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Astatheros robertsoni

Astatheros robertsoni

Above Astatheros robertsoni Male. Scroll down for picture of feamle. All photos and video by Mario Toromanovic.


Astatheros robertsoni is one of a dozen described species in Astatheros genus. It is native to Central America and inhibits the counties of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico.

Because of its beautiful blue and purple iridescence colors, the common name in trade for this fish is “Turquoise Cichlid” or “Emerald Cichlid”. It was first described by Regan in 1905 as Cichlasoma robertsoni. In later years, it was moved to Astatheros robertsoni by Jordan in 1930, Cichlosoma ( Amphilophus ) robertsoni by Miller in 1966, Amphilophus robertsoni by Kullander in 1996 and then recently back to Astatheros robertsoni.

This species is an eartheater and exhibits similar behavior to the Geophagus species from South America. Astatheros robertsoni can grow up to ten inches and females are slightly smaller and less colorful. Males from different localities may have slightly different colors.

Etymology: Astathos = unstable ( Greek ) + heros = generic name of related American cichlids
robertsoni = named after Reverend J. Robertson


Astatheros robertsoni is found in both rivers and lakes. Specimes found in faster flowing streams have a more elongated body, than ones found in floodplains, sinkholes and slow flowing rivers whose bodies are slightly larger and deeper. Astatheros robertsoni prefer middle and lower levels of the habitat where they forage among sand, mud and small stones.


A large tank is a must for keeping Astatheros robertsoni. As a substrate sifting cichlid, they appreciate sand or gravel covered bottoms. I housed six adult Astatheros robertsoni in 150 gallon tank together with a group of six large Caquetaia myersi. Since I employed a 30 gallon wet/dry filter under my main tank, I wasn’t worried about large amount of waste that these fish produced. I performed bi-weekly water changes using tap water only. The tank was landscaped using large rocks and large driftwood to create hiding spaces. Astatheros robertsoni is a rather easy cichlid to keep. They will eat smaller fish (as shown in my video below), so be careful when choosing tank mates.


Astatheros robertsoni is omnivorous species so their diet consists of both meat and veggie based foods. I fed my fish with cichlid flakes and large pellets and occasionally with live food, like worms and night crawlers. The fish would never come up to feed on the surface, but sifted through the substrate, ingesting all edible foods and spitting out everything else.


Astatheros robertsoni was probably my biggest challenge and hardest species to spawn so far. I obtained six F1 juveniles from a GCCA rare fish auction about three years ago. I placed them in twenty gallon tank, and from there moved them several times to bigger tanks as they were growing out. Finally, almost two years later, when the fish were around 6-7 inches, I moved them to my 150 show tank. Astatheros robertsoni are great community fish. They are large enough not to be bothered by other fish, yet only mildly aggressive towards their tankmates. At least, that was the case until one year later when pair finally formed and start digging a pit between two rocks. Immediately, the fish changed colors with dark bars showing on their flanks.

Both the male and female began chasing other fish, pinning their tankmates up in one corner on the the top of the tank. The fish spawned a few days later. Once the eggs transformed into wigglers, the parents moved them to another pit, and then to another a day later. During the entire time, the male was constantly digging while female hovered above fry. On day eight post spawn, the fry become free swimming. It was a huge batch of 700-800 fry. At this point, both male and female become very aggressive, attacking other fish in the tank. On the third day after becoming free-swimming, the fry began swimming and following their parents. Since my 150 gallon tank was too big to raise such small fry, I scooped out few hundreds and place them in small five gallon rearing tank leaving the remainder with the parents. The parents did a good job raising the fry to about pea size, but lost many to other fish in the tank.I grew up remaining fry on diet of baby brine shrimp and crushed flake food.

 Retail Price

Astatheros robertsoni are not too common, but they are readily available on the internet. Expect to pay $5 to $7 for juvenile fish.

Astatheros robertsoni Female


Report March 2016 by Mario Toromanovic.

Shallow water of Kipilli Video

Dear Cichlid friends, thank you for your enthusiastic response on my recently posted photos of the SHALLOW WATER OF KIPILLI. For this, I edit a small movie, from that location with the same title. This recording achieved about to a depth of up to two meters. I hope you find in these images even more inspiration to decorate your aquarium as well as possible for our beloved cichlids, so that they have an optimally simulated natural habitat. I do not know if some of you have such a large aquarium to mimic in a sunken boat , but there are some shots taken at the end of the movie to give you an idea how much life around it is located. I hope you enjoy watch in HD.

Posted by Hans van Heusden on Saturday, February 7, 2015

tony44's Avatar
tony44 replied the topic: #36225 1 year 6 months ago
Very nice wish I lived closer and was not lion bait
IndecisiveCichlidKeeper's Avatar
IndecisiveCichlidKeeper replied the topic: #36224 1 year 6 months ago
Hans does some awesome work, he has posted a lot of videos of various west African regions and lake tanganyika that do a great job showing the underwater environment as well as out of the water.
scubadiver's Avatar
scubadiver replied the topic: #36219 1 year 6 months ago
Very cool video of Kipilli

Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre"

 Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre”

Above: Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre"  Male.  Photo by Mario Toromanovic. See video below.


Apistogramma bitaeniata is one of the hundreds of described or not yet described dwarf cichlid species from South America. The main characterisitcs of Apistogramma bitaeniata are two abdominal bands, highly extended anterior spines and a double tipped caudal fin in males. The common name for this Apisto is the “Banded dwarf cichlid”. Apistogramma bitaeniata was first described by Pellegrin in 1936.  Over the years, many type localities have been found in the black water rivers of the Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Males from different localities sport diverse colors, ranging from yellow, blue and— less frequently— red. The females do not show interesting finnage. Females are smaller, around 2-1/2 inches, while males can grow up to 3-1/2 inches.

Etimology: Apisto = irregular or unreliable + gramma = line, means the lateral line is often reduced. So the author supposes that the lateral line is formed weakly or irregularly.
bi = latin for two and taeniatus = with bands,  also latin for two irregular lateral lines. 


The distribution area for Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre”is Rio Tigre River, which is a Peruvian tributary of the Maranon River, west of the Nanay River. Fish are found and collected in slower moving tributaries, small streams and creeks where fallen leaf litter collects, or under cover of submersed plants.


Apistogramma bitaeniata is relatively easy to care for and house. Being a dwarf cichlid, you don't need a very big tank. A ten gallon or larger tank is recommended for trio, while five gallon tank is more than big enough for a single pair. Softer water (reverse osmosis or distilled) is a must and you should maintain tank temperatures of 76 to 82F.

Because these fish are found in shallow slow moving water, strong flowing filtration should be avoided. A sponge filter with slow-moving air bubbles should keep water movement at a minimum. Fairly dim lighting is recommended, which in my case was due to a heavy layer of floating plants, so very little light was transmitted.   


Feeding wild caught fish can be problematic. I was lucky that my wild caught Apistogramma bitaeniata had already transitioned and were readily accepting prepared food, such as flakes and pellets. They loved frozen food such as daphnia and brine shrimp. I really enjoy watching them hunt live black worms and baby brine shrimp. 


I obtained two juvenile wild caught pairs of Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre”from Ted Judy at  I placed both pairs in ten gallon heavily planted tank which offered many caves and hiding spaces. Once the fish settled in their new environment, a dominant male began ruling the tank and paired up with one of the females. At that point, I put divider in the tank to separate two pairs.

A few weeks later, after heavy feeding, I noticed the dominant male courting and chasing a female. The female’s plum-colored belly shone and the male colored up even nicer than before. Soon after, the pair spawned depositing over a hundred bright red eggs on the ceiling of small cichlid cave.

The female remained inside the cave fanning and guarding the eggs while the male stayed nearby chasing away a few Endlers livebearers that I had in the tank as a dither fish. Three days later the eggs hatched, and they were moved by the female from the ceiling to the floor of the same cave.

The fry began free swimming nine days after hatching limiting their movement to inside the cave. Later, they began moving outside the cave under close guard of both parents. At this point, I began feeding live baby brine shrimp twice a day.

Oddly, the very next day, the male chased the female away from the fry and started caring for the fry on his own. He was a very good father and took care of the fry for almost a month until I pulled fry for grow out in a separate tank. 

Retail Price

Apistogramma bitaeniata “Rio Tigre”is not a fish you would find at your local pet shop.  They are not bred commercially,but  you can expect juveniles which may be available from hobbyists to go for $8 to $10 each.  


Video by Mario Toromanovic

Report November 2015 by Mario Toromanovic

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