Apistogramma dwarf cichlids or Apistos have the reputation of being one of the most colorful and fascinating cichlids to keep, but not all species are easy to care for.
Apistogramma panduro is one of the blackwater species that require a little extra attention to keep their tank in top shape, especially when breeding. They are also known for being relatively aggressive and are fussy about their mate.
This comprehensive guide will provide helpful information to enthusiasts about this “bread-and-butter” species in the trade.
The scientific name “Panduro” was named in honor of the Peruvian fish exporters Jesus Victoriano Panduro Pinedo and Noronha Jorge Luis Panduro Pinedo, father and son, who first captured and recognized it as a new species.
This species has a fairly small range in the wild, being limited to small forest backwater streams and tributaries that flow into Río Tahuayo and Río Tamshiyacu in Peru, where the water is naturally soft and acidic, and the riverbeds are made of sand or fine gravel.
Due to this, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists the status of this species as Least Concern (LC), with illegal mining and forestry operations in the country being the most pressing.
Apistogramma panduro was previously thought to be a domestic color strain of A. nijsseni, but German ichthyologist Uwe Römer diagnosed it as one of the closest relatives of A. nijsseni, which is supported by his breeding experiment . For this reason, they have been grouped into the nijessni species group by authors and enthusiasts. 
Since it was introduced to the hobby in 1996, Apistogramma panduro has become a favorite among Apistogramma enthusiasts due to its attractive coloration. In addition, it’s readily available from pet stores.
These wonderful dwarf cichlids are today sold under many trade names, including the “Azure Cichlid,” the “Blue Sky Dwarf Cichlid,” the “Blue Panda Cichlid,” Apistogramma sp. “Pandurini,” and assigned A-numbers A183, A184, and A185.
For more information on A-numbers, visit What does the A-number mean in Apistogramma?
|Scientific Name:||Apistogramma panduro|
|Common Name:||Azure Cichlid, Blue Sky Dwarf Cichlid, Blue Panda Cichlid, Apistogramma sp. “Pandurini,” A183, A184, and A185.|
|Max Size:||Males: 2.8 inches (7 cm); Females: 2 inches (5 cm)|
|Lifespan:||2 ~ 5 years|
|pH:||4.5-6.0 (Around 5 is ideal)|
|Temperature:||75-79° F (24-26 °C)|
|Hardness:||up to 8 degrees|
|Conductivity:||< 100 µS/cm|
|Tank Size:||15 gallons|
The nijessni species group is a part of the A. trifasciata lineage. This lineage can be identified by its members having slender, less flattened bodies and elongated dorsal and caudal fins (tails) compared to other lineages.
As mentioned, A. panduro is classified under the nijsseni group. This species group is most notable for lacking any sort of lateral band, a feature common to many other species of Apistogramma. Most if not all members of this group have robust bodies with large heads and lips.
Except for that, these fish can be spotted from all other Apistos by a large black spot present where the tail meets the body. This spot is usually triangular and extends partly into the caudal fin of both males and females but generally does not grow beyond the middle of the tail. Like its cousin, A. baenschi (Inca cichlid), males have red edges on their caudal fins.
Apistogramma panduro Size
The A. panduro is a medium-sized Apisto, with males growing up to 2.8 inches (7 cm) in total length (TL) and females up to 2 inches (5 cm).
Care & Tank Setup
The Apistogramma panduro is tropical blackwater fish that should only be kept by keepers who are experienced with Apistogramma in general.
With its demanding water conditions, semi-aggressive nature, and slightly larger size, it is no wonder that this species is not recommended for beginners.
If you are not ready to take these blackwater species seriously, A. borellii is the “easiest” Apisto you should start with.
These colorful and fascinating fish do require specific water parameters, large tanks, and a suitable environment to thrive and showcase their natural behaviors.
Apistogramma panduro Tank Size
Though they are small, that does not mean you can skimp when it comes to aquarium size.
Apistogramma panduro can have some aggressive tendencies, and as such the minimum tank size for a breeding pair is 15 gallons (24″ x 12″ x 12″). For an incompatible pair, go for at least a 20-gallon Long tank (30″ x 12″ x 12″), or one could die.
Having a large group consisting of at least three males and four to six females in a spacious breeding tank (40-gallon Long) can save potential breeders a great deal of trouble regarding compatibility issues. Rember, the height of the tank should not matter as much, as these are shallow-water fish.
Azure cichlids can be sensitive to water conditions, mainly found in small, slow-moving, shallow backwaters of their range, such as creeks, streams, or nearby puddles; the water is usually tannin-stained a light brown color by decaying plants.
Ideally, the water parameters should be as close as possible to their natural habitats. The fish will thrive, and you will gain a good sex ratio of fry if given similar conditions in the aquarium.
- Temperature: 75-79° F (24-26 °C)
- pH: 4.5-6.0 (Around 5 is ideal)
- Hardness: up to 8 degrees
- Conductivity: < 100 µS/cm
To replicate proper breeding conditions, use sphagnum moss peat, rainwater, or an RO system to soften and acidify the water.
An aquarium intended to house Apistogramma panduro should be provided with an optimal depth of the white sand bed, covered by a layer of leaf litter.
At the same time, each panduro must have ample hiding places to feel safe. Treated flower pots, plastic piping, commercial Apistos caves, and coconut shells are recommended. Driftwood, branches, and rocks used to mark territorial boundaries should also be provided.
While providing adequate hiding spots is important, they also require a fair amount of open space. When setting up your aquarium, it’s important to try to find a good balance.
These fish tend to prefer lower light conditions than some. Floating plants can be helpful to achieve this, providing necessary shade. Still, Ceratopteris thalictroides is ideal for this species as it can withstand blackwater conditions.
Diet & Feeding
As a carnivore, the Azure Cichlid (Apistogramma panduro) mostly feeds on small invertebrates in nature.
In captivity, wild-caught specimens only accept live food, such as live artemia nauplii and black and mosquito larvae. The cheapest frozen artemia, daphnia, or mosquito larvae are also good options.
Tank-raised individuals should start taking prepared fish foods as they grow. Be sure to feed them small, carnivorous specialized pellets.
Behavior and Tank Mates
Most nijsseni group members are classified as polygamous fish species, meaning they can form breeding but not bonded pairs. This differs from other monogamous fish, where pairs live and mate exclusively with each other.
When a mated panduro pair successfully breeds, they can raise their offspring harmoniously multiple times. Still, an unsuccessful breeding attempt can lead to the pair breaking up and one or both fish looking for another partner.
Potential tankmates are those that can tolerate the semi-aggressive behavior of Apistogramma panduro. These tankmates should also thrive in a similar environment, such as A. agassizii, A. nijsseni, A. bitaeniata, or A. ortegai.
Small characins such as Pencilfish (Nanostomus spp.), Hatchetfish (Carnegiella spp.), smaller tetras, otos, and Corydoras species are good dither fishes in an Apistogramma aquarium setup.
Adult male Apistogramma panduros are easy to distinguish from the females from their vibrant sky-blue coloration on the body and long, pointed fins. They tend to be a good bit larger than the females.
Another clue is the dorsal fin which has pointed lappets on the male than the female. When females become sexually active, they are mostly bright yellow with shades of silver on their backs.
The most obvious difference is the presence of a black lateral spot on females, which extends to the abdomen near the base of the pelvic fins.
Breeding the Apistogramma panduro
Breeding these fish can be a bit tricky, as you’ll need to pay very close attention to your water parameters. The water needs to be soft and acidic, and the temperature should be close to the high end of their preferred range.
A. panduro are cave spawners, and for well-bonded pairs courtship can happen relatively quickly. However, this is not a given, as these fish do tend to be a bit picky when it comes to choosing a mate.
It’s important to note that breeding is one situation where a planted aquarium is vital, as this provides food for the fry.
The courtship begins with the female displaying to the male outside a potential nest. The male will then respond in kind, and if breeding is successful, the female can lay approximately 70 eggs in a single spawn. After the eggs are laid, the female will block off the entrance to the cave with sand.
After around 2 ½ days, the fry will hatch, and they will be able to swim on their own around a week later. As long as they are properly cared for, the fry will reach full sexual maturity after around 4 months.
Overall, the Apistogramma panduro is a fascinating and colorful species that can make a great addition to a home aquarium. With the right care and setup, these fish can thrive and provide endless entertainment for their owners.
So long as you follow this guide, you can enjoy the beauty and personality of these charming dwarf cichlids- and all in the comfort of your own home!
- Diagnoses of two new dwarf cichlids (Teleostei; Perciformes) from Peru, Apistogramma atahualpa and Apistogramma panduro n. spp.
- Wise, Mike. 2011. “A description of Apistogramma species groups”. The home page of Martin and TomC
- Römer, Uwe. 2006. “Cichlid Atlas. Volume 2. Natural History of South American Dwarf Cichlids.