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Apistos vs Rams vs Other centerpiece fish

13946 Views 20 Replies 19 Participants Last post by  iamtechno
I've been hunting for some centerpiece fish to add to my 30g which currently only contains a handful of endlers. I have come across and fallen in love with south american cichlids and done some research. I know that they are somewhat more sensitive to water conditions but I don't believe this to be too much of a problem as my tank has long been established and is well planted.

As for the fish, so far I have narrowed down my choices to:

Bolivian Rams - because they're hardier than GBR and i hear they're full of personality
Apistogramma (agassizi, or cacatuoides) - because they are very beautiful

I'm hoping some people with experience in keeping these fish could chime in and rate them in terms of personality, aggression, and hardiness? I wouldn't mind if they kept the endler population in control but I have heard they can get territorial when breeding and I wouldn't want them to kill the adults. Also which would be able to best adapt to harder water?

Feel free to list any other ideas. I have also been thinking of honey gouramis but they just dont excite me as much haha.
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Your best bet for an Apisto would be cacatuoides, much hardier than Agasizzi and tolerates hard water and higher PH better.
Rams are great as are apistos, though I have no experience with apistos I have always thought they were beautiful. As for rams, I like Bolivian Rams, they get bigger then gbr's but they have lots of personality as well. Electric blue rams are sweet too.
I've got a 90G planted tank running two Fluval 406 filters that gets a 30% w/c once per week and I have lost two cacatuoides. One I believe may have had a parasite from before I got him, because right before he died the last thing I saw was a big white poop (his demise was pretty quick and nothing I used to treat worked -- there was nothing external to see). Then I just lost my second one recently for unknown reasons. All of my levels are normal, I regularly change my water, and the ph/hardness is roughly neutral. No other fish including Angels, various tetras, rainbows, cory cats, Bolivian Rams, or SAE's die. So, for some reason I've had a rough time with the cacatuoides.

On the other hand, I've got two awesome Bolivian Rams who are both very hardy and very entertaining. They constantly face off against each other, but it's harmless and after their little display they swim around like normal. They also pay no mind to other fish and feed happily on shrimp pellets and wafers with my cory cats.

While I love the cacatuoides and my sample size is small, I've really become a fan of the Bolivians.
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I have a breeding pair of agassizii and I have to say, I really love them. Though a little aggressive at times, they're doing fine together in a 10 gallon. I do 50% water changes weekly in that tank so they've been doing well enough and spawned twice for me so far. They keep eating the eggs though which is upsetting :(.
Bolivian rams seem to be easier to find than apistos, from what little I have seen of them, so that may be good to consider when trying to determine which fish to purchase.
I have both rams and apisto cac's in my tank. Rams are definitely hardier and have more personality, but I love the look of my triple red apisto. I had a breeding pair of them, but the female mysteriously died recently. I picked up a new female, but she's not doing well, I hope she bounces back, but I'm not sure. Overall, rams are way more hardy in my experience.

I had bought 4 baby apistos a while back from a breeder and all 4 eventually died from what I believe was hole in the head disease. My rams were wild caught and came to me with camalanus worms and completely survived treatment and are thriving.
I haven't had any experience with the Bolivians, but I've kept GBR, agassizii and and cauduoides.

In my experience the cauduoides was a bit more aggressive than the agassizii.

In both cases I have found a lot better results with Harems vs pairs. I typically have them in 20 Longs and find that the best groups start with about 6-8 fish with no more than 2 males. From there, I more or less let them sort it out. The final results are normally around 3-4 females and 1-2 males with decent size territories and enough rivals to keep them from picking on a single fish to death, although I typically lose 1-2 of the weaker fish along the way to reaching this equilibrium.

Everytime I have tried to keep just a pair or a trio, inevitably all but one fish dies. Typically, one female kills the other female, and then the male kills the last remaining female. Contrary to intuition, my aggression problems decrease the more fish I have, because it forces them to have to spread out their anger. Makes sense when you think about it.

I doubt they will do too much to the adult Endlers, because they are typically only really mean to their own kind. They definitely get testy with everybody after spawning, but in a 30 gal it shouldn't be too much of an issue. If you have concerns, throwing more Apistos into the tank will help solve this issue, because they will be far more concerned with their own to mess with the Endlers. Also a bit of floater coverage will help give the Endlers, adults and fry, a place to get out of the way and hide. Also, as you have noted, Apistos will be hard on the fry.

In terms of personality, I feel like they differ some from fish to fish, but generally all of the Apistos are going to be more aggressive than Rams (Certainly the case for GBR). Between the cauduoides and agassizii, I never really noticed any significant or regular personality differences other than the standard individual fish differences. No real trend between the species.

I also found both Apistos species to be about the same in hardiness. But they are going to slightly more difficult than rams are. I wouldn't put Apistos (at least the species mentioned) on a whole 'nother level than GBR, but given that Bolivians are hardier than GBRs and GBRs are hardier than Apistos, there is prolly a noticeable difference in the ease of care.

Bottomline, your biggest issue getting into the Apistos is going to be finding the balance on the aggression issue. Once that works itself out, I find that the Apistos are not any more difficult to maintain than other dwarfs. And in terms of solving that issue, I have found that it is important to have 3 things: 1) hardscape that lends itself to breaking up lines of sight and territories, 2) plants, the more the better, and 3) more, not less, Apistos with a female heavy ratio.

I would also add that despite the extra challenges Apistos create, the results, once the tank has settled in, are amazing and well worth the effort. Apistos are incredibly beautiful, rewarding, and entertaining fish to keep.
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I love my rams. They are engaging and fun. Con: They will not eat any of my endler fry. I don't know if this is everyone's situation, but it's certainly mine.
Agassizii rules!


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Both Rams and Apisto's make for great little fish. I personally would go with an apisto as there are so many cool different types but thats just me. If you go Apisto, the Cacatuoide's would be your best bet as it is probably the hardiest, especially if it's tank raised. Ram's are also a really cool and entertaining little fish to watch. I started out with GBR's, EBR's and Gold rams got them to breed and then started getting into Apisto's. I still have the Rams but they are nothing compared to some of these Apisto's.
I have a pair of kribensis (pelvicachromis taeniatus) which most people consider to be very territorial during breeding, but they have been a great addition to my 40 breeder and get along with a variety of other species. On the other hand, my apisto pair (apistogramma nijsseni) we aggressive from the start in a 20 long and eventually the female ended up killing the male.

I think its important to realize that there are a variety of different species that fall into the general categories of "apistos" and "kribs" and such. Specific fish have may have different temperaments as well. The nijsseni's are similar yet supposedly more peaceful than the nijssenis. I would stick with the cacatuoides since they have some great color variations. I've considered bolivian rams before but never committed to them. I've only heard good things though, and as people have mentioned they are more peaceful and hardier than most.
Don't miss looking at a small cichlid that has a very nice personality, even when breeding. Hardy and they are adaptable to almost any water, I found them great in my really hard alkaline water. (PH 7.8 gh/KH near 300)
Helortilapia multispinosa (rainbow cichlid)
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I have a pair of Apistogramma Agassizii sp. Fire Red and they're doing pretty well in my 10 gallon. They've bred a few times, but none of the eggs hatch because the female eats them before they get the chance to. But other than that, I do water changes every two weeks and they seem to do just great. Have them eating NLS pellets regularly and frozen brine shrimp/bloodworms every now and then.
Apisto borellii is another very pretty option.
I have had all three, GBRs, Bolivian Rams, and a few different Apistos( cacatouides, inka,and trifasciata). Apistos are by far the more striking centerpiece fish but not readily available and can be pricey and need very clean water. The GBR are a little more hardy but it can be hard to find good stock, if bought at a bigbox fixh store they tend to go belly up after a month or two for no damn reason. Now my favorite on this list are Bolivian Rams. They dont look like much when young but once they get older they get excelent honey colors with black and grey peppering and their fins get pinkish red outlunes. And mature males get long streamers on their tail. And as for personality the are much more interactive and their chasing and playing is a nice touch to a tank. All the S.A. dwarfs are pretty peacful but get teritorial when breeding but nothin on par with their larger larger cousins even Angels. But their are other options too i have Latecara Araguaie, flag cichlids.... ahhhh sorry, to ramble on but I LOVE dwarf cichlids and dont think they get enough attention in the hobby because everyone thinks they are so touchy and hard to keep and breed, but that is far from the truth. Infact i have some apisto inka fry at the moment if your looking for so,
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i only have experience with gold rams, but mine have been nothing but great. So much fun to watch and i think they are one of the best looking if not the best looking fresh water fish.
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I'd go with rams or another similar pairing cichlid, as apisto females will beat on each other constantly in the confines of a 30, and the male with beat on the female if kept in a pair situation. Usually. But still. Go with the rams. Or kribs. Or dwarf acaras. And get four(ish), so that they can choose their own mates, and then get rid of the two that don't pair up. It's the best way to go if you want a peaceful cichlidian relationship.
I like Apistos but their demands for live food made them a pain to keep. If the Bolivian rams can be a little less demanding for food requirements I'd think about keeping them.
I'm partial towards Gouramis'. Pearls Gouramis' might be something to look at
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