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Apistogramma mendezi RÖMER, 1994

A220, A221, A222

Etymology

Apistogramma: from the Greek apisto, meaning ‘meaning uncertain, inconstant, unstable, faithless’, and gramme, meaning ‘line’, in reference to the variably-developed lateral line in member species.

Classification

Order: Perciformes Family: Cichlidae

Distribution

Native to the lower rio Negro basin in northwestern Brazil.

Type locality is ‘Rio Salgado, near Barcelos do Rio Negro, Dept. Amazonas, Brazil, about 0°01’S, 63°04’W’, this referring to an igarapé (stream) sometimes referred to as the rio Salgádo near Barcelos municipality, Amazonas state.

Most collections for the trade appear to take place further upstream around the settlements of Santa Isabel do Rio Negro or São Gabriel da Cachoeira and are often labelled as such, i.e., ‘Santa Isabel’ or ‘São Gabriel’.

Habitat

Inhabits pristine blackwater tributaries and areas of flooded forest where the water is characteristically stained dark with organic chemicals and substrate composed of sand or mud, leaf litter and other woody debris.

In the rio Negro basin such habitats typically contain tea-coloured water with very little detectable hardness, low conductivity, and a pH of 4.0-6.0, with other fishes including small characids, lebiasinids, other dwarf cichlids and Corydoras catfishes.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of 45 ∗ 30 cm or more are acceptable for a single pair with a group requiring larger quarters.

Maintenance

Provided adequate cover and structure is available this species is unfussy with regards to décor with ceramic flowerpots, lengths of plastic piping and other artificial materials all useful additions.

A more natural-looking arrangement might consist of a soft, sandy substrate with wood roots and branches placed such a way that plenty of shady spots and caves are formed.

The addition of dried leaf litter provides additional cover and spawning sites, and brings with it the growth of beneficial microbe colonies as decomposition occurs.

These can provide a valuable secondary food source for fry, while the tannins and other chemicals released by the decaying leaves aid in simulation of blackwater conditions. Alder cones may also be used for the latter purpose.

Fairly dim lighting is recommended and aquatic plant species that can survive under such conditions such as MicrosorumTaxiphyllum or Cryptocoryne spp. may be added, while floating vegetation, especially Ceratopteris spp., is also useful.

There is no need to use natural peat, the collection of which is both unsustainable and environmentally-destructive.

Filtration need not be too strong, with an air-powered sponge filter or similar adequate.

It goes without saying that these are fishes are sensitive to fluctuating organic wastes and should never be introduced to biologically-immature aquaria.

This species also requires require acidic conditions with negligible carbonate hardness and very low general hardness so a reverse osmosis unit or other method of obtaining soft water may need to be employed, and this can be further acidified using phosphoric acid or similar if necessary.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 23 – 29 °C

pH: 4.0 – 6.0

Hardness: 18 – 54 ppm

Diet

Apistogramma spp. are chiefly carnivorous and feed mostly on benthic invertebrates in nature.

In the aquarium live and frozen foods such as ArtemiaDaphnia and chironomid larvae (bloodworm) should be offered regularly although most species will also learn to accept dried alternatives with pelleted products generally preferred to flake.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Best maintained alone or with small ‘dither’ fishes such as Nannostomus spp., and ideally should not be mixed with other Apistogramma.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males are larger, more colourful and develop more extended fins than females.

Reproduction

Substrate spawner which normally lays its eggs in crevices or cavities among the décor.

The female is mostly responsible for post-spawning care of eggs and fry and in smaller aquaria the male may need to be removed as she may become hyper-aggressive.

NotesTop ↑

This species is assigned the codes A220, A221 and A222 under the DATZ ‘A’ number system with these referring to similar-looking, possibly conspecific, populations.

These differ in some aspects of colour pattern, particularly the orientation of the caudal-fin markings which may be horizontal, vertical, or somewhere inbetween.

One population displays an orange colouration on the belly and is sometimes referred to as A. mendezi ‘orange’ (A222) while another known as A. sp. ‘fork-band’ or ‘gabelband’ and collected in the rio Jaú may also be conspecific.

Apistogramma is among the most speciose of South American cichlid genera with around 70 species valid at present but many more awaiting description.

In addition many species exist in two or more geographical colour forms which may or may not turn out to be distinct in the future.

Hobbyists tend to label these with collection data if available in order to avoid mixing them and the potential of hybridisation.

Member species have also been organised into a series of species lineages, complexes and groups by authors in order to better separate them.

Such lists have been augmented by fish that have appeared in the aquarium trade and are in a state of near-constant flux.

For example the A. paucisquamis complex, of which A. mendezi is a member, is contained in the A. bitaeniata group, itself a subdivision of the A. agassizii sublineage within the larger A. trifasciata lineage.

Apistogramma and a number of related genera are often included in the putative subfamily Geophaginae.

Kullander (1998) conducted a morphology-based phylogenetic study in which the neotropical Cichlidae was divided into six subfamilies of which the Geophaginae contained 16 genera divided among three ‘tribes’:

Acarichthyini – Acarichthys and Guianacara.
Crenicaratini – BiotoecusCrenicaraDicrossus and Mazarunia.
Geophagini – GeophagusMikrogeophagus, ‘Geophagus‘ brasiliensis group, ‘Geophagus‘ steindachneri group, GymnogeophagusSatanopercaBiotodomaApistogrammaApistogrammoides and Taeniacara.

Later molecular studies by Farias et al. (1999, 2000, 2001) resulted in the additions of Crenicichla and Teleocichla to the Geophaginae, a result supported by López-Fernández et al. (2005) who conducted the most detailed molecular analysis of the grouping to date including 16 of the 18 genera and 30 species.

However their conclusions regarding interrelationships between genera did vary somewhat from previous hypotheses and can be summarised by the following loosely-defined groups:

– a weakly-supported sister group relationship between Acarichthys and Guianacara.
– a well-supported “Satanoperca clade” comprising Satanoperca, Apistogramma, Apistogrammoides and Taeniacara.
– a “big clade” with Geophagus, Mikrogeophagus, ‘Geophagusbrasiliensis group, ‘Geophagussteindachneri group, Gymnogeophagus, Biotodoma, Crenicara and Dicrossus.
– a “crenicarine clade” with Biotoecus and Crenicichla.

No representatives of Teleocichla or Mazarunia were included in the study but the former is well-established as sister to Crenicichla while the latter has grouped closely with Dicrossus and Crenicara in earlier works.

The other main conclusions of the paper are confirmation that Geophaginae is a monophyletic group exhibiting strong signs of having undergone rapid adaptive radiation.

References

  1. Farias, I. P., G. Ortí, I. Sampaio, H. Schneider and A. Meyer, 2001 - Journal of Molecular Evolution 53(2): 89-103
    The cytochrome b gene as a phylogenetic marker: the limits of resolution for analyzing relationships among cichlid fishes.
  2. Farias, I. P., G. Ortí, I. Sampaio, H. Schneider and A. Meyer, 1999 - Journal of Molecular Evolution 48(6): 703-711
    Mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of the family Cichlidae: monophyly and fast molecular evolution of the Neotropical assemblage.
  3. López-Fernández, H., R. L. Honeycutt, M. L. J. Stiassny and K. O. Winemiller, 2005 - Zoologica Scripta 34(6): 627-651
    Morphology, molecules, and character congruence in the phylogeny of South American geophagine cichlids (Perciformes, Labroidei).
  4. Römer, U., 2006 - Mergus Verlag GmbH: 1-1320
    Cichlid Atlas: v. 2
  5. Wise, M., 2011 - World Wide Web electronic publication, http://apisto.sites.no: Accessed on 13.02.17
    Apistogramma Species List By Species-Groups/Complexes.
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