The picture shows a male Apistogramma sp. "Rotpunkt" in his breeding colors. Photo by Alan Whitten.
I have been keeping and breeding Apistogramma for about 8 months now, and Apistogramma sp. "Rotpunkt" has turned out to be surprising easy to breed, and a good first Apistogramma.
This undescribed species is native to the upper Orinoco river in Venezuela. It has shown up in the hobby from time to time under different names such as Apistogramma sp. "Black Edge", "Schwarzsaum", and "Puerto Narino". For the purposes of this article, I will refer to them as Rotpunkts.
At full size, the males get to be about five centimeters (two inches) long. The fish you will find at a fish store will not be so colorful, and will have a much more pronounced stripe along the flank. You can usually pick out a male by the blue marks on his face, and the black edge on the dorsal fin.
Females tend to be about half the size of the males and lack the blue markings on the face. When they ready to lay eggs or are tending fry, they will be a very bright yellow as pictured above. Otherwise the yellow is replaced by a light gray color. Females are usually identified by the number and placement of the spots across the flank.
To be honest, this is the hardest part of trying to breed them. The easiest way to acquire a pair is from another Apistogramma breeder. I got my breeding pair from a gentlemen from San Francisco I met on the Apistogramma mailing list. The list is maintained at http://lists.thekrib.com/apisto/.
Sometimes they are imported. However, most of the time it ends up in the "Assorted Apistogramma" tank at you local fish store. The males are easy to pick out, but the females are harder to identify unless you know what your looking for. Your best bet is to take a few of the identifying pictures from off the net or from out a book when you go shopping for them.
Apistogramma sp. "Rotpunkt" 38 liters (10 gallon) breeding tank. Photo by Alan Whitten.
The tank has a small foam filter in the corner, a 50 watt heater, and is light with florescent lighting. There are also two flower pots and a piece of ¾" PVC pipe set up for hiding places.
This fish can be somewhat shy. You can overcome this by providing target or dithering fish. I have used both pencil fish and black neon tetras. After a few weeks with the dithering fish, you will find that they will come out a lot more often.
The object in the upper right hand corner of the tank is a floating nursery. Some Rotpunkts are not the best parents, and I use the floating nursery to keep very small fry separate from the rest of the tank inhabitants.
The fish don't like bright lighting, so I use floating plants to subdue the lighting.
I maintain the tank by changing 25% of the water weekly. I use reverse osmosis water reconstituted with Kent pH Precise Low Range ControllerTM. My target pH is 6.5 for breeding. As for the other water perimeter, the temperature is kept at 26°C (78°F), the water hardness is maintained at around 90 PPM, and the KH is kept at less than 1 degree of German hardness.
I have found that aquarium breed Rotpunkts are not picky eaters. Mine get fed frozen red worms once a day, and flake food. My fish also get the occasional treat of white worms and baby brine shrimp. I would not recommend keeping feeding them solely flake food.
Courting and Breeding:
Courting is normally initiated by the female. You will know when she is ready to court by her color. It will change from a light gray to a striking yellow. She will then lay claim to one of the hiding places in the tank (she tends to prefer a flower pot). I have never witnessed courting behavior between the males and females, but I account this to the shy nature of the fish.
The female will lay between 20 to 50 eggs on the upper surfaces of the inside of the flowerpot. You can tell when you have fertilized eggs when they are a reddish color. White eggs normally indicate infertile eggs. I normally don't disturb the eggs, or the wrigglers after they hatch. It takes about 10 days from the time the eggs are laid to the time the female will appear with free swimming fry.
If you can, at this point remove all the other fish from the tank, as the slow moving fry make easy targets for hungry dithering fish, and the male. The female will try her best to defend the fry, but the mortality rate will be high. I have luck raising small numbers of fry in floating nurseries as shown in my tank picture. If you remove the fry, or they end up as somebody's lunch, the female will breed again in about 30 days.
I have had the most luck feeding the fry on freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. I have also tried using vinegar eels, but the fry don't seem to do as well on them.
If you have never kept Apistogramma dwarf cichlids before, this is a great first dwarf. They can be easily maintained in a 38 liters (10 gallon) tank, and the water requirements for breeding are not crucial. This was the first dwarf I ever got to breed, and it will always bee one of my favorites.
Apistogramma sp. "Rotpunkt" female guarding her fry in the home aquarium of Alan Whitten. Photo by Alan Whitten.