Apistogramma gibbiceps

Photo of male Apistogramma gibbiceps showing abdominal bars and colors in caudal fin

Apistogramma gibbiceps (A209) is a slender-bodied species from the Rio Negro in Brazil. They are not common in the American hobby, but they do appear from time to time. Males are larger and more colorful than females with large males reaching less than 3″ and females remaining smaller. They come from soft acid waters and will do best when kept under similar conditions.

Apistogramma gibbiceps General Information

Apistogramma gibbiceps is in the A. agassizii sub-lineage and is the type species for the Apistogramma gibbiceps group (for more information on A numbers and Apistogramma groups see Apistogramma naming and classification.) The species was first described by Meinken in 1969. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the fish he used for the original description was deformed from old age, improper care, or poor preservation. The fish Meinken used for his description had very prominent skull deformities that caused him to give them the species name gibbiceps which means “rams head” or “hump head”. This is a very misleading name for this small gem.

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photo of male Apistogramma gibbiceps in neutral display

Today A. gibbiceps is readily recognized but there is still some naming confusion, particularly concerning the status of A. roraimae (A210) which may very well be nothing more than a variant of A. gibbiceps. Additionally, there is disagreement as to whether the fish that Uwe Römer described as A. personata is actually A. gibbiceps. Only additional field collection and lab studies will yield the answers.

Identifying A. gibbiceps

The most obvious identifying characteristic of this slender-bodied species is the abdominal slashes that mark the flanks of mature fish. These slashes are most prominent in males but may be present in females as well. Very few fish have similar abdominal slashes so if you see them think gibbiceps.

Starting from a silvery-gray basic color A. gibbiceps males show a variety of body colors and facial markings including iridescent blues, yellows, and reds. Males develop a lyrate tail and, in some populations, males develop extended spines at the front of the dorsal fin. While never as tall and showy as some species, they still make a very impressive display.

photo of Apistogramma gibbiceps male
This male Apistogramma gibbiceps clearly shows the abdominal slashes that are characteristic of the species.

Apistogramma gibbiceps in the wild and in the aquarium

Apistogramma gibbiceps are found throughout the upper and middle Rio Negro and the Rio Branco. This is a vast area and within it, there is a lot of variability between populations and some forms are spectacular. Their native waters are generally very soft, acidic, and clear. They are not generally found in extreme blackwater habitats but are highly adaptable. They accept most dwarf cichlid aquarium conditions. It’s been noted that they adapt well to cooler waters but I cannot personally confirm this. For a complete discussion of aquarium care read Apistogramma and Dwarf Cichlid Aquarium Care

Apistogramma gibbiceps can be more difficult to keep than some species. In my experience, they can be aggressive with others of their species and a complex habitat is highly recommended. Give them a sand substrate, plants, or other structures to create complexity, numerous caves, and alcoves and you should have success. Allow them to become established in a well-designed tank and their true beauty will emerge. They reproduce in standard Apistogramma fashion and you can read complete details in our guide to Breeding Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids

How to buy Apistogramma gibbiceps

Photo of adult male Apistogramma gibbiceps showing flank bars and lyrate tail

Although Apistogramma gibbiceps are occasionally offered by Brazilian exporters, they are rarely imported by dealers so very few seem to actually arrive in the USA. Make contact with the specialty online fish suppliers and let them know you are looking. They might order them if they can. You might be able to get an independent shop to try and order them for you – it’s always worth trying to support independent pet stores! I rarely see them offered by hobbyist breeders but keep looking and you might find them. Check out the sources in our guide: How and Where to Buy Apistogrammas.

A. gibbiceps can often be a problem as they often arrive too small to be sexable. When they are mature enough to sex, the imports often seem to be skewed toward males.


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.