Breeding apistogramma species

Guide to Apistogramma breeding

What you will need

  • male cockatoo dwarf cichlid - double red
    cockatoo dwarf cichlid – double red

    30inch tank or bigger with hood and subdued lighting

  • A group of 6 young apistogramma
  • dark sand or fine dark gravel
  • 2 sponge filters powered by a strong air pump
  • clay flower pots, clay pipes, coconut shells, small stones
  • many fine leaved plants
  • bunch of algae or java moss ball
  • Floating plants

General care

male agassizi dwarf cichlid
male agassizi dwarf cichlid

For raising cockatoo apistogramma aim for water of a ph between 6-7 and hardness less than 15dh. Temperature about 75F. For other apistogramma ph of 6 with hardness 5dh.
Buy 6 young apistogramma and raise them together. They can be raised in a community tank or in a species tank, anyhow, provide plenty of hiding spaces. Make many caves for the females using the pots, pipes, or shells and provide each cave with just a single entrance that only one fish can enter through. Also plant heavily around the tank. Have a several pieces of java moss or algae around the tank. Use floating plants to subdue the lighting in the tank.

Breeding set up

male and female apistogramma courting
male and female apistogramma breeding

When breeding Apistogramma try to have a ph of 6.5 for the cockatoo for other apistogramma breeding try for a ph of 6. Remember any changes to ph and hardness must be gradual. Also aim for very soft water. About 5 dh is ideal. This can be achieved by the use of rainwater or reverse osmosis filtered water. Soak some peat or sphagnum moss in the water to achieve the correct ph. If your tap water is already not too far from this then just use your tap water without altering it.
Feed with live food to prime them to be in good shape for breeding. Also do 10% daily water changes and keep the aquarium especially clean. Remove any droppings or uneaten food daily.
If you have more than one male then remove all but the largest male from the breeding tank. The male will control all his territory which will be most of the tank and he will kill rival males. He will not allow other males inside this territory, but will allow females. The females also have their own smaller territories , which they will keep out other females.


To breed gradually raise the temperature to 80F. The female will become yellow and the male will become more colourful.
When a female is ready to breed she will swim to the male and then will try to entice him to follow her back to her place. She will lead to her cave. Mating occurs by the female entering the cave and laying some eggs on the roof, followed by the male entering and fertilising the eggs. This process is repeated until the female has laid all her eggs. When she has finished she will then drive away the male and then start to drive away all other females and any other fish from the nest site. It is best to not disturb the tank after this as the female may eat her brood. Also employ a night light such as leaving the curtains open so that a street light provides sufficient night light.
The female tends to the eggs cleaning and fanning them while keeping guard. This continues until the eggs hatch and the fry become free swimming.

Raising the young

female agassizi dwarf cichlid guarding fry
female agassizi dwarf cichlid guarding fry

The female will then guide the young out of the cave to feed. She hovers above the fry keeping a close eye on threats. She will lead them to any surface that is covered in algae that should contain microarganisms for the fry to feed on. In theory for the first 2 or 3 days the young will feed off the algae. However it is best to play it safe and have an infusoria drip fed to the young. After 3 days start feeding brine shrimp, microworms and perhaps crushed fish food.

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