Apistogramma hongsloi belongs to a group of fish known affectionately as “apistos,” all in the genus Apistogramma. These are a type of dwarf cichlid that are native to tributaries in South America. The genus name (Apistogramma) roughly translates to “irregular lateral line.” Apistogramma encompasses nearly 100 described species, making it the most species-rich genus of cichlids in South America.
Hongslo’s dwarf cichlid is a very robust and beautiful fish. Males typically get to be a vibrant yellow/red coloration with a bit of purple/blue on the body. In some varieties, this red is more pronounced (such as “super red”). The females, however, are a fairly uniform color, only intensifying during courtship and fry rearing. When spawning, the female becomes extremely yellow, with a black bar going through the eye and on the dorsal and pelvic fins.
One pair of Apistogramma hongsloi can be housed in a tank as small as 10 gallons. A single male can also go well in peaceful community tanks of at least 10 gallons. An aquarium of 30-40 gallons is a better footprint if more than a pair are to be housed. Avoid keeping more than one male in any given aquarium, as they can be territorial. When possible, provide driftwood and leaf litter as visual barriers and caves for spawning.
Being a tropical species, Hongslo’s dwarf cichlid should be maintained between 74-82 degrees fahrenheit. This is best achieved with a reliable, adjustable heater. There is evidence that their fry are temperature sensitive in terms of what sex they end up. In order to get a more even split of male/female fry, the ideal temperature to raise them is 78-79 degrees Fahrenheit.
Like most Apistogramma, A. hongsloi prefers neutral to slightly acidic water. Although tank raised individuals are fairly adaptable, they do best between 6.0-7.5 pH. The pH is especially important if you are trying to successfully breed these fish. The addition of driftwood, leaf litter, alder cones, etc. will help to lower the pH.
To maintain an Apistogramma aquarium, it is recommended you do weekly water changes of 25-50% and monthly filter maintenance. Some of the best filters for Apistogramma are sponge filters, which should be squeezed out in a bucket of treated tap water once a month. If you are using chemical media such as carbon, this should be changed out once a month as well. Water changes are best done with a gravel siphon to pull any hidden debris out of the substrate. Whenever water is changed, make sure the clean water going into the aquarium is a similar temperature and to treat it with a dechlorinator if you are using tap water. If you are using leaf litter, you’ll also want to replenish the leaves as they degrade.
Hongslo’s dwarf cichlid is generally peaceful, and single males can make great additions to community aquariums 10-40 gallons. If doing species-only, they can be housed in male/female pairs. Avoid having more than one male in any aquarium under 40 gallons. The only time they will act aggressively towards other fish is primarily when spawning. Small fish such as Corydoras, tetras, and rasboras get along well with Apistogramma.
Being a “dwarf cichlid”, Apistogramma hongsloi only gets to be about 2.5” long as adults. Females tend to be slightly smaller. A dwarf cichlid is typically defined as any cichlid staying under 4” total length, and these most certainly fit the bill!
All Apistogramma are what are known as “micro predators.” This means they are predatory towards small live prey, such as crustaceans and worms. In captivity, apistos will accept frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia, and will oftentimes accept flake food or small cichlid pellets. Live blackworms or white worms are relished as treats.
Apistogramma are extremely sexually dimorphic. Males, besides getting bigger and having impressive fin extensions when fully mature, are also dramatically more colorful. Females remain a fairly drab yellowish color with some black markings and little other notable color. Males, especially in A. hongsloi, get a highly red coloration with yellow and purple/blue mixed in. Other species of Apistogramma have different coloration in the males, but females across the board look very similar, even between species.
Apistogramma hongsloi is a cave or crevice spawner. When a mature pair is provided with a cave or ideal breeding location, they will typically spawn sooner rather than later. This is best achieved in a separate breeding tank, as other fish in a community aquarium may get attacked by defensive females. The female is typically the one to guard the eggs and subsequent fry. This can last for up to two weeks after they hatch, at which time the fry will disperse and the adult pair may breed again. Free swimming A. hongsloi fry are fairly easy to raise, being able to accept live baby brine shrimp or microworms from day one.