10 Types of South American Dwarf Cichlids (Apistogramma)

Apistogramma cichlids are a great choice for more experienced keepers. Like most cichlids, these too are not hardy pets, and they certainly require an extra dose of attention from their owners.

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However, as opposed to most other cichlids, the South American dwarf cichlids are actually very peaceful and docile. From colorful splashes of happiness to amazingly shaped tails, there are many different types for you to choose from.

If you are thinking of adopting a school of these amazing fish, we have done the job for you and have selected the absolute best ones.  

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides)

Featuring uniquely shaped and vividly colored fins just as the cockatoo birds do, these dwarf cichlids are one of those suitable choices even for inexperienced keepers.

They are fairly small and rarely exceed 3 inches in body length, so their tank size predispositions are simple. Indeed, a 20-gallon tank may be an appropriate home size for a smaller group of cockatoo dwarfs.  

They love having sandy or fine gravel substrate and plenty of hiding spots. If you setup some nice decorative caves across their tank, this may be an excellent place for females to lay their eggs while spawning.

They have a somehow brief lifespan, so you can expect them to stick around from 3 to 5 years when proper care is provided.

Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma Agassizii)

If you have at least some previous fishkeeping experiences but are still not sure whether you are ready to care for demanding species, the agassiz’s dwarf may be a great mid-solution for your home. And when it comes to adding happy colors to your living room, they are just the top choice for that.

Indeed, their tiny bodies feature so many colors that it is really hard to generally define them. From golden heads to blue and red tails, they also feature a black horizontal stripe heading all the way from their eyes to the very end of their tail. What an amazing fish!

Male fish usually have a maximum size of 3,5 inches while their female companions mostly feature somehow smaller bodies. They can become quite aggressive during breeding times, but you can control that with simply allowing them plenty of space and a healthy ratio of sexes. For instance, if you keep a happy group of 2 males and 8 females, there should be no territorial issue at all. 

Yellow Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma borellii)

Featuring a somehow more laterally compressed body shape when compared to the first two, these amazing dwarf cichlids come in an amazing color combination. And these are yellow, golden, blue and sometimes even reddish. Is any more happiness even possible among a living creature?

Females are really small and only manage to grow up to 2 inches. Males are slightly larger but still never exceed 3 inches in body length. Thanks to such tiny size, yellow dwarf cichlids can be happily housed into 20-gallon tanks.

They prefer their water temperature slightly on the warmer side, so ideally between 77- and 81-degrees Fahrenheit.

Three-Striped Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma trifasciata)

As their name itself implies, the three-striped dwarf cichlids feature three horizontal stripes through their entire body length. On top of that, they have spectacular metallic and shimmering colorations, so they certainly make a fantastic addition to any tank.

When it comes to body length, these too are fairly small creatures and rarely obtain 2 inches. However, they can be quite the active little swimmers, and they love sticking both to the bottom and to the middle levels of their captivity tanks.

Therefore, a 25-gallon tank is a greatly suitable home size for them. When feeding them treats, please ensure to include some live ones as well, as they love chasing them around.

Apistogramma Panduro

Originating from the black water streams across Peru, the Apistogramma panduro feature noticeable differences between male and female specimens.

For instance, females feature vivid yellow colorations across their tiny bodies, while males have somehow darker colors. Indeed, these are usually blue, and they also feature some brown chest markings.

These beauties barely manage to reach 2 inches in size during their fully adult phase, and they also have a somehow brief lifespan. In fact, they usually do not live more than 2 or 3 years in captivity.

As opposed to most cichlid species, this particular type prefers actually staying among the middle tank levels, not the bottom ones.

Apistogramma Nijsseni

Very similarly to the just described Apistogramma panduro, Apistogramma nijsseni fish also feature completely different colors in males and females. And again, while females tend to have bright yellows with irregular black markings, their male companions are mostly blue.

However, they too can feature some yellow touches across their fins, as well as a decently elegant red line along the end of their tail.

They usually grow 3 inches, but they do require some extra swimming space, as they can be quite the active pets. Also, just as the cockatoo dwarf cichlid, these too spawn into caves.

Therefore, if you are looking to try breeding them, make sure to add plenty of similar decorations.

Apistogramma Hongsloi

All dwarf cichlids have mesmerizing colorations and patterns, but the hongsloi is fairly special thanks to the extremely vivid touches of bright pink colors along their bellies and fins. These creatures are exceedingly easy to distinguish from the others thanks to that.

They love spending their time towards the bottom of the tank, and they are happiest when their substrate is made out of the sand.

Nonetheless, they also like swimming a lot, so please ensure to leave them plenty of open space for their daily doses of activity. If good care is provided, they may survive for even 5 years or longer.

Apistogramma Macmasteri

Apistogramma macmasteri feature spectacularly vivid red colors across their entire bodies, which are of a more elongated shape. And when it comes to their size, this is mostly up to 2,8 inches only.

In the wild, they inhabit soft and acidic slow-moving waters, where leaves are often found on the bottom. Therefore, they consequentially prefer having darker types of substrates across their captivity tanks.

They are fairly active swimmers and they mostly like spending their time towards the middle levels of their tanks. Since they are used to living across very dim environments in the wild, they will be thankful if you decide to add some floating plants, too.

These will ensure an ideal light source, but they can also be greatly decorative. Apistogramma macmasteri cichlids can survive up to 5 years with proper care.

Apistogramma Elizabethae

As an exception to the general rule, Apistogramma elizabethae fish can not only be kept in groups, but also in pairs.

They are native to the black waters of Brazil, so they too are used to more or less dark environments and will be happy when floating plants are provided to their tanks.

And even more, thanks to their extremely shimmering bodies, they may sometimes seem as glowing across waters with dim lights.

For a dwarf type of cichlids, we can define them as mediumly sized. If kept in pairs instead of a male with a harem, please ensure at least 30 gallons of water volume for two couples.

Also, there should be plenty of available superficial area for spawning in case you are planning on breeding your pets at some point. They can tolerate even more acidic waters compared to others, so you can even start with a pH of 4.

Plus, they are mainly carnivorous creatures, so will certainly appreciate some tasty live or frozen treats on top of their staple diet.

Apistogramma Baenschi

Last but not least, the Apistogramma baenschi is one of the most colorful dwarf cichlid types one could ever own.

From golden and yellow notes to vivid blues and purples, these fish look simply amazing. And on top of that, their tails are equipped with such a nice thin line in a red color, all along the borders. What a beautiful fish!

They too can be kept either as a group of females and a single male or as a happy couple. They do not require larger tanks when compared to all others from today’s list, but they do prefer longer aquarium shapes instead of those which boost in height.

Indeed, they love spending most of their time towards the bottom, so avoid any excessive decorative items along their sandy substrate. Their usual lifespan is between 3 and 5 years.

Wrapping Up

Our carefully selected list of the best south American dwarf cichlid fish has come to an end, and we truly hope that you have managed to find your ideal pet among them. Whatever your choice may be, we are sure that it will present both a real joy as well as an exciting challenge.

Indeed, cichlids are not the easiest pets to care for, and this is not something to disregard. If you have zero previous experience, you can perhaps try with a cockatoo dwarf cichlid as your starting pet, as this is one of the hardiest types available.

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