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Apistogramma dwarf cichlids are popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their vibrant colors, cute size, and lively behavior. One of the most common questions asked by new Apisto owners is how long do Apistogramma live?

The lifespan of Apistogramma can vary depending on several factors, including the quality of care they receive and their environment. According to a statistical study documented by PD Dr. Uwe Römer (1991), Apistogramma species have an average lifespan of two years but can live up to 5 years or more in captivity.

In this article, we will explore the longevity of Apistogramma in more detail and provide insights on what you can control to help them live longer.

The Statistical Study on Longevity in Apistogramma

Apistogramma Lifespan
A. agassizii “Rio Madeira” F1

PD Dr. Uwe Römer is a respected ichthyologist who has made significant contributions to the study of the genus Apistogramma biology.

In his study on the longevity of Apistogramma (1991) [1], PD Dr. Uwe Römer observed 7,532 specimens from 23 different species in captivity. The specimens were strictly selected based on a set of criteria that included age, health, hatching date, and other factors. Moreover, they were kept in the best environments that closely matched their natural habitat conditions.

The results showed that only 8% of the specimens lived longer than 24 months, with the longest recorded lifespan being 76 months, achieved by a male of Apistogramma sp. ‘breitbinden.’ Furthermore, over 75% of the specimens had died by the time they reached 18 months, and as many as 33% did not survive their first year.

The study also revealed an interesting finding that A. cacatuoides (Cockatoo Cichlid) had a relatively long life expectancy than other species, with an average lifespan of over 2 years.

Tips to Increase Apistogramma Lifespan

How Long Do Apistogramma Really Live

Apistogramma dwarf cichlids that live for up to 5 years are those that have received the best care and environment, plus some luck is also involved in living a longer life.

If you want to ensure that your fish live a long and healthy life, there are a few things you can do to increase their lifespan.

Provide a Suitable Habitat

Apistogramma are native to the Amazon rainforest, so it’s important to provide them with an environment that mimics their natural habitat. These rivers and streams are beneath dense forest canopies, which allow very little light to get through.

They typically live in slow-moving water, where the bottom is composed of sand, wood, and fallen leaves. As a result, the water tends to be soft and acidic. Often, it is stained brown from the tannins released by decaying organic material.

If you wish to successfully breed certain blackwater Apistogramma, such as A. sp. “Abacaxis,” A. bitaeniata, A. nijsseni, and A. panduro, it is essential to provide them with a low-conductivity habitat. To meet their preferences, a reverse osmosis system (RO) is required to achieve the appropriate total dissolved solids (TDS) level.

Maintain Good Water Quality

Apistos are not suitable for lazy aquarists simply because they are often kept in small, planted tanks. Contrary to what one might think, maintaining smaller aquariums requires more work since even tiny changes in water chemistry can have a big impact.

For best results, water changes should occur every day, usually between 10% and 15%. Be sure to install a good aquarium testing kit to monitor the water parameters. Removing debris, such as decaying plants and uneaten food on a regular basis will also help keep the water clean.


Since they are meat-eaters (carnivores) in nature, Apistogramma will require a diet rich in meaty products. Live food, including newly hatched brine shrimp, white or black mosquito larvae, and daphnia, is the perfect meal. Tubifex and blackworms should be avoided as they may contribute to transmitting the microscopic young of the parasite. 

Frozen glassworms and bloodworms are economical options for keeping a steady supply of nutritious food. Some tank-raised fish may accept carnivorous sinking commercially prepared flakes and pellets.

Avoid Overcrowding

A. macmasteri

Overcrowding is the number one stressor in an aquarium environment, particularly in small aquariums. If you do decide to keep Apistos in mid-sized tanks, keep in mind that each fish should be provided with a territory of approximately 12 inches (30 cm) in diameter, clearly defined by visual boundaries.

Monitor for Signs of Illness

We all know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” which is especially true for Apistos and other fish. Regularly monitoring your apistogramma for signs of illness is important for catching and treating any health problems early.

Look out for symptoms such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal swimming behavior. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with a veterinarian who specializes in fish care.


So, how long do Apistogramma live? On average, they live around two years in the home aquarium. However, with proper care and attention to their needs, Apistogramma can live longer than this.

If you’re new to the world of Apistogramma, we recommend starting with a hardy and easy-to-care-for species before moving on to more challenging blackwater species. The umbrella cichlid (Apistogramma borellii) is a great beginner Apisto.

By following the steps we’ve outlined above, you can help ensure your fish receives the care it needs to live a long and healthy life in your aquarium.


  1. Römer, U. (1991b): Zur Lebenserwartung von Zwergbuntbarschen der Gattung Apistogramma. DCG-Informationen 22 (2): 42 – 45
  2. Roland F. Fischer Anmerkungen zur Lebenserwartung unserer Fische

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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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