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Apistogramma is the largest family of cichlids in South America, consisting of up to 100 recognized species and over 400 yet-to-be-described ones.

These small and inquisitive creatures come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, which raises the question of whether it’s possible to keep multiple species of Apistogramma together in the same tank.

While the idea may be appealing, and some aquarists have managed to keep two or more Apistogramma species without any issues, most experts and enthusiasts advise against it due to concerns about reproduction and crossbreeding.

Let’s delve into the reasons why and explore what factors you should consider if you’re still interested in giving it a try.

What Are the Potential Risks?

Before we dive into the ways to help different Apistogramma species coexist, it’s important to understand the risks involved.

Responsible Breeding

Mixing different species of Apistogramma fish in the same tank can lead to problems, especially when breeding. It is NOT recommended to keep two other species in the same tank if you plan to breed them, as this has a big impact on the survival and hatching rate of the fry and eggs.

Instead, keep a breeding group of the same species with only one male and several females, or remove the breeding pair to a separate spawning tank. Generally, a 10-gallon tank is adequate.

Crossbreeding and Interbreeding 

One of the best reasons for avoiding housing different species or varieties is the risk of crossbreeding and interbreeding. It would be difficult to go back and undo this process, and once it is done, one would have a new strain of fish that could potentially outcompete other native species or negatively impact the ecosystem.

In addition, crossbreeding can result in a number of undesirable traits, including reduced coloration and patterns, weaker fish that are more prone to disease, as well as a lack of interest from potential buyers when they are ready to be sold.

The debate about whether or not Apistogramma interbreed has been ongoing for many years. PD Dr. Uwe Römer states that interbreeding is rare among Apistos because the females are highly selective of which males they will mate with. During spawning seasons, they tend to ignore males of other geographical variations based on distinct markings in one regional area.

On the other hand, Agassiz’s dwarf cichlids (A. agassizii), which have the widest distribution with many color morphs, are known to interbreed with each other.

Housing Different Apistogramma Together

While the recommendation is to always house different Apistogramma species separately, there are several things you can do to help them coexist peacefully and prevent hybridization.

Make a Positive Identification

As fellow Apistogramma owners, we understand that identifying the exact species can sometimes be challenging. But, it’s crucial to positively identify each species before attempting to house them together.

Scientifically speaking, intraspecific aggression among Apistogramma species tends to be more intense than interspecific aggression. This is why you should avoid mixing similar-looking species, such as A. macmasteri and A. cf. “Pebas,” which is an undescribed species in the regani Group.

Furthermore, geographical variations and species within the same closely related species-groups should be kept separate to prevent interbreeding and crossbreeding. For instance, if you have A. baenschi with any of its relatives, like A. nijsseni, A. panduro, or A. feconat, in the same tank, then you may create a hybridization nightmare.

Behavior and Temperament of the Species Groups

It is better to be safe to keep species with similar temperaments and behavior from different species-groups. Apistogramma groups are usually classified as strictly polygamous, opportunistic polygamous, and monogamous based on their mating system.

In general, opportunistic polygamous species tend to be more aggressive and selective than monogamous species but not as aggressive as highly polygamous species. Monogamous species are known to be choosy with their mates but become less aggressive when an acceptable mate is found. Do not keep species from the highly polygamous group with those from the monogamous groups.

aggression of the apistogramma species

Tank Size Matters

When it comes to housing different Apistogramma species together, tank size is an important factor to consider. Each species has its own space requirements, and overcrowding can lead to territorial disputes and aggression.

The 20-gallon (long) size is the most commonly used and economic aquarium size for a single pair of Apistogrammas. Consider a larger tank than necessary when keeping multiple species together.

Water Quality Parameters

Apistogramma species have specific water quality requirements that must be met to thrive. Ensure that the water quality requirements of different Apistogramma species are similar before attempting to house them together.

In most respects, you should not mix cold-water species with warm-water species because high temperatures increase their metabolic rates, leading to a shorter lifespan. Other than that, species from blackwater habitats require extremely soft and acidic water, whereas those from clearwater habitats do not thrive in such environments.


If you intend to breed Apistogrammaor, do not mix different types of Apistogramma together. If you are NOT planning on breeding, please do your research and understand the behavior and water quality requirements of the species you plan to keep.

Make sure that any combination of species can coexist in the same tank without one being aggressive toward the other. Use a tank divider when necessary.

Keeping different Apistogramma together is possible, but it requires knowledge and preparation to ensure they all thrive harmoniously.

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Ivan Yeoh
Ivan Yeoh

I’ve been working with fish for the past 12 years, and I can honestly say that it has never been a dull day. In my time, I’ve worked at the largest fish farm in Singapore – so you could say I know a thing or two about keeping things running smoothly in watery environments.

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