entire continent of South America from the foot of the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon delta.
Most frequently observed in the Solimes basin, which is located in the Amana Sustainable Development Reserve, and a number of slower-moving blackwater and whitewater tributaries, including Igarape Cacau and Igarape Ubim; lakes Amana and Maximo.
Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid Care
Since male and female agassiz’s dwarf cichlid adults form pairs that display territorial behavior, the aquarium’s foundation should have a sandy bottom with various decorations, rocks, and plants to create multiple distinct territories. The females will prepare spawning sites inside caverns and make use of sand to narrow the entrance to a cave that they have claimed.
For a more natural setup or aquariums requiring lower pH, the addition of dried almond leaves or other aquarium-safe leaf litter encourages the establishment of beneficial microbial colonies, as the decomposition process takes place. These can be an important supplemental source of food for any newly hatched fish fry.
In addition to leaf litter, peat or sphagnum moss will also acidify the waters by gradually reducing the pH without releasing tannins and simultaneously removing impurities from the water. Filling a media bag with the moss of your choice and burying it beneath the substrate in an inconspicuous location is a quick and simple low-maintenance method.
It is advised to utilize a rather dim lighting; it may also be helpful to add a few patches of floating plants to further obscure the light. Filtration should be able to filter two to three times the tank’s total volume of water, but the water flow shouldn’t be too significant so that it creates a noticeable underwater current.
Finally, due to their bottom-dwelling nature and the fact that poor water quality will initially affect the lower water column, regularly scheduled water changes each week will be necessary for a healthy and long life.
Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid Diet & Feeding
Although Agassiz’s dwarf cichlids are an omnivorous species of fish, they are considered to be micropredators with a predominantly carnivorous diet in the wild. They occasionally eat algae and plant debris while mostly feeding on aquatic insect larvae, small crustaceans, and fish fry.
It is recommended to use high-quality sources of food that do not dissolve or degrade quickly in water when feeding bottom-dwelling fish. Commercially made flake foods may be consumed but they tend to prefer sinking pellets that are of a more appropriate size.
Live, frozen, or freeze-dried food sources containing blood worms, brine shrimp, insect larvae, and other microworms are significantly more nutrient-rich and do not rapidly decompose causing excessive bacterial blooms that may result in cloudy waters.
Even though most people tend to feed their fish more food less frequently each day, this is typically the worst approach for bottom-dwelling fish. Adults that are fed two to four times a day in smaller amounts encourage a more proactive scavenging behavior and will maintain better water quality. More feedings per day are needed for younger specimens.
Tank Mates & Temperament
Although male agassiz’s dwarf cichlids are generally peaceful toward most other fish species, they do frequently show signs of aggression towards one another. To lessen aggression, it is recommended to maintain even pairs of males and females while ensuring that there is an appropriate amount of space to divide territories between pairs.
Or rather than a few select pairs of fish, keeping an aquarium well stocked will make it more challenging for cichlids to form territories. By carefully maintaining a perfect balance without overstocking or understocking the aquarium.
Lowering the temperature may help with particularly aggressive males, a recent study indicated that aggression and metabolic rates were lower in males when kept at 79°F (26°C) compared to 84°F (29°C). Since they prefer to spawn at warmer temperatures, this may also result in more frequent territory disputes.
Larger fast-moving schooling species are great dither fish that are frequently used to reduce cichlid aggression. When adding bottom-dwelling tank mates to a cichlid aquarium, rearranging the decorations will disrupt their existing territories and usually reduce aggression while they establish new ones.
Ideal tank mates for the agassiz’s dwarf cichlid are angelfish, dwarf cichlids, lake malawi cichlids, loaches, plecos, and catfish. Larger species of danios, barbs, rainbowfish, tetras, gouramis, and pencilfish can also be successfully introduced. They should not, however, be combined with other species of apistogramma.
Male & Female Differences
When compared to females, males will grow to be almost 50% larger, more colorful, and develop prolonged fins. Their reproductive behavior is another way to easily identify positive sexual dimorphism, see below.
Breeding & Spawning
When kept in ideal conditions, agassiz’s dwarf cichlids are prolific breeders and frequently reproduce. Parental care is also evident, although it is much more noticeable in females. The male will typically display territorial behavior nearby their shelter by chasing off any intruders.
Males usually form an “S” shape with their bodies during the courtship phase and beat their fins in rapid and brief successions in the direction of the female. Colors also start to intensify during this time in both males and females.
Once a male and female pair, the female will begin preparing their nest by distributing substrate throughout the shelter, narrowing the entrance, and carrying the substrate to the shelter with their mouth.
When spawning, the female lays adhesive eggs and the male will fertilize them, male passage is typically only permitted then. Following fertilization of the eggs and while they are still inside the nest being cared for by the female, the larvae will hatch between 36 and 48 hours later. The fish will become capable of free swimming within 3 to 4 days.
After spawning, the females remain in their shelter for longer periods of time and follow the fish fry, even if they leave the nest, and will attack the male or any other fish that approach the offspring.
Both adults will briefly take turns exploring for sources of food, the female usually makes the shortest trips, returning quickly to the spawning site. Smaller and more frequent feedings are needed during this time to ensure that there is enough food.
There could be a number of causes for an adult pair not to spawn, including inadequate tank maintenance, a lack of nesting sites, nutrition, poor water quality, hard waters, or excessive algae near their spawning site. Spawning will likely occur shortly after if these problems are identified and fixed right away.
A female will only consume her eggs if she feels threatened, typically by other aggressive fish that the male would find difficult to handle or if the aquarium is situated in a high-traffic area of your home.
The ideal water conditions for spawning are mildly acidic waters below 7 pH, with low levels of dissolved mineral content and an increase in temperature within their upper range.
Agassiz’s dwarf cichlids will more than likely not spawn in open waters. Aquariums must provide sandy substrates with a variety of nesting locations that have smooth walls and floors, by utilizing rocks, driftwood, PVC, or other decorations to create small caverns.
In 1875, Steindachner first described the agassiz’s dwarf cichlid.
With 94 officially described species, the genus Apistogramma is one of the most species-rich among Neotropical cichlids and is heavily exploited by the ornamental trade. However, the IUCN assessed a few species and determined that they are of the least concern.
This species has been selectively bred into a variety of forms with varying color patterns for the aquarium industry. It has also been assigned several “A” numbers, such as A234, in accordance with the DATZ system; these numbers describe their locality.
Guillain Estivals, Fabrice Duponchelle, Uwe Römer, Carmen García-Dávila, Etienne Airola, Margot Deléglise, and Jean-François Renno. The Amazonian dwarf cichlid Apistogramma agassizii (Steindachner, 1875) is a geographic mosaic of potentially tens of species: Conservation implications. 2020
Jomara Cavalcante de Oliveira, Sidinéia Aparecida Amadio, and Helder Lima de Queiroz. Populacional structure of Apistogramma agassizii (Steindachner, 1875) (Perciformes: Cichlidae) in aquatic environments of the Amana Sustainable Development Reserve (Amazonas – Brazil). 2017
Daiani Kochhann, Derek Felipe Campos, and Adalberto Luis Val. Experimentally increased temperature and hypoxia affect stability of social hierarchy and metabolism of the Amazonian cichlid Apistogramma agassizii. 2015
Hélio Jacobson da Silva, Tiago Viana da Costa, João Pedro Cidade, Wendell Glória dos Santos, Noedson de Jesus Beltrão Machado, and Rita Brito Vieira. Reproductive aspects of the dwarf cichlid Apistogramma agassizii under captive conditions. 2022