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New to Apistos - Is 20 gal a happy tank size?


New Member
5 Year Member
Hi all, my first question here. I'm not new to fish and aquatic gardening, but I've never kept Cichlids before.

I've been given the opportunity to acquire a pair of A. cacatuoides, A. agassizii, and/or A. borellii juveniles (for free) and I'm trying to decide if a tank I'm currently setting up is big enough or otherwise appropriate. For the most part, water parameters for these fish seem straightforward enough but I'm not sure about tank size. In the past I've found that the "minimum tank size" suggested for many fish is far too small.

I'd like to put perhaps two or three (1 male, 2 females I guess) in a 76 liter/20 gallon "high" tank (61cm / 24" long, 30.5 cm/12" wide) - is this enough space for the Apistos to live comfortably for a long time? I'm not interested in the perfect breeding setup, I just want happy healthy fish. The last thing I want is miserable fish that just “surviveâ€Â. This particular tank will have plenty of plant cover and rock caves, perhaps driftwood, high light (1.3 Watts/liter) and co2 injection. Tankmates would most likely be a small group of Tetras or small Barbs and some Amano shrimp. Comments?

Which of the Apistos listed above would be best for this sized tank (if any)?
Is 1 male : 2 females better than a single pair? (I’ve read they are harem breeders and I worry that a single female might get constantly harassed – does this happen with Apisto pairs?).

Unfortunately, I really don't have the option of going with a larger tank for the time being - aside from the fact that I've already spent so much on lighting, filter, heater, plant substrate, and other equipment for this particular tank, I live in an apartment and I'm stretching my available space as it is. If I must, I'll leave the Apistos until I can give them the space they need for happy lives.

One last question: how long do Apistos typically live?

Thanks in advance. Any other comments would be appreciated too.


New Member
a 2ft tank is what i give all my apisto's intially , i have certainly kept trio's and sometimes 3-4 female, single male harems in similar size's

i think your tank would be absolutely fine for a pair or trio of any of the fish you have mentioned

generally apisto's are thoght to be annual fish in the wild
general consensus seems to be 3-5 yr's is a good tank life
certainly slightly cooler temperatures will extend life span

asto tank mates tetra's and barbs are fine until fry are about
most tetra's that move quickly will be able to pick of free swimming fry
if you are interested in breeding then surface feeders with smaller mouths such as pencil fish, hatchets are traditional choices, lots of others use live bearers guppies, mollies even though it is not generally thought that they would like the softer waters of most apisto's

the shrimp i have had have generally been fine with the apisto's you mention
my panduro though quickly destroyed there 3 amano's



New Member
5 Year Member
Thanks andrew, that's basically what I wanted to hear :)

When you say "slightly cooler temperatures" what exactly do you mean?

As for breeding, I think I'd put them in a dedicated breeding tank if I were ever interested in raising fry. We'll see.

Thanks again.


New Member
5 Year Member
Heya, algefarmer.

I'd probably end up wishing that I had a 20 long rather than a 20 high in your position.

I'll bet you could keep a pair NP, but I wouldn't be too suprised to see 1 member of a trio dissappear after a few months.

But then, I'm a crappier fishkeeper than some of the experts here, and have to keep to lower densities! =)

Among the Caucatoides, Agassizii, and Borelli I've been around the Borelli have been smaller, and seemed milder tempered to me. But that is somewhat subjective, and will depend on individual fish as well.

Good luck!


New Member
apisto's i generally keep from 24- 26 celsius , maybe peaking to try and induce spawns with temperatures up around 28 celsius

if kept at these higher 28 celsius temperatures then life is sort of accelerated


New Member
5 Year Member
Hi Algaefarmer,
you didn't mention your water parameters such as hardness and pH.
Borellis are quiet easy to keep. They will torlerate in harder water with a hogher pH and aren't all that agressive. Try having a temperature fluctuation of 1-2 degrees centigrade between night and day. Your apistos will live a lot longer.


New Member
5 Year Member
I'm quite lucky to have decent water to work with where I live (north western Canada). As of yesterday, the water out of my tap is ~1.2 dKH (20ppm), 4.5 dGH (80ppm), and 7 pH. There's a bit of chlorine in it for half a day or so, but nothing else to worry about really.

Anyway, I went ahead and told my "contact" that I'd take a pair of the Cacatuoides so we'll see how it goes. He said it's best to wait a bit until a natural pair forms up - I guess that's a normal thing to do with Cichlids?

Now I owe him some Sparkling Gouramis so I have to get those stubborn fish breeding again... :wink:

Thanks for the tips all. Hopefully soon I'll be a happy Apisto nut as well.

Mike Wise

Staff member
5 Year Member
A. cacatuoides is a harem spawning cichlid. They do not pair up. The male will breed with any ripe female available.