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Apistogramma sp. 'breitbinden'

A164, A165, A167


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.


Order: Perciformes Family: Cichlidae


Originally known from the upper Rio Negro, in the area around São Gabriel da Cachoeira on the Rio Uaupés in Amazonas state, northwestern Brazil but subsequently collected from the middle and upper Orinoco basin near the settlement of Puerto Ayacucho, western Venezuela and the Rio Inirida system in eastern Colombia.


Tends to inhabit slower-moving tributaries, backwaters and creeks in areas where fallen leaf litter collects.

Maximum Standard Length

Male: 7 cm Female: 5 cm

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 60 ∗ 30 cm or equivalent are required.


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 natural 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 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: 22 – 29 °C

pH4.0 – 6.5

Hardness18 – 90 ppm


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

In the aquarium live and frozen foods such as Artemia, Daphnia, Moina 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, particularly the dorsal in which increasingly pronounced, lappet-like extensions to the anterior dorsal-fin rays develop as they mature, with all rays becoming extended in some older individuals.


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

Sexually-mature males establish territories and react aggressively to other males in the vicinity, though the presence of several females is normally tolerated.

A good sign that a spawn is forthcoming is the appearance of small piles of substrate in the aquarium since females often excavate a cave for themselves.

Post-spawning the male usually returns to protecting his larger territory and courting other females, leaving the female to guard and tend the eggs and fry.

Depending on temperature the eggs hatch in 36-72 hours with the fry free-swimming after a further few days.

NotesTop ↑

The German term ‘breitbinden’ translates literally as ‘broad-banded’ and refers to the uniformly broad suborbital stripe seen in males of this ‘species‘ which remains undescribed despite being known in the aquarium hobby for several decades.

It’s often imported as bycatch among shipments of wild-collected A. iniridae.

Some of the populations have also been assigned the ‘A’ numbers under the DATZ system as follows: A164 (Venezuela); A165 (rio Negro); A166 (sp. ‘Kurzlappen-Breitbinden’); A167 (sp. cf. ‘breitbinden’).

Among these sp. ‘Kurzlappen-Breitbinden’ is particularly distinctive since only the anterior dorsal-fin rays become extended versus all dorsal rays extended in the other forms. NB: this form has now been officially described as A. megaptera Mesa S. & Lasso, 2011.

The form from São Gabriel da Cachoeira (A165) has also been referred to as A. sp. ‘Windisch’ or ‘schwanfleck’ in some publications and can be distinguished by possession of a large, dark blotch positioned below the lateral line on the caudal peduncle, while Venezuelan fish (A164) have been imported as A. sp. ‘Caño Morrocoy’ in the past.

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. brevis group, of which A. sp. ‘breitbinden’ is a member, is contained within the A. trifasciata sublineage of the larger A. trifasciata lineage alongside A. arua plus the A. cacatuoides, A. atahualpa, A. nijsseni and A. trifasciata groups.

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 – Biotoecus, Crenicara, Dicrossus and Mazarunia.
Geophagini – Geophagus, Mikrogeophagus, ‘Geophagusbrasiliensis group, ‘Geophagussteindachneri group, Gymnogeophagus, Satanoperca, Biotodoma, Apistogramma, Apistogrammoides 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.


  1. 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.
  2. Farias, I.P., G. Ortí, I. Sampaio, H. Schneider and A. Meyer, 2001 - Journal of Molecular Evolution 53(2): 89-103
    The cytrochrome b gene as a phylogenetic marker: the limits of resolution for analyzing relationships among cichlid fishes.
  3. Kullander, S. O., 1986 - Swedish Museum of Natural History: 1-431
    Cichlid fishes of the Amazon River drainage of Peru.
  4. 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).
  5. Römer, U., 2006 - Mergus Verlag GmbH: 1-1320
    Cichlid Atlas: v. 2
  6. Wise, M., 2011 - World Wide Web electronic publication, http://apisto.sites.no: Accessed on 13.02.17
    Apistogramma Species List By Species-Groups/Complexes.

4 Responses to “Apistogramma sp. ‘breitbinden’ – A164, A165, A167 (A164, A165, A167)”

  • Jit

    i’ve had conflicting verbal communications with traders – some saying the spotted cheek trait comes from Colombian population while the other saying it came from the brazilian population. I’d like to know what the other people (especially if you’ve done collection personally) know regarding this matter.

  • It appears the Venezuelan form (A164) has been described as A. megaptera?

  • Bojan Dolenc

    Nope! Expert for this genus Mike Wise wrote: “Apistogramma megaptera = A. cf. sp. Breitbinden (Kurzlappen) A 166, but not A. sp. Breitbinden A 164-165. If I translated the description of the species’ dorsal fin correctly: Dorsal fin (male): 6 anterior dorsal spines long with lappets of D III – V 2X the height of spines. Remaining spines lower and even. Tip of soft rays pointed; extends to middle of caudal fin when folded. Narrow (fine), black pigmented border. A. cf. sp. Breitbinden (Kurzlappen) A 166 corresponds with the written description. The original Breitbinden A 164-165 show extended lappets on all of the spines.

  • Aha! Thanks for that Bojan. 🙂

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