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Apistogramma steindachneri (REGAN, 1908)

Steindachner's Apisto, A138

SynonymsTop ↑

Heterogramma steindachneri Regan, 1908; Apistogramma ornatipinnis Ahl, 1936; Apistogramma wickleri Meinken, 1960


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.

steindachneri: named for Austrian zoologist Franz Steindachner.


Order: Perciformes Family: Cichlidae


Type locality is Georgetown which lies at the mouth of the Demerera River, eastern Guyana, and this species is also known to occur in the Essequibo, Mahaica and Berbice river systems as well as the Courantyne, Coppename and Suriname drainages in Suriname.

A very similar fish is also known from the Cuyuni basin, eastern Venezuela, though it remains to be seen whether it’s conspecific with A. steindachneri or not (see ‘Notes’).


Slower moving tributaries and streams, typically with substrates covered in leaf litter and submerged woody structures.

One locality in the Suriname River basin consisted of a forest creek containing very clear blackwater with a substrate of white sand, leaf litter and fallen branches.

Electrical conductivity was measured at 58 μS/cm-1 and temperature 25.6°C/78.1°F.

Sympatric fishes included Nannacara anomala, Krobia guianensis, Crenicichla cf. saxatilisLaimosemion agilaeCarnegiella strigata plus various unnamed small characids.

Maximum Standard Length

Male: 8 cm Female: 5 cm

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 90 ∗ 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 is less fussy than many congeners in terms of water chemistry though soft, slightly acidic conditions are preferable.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 20 – 25 °C

pH: 4.0 – 7.5

Hardness: 18 – 179 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 ↑

Captive-raised fish are the recommended choice for the community aquarium.

Wild examples are 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.


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.

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, although when maintained as a single pair he may help guard the fry once mobile.

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

NotesTop ↑

The form from the Demerera drainage is assigned the code A138 under the DATZ system, with the Venezuelan variant referred to as A139.

Following Römer (2006) it can be told apart from congeners by the following combination of characters: no abdominal stripes; presence of a single, triangular lateral spot located on, and only slightly broader than, the lateral body stripe; presence of a distinct round spot on the caudal-fin base; lateral stripe narrow and reaching caudal spot; dorsum scales often with a jet black posterior margin and blue or yellow anterior margin; ventral portion of body normally bluish.

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.

The A. steindachneri group, for example, is ordered within the larger A. pertensis 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 – 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. Regan, C. T., 1908 - Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Series 8) v. 1 (no. 4): 370-371
    Description of a new cichlid fish of the genus Heterogramma from Demerara.
  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. 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.
  4. Kullander, S. O., 1980 - Bonner Zoologische Monographien No. 14: 1-152
    A taxonomical study of the genus Apistogramma Regan, with a revision of Brazilian and Peruvian species (Teleostei: Percoidei: Cichlidae).
  5. Kullander, S. O. and H. Nijssen, 1989 - E.J. Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands: i-xxxii + 1-256
    The Cichlids of Surinam.
  6. 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).
  7. Reis, R. E., S. O. Kullander and C. J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds), 2003 - EDIPUCRS, Porto Alegre: i-xi + 1-729
    Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. CLOFFSCA.
  8. Römer, U., 2006 - Mergus Verlag GmbH: 1-1320
    Cichlid Atlas: v. 2
  9. 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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