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Collecting apistogramma gibbiceps in boa vista

Hudson Ensz

5 Year Member
Manaus, Brazil south america
It started when our friends wanted to take me to their ranch. I agreed as I love nature, snakes, spiders, scorpions, horses, birds, etc… I also thought there might be a lake or two where I could “sampleâ€.
I brought some fishing line but unfortunately forgot my dipnet. I really wasn’t planning on keeping anything, as our home, Manaus, was 11 hours drive away and that was after an additional night. I expected to ride horses hence I wore jeans.
My excitement mounted as we crossed a stream about 6 feet wide, and a sort of a swampland to get to the caretakers house, a short distance away. As soon as the car stopped I immediately began to explore the stream. At my first glance I saw large shoals of tetras, splash tetras (probably Copella nigrofasciatus) and a species of what was probably a Hyphessobrycon or Hemigrammus. After looking closer into the water I gasped, in the water close to the shore was an Apistogramma!!! As I watched in awe at it I noticed a few others close by. They were mouthing little tidbits and I watched as they tranquilly swam around each individuals territory, usually a rock or brick.

The substrate was a very soft type of detritus mixed with algae covered pebbles. The plants were for the most part sparsely planted but back a ways there was an increasing number of grass like plants. I saw a few baby lily pads and what I guessed to be Hygrophila. Also there was a sword like plant that I collected.
The water was particularly shallow and the fish seemed to enjoy a cement slab two inches underwater, there they would school by the hundreds. And then I remembered my nets, I had none, and nothing to use as one. I thought of a bunch of silly ideas but they were all implausible. I put some bread on my small hook and tried to get some larger fish.
This seemed a likely place for a Traira (Hoplias malabaricus or wolf fish) or maybe an acara and I half expected to catch one. Not a chance, the thousands of 1-1 ½ inch tetras (they should be named Hyphessobrycon piranhatoothy) swarmed and attacked the bread so voraciously that it was ripped off the hook in milliseconds. Of course their mouths were way too small to get hooked and even if they were big enough, they wouldn’t put up much of a fight. I realized it was hopeless and set about attempting to catch the little apistos.
Unfortunately my jeans were very infuriating as I tried unsuccessfully not to get them wet and they only slowed me down to the highest degree. I tried to get some of the barred Apistogrammas with my hands but the female A. gibbiceps fish darted away through my fingers. The fish would have to jump into my hands if was to get some. Fortunately they did, literally.
I was standing in 8 inch water when all of a sudden I noticed a little golden fish, obviously a cichlid, and concerned why anyone would be standing in his territory. He began to actually jump out of the water several times for some mysterious reason. I was able to finally catch him after a few tries and put him in a plastic Ziploc bag I had luckily brought to put my bait in. is I looked down again there was about 6 crowded around my feet. They also seemed to be a little jumpy and I succeeded in getting quite a few by catching them in mid air.
I guessed that the fish I was catching might be gibbiceps but this assumption was confirmed when I saw an adult swimming around about 5 feet away. Unfortunately he wasn’t in the jumping mood and he swam calmly away into the deeper part (the deepest part was barely 2 feet deep) I renewed my efforts and caught a nice 1 ½ inch male. Then I realized something, all the fish I had caught were males, not one of them females.
I looked around and at the bottom and aggravatingly enough were the barred apistos, unlike the yellow ones like the ones I had been catching. I begin to try my hand catching a female as I was interested in attempting to breed them when we got back to my “fishroom†in Manaus.
Then I saw a 2 inch, thick bodied cichlid, and as it jumped I was able to catch it in my hands. It was a beautiful basket mouth cichlid (Acaronia nassa). I added it to the bag with the other gibbiceps that I had caught. It was then that I thought of using plastic bag to catch the females. I went to the caretaker’s house and they gave me a plastic bag I ran back and used it as a sort of net only it wasn’t near as affective. In the second thrust I managed to pull up a shrimp and a tetra but as I practiced I got better results. I saw and caught other aquatic life too, pencilfish hidden in the weeds, little boatmen, dragonfly larvae, various fishing spiders, and during dusk I saw a lot of frogs.
Once I saw a broken section of a brick in the water(the bricks in brazil have much larger holes then American bricks). I had an idea and quickly covered both ends with my hands so that if anything was inside it would be trapped. I was surprised when I felt something hitting my hand, something large. It was a three inch basket mouth cichlid. I threw it back in and began collecting again. That was when I saw it… pike cichlid! There was two of them, one about three inches long and the other a tad smaller. I caught a pencilfish and put it on a hook. Unfortunately the pike starteled, darted away when the bobber hit the water and the pesky little tetras again managed to tear it off the hook and eat the pencilfish. I do not know what species the pike was but it looked like a relative to the Crenicichla inpa.
Then I saw it again, the male gibbiceps! I don’t know if it was the same one or not, but I managed to catch this one. It was what I had dreamed of for the last seven months, a gold color with iridescent turquoise on the fins that only show when catching the light just right. The fins also had intricate lines in them. The dorsal shimmered with red to when lighted just right. The caudal fin had long trailers on them in a full lyretail. I immediately put him in the bag. So far he was my most coveted catch of the day.
I finally was able to get a large female with my hands and soon after that a smaller female with the bag. By that time it was dark and I let some of the surplus specimens go I had, 2 female Apistogramma gibbiceps, 1 adult and 5 smaller male gibbiceps, 1 basketmouth cichlid, a couple of shrimp (one pregnant and full of babies) and a happy heart. I didn’t take any pencilfish or tetras, as I didn’t have adequate room, 9 fish were plenty! When we got to our temporary house in boa vista, I divided the fish into plastic Ziploc bags, as I didn’t have anything else. There was two fish per bag with the exception of one female alone. The bags corners were taped so that there wasn’t enough pressure to make the bag leak. After filling them with air from my lungs (I took a couple of quick breaths before I blew into the bags incase it might help) and taped the bags shut. I filled 30 percent with water and 70 percent air (as suggested on the TFH online forum) I was afraid they wouldn’t make it the night, not to mention the 11 hours over bumpy roads after. They all survived the night and were in good condition the next morning. I packed them in beside my seat and panicked every time we hit a bump or pothole. To put it plain and simple it was quite a stressful trip. During the drive home, however I had one casualty, a male died of unknown reasons. I have never had much luck in transporting fish but this time I got all of the fish, with the exception of one, back to my home.

Home with the fish

When I got home, the first thing I did was, after acclimating them, pour all the contents of the bags with, a mixture of tank and tap water, into one 14 inch long temporary container with a sealed lid. The males tendency to jump never really left themso there was a great danger that an unsealed lid could be fatal. Strangely enough they seem to start jumping as soon as I stick my hand into the aquarium. An odd thing I noticed is that the males seem to be more prone to hanging around at the top then the females who never seem to go three inches from the substrate. As time wore on I moved the adult male gibbiceps and the basketmouth cichlid to a show tank. This lead to hilarious happenings the basketmouth cichlid was a “died in the wool†jumper. One day I took off the lid to do some maintenance in the aquarium. Unexpectedly as soon as my hand entered the water he jumped straight up crashing into the glass panel with a loud clanking sound. The fish looked a little dizzy for a few seconds and did the same thing over and over again. Leaving half the lid off I proceeded to catch a shrimp in the tank below when the fish plummeted right next to my face. As quickly as I could I picked him up and put him back. As soon as he hit the water he was back out. I put him back again and continued to catch the shrimp. When he was moved I looked at the tank. The basketmouth cichlid was not in it. Grumbling under my breath I looked around for him and discovered him finally. I put him in the water and hoped he wouldn’t jump out again. I looked to my next tank for a brief second but when I looked back he wasn’t there. I began to look once again and finally discovered him in my hammock right next to the tank!!!
The basketmouth took readily to aquarium fare but the Apistos weren’t so easy. Oddly enough my Apistogramma gibbiceps stay at the surface during the day, but are inclined to go to the lower zones at night and in the morning. The gibbiceps male isn’t especially aggressive but occasionally bites passing fish.

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