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Apistogramma sp. Identification

WillowA.

New Member
Messages
3
Location
U.S.
I am looking for some aid in identifying this Apistogramma species, and also perhaps whatever additional information someone could supply on them. During the past three weeks, I have been studying books and online resources to identify this fish. It seems most similar to A. velifera, but as I keep learning it also seems that the lines between some of the pertensis/velifera groups can be unclear, so I would appreciate some input.
I picked out these fish from a group of Apistogramma that came in to a local fish store here in Minnesota. They were labeled by the supplier as “Apistogramma sp. Tame”, but even at first glance it was clear they had to be closer to the pertensis or iniridae families. A number of about 13 arrived with heavy stress markings and a lot of fin damage, with many of the fish entirely missing their tails. I could not get any more information about their origin, or whether they were wild-caught or captive-bred. The fish ranged in total length from just over 1 inch to almost 2 inches, and had a relatively slender body shape, though some of the larger fish seemed a little deeper-bodied.
Some of the fish at the store:
6341D7B7-2EE1-4FA5-B29F-3BE689584F7F.jpeg

Even as they settled into their holding tank, there seemed to be little sexual dimorphism and it was quite hard to differentiate gender. Though some of the larger fish had noticeably high dorsal fins, they otherwise didn’t seem to show many distinct male traits. It was only among the smaller, younger fish that some clearly looked male.
I currently have one of the definite males and two hopeful females.
The male has since settled in and gained color:
5F550EC9-8F0D-4D1F-9610-B089C8C4B004.jpeg

9CE13068-2176-478E-9CBB-2FBFF50A8551.jpeg

View attachment 9906He measures about 1 and ¾ inch in total length, with a dorsal fin about half as high as his body. The dorsal spines are even and slightly serrated, bordered by a red seam at the top. The pointed end tip of the dorsal is outlined by a white seam, with patterning in the soft dorsal rays.
D81C0757-F8F5-4E04-A75C-79A55807035C.jpeg

The male’s caudal fin is slightly squared, with white edging and possessing a pattern that is asymmetrical between the upper and lower caudal lobes. Of the other fish at the store, most had rounded or oval caudal fins, some also having uneven upper and lower lobes, but this was the only fish possessing a squared tail.
The ventral fins are long and transparent. Their tips extend to just past the beginning of the anal fin, which is slightly pointed and patterned in the soft rays. At the upper origin of the pectoral fin, there is a pectoral spot on the flank.
The suborbital stripe is at its widest point next to the eye, where it is a little less wide than the pupil. It diminishes slightly in width as it descends the gill plate. There is also a short preorbital stripe.
The postorbital stripe is also perhaps a little less wide than the pupil. It is solid in color and merges with the lateral band and first lateral spot.
The lateral band is broad and has a slight zig-zag appearance when the fish is relaxed. There are three lateral spots that are commonly visible, on vertical bars 1, 2, and 3. The blotch on the second bar is the most pigmented, followed by the third, with the first spot being faintest. Blotch 2 is noticeable in most moods for both my male and ‘females’. There are three more faint and impermanent blotches along the lateral band before the caudal spot. Four thin rows of abdominal stripes are also placed below the lateral band. They are not always visible, and the pigmentation varies significantly across moods.
The caudal spot is dark, large, and slightly squared, usually being clearly visible. It is well defined and separated from the lateral band by a light-colored patch.
Occasionally the male does show an anal spot as well.
83785CED-B343-4B53-8A4E-C01A65FCEC9D.jpeg

857EFA88-9219-4E5B-A484-09BD3BEB7A46.jpeg

6D3771E6-CE1C-49F1-A8A5-7B55B11E1628.jpeg

42C4FBC5-1EE2-489C-AA0F-3C3698C6DE0B.jpeg

This picture is from the quarantine tank, and the male had just displayed at a female:
B18AC9D5-D958-42AD-A00A-5BA5163DE809.jpeg


As for my two hopeful females, I have spent many hours watching them in an attempt to sex them. One, at least, I am quite certain is female; she measures about 1 ¼ inch, and has a slightly rounder body shape. Her anal fin is tinted yellow, and there is a yellow tinge around the belly. Her dorsal and anal fins have rounded points. Her ventral fins are also short and round, and the spotted patterning of the caudal is very faint. This female’s tail fin was heavily damaged when I bought her, and is still growing back.
B3FEB1C0-3160-4156-B593-C3AC11CB761E.jpeg

She’s a bit of a Quasimodo. Her lateral line is slightly higher on one side.
FBDB2B23-07B0-4A52-85CB-76F1B6497A09.jpeg

90AB1B81-4E4E-4E34-BF0E-19212B423C8D.jpeg

I have also witnessed her display a very curious “fluttering” of her dorsal fin at the dominant male.
03A0C8FA-3C90-4B31-B495-84879311AE91.jpeg


As for the second hopeful female, I am unsure whether I have a subdominant male or a dominant, slightly older female (I am inclined to suspect the former). The colors are a little more saturated than the small female, but there is less yellow in the anal fin and belly. This fish’s total length measures at about 1 ½ inches, and the ventral fins are a little longer, with the anal and dorsal fins also possessing more of a point. The white seam on the end of the dorsal and edging the caudal fin is more prominent than in the other female, though less so than in the dominant male. The same applies to the red border of the dorsal fin, which is also slightly higher.
The spotted caudal patterning is darker than in the small female, though this could also be affected by the fin damage that was present when I purchased them. I am not certain how many of these traits could be due to age, as this fish is a little bigger than the female and could just be older.
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AFE1A6D3-C6F4-4C4E-92F1-BF1689DD2056.jpeg


I believe getting a better identification could help in sexing these fish. If they are indeed A. velifera, I have heard they are not only monogamous but also difficult to sex when there are no females clearly in brood dress. It would be nice to know what traits to pay attention to if I need to pick out another female from the fish remaining at the store.
Any aid would be much appreciated, and I can take more pictures if necessary. The male is very photogenic, but while not exactly shy, the two ‘females’ do tend to explore under the leaf litter and in the plant cover more.
The aquarium is a 15 gallon with pool filter sand substrate. Java fern, cryptocoryne spiralis, anubias, and various mosses grow in the middle and lower levels with salvinia and duckweed floating at the surface. I used river birch bark as leaf litter. Multiple sizes of clay pots and dishes are scattered throughout the tank with various sized entrances. There are a few small basalt river stones holding some of the birch bark in place.
The filter is a hang-on-the-back I modified for very low flow that is directed into one corner of the tank. Some of the fish (including the Apistogramma) occasionally swim in the slight current there.
The picture below is a little outdated and I have added more Java ferns in the last few days.
C22C1223-01E5-4D0B-80AA-C7277DB8904C.jpeg

I do weekly water changes with R/O and monitor my pH and TDS with calibrated meters every three or four days. I add a little remineralization for the plants and keep Sera peat in the filter, changing it every few months, to keep the water around 5.5 pH, 30-35 TDS. The temperature is currently around 78-79, and I will raise it to 81-82 when the Apistos have put on a little more weight and healed all fin damage. They share the aquarium with six juvenile Dicrossus, two Coral Red pencilfish (male and female), and a single Trichopsis vittata. If I can establish a pair, I will move them to their own 10 gallon with pencil dithers.
These are not the first Apistos I have kept in this aquarium. I have a pair of A. cacatuoides Orange Flash that paired up before I moved them to breed in their own tank. I also had an A. minima that came in as a contaminant with the Dicrossus, but it only lived for about a month despite my best efforts.
For feeding I rotate frozen spirulina brine shrimp, live BBS, frozen cyclops, and a high quality nano pellet food. The Apistos can be picky about taking other dry foods, and I have not had good luck finding live foods at the local aquarium stores here.
The more information anyone could provide me, the better! If someone has the knowledge to share, I greatly enjoy learning more and would be happy to read it.
I have not posted on a forum before, so I do hope this is all laid out correctly and in the right category. Please tell me if I should move this. I am pretty sure the pictures should be visible, but I can attach them in another format if they are low quality (though some degree of that may be down to my camera skills).
Thank you,
-Willow
 

Mike Wise

Moderator
Staff member
5 Year Member
Messages
11,218
Location
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
At 1½"/3.5 cm the fish are still young and might not be visibly sexable right now. As you discovered dry foods are not apisos' favorite. Mine are only interested in Bug Bites. Otherwise, it is live or frozen.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,006
Location
Germany
Mine are only interested in Bug Bites. Otherwise, it is live or frozen.
Same for mine. Not interested in special dwarf cichlid pellets. Good that I could get Bug Bites where I live, the brand is underrepresented in my country.
 

WillowA.

New Member
Messages
3
Location
U.S.
Hmm, thank you. I will try out that food, and I do appreciate the positive ID. Mike Wise, I have heard of you before and it is quite interesting to see you here! You seem to have quite the level of experience.
If anyone has additional advice on keeping A. velifera, it would be welcome. It has been quite nice to discover a place with so many people interested in Apistogramma.
-Willow
 

Mike Wise

Moderator
Staff member
5 Year Member
Messages
11,218
Location
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Thank you for your kind comments, Willow. As my lovely wife tells me, 'I am a legend in my own mind'. But when you have kept apistos for 4 decades and corresponded with so many aquarists and scientists, some things do slowly sink into the old brain. As for A. velifera, keep it like A. iniridae and you should be fine (for this books are your friend forever).
 

WillowA.

New Member
Messages
3
Location
U.S.
Alright, that I can do. Your advice is much appreciated. Thank you, and I hope you have a good day!
 

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