Apistogramma iniridae: Species Profile & Care Guide

apistogramma iniridae

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Looking for something to add to your Apisto collection of uncommon and wild variety? Let’s introduce you to the Apistogramma iniridae.

Due to their difficulty level, these fish can be difficult to find in local fish stores but are relished by experienced fish keepers.

If you are lucky enough to get one, let’s talk about its origin, characteristics, breeding, and care requirements.

Species Overview

Scientific Name:Apistogramma iniridae
Common Name:Threadfinned dwarf cichlid
A-number:A159, A160
Origin:Lower Río Inirida, Colombia
Group: iniridae
Max Size:Males: 3.1 inches (8.0 cm); Females: 2 inches (5 cm)
Lifespan:2 ~ 5 years
pH:5.0 – 6.0
Temperature:73-82° F (23-28 °C)
Hardness:up to 5 degrees
TDS: < 20
Tank Size:15 gallons

Distribution & Habitat

The Apistogramma iniridae is native to the lower Río Inirida of the Río Guaviare (Upper Orinoco River Basin) in Colombia. This species is adapted to living in the acidic, tannin-stained waters of blackwater streams and pools.

Their native habitats are characterized principally by low pH, low mineral content, and high levels of dissolved organic matter. The organic compounds are released from decaying matter, such as fallen leaves and rotting wood.

Identification & Appearance

Apistogramma iniridae belongs to the Iniridae Group, which is a part of the Pertensis Lineage, based on the Apistogramma species groups. [1].

apistogrammain iridae taxonomy

A rather plain Apisto has a pearly, brownish-hued body accented by a dark lateral band from the snout to the base of the tail. 

The caudal fin is transparent, with vertical rows of dark spots that give the appearance of striping. This clue can differentiate Apistogramma iniridae from the most popular Apistogramma agassizii (Agassiz’s Dwarf Cichlid).

The main distinguishing feature of males in the Iniridae Group is their large, sail-like dorsal fins, but this feature can also be found in the species of the Pertensis Group.

The subtle difference can be spotted by looking at the first dorsal fin spine. In species of the Pertensis Group, the spine is ragged. In species of the Iniridae Group (including Apistogramma iniridae), it is continuous.

Another simpler and more reliable way to tell the difference between the two groups is by the dark lateral band. In Apistogramma iniridae, it continues through the caudal peduncle, while in species of the Pertensis Group, it’s interrupted and forms a distinct black spot on the caudal fin.

The last trait to identify the A. iniridae is the presence of four to five dark blotches on the abdomen, which are absent in the Pertensis Group species.

Apistogramma iniridae Size

As one of the medium-sized species of Apistogramma, males grow to a total length ranging from 2.4 to 3.1 inches (6 to 8 cm), and females are smaller, reaching 1.6 to 2.0 inches (4 to 5 cm).

Tank Setup & Care

a male apistogramma iniridae

Much like the A. hongsloi, this species thrives in a blackwater environment with very soft and acidic water. The ideal pH should be below 5, and the hardness should be under 1° degree. More importantly, the total dissolved solids (TDS) should be no higher than 25 ppm.

Apistogramma iniridae is known for being extremely selective when it comes to choosing their partners, often displaying nearly monogamous behavior. Thus, you may consider getting a larger group of at least 3 males with 4-6 females to acquire a bonded pair.

However, the more you get, the large the tank should be. Because of their rarity, they can get quite pricey.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a bonded pair of Apistogramma iniridae is 15 gallons (24″ x 12″ x 12″). If you intend to breed them, a 40-gallon Long tank (48″ x 12″ x 16″) is recommended to accommodate a group of fish and ensure you have both sexes.

Water Conditions

Apistogramma iniridae, no matter the setting, requires a “cycled” aquarium as it will not tolerate chemical changes during the initial nitrogen cycle. Only introduce them when your tank is fully mature.

Although they have a preference for very soft acidic water, as most blackwater Apistos do, Apistogramma iniridae are more demanding, particularly when you try to breed them. While they may spawn in certain water conditions, it’s not uncommon for none of the eggs to hatch.

Therefore, it’s best to follow the parameters as closely as possible to ensure their well-being:

  • Temperature: 73-82° F (23-28 °C)
  • pH: 5.0 – 6.0
  • Hardness: up to 5 degrees
  • TDS: < 20

The best way to create such a soft and acidic habitat is to mix RO/DI water from a commercial source with peat-filtered water or to use an RO/DI unit for long-term success.

Plants, Substrate & Lighting

For a biotope tank that mimics their natural habitat, a darker fine sand substrate and background are recommended specifically when dealing with fish that prefer low-light environments.

To gently lower the pH, darken the water, and create a natural bacterial biofilm for the fry to feed on, try adding some dead leaves. Our favorites include Indian almond leaves (or Catappa leaves) and Oak leaves.

Due to their aggressive nature, a heavily decorated setup with tall decorations, such as rooted plants, driftwood, overturned flowerpots, or PVC pipe, can help block the line of sight when the males are bulling the females.

In order to recreate the dim lighting environment, it is strongly recommended that you give them plenty of floating plants that create shady areas for them to explore and swim between.

What Do Apistogramma iniridae Eat?

In the wild, they primarily feed on a carnivorous diet of micro worms, insect larvae, and other tiny invertebrates. If you really want to spoil them or have some picky eaters, give them newly-hatched brine shrimp or live white/black mosquito larvae.

Also, given their preferred level in the tank, ensure the food will sink to the bottom.

Behavior & Tank Mates

This Colombian Apisto is more aggressive than others, making it well-suited for more experienced hobbyists. Before considering tank mates, remember that Apistogramma iniridae tends to monogamy and is extremely selective when choosing partners.

That being said, just having one male and one female may not get a successful spawn, even if you have the perfect conditions. The male can be quite aggressive toward the female during spawning, particularly those who may be less attractive.

In the right conditions, they do well in a tank community with other peaceful dither fishes that spend most of their time in the middle or top of the tank. A few popular choices include smaller tetras, pencilfish, rasboras, or Otos. 

Males Vs. Females Apistogramma iniridae

Gender differences are not apparent in juveniles. There are many different ways to identify sexually mature apistogramma iniridae. Males have the characteristic 4-5 abdominal blotches, which can fade or darken depending on the mood. Males are also larger overall than females because of their large, sail-like dorsal fins.

Mature females that are prepared to reproduce will display a bright yellow hue on their belly, while those who are not ready to mate will exhibit diagonal bars below the lateral band like males; however, the color of these bars is not prominent.

How to Breed Apistogramma iniridae

Breeding Apistogramma iniridae in captivity is challenging at best. As with breeding most blackwater Apistogramma species, a separate breeding tank is recommended.

Your biggest problem is acquiring a bonded pair. A. iniridae are virtually monogamous; when a breeding pair forms, they are very loyal. Whether the male or the female dies, the survivor will not accept a new mate.

So, starting with a healthy group of at least three males with 4-6 females can give you a better chance of having at least a bonded pair.

Optimal water conditions are also vital for Apistogramma iniridae breeding. Aim for a very low pH (around 5) and soft water (KH:0; GH:0; TDS<20). The water temperature should be around 79°F (26°C). 

Regardless of which tank size is used for spawning, you must provide good hiding spots for the female, as the male can be overly aggressive during the spawning process.

The good news is that this species is prolific compared to other Apistos, with larger potential spawn sizes. A female can birth up to 80-120 eggs per spawning, which are carefully laid on the ceiling of the cave. 

After the eggs are deposited, it is recommended that you remove the male because he may disturb the brooding female. The female is highly protective, and if the male remains in the breeding tank, he may be bullied, or the female may eat all of the eggs.

After 36-48 hours, the eggs will hatch, and the young will be free-swimming within 5-7 days. 

Newborn Iniridaes are very tiny and require fry food such as vinegar eels and infusoria. Feed them 3-5 times a day for a couple of weeks until they are large enough to consume live baby brine shrimp (BBS).

Wrapping Up

There you have it! The Apistogramma iniridae is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a rewarding challenge for seasoned hobbyists looking to extend their collection of Apistogramma species.

It may take a bit of patience to find that perfect breeding pair, but the payoff is worth it! With the proper care and conditions, you can expect successful spawns in no time.


  1. Mike Wise October, 2021. A Description of Apistogramma Species-Groups
  2. Kullander, S.O., 2003. Cichlidae (Cichlids). p. 605-654. In R.E. Reis, S.O. Kullander and C.J. Ferraris, Jr. (eds.) Checklist of the Freshwater Fishes of South and Central America. Porto Alegre: EDIPUCRS, Brasil.
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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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