crazyfishlady: I don't keep many dwarfs, but I hope to get something from the chat. Don't know if my Guianacara & Krobia count as dwarf cichlids or not....
Chromedome: Not really. Krobia is just a little outside the limits, and Guianacara I've seen over 6 inches.
crazyfishlady: How bout balzanii?
Chromedome: Gymnogeophagus also get 6 inches, I've seen male balzanii over that. Really gorgeous, too.
Chromedome: Well, are we about ready to kick this off officially?
crazyfishlady: Ready when you are!
Chromedome: I prefer that questions be asked as the program is going. This way you don't forget what you want to ask about. If the subject will be covered within my prepared comments, I'll just ask you to wait, but I can't cover everything, so don't hesitate. Just post the ? and I will recognize you so that you can ask your question.
Chromedome: The first thing is to make sure everyone knows what really constitutes a New World Dwarf Cichlid. For most, the first fish that comes to mind are Apistogramma, as that is the largest genus of Dwarf Cichlids; however, there are several Dwarf genera, and most have their own unique requirements and behavior. Technically, most of the Convict group of Central America are dwarf species, in that they rarely reach 4 inches.
Chromedome: For this presentation, however, I'm talking about strictly South Americans, mostly species that don't reach more than 3 inches. This includes the following: Apistogramma, Apistogrammoides, Taeniacara, Dicrossus, Biotoecus, Mikrogeophagus, Laetacara, Nannacara, and Ivanacara. In the wild they are rarely found at what we consider full size, as their typical habitat does not normally support large individuals. Also, large, colorful fish are the ones spotted most easily by birds and other predator
Chromedome: The best starting point is tank size and shape. Except for Dicrossus, the tank should be shallow and have plenty of bottom territory. 10, 15, or long 20 gallon tanks are great for small breeding groups; I've even bred some bonded pairs in 5.5 gallon tanks. These fish tend to be uncomfortable in tanks deeper than 12 inches, as deep water means big fish in their genetic memory, and obvious danger.
Chromedome: That doesn't mean that some species can't acclimate; Bolivian Rams seem most adaptable to larger, deeper tanks. Not unreasonable, since they can actually get close to 3.5 inches. Checkerboards will spawn in shallow tanks, they just do it nearer the top of the tank.
Chromedome: From a maintenance point of view, I consider the South American Dwarves to fall into four groupings. The first two are Apisto type I (including Apistogrammoides), which are not overly concerned with the hardness of their water, nor the pH of their environment. (Wild A. cacatuoides)
Chromedome: And Apisto type II (which also encompasses Taeniacara), which are mostly blackwater species, and most assuredly are concerned
about hardness, and may not even spawn until pH reaches a certain low
level. (These two types are my own designation, you won't find them
listed this way anywhere else.)(Taeniacara candidi male)
Chromedome: Type I are the more common species in the hobby, for obvious reasons. All Apistos are classified as cave spawners, in that they want to really hide when they lay eggs. In the wild they usually spawn in crevices in the wood, or under leaves on the substrate.
Chromedome: Yes, Glaive.
Glaive: When you mention a certain low level for pH, how low do you mean?
Chromedome: Varies with species, but generally below 6.0, some as low as 5.0.
Chromedome: There's more about why later on, too.
Chromedome: However, most of the other Dwarf genera from South America do not cave spawn. Mikrogeophagus (Rams) and Laetacara (Blunthead Acaras) are well known for spawning in a more open manner, either on top of an object or in a pit in the gravel.(Laetacara buckelkopf spawn)
Chromedome: Nannacara and Ivanacara are also likely to spawn in the open. Then you have the Dicrossus species (Checkerboard Dwarf Cichlids), which like to spawn on a leaf still attached to a plant, or on a tall piece of wood. The thing is, they don't like to spawn near the substrate. They will also pretend that they don't have a spawn, standing away from the eggs. In a large, well planted tank they may even spawn without you being aware of it.
Chromedome: Let another fish get too close to the eggs, however, and they attack like a 3 foot Pike! I am not certain which group Biotoecus falls into, as I cannot even keep them alive for 10 days, much less breed them. They strongly resemble Dicrossus in appearance, however the reports I've seen suggest that they may be either a pit or cave spawner.
Chromedome: CFL, question.
crazyfishlady: I don't know much about Biotoecus. Are they notoriously difficult? Have they been spawned in captivity?
Chromedome: Yes to both questions. They are extremely sensitive to pollution, apparently. There were a couple of importations last year, I dropped $$$$ on a group, with the results noted.
Chromedome: Some type of substrate is strongly recommended. Sand is great, but very fine dark gravel will work. Some purists use a layer of dead leaves, which simulates the natural environment for Apistos. Female Apistos need a space that the male cannot get into, just close enough to fertilize her eggs
Chromedome: Oak leaves and Almond leaves are also great for producing very soft, acid conditions. For decorating, plants are fine, as they will not be dug up, but are really only important for Dicrossus. Floating plants, such as Water Sprite or Riccia, provide a shaded environment, which also makes the fish feel secure from aerial predators (not usually a problem within aquaria, I hope!).
Chromedome: I prefer wood and coconut shells to provide possible spawning caves, but I have also used small flowerpots. Slate or other inert rocks
lying on the gravel also work well for the normal substrate spawners
like the Laetacara species, or M. altispinosus (Bolivian Rams).(Apisto Rotpunckt female)
Chromedome: The type II Apistos and Dicrossus, which come from black water regions such as the Rio Negro, and Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, which is found in flood pools on the Venezuelan Llanos (pronounced Yahn-nos), are the ones that are kept best at 80+. The temperature for the other Dwarf Cichlids should be in the mid to upper 70s. I know collectors who claim to have caught breeding Apistogramma borelli in water that was only 65 degrees F.!
Chromedome: Oddly, I was never successful with that species until the temperature exceeded 78, but my fish were already an old aquarium strain in 1977 when I bred them. The Opal variant that showed up in the 1980s was much more adaptable.(A. borelli male top)(A. borelli Opal female with fry bottom)
Chromedome: The need for water changes also varies among the genera. Checkerboards absolutely require clean water, and frequent, even large water changes are the best way to get them breeding. Water changes after a 2-3 week simulated dry season can be used to trigger spawning in Mikrogeophagus and Laetacara.
Chromedome: However, most Apistos don't breed as well with too many water changes. In nature they do not live in streams, but in the pools left during the dry seasons, and this is when they spawn. Since such pools get very little flow, if any, the pH will drop to very low levels. This is often a trigger to get spawns, and some type II Apisto eggs won't even hatch at a pH above 5.5.
Chromedome: Feeding Dwarf Cichlids isn't all that difficult, you just need a small enough food for them to eat. I often use newly hatch brine shrimp for Laetacara and Apisto adults and fry, but microworms and finely ground dry foods work well. I have also used Blackworms, and in the old days Tubifex, which brought females into condition very quickly. However, these are very rich foods, and must be used sparingly
Chromedome: While Dwarf fry don't look much bigger than the shrimp, they are capable of tearing them apart, and will feed on them even when you don't think they can. Of course, this does not apply to M. ramirezi fry, as they are one of the smallest fry I know of from a Cichlid. I've started them on vinegar worms, liquid fry food (very dangerous as it pollutes badly), and soaked APR powder (artificial protozoan rotifers, used for Rainbowfish fry).
Chromedome: The adult Rams can eat pretty much anything meaty, of course, so long as it is fine enough for their small mouths. Do NOT try to feed mosquito larvae to Dwarf Cichlids, as they rarely come to the surface to feed.
Chromedome: There has been a lot of discussion over sex ratios within the various species of Dwarf Cichlids. A stringently controlled experiment many years ago proved that temperature, not pH, was the determining factor in Apistogramma sex ratios. My own experience with Laetacara and Nannacara suggests that these are not affected by external stimuli. That is, sex ratios tend to come out pretty even regardless of conditions.
Chromedome: The others I do not have sufficient experience, or data from others, to come to any conclusions
Chromedome: I would like to comment on a couple of species in particular. Everyone has seen the very colorful strains of Apistogramma cacatuoides. While much of this color originates from wild stock, they have been line bred for many years to reach the current extremes. The very young wild pair I showed you at the beginning of this talk were far more likely to care for their young, and personally, I prefer them to the gaudy appearance of the aquarium strains.
Chromedome: Line breeding has weakened them a little, but they are still one of the easiest Apistos to obtain, maintain, and spawn. They get much, much larger in aquaria than they do in the wild.
Chromedome: Bolivian Rams are very popular, as they breed readily in most any type of water and are quite prolific. They are relatively tough, and extremely adaptable. The only reason they haven't been in the hobby for 80 years like ramirezi is that no one managed to find them until about 20 years ago!
Chromedome: Juveniles are often seen in even dime store tanks.(M. altispinosa juvenile)
Chromedome: However, it is not until they reach 2.5 inches or bigger that they really color up, and they are quite beautiful at this stage.(Mikrogeophagus altispinosa breeding dress)
Chromedome: Parenting skills are not their strong suit, much like their smaller cousins, so if one wishes to raise them I recommend siphoning out the young at wiggler stage. Set up a small tank with water from the breeding tank, as the wigglers will survive siphoning, but not new water.
Glaive: This is really informative, I have several smaller tanks that I would like to put to use.
Chromedome: A lot of people love the look of Apistogramma agassizi, but this is one of my Type II species, and will not thrive unless given a black water tank. They will spawn frequently, but the eggs won't hatch until the pH drops below 6.0. It is probably the most adaptable black water species, and crossing of various populations has produced some very colorful aquarium strains, as in this photo from forum member BigSab.(Apistogramma male)
Chromedome: However, there are many Aggie populations that may actually be described as new species some day, so these aquarium strains should be carefully marked as such.
Chromedome: Well, that ends the formal portion of this presentation. I will try to answer any other questions that you might have
Chromedome: Yes, CFL?
crazyfishlady: It sounds like these fish are wary and shy due to their natural environment
crazyfishlady: Is there any trick to keeping them out in the open in aquaria?
Chromedome: Indeed they are. They can learn to settle into a community tank with small dithers, such as Tetras.
crazyfishlady: Is it best to start with a group of these, a male and a few females, or a pair, if interested in keeping and spawning them?
Chromedome: It is always best to start with a group of young fish. Most Apistos are harem breeders, but Laetacara, Nannacara, and Mikrogeophagus tend to pair bond.
Chromedome: I have had some of my Type I species breed as pairs, such as Rotpunckt.
Chromedome: Seedy, ask.
Seedy: Are there any species that you think could be housed with smaller shrimp like "Amano" or "Cherry Shrimp"?
Chromedome: The Dicrossus would likely ignore them, as they are not tied to the bottom for their territorial needs.
Chromedome: I don't think Apisto borelli would be bad either, as it is a small species and tends to keep a smaller territory.
Chromedome: Glaive, ask.
Glaive: If I was interested in Placing a dwarf in a Cichlid community setting are there other cichlids that would work out? smaller Geos perhaps.
Glaive: And what dwarfs would you suggest?
Chromedome: Well, many of the "true" Geos are from the same regions, but they tend to be in the flowing portions of the water. Apistos would be a bad choice for a community with most other Cichlids.
Chromedome: However, the Bluntheads get a bit larger, and are better able to cope with larger fish.
Glaive: I would be interested in something peaceful. (by Cichlids standards)
Chromedome: curviceps, dorsigera, and Species buckelkopf are among the smaller of that genus, but they have "big hearts". They aren't generally aggressive, but can hold their own.
Glaive: if I am asking the impossible please set me straight too. ;)
Chromedome: Not really. Bolivian rams will get along fine with Angels, for example. And many people keep ramirezi with Discus.
Glaive: However if I want to go with another tank mate I should go with Blunt heads and work from there carefully?
Chromedome: That would be one way. One of the reasons I like Laetacara is they can be almost the perfect small Cichlid. They fit into mixed communities, even with other moderately gentle Cichlids.
Chromedome: Another reason I like Laetacara. (male buckelkopf)
Chromedome: Those are NON breeding colors of a buckelkopf, BTW.
Glaive: That is a beauty, I really like the contrasting and different colors.
Chromedome: That was one of the first digital shots I took. The original was lost when my desktop crashed, but I had posted that on-line, so was able to recover it.
Chromedome: One of those "wow, did I shoot that?" pictures.
Chromedome: Oh, and as for identification, I recommend going to another forum that specializes in Dwarfs.
Chromedome: Or, get the Romer atlases.
MisanthropeKitty: i want something different for my 55g planted tank
MisanthropeKitty: something small and not aggressive
MisanthropeKitty: not a ram
MisanthropeKitty: any suggestions?
Chromedome: see male buckelkopf above
Chromedome: or one of his relatives, they are around. so called curviceps from Peru are nice.
MisanthropeKitty: oh and one more thing
MisanthropeKitty: not too hard to find
MisanthropeKitty: its a curviceps? or a relative?
Chromedome: Buckelkopf. It is harder to get, not as common as the curviceps or dorsigera.
Chromedome: Dosigera get a really nice color to them, too.
MisanthropeKitty: are they hard to keep?
Chromedome: Very easy. Not that picky about water chemistry or food, and while not overly aggressive, well able to take care of themselves.
Chromedome: This is the Peruvian curviceps. Bear in mind, he was in a bare tank at convention.(Laetacara sp. Peru)
MisanthropeKitty: I like those guys
Chromedome: The blue looks better in a planted tank.
Chromedome: And they don't need caves, either. They spawn in the open, unlike Apistos.
Chromedome: They do show up in stores on occasion. Trying to remember the silly common name I've seen, some sort of "Ram", but they obviously aren't.
Chromedome: Rapps has some dorsigera right now. He's a dependable source, in my book.