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Apistogramma viejita KULLANDER, 1979

Red Edge Apisto

SynonymsTop ↑

Apistogramma sp. “Rotsaum”


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.

viejita: A name often used for diminutive cichlids in Eastern Colombia meaning, ”Little old lady”. A colloquial reference to the maternal behaviour of the species.


Order: Perciformes Family: Cichlidae


Type locality is known from a tributary of the Rio Yucao, federal state of Meta, Colombia.

Most of the specimens in captivity are descended from fish caught around Puerto Gaitán, though a number of different colour forms can also be found within the upper Meta basin, Orinoco, Colombia.


Shallow, slow moving, shoreline waters are preferred, particular those with abundant riparian and emergent vegetation in which to hide.

Many localities are often found in Savannah type areas, rather than the thick forested areas many congeners inhabit. The type locality featured clear water.

Electrical conductivity was measured at below 50 μS/cm-1 and temperature 28.0°C/82.4°F.

Sympatric fishes included Satanoperca daemon, Mesonauta sp., Hemigrammus rhodostomus, Hyphessobrycon sweglesi and an unidentified Pyrrhulina sp.

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

Base dimensions of at least 60 30 cm are acceptable for a single pair.


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.

Despite being incredibly rare in captivity, imports are even less frequent and thus most captive specimens will be captive bred. Apistogramma viejita is not a fussy fish and will thrive in water which deviates from the natural parameters given and breeds readily when kept well.


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 ↑

Generally a peaceful fish, Apistogramma viejita settles well into a calm community aquarium with small characins, rasboras and Otocinclus spp. making ideal tankmates.

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. In spawning conditions and during broodcare the female will adopt a bright yellow livery with black makings through the body and face and more typically on the anterior edge of the ventral fins.


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 ↑

As of current, Apistogramma viejita is yet to be produced commercially. Unfortunately, many forms of A. macmasteri enter the trade under the name viejita, incorrectly. Therefore it is almost impossible to acquire the true viejita without finding a specialised hobbyist.

The easiest feature used to separate the two species is the dark, top edge of the dorsal fin present in male A. viejita, which A. macmasteri does not possess. Furthermore the latter is typically a higher bodied fish and displays a “D” shaped caudal spot, whilst A. viejita may display a rectangular, trapezoid or crescent shaped spot.

Apistogramma viejita appears to be a polychromatic species, with a number of forms present throughout the range. Furthermore, a number of undescribed species may turn out to be yet more forms of, or sister species to A. viejita. These include A. sp. “schwarzkehl”, sp.D24, D25 and D29.

Apistogramma is among the most speciose of South American cichlid genera with over 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.

At current, Apistgramma viejita belongs to the A. macmasteri group within the A. regani 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. 802 - 811, Dr. Uwe Romer - 2000: Mergus
    Cichlid Atlas
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