Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” 

photo of Apistogramma sp. "Abacaxis" pair

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” (A227 – A228), also known as Apistogramma sp. “wilhelmi”, is a beautiful and interesting species that is closely related to Apistogramma agassizii. They have a unique facial mask that is usually a shade of purple and are strikingly colored fish. They do best in soft and acidic water and these conditions are mandatory for successful breeding. A. sp. “Abacaxis” is not easy, but it’s a very rewarding species for experienced Apisto keepers.

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” general information

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” are usually easy to identify as mature males have very obviously dark-colored lips and throats. The color can vary from red to brown or black but forms with dark purple lips are most common. Another diagnostic feature is the broad lateral band, two scales in width, that runs the length of the body. This wide band is also prominent in females.

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photo of young male Apistogramma sp. "Abacaxis" also called Apistogramma sp "Wilhelmi"
This young male Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” shows the purple lips and chin and broad lateral stripe that are characteristic of the species. Although they are commonly sold as Apistogramma sp. “Wilhelmi” the use of that name should be discouraged.

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” was first collected by Horst Linke and Mario Wilhelm in 1999. Linke introduced the species to the hobby as Apistogramma sp. “Wilhelmi”, a name that is still widely used. This needs to stop and A. sp. “Abacaxis” is the only name that should be used. The hobby would love to see the fish named to honor Wilhelm but the rules of naming fish are very rigid and there is a risk that calling them “Wilhelmi” before they are described could invalidate the name for consideration when the species is described. Please use “Abacaxis” to preserve the name “Wilhelmi” for use in the ultimate scientific naming.

A. sp. “Abacaxis” is a member of the agassizii group and pulchra complex of Apistogrammas. They are a medium-sized species and males rarely exceed 3 inches. There are two recognized forms of the species. In addition to A. sp. “Abacaxis” (A227), a very similar species, A. cf. sp. “Abacaxis” (Marimari) (A228) was imported into Japan in 2002 as A. cf. pulchra (Marimari). While more work needs to be done, it’s possible that these are color firms of the same species.

photo of female Apistogramma sp. "Abacaxis" in neutral color
This female A. sp. “Abacaxis” shows neutral colors but the dark stripe is very obvious.
Photo of two Apistogramma sp. Abacaxis females in yellow brood colors
Two A. sp. “Abacaxis” females in brood color

These photos show the difference between females in neutral coloration (left) and yellow brood care colors (right).

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” in the wild

A. sp. “Abacaxis” was first discovered in Lago Glemende near the village of Walendo in the middle Rio Abacaxis basin, Amazonas, Brazil. A lago is a small jungle lake and Lago Glemende is connected to the Rio Abacaxis by a small igarapé. Igarapé is an Amazonian Indian term for a small stream that goes deep into the rainforest. Igarapés are quite different from the forest streams in our temperate forests. They are often very deep and can go hundreds of miles into the forest. In the wider parts, igarapés open up to hidden lakes that are tree-lined and without perceptible current.

Wilhelm and Linke collected A. sp. “Abacaxis” in the leaf littler lining the shoreline of the lago. They noted that the lago had extensive piles of brush in the water. The water was slightly muddy and dark brown in color. The water was very soft, measuring less than 1 dGH. The pH was quite acidic at 3.9 and the water was quite warm at 86°F. The collectors noted that the waters were rather barren of fish.

Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis” aquarium care

Photo of male Apistogramma sp. "Abacaxis"
While often called Apistogramma sp. “Wilhelmi”, “Abacaxis” is the correct name and should always be used

Non-breeding husbandry of this species is not too difficult. Keep them as you would any other Apisto. Give them a complex habitat, good food, and plenty of water changes. Remember that they originate in waters that are very soft and acidic. They feed readily on live and frozen foods and I’ve had wild fish adapt to prepared food without too much trouble.

They were fairly peaceful when kept in a group of ten adults of mixed sexes. However, there is no breeding when kept this way. I found that they do well in breeding setups of either pairs or trios. They are a polygamous species but I had good success with breeding in pairs. Males can be tough on non-receptive females so be sure you have plenty of cover. For more detailed information about aquarium care read our Guide to Apistogramma Aquarium Care.

Breeding Apistogramma sp. “Abacaxis”

As would be expected from the waters they inhabit in the wild, A. sp. “Abacaxis” does best in very soft acid water. Many breeders have reported no successful spawning until the pH was adjusted to below 4.0. These are extreme conditions and it’s often difficult to maintain stable conditions at these pH levels. I’ve had some success with this species at slightly higher pH values but have never gotten large spawns.

Apistogramma sp. "Abacaxis"

Breeders in Germany have reported that this species is especially prone to skewed sex ratios with temperatures of 80F or higher producing almost all males. The same reports state that at 79F sex ratios will be balanced. The factors that determine sex in Apistogramma are poorly understood but there is no doubt that temperature plays a major role. Try to shoot for a temp in the high 70s but don’t be surprised if you get unbalanced sex ratios.

A. sp. “Abacaxis” has been available in the hobby since its discovery. However, the species remains scarce and prices remain quite high. I think this is a reflection of the difficulty in producing any quantity of this demanding fish.

Where to buy A. sp. “Abacaxis”

This is not a commonly collected or imported species so don’t expect to find wild fish on a regular basis. The first imports of A. sp. “Abacaxis” came to Germany, the United States, and Japan in 2000. The dry season in their part of the Amazon occurs in the winter and sporadic wild imports of this species are occasionally offered in January and February. If wild fish become available they will be imported and sold by some of the specialty fish sellers.

Tanks-raised specimens are often available but are usually rather expensive because this is not an easy fish to mass-produce. Most of the tank-raised fish seem to come from individual hobbyist breeders. Pay attention to the online fish sources and you may find them offered on an occasional basis. Visit Where and How to Buy Dwarf Cichlids for specific recommendations.

A challenge and a treat

Apistogramma sp’ “Abacaxis” is a very pretty fish. The strikingly colored lips and throat of adult males are unique, and the rest of their body colors only heighten the effect. They are an excellent species for experienced Apisto keepers and present a breeding challenge for the serious hobbyist. Although rarely seen in pet stores they are sporadically available from private breeders and are high on the wish list for many dwarf cichlid fans.

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.