I ill be starting a new tank in the future (4' 65 Gallon) and am looking for some advice on some Apistos. I have never kept them since I normally go with Bolivian Rams but I would like to change things up. I am pretty overwhelmed with how any different kinds there are and dont know how to pick. Are all apistos pretty much the same? Are some more hardy then others? Is it okay to mix and match or should I stick to getting just 1 type? At the moment I am thinking about getting 4. Is this a good number for the tank size? should I get more? (will be a heavily planted tank) should I do 2m/2f? 4m? 1m/3f? What are your favorite kinds? I would like this tank to be easy to maintain and dont want to bother with any of the rare expensive types that are hard to find.
All Apistogramma are not
the same in their size, temperament or temperature tolerance. Perhaps the best species group is Apisto. caucatoides in it's various selections of color forms: wild, blue, double & triple red (various red ocelli in finnage), gold (xanthistic) & the "orange flash" form (solid orange finnage). It is usually the most forgiving species of a wide range of water conditions, but note that there are no Apistogramma which are tolerant of poor water conditions and they are intolerant of nitrogenous compounds. Preferred temperature in the 70's to low 80's. Size is about 3' for males.
Apisto. agassizii is also available in various red fin & xanthistic varieties. Finnage in males is variable from blue through orange & yellow - a variety of male colors can occur in the same brood in some populations. Some forms will ultimately be described as distinct species in this wide-ranging species group. They are a bit less tolerant than caucatoides of water parameters, but usually do o.k. as long as they get frequent water changes and aren't constantly stressed. Same temperature as above. Size is about 3" for males.
Apisto. bitaeniata - A quite large species (upwards of 4" in adult males). It is a shy species in most situations, but males sport spectacular dorsal extensions and a semi-lyrate tail. Dorsal & body bands of orange or purple are quite striking. Same temperature as above.
Apisto. borellii (previously known as reitzigi) is a smaller, peaceful and beautiful species. Several varieties & populations exist (yellow head, opal, etc). All have strong blue pigmentation, beautiful extended finnage & are more tolerant of lower temperatures, being a more Southern species (from So. Brasil to Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina). Size is up to a bit under 3" for males.
In your 4' tank, it may be possible to have several pairs or pairs of several species. The most likely to succeed without bloodshed in my experience is bitaeniata and borellii. I once had a breeding colony of 3 male & about 8 female bitaeniata (with emperor tetras as dithers) which displayed constantly and bred well in a 55 gallon. I've had large groups of mixed sex borellii in 20 longs and 30's without anything but a few nipped fins occasionally. Ensure that you cycle your tank prior to adding Apistos...they won't tolerate ammonia spikes.
One thing to keep in mind is that these guys need tank decorations which act as vision-breaks & territorial boundaries between potential rivals (male or female, the girls can be pretty pushy too). Slate, rock caves, coconut shell halves, etc. are suitable. Fishes which are useful to give the cichlids confidence in Apistogramma tanks are various pencil fish (Nannostomus) Copeina, Copella & small Hemigrammus & Hyphessobrycon tetras. My favorite for such a display is a group of red phantom tetras which really glow in a landscaped soft water tank.