Good Morning.I have some questions about dither fish as this term is fairly new to me.
- What is their purpose ?
- What traits or habits should I look for in a dither?
- How necessary are they to keeping or breeding Apistos? Thanks for your help. BBF
1. They make the Cichlids feel more comfortable. If there are dither fish swimming above them the cichlids, it is an indication that there aren't large predatory fish or birds about. They may also diffuse aggression when your fish have spawned, although more properly fish for this role would be referred to as "target fish".
- Thank you, Darrel. Your reply was very comprehensive and cleared the matter very well for me. BBF (Frank)
2. A fish that stays well up in the water column and has a small mouth. Pencil Fish (other than N. beckfordi) are ideal. Marbled Hatchets (Carnegiella strigata) are another possibility (but need some specialist care).
Most Tetras are fry hunters, but a good cheap option, that acts as both a dither and target, is the Black Neon Tetra (H. herbertaxelrodi). I've never used them, but I believe that both Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae) and Ruby Tetra (Axelrodia riesei) are also OK.
If you don't mind fish from different continents, I've kept Thread-fin Rainbow (Iriatherina werneri) and Clown Killi (Epiplatys annulatus) with breeding Apistogramma successfully. Most catfish are unsuitable as tank mates, but other fish that are ignored, or tolerated, are Otocinclus spp. and Corydoras pygmaeus, but they don't really act as dithers.
3. I much prefer tanks with dithers, but they aren't essential. I keep very weedy tanks with lots of structure and the Apistogramma are fairly active even without dithers, and the fish always have places out of line of sight to diffuse aggression.
If I was suggesting one fish as a dither for Apistogramma it would probably be the Hockey-stick Pencil (Nannostomus eques).