Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis the T-Bar Cichlid

Photo of Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis showing the distinctive T bar markings

Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis (A 100) is a delightful dwarf cichlid that is closely related to the Apistogrammas. They aren’t very common but also not particularly rare. They are quite attractive but don’t have the spectacular colors or finnage of many species. They make good aquarium fish but I’ve found them to be aggressive to others of their species.

The genus Apistogrammoides has just one species so this page describes both the genus and the species.

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Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis is a very small species with males rarely reaching 2 inches and females are even smaller – often little more than an inch. Males are slightly larger and more colorful than females but they don’t have the dramatic sexual dimorphism that many Apistogrammas exhibit.

Photo of Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis showing the distinctive T bar markings
This male Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis shows the obvious dark markings that give it the common name “T-Bar Cichlid”

Identifying Apistogrammoides

A. pucallpaensis is often called by its popular name, the T-bar cichlid. This name comes from the prominent T shape formed by the lateral line running the length of the body which meets a solid vertical band at the caudal peduncle. These markings make a perfect T laying sideways.

While the T bar markings are very distinctive, the best way to identify this dwarf is by looking at the hard rays in the anal fin. Apistogrammoides usually have 7- 8 spines in their anal fins while Apistogrammas typically have only 3. The additional spines are quite obvious and their anal fin is obviously longer than in most species. They are so closely related to the Apistogrammas that they have been given an A number – A 100.

photo of Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis and female Apistogramma panduro with each showing their anal fins the photo is labeled to show the 7-8 anal spines on the Apistogrammoides and only 3 spines on the Apistogramma
Male Apistogrammoides in back and female Apistogramma panduro in front – It’s easy to see the difference in anal fin spines in this photo. Apistogrammoides have 7-8 spines while Apistogrammas only have 3. With the extra spines, the pucallpaensis has an obviously longer anal fin.

The Genus Apistogrammoides was created in 1965 by the German ichthyologist Hermann Meinken who made no comment on the name. However, adding “oides” which means similar, to Apistogramma gives a name that means “similar to Apistogramma.” The species name pucallpaensis refers to the city of Pucallpa, Peru where the fish was first discovered in a tributary stream to the Rio Ucayali.

A. pucallpaensis in the wild

Apistogrammoides are found in the central areas of the Rio Ucayali in Peru and the upper Amazon River in Peru and Columbia. They are normally found in white-water habitats with neutral water conditions. Hardness ranges from very soft to moderately hard with values up to 17 dGH reported. pH ranges from slightly acidic (6.5) to slightly alkaline (7.5). Various collection temperatures are documented ranging from 70° – 82° F.

A. pucallpaensis first appeared in the hobby when they were imported to the US in 1964. The noted American hobbyist Albert Klee sent 4 preserved specimens to H. Meinken who made the description based on these fish. The first breeding account was published in 1972. While they are never imported on a regular basis, they are not too uncommon and they are offered for sale on a sporadic basis.

photo of male AApistogrammoides facing the camera

Aquarium Care

I’ve found these beautiful fish to be a fairly difficult species to keep in the aquarium. They can be very aggressive, pair bonding can be difficult, many females are poor brooders, and the fry are smaller than most dwarf cichlids. I maintained them for 8 – 10 years and rarely did I have a large spawn. That said, as long as I met their needs I never had any problem with aquarium care and breeding.

They need a very complex habitat. Although they are small, they pack a lot of aggression. It’s almost impossible to keep more than one male in a tank. With dense cover with very few (if any) long sight lines, it’s possible to keep a few females with a male. If keeping just a pair you need an equally congested environment. You are practically guaranteed trouble if you try to keep them in a tank without enough cover.

Their care is the same as described in Apistogramma Aquarium Care but are more tolerant of water conditions than most. Provide clean water with a pH of 6.5 – 7.5, a temperature of 74° – 80°, hardness up to 20 dGH, and they should be fine. They eagerly eat all live and frozen foods and will take most high-quality prepared foods.

Breeding Apistogrammoides

Breeding is typical of Apistogramma species. They are cave spawners with the female selecting the site that suit her best. After a courtship that can take several days, the female lays her eggs on the ceiling of the cave while the male enters to fertilize them. The female takes sole responsibility for the spawn and after 8 – 10 days the fry become free swimming. At this time the male will often join in to help care for the spawn.

Photo of male Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis

In my experience, A. pucallpaensis fry are tiny with small mouths and I always provided micro worms in addition to newly hatched brine shrimp. Some authors have reported fry as being very small while other breeders state they are the same size as Apistogrammas. I’ve never seen an explanation for this difference.

Buying Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis

While I’ve not kept them since the 1990s, I do see Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis offered for sale by specialty fish sellers on a regular basis. I don’t know if these fish are wild imports or tank raised in commercial operations. In 2001 Römer wrote that wild imports were rare but commercial breeders were offering fish that had been tank-raised for many generations.

It’s unlikely that you will ever find them in a pet store but they can often be ordered online. Check out our list of Online Dwarf Cichlid Sources.


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.