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Greater Seattle Aquarium Society

The Texas Connection (Apistogramma sp. "Pandurini")

by Dave Sanford
February and March 1997

sketches by Erik Olson

When the phone rang it was that time of evening when the junk calls impose themselves on one’s fishkeeping duties. To my surprise it was fellow GSAS members Kathy and Erik excitedly telling me that they had found a new dwarf cichlid, Apistogramma sp. Pandurini, at a shop in Houston! Even though I had never heard of this species, their enthusiasm and offer to hand carry a pair back to Seattle overcame my initial shock at the fifty dollar price tag. The deal was made and within a few days I was meeting Erik at the airport to make the buy. With furtive glances toward the security guards he handed me a bag as I counted out the cash. Somehow we managed to not get arrested and I rushed home to install the new pair in my fishroom.

Initial shyness limited their exploration of the 20 gallon tank for a few days. Several caves and a large clump of Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana) provided hiding places and visual barriers in the tank. On day three they attacked the live mosquito larvae and Daphnia rations fed to them. I estimate that the pair was about one half of the full adult size, and growth was rapid. The female would eat until her belly was swollen and guppy-like. As they settled in the male became very aggressive toward the female so I added five small A. cacatuoides that he could dominate and work out his territorial instincts on. This seemed to work as he constantly darted out to peck at the dithers whenever they dared to appear in the lower half of the water column. With the heat off, the female could relax and court the male which she did with body arching and shaking.

Behaviorally they seemed ready to spawn, but weeks went by with no result. Maybe they would respond to larger water changes, or more frequently? No. At this time I was adding Waters of the World, South America, to my A. nijsseni tank to lower the pH [see Dave’s A. nijsseni article in NW Aquaria Jan.97] so I decided to do the same for the Pandurini. There must be some goodies in that stuff because the nijsseni and Pandurini presented their first spawns on the same day. I counted only about ten fry at first and there seemed to be fewer every couple of days. Two of them survived about six weeks and grew to 3/8 inch. At this time the female and the babies disappeared and the next time is could see her she had a new spawn minus the two remainders from the first. Again it was a very small group of about eight that lasted another month. Same thing again but the third spawn was a little larger, about fifteen. This time I plan to remove the fry after one week and rear them in a separate tank.

I was pleasantly surprised when the Buntbarsche Bulletin (the Journal of the American Cichlid Association), number 175, arrived containing an article by Uwe Romer on the blue sky dwarf cichlid, A. spec. Pandurini. It has information about the collection, naming, and description of this fish. From the two excellent photos, we can see that they are closely related to A. nijsseni. Both the male and female have the red band near the margin of the caudal fin. Light blue colors the body and dorsal of the male, with a black blotch on the caudal peduncle. Females are very similar to the panda apisto but with a black band extending along the belly from the chin back almost to the anal fin. Hopefully this new Apisto will breed prolifically so that all interested aquarists can enjoy this cool dwarf cichlid.

Part II: One Month Later

The parents were doing an admirable job of raising their previous batch of about ten youngsters. Growth seemed rapid to about 1/2 inch. As I approached the tank to feed them some baby brine shrimp, I noticed approximately 50 blood red eggs just lying on the glass bottom near the front of the tank. Both the adults and the juveniles were feasting away seemingly oblivious to the eggs. I’ve seen apistos lay eggs on the side glass before, but never scatter them across the bottom like that. Possibly she just dropped them because she was loaded but due to the presence of the older babies the adults were not hormonally ready to spawn. This all struck me as kind of strange so I resigned myself to losing this batch of eggs. The next day the eggs appeared darker red, almost maroon in color. The day after that they were gone. I thought they finally had been eaten. A few days after that as I was feeding them, the female appeared with cloud of fry hovering around her and picking around for goodies to eat. I was astonished. It seemed incredible to me that they had actually made it. The new fry attacked the bbs with gusto until their distended bellies glowed orange. The strangest thing is why the older juveniles don’t eat the smaller fry. This is commonly observed with Julidochromis species, but usually adult apistos will eat any remaining young before spawning. I intend to see just how many batches will be raised together in the same tank. For the first few months after being placed into their tank, the male was very aggressive toward to female. Now after three or four spawns it’s the female that has become dominant. Although he’s allowed to eat with the young the female keeps him away most of the time. She even displays an eagarness to attack the fish in the tank next to hers which she can see.

Dave Sanford has bred a heck of a lot of fish, ’specially cichlids, and can be often found bringing in boxes of them at the meetings. He also runs the GSAS BAP program.