Apistogramma macmasteri is a beautiful dwarf cichlid species that was collected first from a drainage of the rio Meta in the eastern Andes in Colombia, and was later discovered in two other collection points further upstream in that same river. The “rotschulter”, or “red-shouldered” variant is a man made color pattern. Rather than the blue wash of the natural variant, this color form is known to have an extremely dense, large red blotch on its shoulder, where the pectoral fins are connected. The red extends beyond the operculum into the face, which has a blue and red pattern, much like an inverted borellii “opal”. Not only is there a dense red blotch in the shoulder, the red in the finnage becomes much more stark as well. The females are still a golden yellow, just like the wild variant, but they often also have a dense red blotch just like the males.
When this species was first described in 1979, they would have been much more fickle to keep, requiring soft, acidic water that is stained with tannins. The ph would be stably acidic, and there would be almost undetectable water hardness. In the case of our fish, which have been tank bred for generations, they are much less particular about the ph and hardness, really only requiring a well cycled filter which keeps the water clean. These fish do also appreciate the addition of the botanicals and branches in order to give them more places to hide in and will give any smaller fish something to pick food off of if they are unable to compete as well for food.
When considering tankmates for these little fish, there are many options. You could even keep these apistogrammas in a species only aquarium, and just watch how they interact with each other. If you’d like to put them into a community aquarium, then select some peaceful tankmates that will not go after or compete with the apistogrammas. A wonderful choice for a fish that stays at the top of the aquarium is any variety of hatchet, as their strange shape makes for an interesting addition, and their tendency to stick to the top makes it unlikely for the two different species to interact badly. This is a very peaceful, small-mouthed cichlid that will add some nice color to any setting you give them! These fish ship individually bagged.
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