Opal Apistogramma

This pretty dwarf cichlid comes from South America. It lives in the catchment area of the Rio Paraguay and in waters of the Brazilian Mato Grosso region. It is an opal colour variation of Apistogramma borelli (Yellow Dwarf Cichlid). The fish have a life expectancy of 4 years. Dwarf cichlids are somewhat special in keeping. Therefore the keeping should be left to advanced aquarists.

What makes Opal Apistogramma special?

This small ornamental fish has a peaceful disposition towards other fish and is therefore a good choice for a community aquarium. Some species of characins, bearcatfish and armored and loricariid catfish are best suited for socializing.

The appearance of Opal Apistogramma

The basic colour of Opal Apistogramma is light grey interspersed with the eponymous opal-coloured shiny scales. In the face the fish has red and turquoise patches. The pointed dorsal fin and the brook fin are half opal coloured. The anal fin and caudal fin are yellow. The lateral line of the male specimen is only weakly pronounced. Females have an interrupted black longitudinal band and a partly yellow coloured belly.

© Guido Studtrucker / Opal Apistograms with juvenile fish

Gender differences

The fish differ in size. The males, with a length of up to 6 cm, become significantly larger than the females, which reach a maximum length of 4 cm. Furthermore the males have a distinct blue sheen on their body, which the females completely lack.

Water values for Opal Apistogramma

The species makes no particular demands on water values, but is extremely sensitive to hard and alkaline water. Opal Apistogramma feels comfortable in the following water values:

  • pH value: 5-7
  • Total hardness: below 15°
  • Carbon hardness: below 10°
  • Temperature: 23°-30° C

Food and nutrition for Opal Apistogramma

The fish are omnivores. They accept all common types of food well. When feeding you should still prefer live or frozen food, because only then Opal Apistogramma shows its beautiful colouring in full intensity. To avoid overfeeding, you should also feed carefully (small portions). The species is not used to overfeeding, it comes from nutrient-poor waters.

The ideal aquarium for Opal Apistogramma

Aquariums from a capacity of 80 L are well suited for keeping one male and several females in groups (harem formation) or for socializing with other small fish. The species is territorial. Strong planting and some caves made of wood or stone as hiding places, avoids stress and increases the fish’s well-being. The substrate should preferably consist of sand or very fine gravel.


Housing conditions

Opal Apistogramma is an inhabitant of the lower and middle water zones. Sufficient free swimming space in the pool should be available.

  • Public pool
  • Pair- or harem-holding
  • in small tanks (60 L) only in pairs
  • Dense planting
  • Many cave hiding places
  • Fine substrate
  • Frozen and live food

Characteristics of Opal Apistogramma

In aquariums with several groups, the phenomenon of a “pseudo-female” can occur in this species at spawning time. In order to protect itself from the attacks of dominant males, a lower ranking male may assume the colouring of a female, i.e. pretending to be a female.

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