Apistogramma cf. pertensis

Photo of male and female pair of Apistogramma cf. pertensis in a heavily planted aquarium

Apistogramma cf. pertensis (A146 – A152) is a long and very slender species known for the very high dorsal fin some males develop. In some forms, individual males will have a sail-like dorsal fin that is truly impressive. However, the height of the dorsal fin can vary considerably between different collecting locations.

Basic Information

These articles provide thorough information about all aspects of keeping Apistogrammas:

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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

Photo of male Apistogramma cf. pertensis
Young male A. cf. pertensis

A. cf. pertensis have been in the aquarium hobby for more than a hundred years but they are not a readily available species today. They are most noted for their slender body shape and tall dorsal fins. They are generally gray to silver in color with a dark line running the length of their body. The caudal fin (tail) of the male usually shows vertical bands of alternating light and dark (often red) spots. Males usually grow to less than 3 inches and females are about 2 inches.

A. cf. pertensis usually make good aquarium inhabitants. They are relatively peaceful and rarely bother other tank mates unless they are spawning. While they can be kept in many water types, they do best in softer and more acidic water conditions.

Apistogramma cf. pertensis is in the pertensis complex which is in the A. pertensis group. Similar species include Apistogramma iniridae and Apistogramma uaupesi. Recent studies are showing that many if not most of what have long been considered Apistogramma species are actually comprised of multiple different species that look and act identical. When DwarfCichlid.com was first published we listed this exact fish as A. pertensis but because of the confusion surrounding exact identification we now call it A. cf. pertensis. For more information about Apistogramma classification see Apistogramma Identification, Classification, and Naming.

A. cf. pertensis in the wild

Photo of female Apistogramma cf. pertensis in neutral color
Although this wild female Apistogramma cf. pertensis has a tattered tail, it soon regrew to be fine. This is a typical female in neutral colors. They are rather drab fish and, unlike most Apistos, the females don’t develop an intense yellow color during brood care.

Apistogramma cf. pertensis have a wide range of distribution in the middle Amazon area. included in their range is virtually all of the Rio Negro basin except for the Rio Uaupes. With such a large geographic range they are found in a variety of water types. However, they are always associated with soft acid waters, almost always black or clear water. The pH values in their native waters have been reported in a range from pH 4.5 – 7.0, but almost all reports are below 6.0.

Their natural habitats are typically thick with leaves and the species will reach very high densities in these complex habitats. Dr. Uwe Römer writes of counting as many as 475 individual fish in a square meter. It is important to realize that this square meter is not just an open area of flat ground. Rather it is covered in a thick layer of leaves that create infinite nooks, crannies, and hiding places. We can all take a lesson from this as much conventional thinking holds that Apistos need large areas for territories and, at least in this case, it’s not true. Römer also reports that this species undertakes some sort of seasonal migration and at times they form into very large schools.

Aquarium Care and Breeding

In the aquarium, Apistogramma cf. pertensis is normally an undemanding species. Although they are smaller than some species they can be just as combative so be sure that you provide a complex habitat with plenty of hiding places. While they will live in many conditions, I usually find that this species does better in fairly acid water. I think that somewhere in the 5-5 – 6.0 range is good. Give them good food, high-quality water, and a good habitat and they will be a great species for you. They do best on a sand substrate.

As with all Apistos, there is a lot of variation in the personality of individual fish. While there are reports of harem breeding, I believe A. cf. pertensis are best kept as pairs. A compatible pair is obvious and, given proper conditions, they will usually spawn. For spawning, you should try to provide very soft water with a pH below 6.0. The fish will spawn in other water conditions but often the eggs will fail to develop if it is not soft and acidic enough.

Photo of a female A. cf. pertensis poking her head out from inside her breeding cave
This female Apistogramma cf. pertensis has laid eggs inside the cave she is peering out from. The oak leaves help to add natural tannins to the water and provide a lot of cover to the tank.

Spawning and fry care are very typical. The female will select a protected place, usually a cave where she will prepare an egg-laying site. She will deposit row after row of eggs which the male fertilizes. After egg-laying is finished the female takes over complete care until the fry become free-swimming 8 – 10 days later depending on temperature. With some pairs, the female may allow the male to assist with caring for the fry.

The aquarium care and breeding of A. cf. pertensis is the same as for most members of the genus and there is detailed information in these two articles:

Apistogramma and Dwarf Cichlid Aquarium Care
Breeding Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids

Personally, I’ve never been successful in keeping A. cf. pertensis for multiple generations. I’ve often had wild pairs spawn and I’ve done great with the fry. However, after a few generations, they always seemed to decline. Perhaps I am failing to meet some unknown need or it could be bad lick.

History of A. cf. pertensis

Apistogramma cf pertensis was described by Haseman in 1911 who believed it to be a subspecies of Heterogramma taeniatum. According to Mayland & Bork, the name means “to assert oneself” but Haseman left no record of the significance of this name and no characteristics of the species would seem to explain the name.

A. cf. pertensis was first imported into the hobby around the turn of the century and Römer reports that they first appeared in Hamburg, Germany. Obviously, they’ve been in the hobby for a very long time – well over 100 years. Over the years a number of similar but slightly different forms appeared that had a rounder body and varying heights of dorsal fins. Some of these were considered to be A. pertensis while others became named species.

Apistogramma cf. meinkeni, A. sp. pimental, and A. sp. “orangesaum” were all thought to be separate species and were in the hobby as such. However, since about the year 2000, these and a number of other forms are all considered to be A. cf. pertensis. The only exception is the original A. pertensis which is a small, very slender form with a very high sail-like dorsal and is considered to be the type for the species. There remains a lot of uncertainty and it’s likely we will see adjustments to species names in the future. It’s possible/likely that A. cf. pertensis will turn out to be several different species, possibly even one for every major drainage. Only advanced genetic testing will be able to clarify the situation.

Where to Buy Apistogramma cf. pertensis

A cf. pertensis is rarely offered for sale in the USA. They are not commercially significant so collectors rarely try to capture them. They occasionally appear as contaminants in other fish shipments. Unfortunately, you need to be lucky or connected to have access to contaminants. If any exporter offers them for sale they will likely show up on the stock list of some of the specialty fish dealers. There is more detailed information in our Guide to Purchasing Apistogrammas.

If A. cf. pertensis is a species you really want reach out wherever you can to let people know you are looking. Then be ready to wait, maybe for a long time. Then, be prepared to buy them quick if you see them offered.

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.