fish Demanding level

Apistogramma trifasciata (Eigenmann & Kennedy 1903)

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Three-striped Apisto

Apistogramma trifasciata haraldschultzi and Apistogramma trifasciata maciliensis are to be considered synonyms of Apistogramma trifasciata. This fish is a very cultivated and appreciated species in the aquarium scene, easily reproducible and robust.

Distribution: South America – Rio Guaporé and Rio Beni, Amazon basin (Brazil and Bolivia); Rio Paraguay basin (Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina).

Submitted by
Heiko Bleher
-25.0945053, -57.8511505
Geographical region
South America
Drainage Basin
River catchment
Water body type
Water body name
Water body part
Water body course
Lower course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Arroyo Chagalalina, Paraguay.
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
25-30 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

2-15 mg/l
Dissolved Oxygen


Standard length
5.5 cm
Water volume (min. aquarium)
80 l
Social behaviour
Group fish
Behaviour description

Apistogramma trifasciata, like most of the South American dwarf cichlids, inhabits the smaller waterways and the calm bends of the main courses, where visibility is poor – mostly clear water and rarely white water.

Another feature of its natural habitat is the bottom which is made up only of very fine sand. In fact, this dwarf cichlid over time has adapted to sift the substrate in search of food by collecting it with its mouth and expelling the inedible part from the gills.

In the aquarium Apistogramma trifasciata is  moderately peaceful when compared with Apistogramma borelli, but certainly much more manageable than other species in which aggression is particularly marked such as Apistogramma cacatuoides, Apistogramma  agassizii.

Aggression grade
Day active
Sexual dimorphism

The dimorphism is very accentuated, the males are larger and slender, have a more vivid color and a greater extension of the fins, especially the pelvic and dorsal ones. The females are smaller (4cm TL), less colored and with shorter fins, the anal fin is usually blunt.

Apistogramma trifasciata males develop during the growth phase, a remarkable development of the 2-4 rays in the dorsal fin often with extensions of different lengths.

A longitudinal band starts from behind the eye and extends to the beginning of the caudal fin which is rounded.
On the other hand, a lateral spot is missing, the caudal spot and ventral bands, there is the typical black band that extends from the upper attachment of the pectoral fin to the belly up to the first ray of the anal fin.

Important to mention is that in Nature there are different populations with different morphologies.

Nutrition in Nature

Apistogramma trifasciata in its natural environment is mainly carnivorous and feeds on insects, their larvae, worms and fry of other fish.


Breeding tank set-up

To stimulate reproduction – always keep several females with one male, – it will be sufficient to gradually reduce the chemical-physical values of the water by increasing the temperature, always gradually and at the same time.

The conductivity is also very influential – which later affects the hatching percentage, – a value of 120-130μS/cm will do just fine.

The ideal substrate is very fine sand, which Apistogramma trifasciata tends to dig and take the sand and then make it pass between the gills. Stones and driftwood can be used as a deposition area, plants and roots will provide shaded and sheltered areas.

Nutrition parents

Apistogramma trifasciata are essentially omnivores and like to keep a balanced diet.

Mating type
Spawning behaviour

The courtship is quite interesting: the male courts the female displaying the maximum extent of the fins followed by chases, the ritual continues until the female decides to reproduce.

Reproduction takes place in the shelter (coconut is a good choice), but it can also take place outdoors if the female does not consider the chosen shelter safe. The females are not very prolific and usually lay about 60/70 eggs, with a low conductivity the% of hatched eggs increases.

Breeding habits
Hatching period
2-4 days
Number of eggs in average
Parental care
Fry number
Nutrition fry

Initially algae – it could be useful to have decomposing leaves in the tank that with their microfauna. Later brine shrimp and worms can be added as well.

Notes on reproduction

This dwarf cichlid with beautiful colors and active nature has an interesting breeding behaviour: both males and females are territorial and engage in biparental care.


Comment by the expert

Despite their tiny size, Apistogrammas are territorial fish, like most cichlids. Having occupied a small area, they jealously guard it against relatives and drive away uninvited guests with lightning attacks, which, however, carry one goal – to scare them, and do no harm to other fish.

Most Apistogramma do not form breeding pairs long-term, but only pair up when both parties are ready to spawn.