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 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 TedsFishroom.com.  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