Once upon a time, all of the checkerboard cichlids were in the genus Crenicara. When the genus was split, two fish were left in the genus and all the others went into Dicrossus. The type species is C. punctulatum (the other is C. latruncularium). This original checkerboard cichlid is a fun fish to keep. They are not overly demanding, though they do not do well in dirty water. This fish is a sequential hermaphrodite. All of them start off looking phenotypically female. As a group of young fish mature, the most dominant fish will grow faster and become the breeding male. He will pair with a female that will also grow, though not as larger, and take on brighter colors and redder fins. The rest will stay comparatively small… as though they are suspended in growth. If the male is removed, a new male will arise (usually the previous dominant female). The sex change is not reversible. So that means that the easiest way to get a breeding pair is to pick up a group of 6-8 juveniles and let them grow up. Once a pair forms, move the rest to another tank and another pair will arise. Fun fish!
Here is a short video of a few of the dwarf cichlids that are set up in spawning tanks. The Apistogramma cacatuoides ‘Pucallpa’ have 10-day old fry. A first look at the wild Pelvicachromis subocellatus ‘Moanda’ pair I got from Oliver a couple weeks ago. An update on the Nanochromis splendens that are starting to mature. And a look the the A. bitaeniata ‘Rio Tigre’ that are, hopefully, close to spawning.
Here is a video of a new group of A. trifasciata. When I set up apistos for breeding, I start with multiple males and females. Once a dominant male becomes established I remove the extra males, otherwise the dominant male spends ore time worrying about the competition than he does spawning…. as you will see in this video. I removed the extra male after shooting this footage.
This species comes in from the Czech Republic as A. trifasciata ‘Macilliensis’… but that is not really a valid name. This is a basically a nice tank strain trifasciata.
It is amazing what a few black worms will do to cure apisto shyness. This video is of some Apistogramma. sp. ‘Melgar’ that took two days to lose their fear of the camera… but it required liberal quantities of worms to do it. This has to be one of the most under-appreciated dwarf cichlids from Peru. I think it is beautiful, especially the huge females. Here is a picture:
I love to feed fish. I think that we all do. I especially like it when the fish I am feeding are aggressive on the food, and the best food for that is live black worms. Here is a video of several of my dwarf cichlids I have set up in spawning tanks getting a treat. I feed black worms a couple times each week to the fish that can handle them. You will see some Congochromis sabinae and some Nanochromis splendens getting some worms, but those fish only get them every other week or so: and even then they do not get many. The apistos can handle the worms though, and in the immortal words of the incomparable Charley Grimes, ‘Nothing like worms to eggs in a belly.’
The tanks are all 10-gallon set up for breeding. All the structure is in the back, away from the light. The spawning site that I hope the fish use is visible from the front. I use yarn mops in dwarf cichlid tanks for a couple reasons. A fish being picked on can hide very well buried in a mop, and when that mop is mature it will be loaded with infusoria for the fry to eat. I also use wood, magnolia leaves and live plants (potted crypts and free-floating java moss) for structure. The filter is in the back corner, which makes it another place a fish can find refuge under. There is only a little sand on the bottom. Lighting is very dim (which is why some of the video resolution sucks). The magnolia leaves add tannin, but sometimes they make the water cloudy, which you will see in a couple tanks. After a week and a few water changes, however, the tank will clear. I also use alder cones, which add some antiseptic chemicals to the water.
The tanks all start with two pairs or two trios. After a few weeks I will remove any fish that are obviously not handling aggression. By the time fry start to appear, most tanks have a pair or a trio. There is a tank in the video with some A. kelleri, which cannot stay in a 10-gallon tank forever. This is one of the mouthbrooding species, and it gets BIG.
Here is a video showing two Apistogramma species from the most recent order from Peru. I set these fish up in the photo tank and decided to get some video as well.
Apistogramma bitaeniata ‘Rio Tigre’ is one of the prettiest forms of this species I have seen. I really like the black, white and yellow markings. Just after I put them into the photo tank a couple males really lit up, but by the time I had the video camera in my hand they stopped. Here is a still pic though:
The second species in the video is a bit of a mystery. It was shipped as A. payaminonus (a holy grail species), but that is not what was sent. I think that they are one of the cruzi-group fish that comes from the same area, possibly A. playayacu. It is a pretty fish though. Notice in the pictures and video how bent and skinny the larger fish are. This is sue to malnutrition, and can happen rapidly, especially in older fish. But the condition is usually reversible with plenty of food and good water quality. I generally stay away from buying these larger specimens, however, and choose younger fish when I can. Here are some still pics of a young male, an old male and a female:
Here is a video on a subject that I have been wanting to show you for a while…. unpacking a large order of fish. A lot of planning goes into getting a new order of fish into the fish room, especially am import from out of the country. In this case, 30 boxes from Peru!!!
This video shows a pair of Apistogramma defending their spawning site from their own reflections in a mirror. I use ‘mirror therapy’ to keep cichlid pairs bonded, especially pairs that I do not have extra fish of the same species for. I am convinced that an individual in a pair kept in a tank without tank mates has the potential to go nuts and start seeing its mate as a threat. I usually keep extra fish in with the pair as targets, but it that is not possible a session with the mirror once a week seems to reset their bond.