Female Apistogramma Agassizii and some Ember Tetras in a planted community tank

Apistogramma Tank Mates For Community Aquariums

Selecting suitable tank mates for your Apistogramma is important to ensure they all get along. Fortunately there are lots of good options and following some simple considerations will help you choose the best tank mates for your Apistogramma.

Some of our favourite Apistogramma tank mates are:

Apistogramma Tank Mates

In general apistos are peaceful and do best with other peaceful non-aggressive fish. They generally do not both other fish unless breeding and even then just keep the other fish away from the spawning site.

Apistogramma are also generally fine being kept alongside larger fish as long as they are not aggressive ie Angelfish are usually fine providing the tank is setup appropriately.

Considering the points below will help you to select the most appropriate tank mates to keep with your apistogrammas:

Each point is covered in more detail is the sections below.

Tank Mates From The Same Natural Habitat As Apistogrammas

Choosing tank mates from fish that live in same habitat as apistogrammas in the wild makes a lot of sense.

These fish will be happy in the same water conditions and likely be suitable tank mates for Apistogramma in a community tank.

Apistogrammas originate from South American but genus within the species can originate from more specific locations. This information can further help in selecting suitable tank mates.

For example in the table below I have compared Apistogramma Cacatuoides and Apistogramma Borellii:

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Apistogramma Borellii
Origin: Amazon basin including parts of north western Brazil and Peru. Southern Brazil, Paraguay and northern Argentina
Size:

Male: up to 3 inches (7.5 cm)

Female: up to 2 inches (5 cm)

Male: up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cm)

Female: up to 2 inches (5 cm)

Swimming region: Bottom half of the tank Bottom half of the tank
Water temperature: 72 - 84 °F (22 - 29 °C) 68 - 79 °F (20 - 26 °C)
Water conditions: PH between 5 to 7 is desirable. Soft water with a low TDS is preferred. Commercial bred varieties are less fussy. PH between 5 to 7.5 is desirable. Soft water with a low TDS is preferred. Commercial bred varieties are less fussy.

In this comparison you can see that Apistogramma Cacatuoides prefer slightly warmer water while Borellii prefer slightly cooler water. Borellii are also smaller than Cacatuoides and accepting of a wider Ph range.

These differences in ideal habitat stems from the different origin of each species.

Many Tetra species make good tank mates for Apistogrammas. As an example Loreto and Ember Tetras would be suitable for both Apistogramma Cacatuoides and Apistogramma Borellii as they like similar water parameters and tolerate a wide temperature range of 70 - 82 °F (21 to 28 °C).

Neon Tetras who prefer slightly cooler temperatures of 70 - 77 °F (21 - 25 °C) would be better suited with Apistogramma Borellii if the water is going to be at the cooler end of the range.

Otocinclus are popular in community tanks as somewhat of a clean up fish as they feed on vegetable matter and algae. Otocinclus can be ok just keep in mind that they prefer cooler temperatures and so 70 - 77 °F (21 - 25 °C) and so again are better suited with Apistogramma Borellii if the water is going to be at the cooler end of the range.

Keeping your fish in close to ideal conditions means they will be less stressed and prone to disease and generally happier and healthier.

Female Apistogramma Agassizii and some Ember Tetras in a planted community tank
Female Apistogramma Agassizii and some Ember Tetras in a planted community tank

Tank Mates At Different Swimming Levels

Selecting fish which swim at different levels of the aquarium not only makes the tank more interesting and appealing but it also reduces overcrowding and potential conflicts.

Top Level Swimmers

Hatchetfish and Dwarf Pencilfish are both good choices for top level swimming fish suitable for a Apistogramma community tank.

Both the Hatchetfish and Dwarf Pencilfish originate from parts of the Amazon basin in South America and like similar water parameters as Apistos. Both species prefer water temperatures in the range 72 - 82 °F (22 - 28 °C) which again is very compatible with Apistogrammas.

Just be careful with Hatchetfish as they can jump so you need a good lid on your aquarium it you choose to keep these fish.

Mid Level Swimmers

Many species of Tetras including those suggested above are fine as they occupy the middle to upper areas of the tank.

Pygmy Corydoras are also suitable, they spend their time around the mid level of the aquarium, similar water parameters and prefer temperatures between 72 - 79 °F (22 - 26 °C).

Bottom dwellers

As Apistogramma occupy the bottom half of the tank I recommend not to add tank mates which also spend the majority of their time near the bottom.

This will give more space to your Apistogrammas, they wont get as stressed and it will allow them to sift the substrate for food in peace.

Tank Layout

Finally consider the layout of your community tank. If the tank is quite spares and bear then fish can become bored, agitated and start to annoy one another.

I highly recommend adding plants, drift wood and some rocks to the tank to provide a more interesting habitat for your fish.

This will help to divide the tank into different areas which will make them less likely to focus their attention on one another as well as provide some peaceful places in the tank for fish to chill out.

Even the tank itself should be considered. As Apistogrammas occupy the bottom half of the tank, tanks with greater surface area are generally a better choice for them. Apistogramma will not utilize the higher levels of a tall tank. For example a 20 gallon (75 litre) long would be more suitable than a 20 gallon high tank.

Conclusion

Apistogramma are great fish and by carefully considering appropriate tank mates you can create a fantastic community aquarium where all the fish are happy and healthy.