Apistogramma iniridae

ohoto of Apistogramma iniridae

Apistogramma iniridae (A159 – A160) is a slender-bodied species found in the very soft acid waters of the upper Rio Negro and the upper Rio Orinoco drainages. They are generally peaceful in the aquarium but may require demanding water conditions for successful reproduction.

photo of Apistogramma iniridae male in neutral color

Apistogramma iniridae was described by Dr. Sven Kullander in 1979 and is the type species of the iniridae group of Apistogrammas (for more on A numbers and Apistogramma groups see Apistogramma classification and naming). They are very similar to the members of the pertensis group with males of both groups sporting large and tall dorsal fins. While A. iniridae have a high dorsal, they typically don’t have the extreme sail-like dorsal that species like Apistogramma uaupesi have.

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A. iniridae can usually be identified by a few characteristics. They are mostly a muted grayish/brownish color with a distinct wide lateral band running the length of the body from eye to tail. Below this band, they have a row of distinctive black patches that vary slightly between forms. Males will frequently exhibit iridescent blues and greens on their faces. A. iniridae have round to slightly oval caudal fins (tail).

Apistogramma iniridae in the wild

Photo of male Apistogramma iniridae
Although this is not a very good photo, this male shows the high fin and row of abdominal patches that are diagnostic for the species

A. iniridae are found in the very soft acid waters of the upper Rio Negro and the upper Rio Orinoco drainages in Columbia. The fish that Kullander used for his description were taken from the lower Río Inirida in the Orinoco system. The species name comes from the river where they were captured – the Rio Inirida. There aren’t many published collection reports but Koslowski states the species is also found in the headwaters of the Río Guaviare.

All reports about their habitat conditions are very similar. Very soft and quite acidic water is typically expected with pH values around 4.5 – 5.5 and almost undetectable hardness. Sandy substrates with leaves, plants, and other debris are commonly reported.

Apistogramma iniridae aquarium care and breeding

Römer reports that Apistogramma iniridae was first imported to the hobby in 1978. Today, they aren’t common but wild fish are occasionally offered by exporters. They are not especially aggressive but you must maintain a complex environment or aggression may be a serious problem. A. iniridae can be among the most difficult Apistos to successfully reproduce in the aquarium.

Apistogramma iniridae male and two females
The male Apistogramma iniridae in the back watches the two females in front of him as they each seek to gain an advantage. The yellow-colored female is still in brood colors from having lost a batch of eggs several weeks previously. The upper female is actually nearly ready to spawn. Many Apisto females become very drab in the days immediately preceding a spawn.

The biggest problem is usually their demanding water requirements – soft and acidic. It’s possible to maintain them in water that doesn’t meet these conditions but you will probably not be able to succeed in breeding this difficult species. They usually only produce viable fry if kept at a very low pH.

Apistogramma iniridae prefer a sand substrate and lots of materials making a complex habitat. Temperatures of 76° – 80° are fine and they eagerly take all live and frozen foods. They will accept prepared foods but they may take some time to acclimate. They are typical cave-spawning Apistos and do well in pairs or small harems. However, you need a large tank bottom with a complex habitat if you hope to successfully raise fry from more than one female in a tank. Learn a lot more in this article about Apistogramma Aquarium Care

Personal experience breeding A. iniridae

The first time I ever kept Apistogramma iniridae was in the late 1980s when obtained a pair of wild fish. They settled in nicely and soon began to spawn on a regular basis. Unfortunately, every spawn disappeared and no fry ever appeared. In an effort to ensure that I would maintain the species, I pulled some eggs to hatch artificially. They soon fungused and I began to look for causes. Trusting that the male was not infertile and that he was participating in the spawning, I assumed that the water conditions were not right.

I’d been keeping these fish at a pH of 5.0 and assumed that would be fine but I believed that I needed to lower it. Over time I discovered that I could not get viable spawns with these fish unless the pH was at 3.5 or lower! I believe that this might have been a unique strain of iniridae as the males had brilliant red lips that I have not seen on iniridae since. Perhaps this particular strain had extreme water requirements but I always had to spawn them at very low pH to have success.

Once the fry became free-swimming I could gradually raise the pH back to the 5.0 range. On a diet of baby brine shrimp and microworms the fry developed nicely and grew at the same rate as other Apistos.

Where to buy Apistogramma iniridae

It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever find A. iniridae in your local fish store. You’ll almost certainly have to order online and even then this is a tough fish to acquire. It’s not a popular species for hobby breeders and most of the fish available are wild-caught. They are occasionally imported and a few specialty fish sellers may offer them from time to time. It might take a year or several but if you keep looking you can find this rare species. You can find specific sources to check in our Guide to Buying Dwarf Cichlids.

Essential Articles About Apistogrammas
The Genus Apistogramma
Apistogramma Aquarium Care
Breeding Apistogrammas
Understanding Apistogramma Classification and Identification
Live Plants in the Apistogramma Aquarium
How and Where to Buy Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids


Most of the information I provide on this website comes from books and websites. While I don’t provide specific citations, these are the sources for most of my information.
South American Books:
Mergus Cichlid Atlas Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Dr. Uwe Römer
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Rainer Stawikowski, I. Koslowski and V. Bohnet
Die Buntbarsche Amerikas Band 2 Apistogramma & Co. by Ingo Koslowski, Translation by Mike Wise
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Hans J. Mayland & Dieter Bork
American Cichlids I – Dwarf Cichlids by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
West African Books:
The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa by Anton Lamboj
African Cichlids I – Cichlids From West Africa by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
Apisto sites – the home page of Tom C – Global authority for identification and classification of apistogrammas
Apistogramma.com – An excellent international forum with expert members who gladly share their knowledge.
Much more information is available in our complete exploration of dwarf cichlid information resources.