Apistogramma cf. uaupesi

photo of male Apistogramma uaupesi

Apistogramma uaupesi (A 156) is a very attractive and rather demanding dwarf cichlid. They are found in very soft acid waters in the Rio Negro system and often require these conditions in the aquarium. A. uaupesi can be delicate and are recommended for experienced Apisto keepers.

This is a rewrite and revision of an article I originally published more than 15 years ago and at that time the fish pictured were accepted as A. uaupesi. However, since then species identification has become so muddied that this could be any of several species. Since I don’t have a catch location, it’s impossible to tell the exact species. I’ve debated what name to use in this article and decided to use the name I used when I originally published. Don’t use this page for identification. If you have a catch location you can possibly ID your fish but without the catch location, you’ll never know for sure. Although the species name may be suspect, the following information is generally applicable to all of the related species.

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Apistogramma uaupesi general information

What is an A. uaupesi? This is a great question that we don’t have the full answer to. A. uaupesi is readily recognized and there is no doubt about its status. However, there are at least six similar-looking species or forms and there is no sure way to classify and properly identify these forms. They may all be unique species or they could be color forms of A. uaupesi. There are photos of some of these forms in DATZ South American Dwarf Cichlids and others can be found online. Only extensive field and genetic studies will help to clear up the confusion.

photo of male Ap[istogramma uaupesi with exceptionally blue face markings
This male A. uaupesi has a very blue face and exhibits rows of abdominal spots with no visible lateral line

In the meantime, wild imports of A. uaupesi-type fish arrive on a regular basis. Often these appear to be A. uaupesi but similar-looking species are not uncommon. People occasionally post on help forums looking for ID assistance. Fortunately, there are experts who are happy to help but they are often stymied without a catch location.

photo of Apistogramma uaupesi pair

A. uaupesi may be sold as A. sp. “Rotkeil” or A. sp. “Red-wedge” which is the common name they were given when they were first introduced to the hobby. They are in the A. iniridae group which is in the A. pertensis lineage. Like A. iniridae and A. pertensis, A. uaupesi are long and slender-bodied with a high smooth sail-like dorsal fin. Males exhibit a lyrate caudal fin (tail) which is rounded in A. iniridae and A. pertensis. Often there will be a red-colored wedge-shaped patch in the center of the tail. However, this is variable from fish to fish.

Apistogramma uaupesi in the wild

photo of female Apistogramma uaupesi in neutral colors
Female A. uaupesi in neutral coloration

Like all members of the A. iniridae group, A. uaupesi originates from very soft acid waters in the upper Rio Negro in Brazil and in tributaries of the upper Río Orinoco in Colombia and Venezuela. Collectors report typical hardness values of less than 1 dGH and pH values that range from 5.5 to as low as 3.8.

Römer has written extensively about his experiences observing A. uaupesi in the wild. He reports that in addition to being in leaf litter and overhanging vegetation, they will be found along rocky shorelines and even over open sand bottoms. He also reports that, at times, large schools form that may migrate together.

A. uaupesi aquarium care

Aquarium care for A. uaupesi is the same as for all Apistos which I’ve thoroughly discussed in Apistogramma and Dwarf Cichlid Aquarium Care. Provide them a complex habitat with lots of cover, good quality water, and good food and they should thrive. They can be kept in neutral water but for successful reproduction, they require conditions matching their native waters. In my experience, they do great in pairs. Often there is some aggression until a pair first spawns but after that I usually find them to be compatible. However, every fish is an individual so don’t be surprised if your experience is different.

Apistogramma uaupesi are very expressive in terms of body contortions and displays. The males can very quickly flick their fins into a variety of different positions. It’s often assumed that the very large sail-like dorsal fin is displayed in aggression to make the fish look larger to a challenger. While this might be generally true, with this species I find that the dorsal is not always fully extended in a threat or aggression posture. However, they will often flick it open and closed when displaying.

Apistogramma uaupesi male sequence of op5 photos showing the changes to markings and dorsal fin display
These five photos of a male A. uaupesi displaying were taken within a few seconds as he displayed to a female behind a clear divider. They show how much and how rapidly a male can vary the markings on his body and his dorsal fin display. He changes his dorsal from fully folded, to partially erect, to full display, and back to partially folded. The dark markings on his body change as his abdominal markings go from rows of dots below the lateral line to well-defined blotches that include the lateral line. The lateral line varies in intensity and at times it completely vanishes or becomes a single spot (not shown in these photos).

Breeding Apistogramma uaupesi

Breeding A. uaupesi is pretty much the same as with other Apistos as described in Breeding Apistogrammas and Other Dwarf Cichlids. Give them a complex habitat with multiple potential spawning sites (typically caves) and a sand substrate. Feed them well and give them frequent water changes. Under good conditions, the female will fill with eggs, select a spawning site, invite the male to join her, and lay a clutch of red-colored eggs.

After spawning, the female takes sole care of the eggs which hatch in about 2 days at which time the female gathers the larval fry into a pile on the bottom of her cave. After about another week she will emerge leading her school of tiny babies. Feed them well, give them regular water changes and they grow fairly rapidly. Generally, I’ve found them to be relatively peaceful and have been able to raise spawns from fry to adults in the breeding tank without any significant problems.

photo of Apistogramma uaupesi female guarding her eggs on the roof of a cave
Female A. uaupesi guarding her newly laid eggs

Unfortunately, unsuccessful spawns are very common. Usually, this is a result of water parameters that aren’t adequate for egg development. Remember that wild-caught A. uaupesi are coming from waters that can be very soft and acidic and it’s often necessary to provide these conditions to achieve spawning success. pH is often the problem as values of 4.0 or even lower may be necessary for success. Of course, it’s really difficult to keep the water stable in these conditions. I’ve had spawns succeed in the low 5 range but I’ve also had to get the pH below 4.0 to achieve success.

Where to buy Apistogramma uaupesi

photo of female A. uaupesi guarding cave entrance

A. uaupesi are not common fish but they are available at times. They are almost always wild-caught as tank-raised specimens are uncommon. A uaupesi may be sold as A. sp. “rotkeil” and fish sold as such are usually A. uaupesi. However, as discussed above, there are a number of similar-looking forms or species that may prevent positive identification. (note: all of the similar species I’ve seen photos of are very attractive so if you end up with one of these other forms congratulations on securing an even rarer species!)

It’s highly unlikely you will ever find A. uaupesi in a pet store. If you have a really great shop they can look into ordering them for you but your best bet will be to search for them online. The Apisto-specialist fish sellers will bring them in from time to time so keep your eye on the various sites and reach out to suppliers to let them know you are interested. It might take some time but you will be able to find them at some point. Most likely you’ll have to pay a premium price for these rarities. Read more in our article on Where and How to Buy Apistogrammas.

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.