Apistogramma panduro

photo of male Apistogramma panduro showing extended dorsal lappets and distinctive black patch on caudal peduncle

Apistogramma panduro (A 183, 184, 185) is a beautiful dwarf cichlid from northern Peru. This especially attractive species is also known as the “Pandurino”, “Blue Panda”, “Sky Blue”, or “Blue Sky” Apisto. They come from soft acidic waters but in captivity, they usually do well in fairly neutral water conditions. They are good in a community or single-species tank and are well worth the effort to acquire.

Apistogramma panduro general information

Apistogramma panduro are closely related to Apistogramma nijesseni and are placed in the A. nijesseni group. All the species in the nijesseni group are found within a relatively small area in western Peru where they inhabit lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and ditches. These waters are isolated from each other and many hold a unique species or form from the A. nijesseni group. Apistogramma panduro is a valid species but there are two variant forms recognized as A. sp. panduro, Much field and lab work needs to be done to understand species relationships. To learn more about Apistogramma species groups visit our Understanding Apistogramma naming and classification page.

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photo of Apistogramma panduro pair

Apistogramma panduro are sometimes referred to as Apistogramma pandurini however, the correct species name is panduro. They are named after the Panduros, a father-and-son team of Peruvian fish exporters who first collected and exported the fish. While very similar to A. nijesseni, they are usually pretty easy to identify.

Almost all male and some female A. panduro have a dark patch at the back of their body that begins in the caudal peduncle and extends into the tail. This patch is typically triangular in shape and is usually very obvious and useful for identification. Female A. panduro have a distinctive black blotch at the front of their body. The patch varies in size and shape between fish but is usually distinctive enough to be used for identification. However, all females in the nijesseni group look very similar.

Apistogramma panduro in the wild

Apistogramma panduro originates from the same general area as Apistogramma nijesseni, Apistogramma baenschi, and other similar species. All of the nijesseni group Apistos appear to have limited ranges in the western Amazon region. This area is different than most Apisto habitats in that there is much less seasonal water level variation. These areas rarely suffer the very low water conditions that are expected elsewhere. Correspondingly, they also don’t see the same high-water floods.

A. panduro are captured in blackwater streams in the Río Tahuayo drainage near the cities of Colonia and Jenaro Herrera, Peru. These waters are soft and acidic with pH values below 6.0. They are found over sand substrates and stick to areas where leaves, grasses, woody debris, and other structure provides easily accessible hiding areas.

Apistogramma panduro in the aquarium

A. panduro usually make excellent aquarium inhabitants. They are great in a single-species setup but, if you’re not interested in breeding, they will usually thrive in a community of appropriately sized tankmates. They are typically not shy and will be out front and center showing off their brilliant iridescent blue colors. I like keeping them in pairs but they do well in harem groups of one male and multiple females. I’ve had success keeping multiple males together but only when there are no females in the tank and when there are plenty of hiding places.

While they prefer soft water with a pH of 6.0 or so, they should do well in water that is more neutral in composition. They love a sand substrate where they will sift mouthfuls of sand all day. However, they can be kept on small gravel or in a bare-bottomed tank. A temperature of 75° – 80° should be fine. They will be more at ease and show better colors if kept in subdued light.

Photo of two female Apistogramma panduro in face-to-face agressive pose
These two female A. panduro spent hours sparring for dominance, They never did any damage to each other but their threat displays were very impressive.

Apistogramma panduro are not fussy eaters and will adapt to most high-quality prepared foods. Of course, live food is best and greatly aids breeding. Like all Apistos, A. panduro does best in a complex habitat created with plants, driftwood, rockwork, leaf litter, or other materials. If you provide them with good food, good habitat, and frequent water changes they will usually enter into spawning behavior.

Breeding Apistogramma panduro

A compatible pair of Apistogramma panduro will normally form a strong pair bond and under good conditions they will seek to breed. They spawn in typical Apistogramma fashion with the female seeking a secluded and sheltered location (usually a cave of some sort). After preparing the spawning site to meet her approval, the female will entice the male to join her and she will begin to lay row after row of eggs. The male stays close by and comes in to roll sideways and emit his sperm.

After egg-laying is complete the female takes over the care of the eggs. Depending on the temperature, the eggs will hatch in 2-3 days and the larval fry will not rise to become free-swimming for another week or so. Be prepared to feed the fry as soon as the female brings out the babies to be shepherded around the tank.

photo of female Apistogramma panduro with very young fry
Apistogramma panduro female tending newly emerged fry.

Broods are generally a little smaller with A. panduro than with some species but spawns of 50 – 60 are common. The fry will easily take newly hatched brine shrimp and with good feeding and high-quality water, they grow rapidly. Under good growing conditions they can be sexed at about 4 months.

How to buy Apistogramma panduro

Apistogramma panduro male
This male A. panduro shows where the common name “Sky Blue” Apisto comes from. Note the dark patch on the caudal peduncle which is different from other species in the A. nijesseni group

 Tank raised Apistogramma panduro are often available from online fish sellers and hobby breeders. They are sometimes offered to retail shops by wholesalers. If you have a good local pet store ask them and they may be able to order for you. If you find them in a pet store they may be sold as the Sky Blue Apisto. Pay attention because these are not the same fish as the Steel Blue Apisto (a species you may want to avoid).

You can likely find Apistogramma panduro from one of the sources listed 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.