Apistogramma is a genus of the subfamily Geophaginae, tribe Geophagini.





Sven O Kullander


Apistogramma Regan


Apistogramma Regan, 1913. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (8) 12, p. 282 (nom. nov. pro Heterogramma Regan). Feminine.
Heterogramma Regan, 1906. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (7) 17, p. 60 (type by subsequent designation by Eigenmann (1910, p. 478) Mesops taeniatus Günther; preoccupied by Heterogramma Guenèe, 1854). Feminine.
Pintoichthys Fowler, 1954. Archos Zool. S. Paulo 9, p. 316, 386-387 (type by original designation Biotodoma trifasciatus Eigenmann & Kennedy). Masculine.

ap_nijs2.jpg 400x206
Apistogramma nijsseni, NRM 18078, adult male, 32.6 mm SL, just collected from the wild near Jenaro Herrera, about 15 km on road Jenaro Herrera-Colonia Angamos. 1 September 1981 (SOK 043). Photo © S.O. Kullander.


Apistogramma includes 62 valid species, and at least 25 undescribed species have been recorded. All are of small adult size, and rated as 'dwarf cichlids'. The largest recorded wild specimen is a 65 mm SL male of the Guianan A. steindachneri. Most species have fairly restricted geographical ranges although the generic range covers much of cis-Andean tropical and subtropical South America.

Apistogramma is a geophagine genus with an unmistakable anteroventral expansion on the first epibranchial, the so-called geophagine lobe. The genus is distinguished by characters in combination, including the reduced number of external first ceratobranchial gill rakers (commonly 1, occasionally absent, exceptionally as many as 5), presence of gill rakers on the lower pharyngeal tooth-plate, absence of microgill-rakers and epibranchial 4 tooth plates, a single supraneural, few vertebrae (usually 12+12), and reduced lateralis system (only 2 infraorbitals, between lachrymal and sphenotic; lateral line scales to a great extent not developing tubes). Having separate openings for the posterior anguloarticular and rostralmost preopercular lateralis foramina is apparently a unique character state for Apistogrammoides and Apistogramma. Preopercular and posttemporal serrations are common. Sexual dimorphism is generally marked: males grow larger than females and often present relatively larger fins, commonly featuring prolonged rays in the caudal fin, produced dorsal fin lappets, and filamentous extension of the first pelvic fin ray; females have species specific brooding colour pattern consisting of contrasting yellow ground colour and intense black or dark brown markings.

Within the genus there are further reductions of the lateralis canal system, to some extent helpful for identification purposes, including (1) loss of the anguloarticular canal; (2) loss of one infraorbital foramen; (3) loss of the next to posteriormost dentary lateralis foramen. The basic Apistogramma pattern is featured by the so called regani group species (A. regani, A. eunotus, A. moae, A. urteagai, A.cruzi, A. resticulosa, A. caetei, A. piauiensis, A. gossei, A. geisleri, A. ortmanni) and others. Type 1 reduction is found in, e.g., A. borellii. Type 2 reduction is found in cacatuoides group (A. cacatuoides, A. juruensis, A. luelingi) and nijsseni group (A. nijsseni, A. payaminonis, A. norberti) species and others. Combined Type 2 and Type 3 reduction is encountered in A. agassizii, A. bitaeniata, A. eremnopyge and a few other species.

Most species have three anal fin spines, but at least three species regularly (A. commbrae, A. hoignei) or nearly invariably (A. luelingi) have four anal-fin spines. The number of anal fin spines is the single important distinguishing character from the monotypic Apistogrammoides, which is unique among geophagines in having as many as 6-9 anal fin spines. Another similar genus is the monotypic Taeniacara from central Amazonia with more reduced lateralis system, lacking the second frontal lateralis foramen, one pterotic lateralis foramen and the anguloarticular lateralis canal, and having the infraorbital bones reduced to a single or two small bones without lateralis canal.

Terminology used for dark markings in Apistogramma, modified from Kullander, 1980

Colour pattern is the most useful tool for identifying Apistogramma species insofar as form and distribution of melanophore based markings are concerned. Character state analysis, however, has not kept pace with descriptions and homology analysis and terminology is not comparable. Various markings designated by the same term may be non-homologues (e.g., abdominal stripes) and some markings are certainly composites, the nature of which is masked by the use of yet another name (e.g., tail-spot, for the marking formed by the combined Bar 7 and the caudal spot).

Apistogramma species are popular aquarium fishes; several popular books, e.g., Koslowski (2002), give useful information on life colours and reproductive behaviour based on aquarium studies. The genus was first revised by Regan (1906) and again revised by Kullander (1980), with partial revisions in Kullander (1986, 1987). These small colourful fishes are unfortunately attractive also for amateurs wishing to publish names on new species.

Included species

Apistogramma acrensis Staeck, 2003
Apistogramma agassizii (Steindachner, 1875)
Apistogramma alacrina Kullander, 2004
Apistogramma arua Römer & Warzel, 1998
Apistogramma atahualpa Römer, 1997
Apistogramma baenschi Römer et. al., 2004
Apistogramma bitaeniata Pellegrin, 1936
Apistogramma sweglesi Meinken, 1961
Apistogramma klausewitzi Meinken, 1962
Apistogramma kleei Meinken, 1964
Apistogramma borellii (Regan, 1906)
Heterogramma rondoni Miranda Ribeiro, 1918
Apistogramma reitzigi Mitsch, 1938
Heterogramma ritense Haseman, 1911
Apistogramma aequipinnis Ahl, 1938
Apistogramma brevis Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma cacatuoides Hoedeman, 1951
Apistogramma caetei Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma commbrae (Regan, 1906)
Heterogramma commbae [Regan], 1906
Heterogramma corumbae Eigenmann & Ward, 1907
Heterogramma corumbae Miranda Ribeiro, 1918
Apistogramma cruzi Kullander, 1986
Apistogramma diplotaenia Kullander, 1987
Apistogramma elizabethae Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma eremnopyge Ready & Kullander, 2004
Apistogramma eunotus Kullander, 1981
Apistogramma geisleri Meinken, 1971
Apistogramma gephyra Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma gibbiceps Meinken, 1969
Apistogramma gossei Kullander, 1982
Apistogramma guttata Antonio, Kullander & Lasso, 1990
Apistogramma hippolytae Kullander, 1982
Apistogramma hoignei Meinken, 1965
Apistogramma hongsloi Kullander, 1979
Apistogramma inconspicua Kullander, 1983
Apistogramma iniridae Kullander, 1979
Apistogramma inornata Staeck, 2003
Apistogramma juruensis Kullander, 1986
Apistogramma linkei Koslowski, 1985
Apistogramma luelingi Kullander, 1976
Apistogramma macmasteri Kullander, 1979
Apistogramma martini Römer et al., 2003
Apistogramma meinkeni Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma mendezi Römer, 1994
Apistogramma moae Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma nijsseni Kullander, 1979
Apistogramma norberti Staeck, 1991
Apistogramma ortmanni(Eigenmann, 1912)
Apistogramma panduro Römer, 1997
Apistogramma paucisquamis Kullander & Staeck, 1988
Apistogramma payaminonis Kullander, 1986
Apistogramma personata Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma pertensis (Haseman, 1911)
Apistogramma piauiensis Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma pleurotaenia (Regan, 1909)
Apistogramma pulchra Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma regani Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma resticulosa Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma roraimae Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma rubrolineata Hein, Zarske & Zapata, 2002
Apistogramma rupununi Fowler, 1914
Apistogramma similis Staeck, 2003
Apistogramma staecki Koslowski, 1985
Apistogramma steindachneri (Regan, 1908)
Apistogramma ornatipinnis Ahl, 1936
Apistogramma wickleri Meinken, 1960
Apistogramma taeniata (Günther, 1862)
Apistogramma trifasciata (Eigenmann & Kennedy, 1903)
Apistogramma trifasciatum haraldschultzi Meinken, 1960
Heterogramma trifasciatum maciliense Haseman, 1911
Apistogramma tucurui Staeck, 2003
Apistogramma uaupesi Kullander, 1980
Apistogramma urteagai Kullander, 1986
Apistogramma velifera Staeck, 2003
Apistogramma viejita Kullander, 1979
Species inquirendae
Geophagus amoenus Cope, 1872
Apistogramma parva Ahl, 1931


Apistogramma is from apistos, a Greek adjective meaning uncertain, inconstant, unstable, faithless, etc., and gramme, a Greek feminine noun meaning line. The name refers to the variably developed lateral line which largely represented only by pored scales. The gender is feminine as the Greek eta is substituted with the Latin feminine ending -a.
Heterogramma is from heteros, a Greek adjective meaning other, one of two, different, etc., and gramme, a Greek feminine noun meaning line. The name refers to the lateral line which largely represented only by pored scales and running close to the dorsal fin unlike in most other cichlids. The gender is feminine as the Greek eta is substituted with the Latin feminine ending -a.
Pintoichthys is derived from the family name of Olivério Mario de Oliveira Pinto, editor of the Arquivos de Zoologia do Estado de São Paulo, who edited Fowler’s Os peixes de agua doce do Brasil (1948-1954), and ichthys, the Greek word for fish.

Geographical distribution

Cis-Andean tropical South America, including the Orinoco, Amazon and Paraguay drainages, parts of the Paraná in Argentina, the middle-lower Uruguay, the Tocantins, the Parnaíba, the Morichal Largo in Venezuela, the Caeté and Capim near Belém, and coastal Guianan drainages. There are no records from Trinidad or higher altitudes. The genus is poorly represented in the Amazon tributaries draining the Brazilian and Guianas highlands

Natural history

To be added.

Local names

To be added.


FOWLER, H.W. 1954. Os peixes de agua doce do Brasil. Volume II. Archos Zool. S. Paulo, 9: 1-400.
KOSLOWSKI, I. 2002. Die Buntbarsche Amerikas. Band 2: Apistogramma & Co.. Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart, 318 pp.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1980. A taxonomical study of the genus Apistogramma Regan, with a revision of Brazilian and Peruvian species (Teleostei: Percoidei: Cichlidae). Bonner Zoologische Monographien, 14: 1-152.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1986. Cichlid fishes of the Amazon River drainage of Peru. Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, 431 pp.
KULLANDER, S.O. 1987. A new Apistogramma species from the Rio Negro in Brazil and Venezuela. Zool. Scr., 16: 259-270.
MEINKEN, H. 1962. Eine neue Apistogramma-Art aus dem mittleren Amazonas-Gebiet, zugleich mit dem Versuch einer Übersicht über die Gattung. Senckenberg. biol., 43: 137-143.
REGAN, C.T. 1906. A revision of the South-American cichlid genera Retroculus, Geophagus, Heterogramma, and Biotoecus. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (7), 17: 49-66.
REGAN, C.T. 1913. Fishes from the River Ucayali, Peru, collected by Mr. Mounsey. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (8), 12: 281-283.
RÖMER, U. 1997. Diagnoses of two new dwarf cichlids (Teleostei: Perciformes) from Peru, Apistogramma atahualpa and Apistogramma panduro n. spp. Buntbarsche Bulletin 182: 9-14.
Apistogramma arua sp.n. (Teleostei: Perciformes: Cichlidae), a new species of dwarf cichlid from the Rio Arapiuns system, Para State, Brazil. Aqua, 3: 45-54. -->