Apistogramma rubrolineata

Apistogramma rubrolineata (A18, A19) is a rarely imported species with a limited range in Bolivia and Peru. Adult males show rows of contrasting red and iridescent blue stripes that run from behind the gills to the caudal peduncle. Their striped body is very unusual and I find them to be very attractive. They are relatively undemanding in the aquarium but, I’ve been unable to maintain them long-term.

Apistogramma rubrolineata general information

Apistogramma rubrolineata was first discovered in 2001 and scientifically described and named in  2002 Their name comes from the Latin words ruber which means red and lineatus which means stripes, making this a very descriptive name.  They are medium-sized and males reach about 3″ while females are 2″ or less. In my experience, they are a rather peaceful species.

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Male A. rubrolineata have a very distinctive appearance as they are one of the few Apistos that exhibit a pattern of horizontal striping on their bodies. A few species, including A. tucurui and A. sp “Vielfleck/Multi-spot” and A. sp “Alto Tapiche”, have rows of horizontal spots that create a “striped-like” appearance but none are as pronounced as those of A. rubrolineata.  

photo of A. rubrolineata male

The rubrolineata I’ve kept had rows of scales that appeared to be red, but closer examination showed them to be a rusty brown color.  The color of the red stripes probably varies considerably from fish to fish in the wild. It’s very likely that there is a lot of color and pattern variation in the species.

In addition to colorful stripes, many male A. rubrolineata have colorful patches/spots adorning their facial area. The density of these patches/spots is highly variable between populations and individual fish. Some males develop very colorful faces.

Apistogramma rubrolineata in the wild

photo of Apistogramma rubrolineata female in neutral color
Apistogramma rubrolineata female in neutral color

They were first discovered in a remote section of NW Bolivia near the Peruvian border in the Rio Beni drainage. A second population was later discovered in the Rio Manuripe near the city of Puerto Maldonado, Peru. Fish from these locations were distributed as Apistogramma sp. “Beni” and Apistogramma sp. “Manu”. While there are slight differences in these populations and they have different A numbers, they appear to be the same fish.  

There is very little information about the natural habitat of A. rubrolineata. However, they are reported to be from blackwater streams and are associated with a variety of habitat types including leaf litter and overhanging vegetation. Römer expresses uncertainty about the water parameters but a pH of 6.0 is likely in the range.

Apistogramma rubrolineata aquarium care

photo of Apistogramma rubrolineata in brood colors
A. rubrolineata female showing brood care pattern and color

In my experience, A. rubrolineata is easy to care for when treated as a soft water dwarf cichlid and kept at a pH of 6.0 or lower. They may be fine in more neutral water but I’ve only kept them in soft and acidic conditions. Feeding is easy, they take all frozen and live foods and will accept high-quality prepared foods.

Like all Apistos, they need a complex habitat that contains plenty of places to be out of sight of other fish. Plants, leaves, driftwood, rockwork, caves, and other materials are perfect for creating complexity. Their lack of aggression allowed me to keep them in smaller-sized tanks as long as I had a proper complex habitat.

photo of male Apistogramma rubrolineata looking forward and showing the red patches that cover his facial area.
This male A. rubrolineata shows red patches that cover his facial area. The number, size, placement, and color of these patches varies widely between populations and individuals.

I once kept a female and male bonded pair with two additional females in the same tank. The pair behaved as expected. Most of the time the female was the boss of the tank, bullying the other three. However, when she began to ripen for spawning she would lose her brilliant yellow colors and turn a dull yellow. Then her mate became the undisputed ruler of the tank. He displayed moderate aggression towards the female but kept the other females hidden in the plants. This dynamic changed again within days when the female would be guarding a cave holding a new spawn of bright red eggs and she would again be the boss of the tank.

Breeding Apistogramma rubrolineata

As with most Apistos, breeding A. rubrolineata is a matter of providing good conditions and letting the fish do the rest. Give them good water (neutral to soft, pH about 6.0) with frequent water changes, good food, and a good habitat. Be sure to provide multiple suitable spawning sites; places that are sheltered and dark, typically some sort of cave. With proper care, spawning should progress. For complete information about breeding see Breeding Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids

My A. rubrolineata failure

I found A. rubrolineata to be easy to spawn but I was unable to maintain the species despite my best efforts. I acquired a pair of wild fish in 2007 and found them easy to care for and ready spawners. Unfortunately, they were not good parents. The female tried to rush each batch of fry. She was a great parent until about the third-day post-hatch. At this point, she would move the larval fry out of the cave and try to lead them around the tank. Of course, they were still wrigglers that were days away from being free-swimming. The female would lose interest in them and they quickly vanished.  This happened repeatedly in tanks of different sizes and different setups.

photo of Apistogramma rubrolineata female inside a cave guarding her nemly laid eggs
Female Apistogramma rubrolineata guarding her newly laid eggs

To make sure I could maintain the species, I pulled eggs and hatched them artificially and I also siphoned out fry that the female brought out too early. The fry were hardy and grew quite rapidly. Unfortunately, from more than 100 fry I only got one male. Producing only females turned out to be a serious and chronic problem. Although I continued to try for parent-raised spawns and pulled eggs every 3 – 6 months or so I never produced another male. The male I got from my first batch of fry became a breeder but never produced a male.

I kept them going for about 4 years until the last male died. I estimate that I raised well over 1,000 females in my quest to get males. To test if temperature was a factor I divided one spawn into four different rearing containers and raised them at 74, 76, 78 & 80 degrees and got all females. I tried everything but, sadly lost the species. I had females for another three or four years but I never had an opportunity to get any males.

A very rare Apisto

photo of male Apistogramma rubrolineata showing his striped body
While poorly focused, this photo shows the alternating blue and red stripes that cover the side.

Apistogramma rubrolineata is very rare in the hobby. I don’t know of any hobbyists who are keeping it and I’ve not seen them imported as wild fish for many years. They may be available in Europe or Asia but they are not common in North America. I won’t be surprised if an exporter offers them at some point and they become available for a short time. If you ever see them give them a try, Their distinctive striping gives them a look that is unique among Apistogrammas and they would be a great addition to any fish room.

If you want to acquire these rarities you will need to contact the specialty fish sellers to see if they can find them. There is a lot of information about buying rare Apistos in our guide to Where to Buy Apistogrammas and Other 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

References

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
Websites:
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.