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Starting fishkeeping again and choosing the species - A. diplotaenia or?

A. Jakob

New Member
5 Year Member
Messages
2
Location
Slovenia
Hi everyone!

After a few years of a hiatus, I finally have time to get back to keeping fish.

Apistogrammas were one of my first fish obsessions, but unfortunately could not keep them (because I had no access to enough soft water. There were/are a couple of springs of very soft water near my house, but they dried out in the summers, so... I do not know how it supported a decent sized town worth of discuss keepers/breeders in the 60/70s, when it was the only source of soft water (according to local fishkeeping myths)).

The species that beguilled me the most is Apistogramma diplotaenia (a choice that earned me the title of drab little fish liker from my uncle :) ), an enchantment that obviously still has not ended more than 15 years later.
I am a aware that this is probably not the easiest species to keep, which is why I am running my ideas and plans by more experienced people (and am not nearly close to ordering the fish).

So the planned setup:

112 l (29 gal) fish tank (80x35cm (31.5x14.7 in) bottom)
white quartz sand bottom
outside filter i Think 8l and 300l/h (flow will be reduced)


"decor":
plenty of wood/branches (the branchy wood I arranged so it sits on the tips, so most of the ground is still free)
oak and chestnut leaves and alder cones
probably some plants, we'll se what survives the dim light and blackwater (hopefully at least something floating and some moss)

water parameters:
This is where my first question arises; I generally read the recommendation as follows:
TDS, GH and KH as low as possible,
pH less than 5.5

That to me reads to use just plain RO water and alder cones, without adding any minerals to it. Am I understanding this correctly or am I missing some piece of the puzzle?

That water quality must remain excellent and water parametres stable are a given, the plan is to execute a 20-25% water change in a lightly stocked fish tank.

If not absolutely necessary, I do not think I will use peat, It has never been clear to me when the peat in the filtre has run its course, and I prefer alder cones, which I can count and switch out every water change. I had some success in significant pH reduction and some KH and GH reduction in very hard water just with alder cones and leaves. I plan on testing how alder cones do in reducing and stabilising the pH before getting the fish and learn to use good ol' peat if it does not work out

Stocking:

currently the tank holds an unkown nuber (upward od 100) of malawa shrimp. They will remain in the tank, but I doubt they will cohabitate with the fish for long (in case they manage to reproduce fast enough, they are supposed to be able to live well under blackwater conditions).

I plan on having either one of the Nannostomuses, smaller Copellas (e. g. nattereri) or Axelrodias as dither fish. From what I read on this forum and Apisto sites, these work well and do not eat the fry (too much). I am toying with the idea of Copellas AND Nannostomuses, but its probably the best to just stick with one right?

For the Apistogrammas:

I am sure the tank is at least big enough for a pair of Apistogramma diplotaenia, the question I have is would it be big enough for two pairs or a small group? In Römers book he reports finding them in very dense colonies, and these are supposed to be on the smaller side, so I thought it might work; but I would like to hear experience of someone who has kept them; how are they with agression and territory size? Is keeping more then a pair in aquarium of this size advisable?

I have a vague idea this should work from what I have read and understand, but I would ask to point out any flaws in my plan, or if you think it is a bad idea to start with A. diplotaenia (if yes, why, and which species of South American blackwater dwarf chicklid would you recommend)?
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,740
Location
Germany
(a choice that earned me the title of drab little fish liker from my uncle )
So you have something in common with many here and with Scott Fellman.
Only thing speaking against A. diplotaenia is availability. If you have a source you're good, though.

probably some plants, we'll se what survives the dim light and blackwater (hopefully at least something floating and some moss)
Some recommendations:
Limnobium laevigatum, Salvinia sp., Nymphaea sp., Hydrocotyle leucocephala (use emersed!), Epipremnum (also), Monstera (dito). All are either floaters, grow emersed aquaponically or cheat the plant-averse conditions of blackwater with floating leaves.

If not absolutely necessary, I do not think I will use peat, It has never been clear to me when the peat in the filtre has run its course, and I prefer alder cones, which I can count and switch out every water change. I had some success in significant pH reduction and some KH and GH reduction in very hard water just with alder cones and leaves. I plan on testing how alder cones do in reducing and stabilising the pH before getting the fish and learn to use good ol' peat if it does not work out
My tank has the same dimensions, I use the extract of 10-20 alder cones (I use 1/2 from the previous week and 1/2 fresh ones), a handful of leaves (added to the tank after brewing) and 2 rooibos tea bags in 2 literes of hot RO with every waterchange. Using pure RO for the tank this gets me to a TDS between 30 and 50mg/l and an estimated pH of roughly 5.

I plan on having either one of the Nannostomuses, smaller Copellas (e. g. nattereri) or Axelrodias as dither fish. From what I read on this forum and Apisto sites, these work well and do not eat the fry (too much). I am toying with the idea of Copellas AND Nannostomuses, but its probably the best to just stick with one right?
Stick to one of these species. Otherwise your idea of light stocking density isn't possible to achieve. Each species does best in groups of 10, with most Nannostomus being quite aggressive among each other.
 

Mike Wise

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Staff member
5 Year Member
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10,817
Location
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
For the Apistogrammas:

I am sure the tank is at least big enough for a pair of Apistogramma diplotaenia, the question I have is would it be big enough for two pairs or a small group? In Römers book he reports finding them in very dense colonies, and these are supposed to be on the smaller side, so I thought it might work; but I would like to hear experience of someone who has kept them; how are they with agression and territory size? Is keeping more then a pair in aquarium of this size advisable?
There is considerable difference between an aquarium with limited area and a broad river - the biotope of A. diplotaenia. In an aquarium, fish can't safely leave; in the wild there is much more space and can leave safely. In a tank of your size I would suggest a male and 1-3 females. Two males with females probably wouldn't co-exist peacefully in a tank that size. Also realize that the biotope of A. diplotaenia is not typical of most species of apisto. I suggest that you read about the biotope of A. diplotaenia and arrange the aquarium to mimic this.
 

A. Jakob

New Member
5 Year Member
Messages
2
Location
Slovenia
So you have something in common with many here and with Scott Fellman.
Only thing speaking against A. diplotaenia is availability. If you have a source you're good, though.
Aquarium Glaser has them sporadically, and we have a small shop here that is happy to order and deliver fish for clients.
Currently Tropicwasser has them listed , but I do not feel confortable shipping live fish through our postal service and I am not yet ready to have them in the tank, but I can drive to Hessen in a few months if all else fails and they still offer them.
Some recommendations:
Limnobium laevigatum, Salvinia sp., Nymphaea sp., Hydrocotyle leucocephala (use emersed!), Epipremnum (also), Monstera (dito). All are either floaters, grow emersed aquaponically or cheat the plant-averse conditions of blackwater with floating leaves.
I never had any luck with Limnobium and Salvinia, they always slowly withered away for me no matter what I did - do you have any tricks for keeping them alive (maybe the soft water will help)?
I guess I know now what I'll do with the superfluous Monstera cuttings I have from now on...

My tank has the same dimensions, I use the extract of 10-20 alder cones (I use 1/2 from the previous week and 1/2 fresh ones), a handful of leaves (added to the tank after brewing) and 2 rooibos tea bags in 2 literes of hot RO with every waterchange. Using pure RO for the tank this gets me to a TDS between 30 and 50mg/l and an estimated pH of roughly 5.
yes nice, I was meaning to ask about (rooibos) tea too, but forgot.
If I understand correctly, you make an infusion, and do not just place the "herbals" directly in the water (save the leaves)?

Stick to one of these species. Otherwise your idea of light stocking density isn't possible to achieve. Each species does best in groups of 10, with most Nannostomus being quite aggressive among each other.
I thought so; I am currently set on Copella nattereri or meinkeni, but exactly what I get will depend on what I can get (Brittanichthys also seems to be a good choice for a relatively fry-safe dither, right?)

There is considerable difference between an aquarium with limited area and a broad river - the biotope of A. diplotaenia. In an aquarium, fish can't safely leave; in the wild there is much more space and can leave safely. In a tank of your size I would suggest a male and 1-3 females. Two males with females probably wouldn't co-exist peacefully in a tank that size.
I was pretty sure this was going to be the answer, but the Uwe Römers report in Cichliden Atlas 1 of seeing a 500 square metre colony of the density of 84 individuals per square meter made me question my better judgement (also, what I sight that must have been).
Unfortunately the author does not state what was the percentage of adult males, which would be at least interesting from the point of view of how tolerant they are of eachother in nature.
Thank you for confirming my suspitions!


Also realize that the biotope of A. diplotaenia is not typical of most species of apisto. I suggest that you read about the biotope of A. diplotaenia and arrange the aquarium to mimic this.

I have Cichlid atlas band 1, which contains the authors reports of ecology of this species as a sand dweller, mainly found above larger stretches of sand, but also in patches of sand among vegetation, otherwise rocky bottom areas, or in patches of sand among leaf litter. While the high desities were only reached on sand stretches, the author reports them to be quite wide spread in the area, always choosing areas, where the ground is not covered by vegetation or litter (but he also always mentions that other species were present, and since A. diplotaenia is one of the smaller species, he hypothesised they were pushed from better habitats by the larger secies of Apistogramma)
It also seems they like to build craters, for which they need a thick layer of white sand
The bottom of my tank will be free save for a few small stones to make territory bundaries for the girls territory.
The wood I have is all lifted above the sand, and covers about a third of the tanks surface. If they will refuse to venture under it , I can always take it out. The impression I have is that the most important thing for them is to have a thick layer of fine sand, which is already present in the tank.

I admit this book is my only source for their ecology, but it seems pretty exhaustive in its description of behaviours and habitats (at least for diplotaenia)?
Have I missed some details?

I cannot wait to see how they behave - in nature, they do not build craters in every type of habitat, and they can be both polygam as well as monogam, I wonder how they will find the tank.

Thank you both for your answers and advice, I was out of the hobby for long enough I am not entirely sure I am making the right decisions, and it really helps for someone to confirm the decision or point me in the right direction

I did not anticipate how much fun I will be having just planning all this out and researching all this again;

and I really hope I can post some nice pictures in a couple of months to repay the input :)
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,740
Location
Germany
Aquarium Glaser has them sporadically, and we have a small shop here that is happy to order and deliver fish for clients.
Currently Tropicwasser has them listed , but I do not feel confortable shipping live fish through our postal service and I am not yet ready to have them in the tank, but I can drive to Hessen in a few months if all else fails and they still offer them.
If you have access to both sources, you're good to go. ;)
I never had any luck with Limnobium and Salvinia, they always slowly withered away for me no matter what I did - do you have any tricks for keeping them alive (maybe the soft water will help)?
Light. Since my Epipremnum and Hydrocotyle are covering the light from above I had losses of my Limnobium. Also keep the roots away from anything rotting. That's all. When it comes to fertilizers I add about 4-5 pumps per week to my tank and it's enough.
yes nice, I was meaning to ask about (rooibos) tea too, but forgot.
It's 90% for the colour. Otherwise it looks like urine.
If I understand correctly, you make an infusion, and do not just place the "herbals" directly in the water (save the leaves)?
Yep, only the leaves. I have other botanicals in there (Banana stalk, different empty seedpods), but I don't add stuff like that every week. The problem with the alder cones is - if there are still the seeds in them they aare going to rot and that is a big influx of nutrients. Raises TDS, raises waste products... not interested in that. So I only add the least nutrient-holding parts.

Thank you both for your answers and advice, I was out of the hobby for long enough I am not entirely sure I am making the right decisions, and it really helps for someone to confirm the decision or point me in the right direction

I did not anticipate how much fun I will be having just planning all this out and researching all this again;
You're welcome.
I'm also only back for a few years after a longer hiatus and while always interested in the ecology I was specialized in Rift Lake cichlids previously. Completely different story.
 

martin_c

New Member
5 Year Member
Messages
8
Location
Aachen
Hello everyone,
so far i've been just a reader on this page, but this thread seems to be a good occasion to join the writing side and share some experience i've made with this species over the years:

- They like to dig caves underneath whatever you place on the sand (wood, stones) to put their eggs there.

- Males can be polygamous if they have the chance. But it also happened that he then joins the female where his memory is freshest in beating up other females that he also has eggs with.

- Feeding them decapsulated artemia eggs can be a good way to keep them busy (and therefore peaceful) for hours doing what they love to do: Chewing on sand.

- if they breed in a crowded community / colony tank and then are terrorising everyone, there's a trick how you can evacuate the mother together with her eggs. It requires that the eggs were layed in a little pleco cave (which they will do if you offer those). Wait until night, the mother will be inside the pleco-cave, blind her a bit with a flash light, put a thumb on the cave (carefully, no water pressure) and move it into e.g. a little 12L tank. You have to do it at night otherwise the mother will leave the cave afterwards and is so confused by the new surrounding that she stops caring for the eggs. At night she stays in the cave until the morning and somehow keeps the cave marked as the center of her world.

- At some point i wanted to get rid of this species (and of cichlids at all) due to their aggression, which often requires a certain aggression management. But now that i have some in a really large tank (80x80x70) i actually love to see just that behavior: There is always some fin flaring happening. As long as they have enough space to retreat it doesn't stress them nor me.

An older wildcaught male:

BR
Martin
 
Last edited:

Apistoguy52

Member
Messages
93
diplotaenia is the only Apistogramma that’s kept me excited past the initial spawning. Fantastic fish! +1 for Mr Wise, 1m and a f or two for the win. This stocking should be good for a few months given proper water (at this point, the density of fish will result in some banged up fry).

As stated above, lots of sand, lots of places to excavate. Mine really seem to enjoy the small huts buried in the sand ( they will find and use them)
 

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Prontodelivery wrote on Apistoguy52's profile.
Do you still have the F1 Ivanacara adoketa “red” from the Rio Icana, interested in getting 2 Pairs.
mikishuhoo wrote on Apistoguy52's profile.
Hi,

Do you still have Apistogramma diplotaenia pairs available to sell? Please advise. Thanks.

Kenny
I'm clueless. If I say something you can safely ignore it.
Apistomaster wrote on anewbie's profile.
I see that The Wet Spot Tropical Fish currently has the fire red A. agassizi you are looking for. Here is the link:
I've always had good experiences buying from them on line.
Hallo,
I am Hanzle from Holland and keep apistoos for 40 years. Had my own aquarium shop from 1984 till 1988. Always s great fan from apistoos and hyphessobrycon which is s great combination in a Community Aquarium. Perhaps.....in the near future I start breeding apistoos again. Have a 400 liters Community aquarium for hyphessobrycon wadai and apistogramma biteaniata.
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