| Double the Lines, Double
the Fun: Keeping and Breeding Apistogramma diplotaenia
By Zack Wilson
I acquired a small group of Apistogramma diplotaenia early in May of '02. The Double-Banded Apisto had been on my fish "hit list" for some time, but limited availability and the associated price had kept me from them. I'm not that patient, but, being a cheap American hobbyist, I wasn't going to pay a cent more than I had to in order to get them, rare or not. It's one of our flaws perhaps, but it's also one of the luxuries of being an American. The diplos were brought to Minnesota by a fellow Apistophile who had come to give a talk at our local club. As soon as they were brought out of the bag, I and fellow club members Randy Carey and Tim Rutz frenzied over them and they were claimed within moments. Randy took eight little juveniles and Tim took what were supposed to be two pairs. I ended up getting four juveniles.
I took my allotment home and put them in a 10 gallon quarantine/holding tank along with a pair I had acquired earlier. They were only about 3/4" long, so I didn't figure it was worth setting them up for breeding yet. The aquarium was set up with fine sand substrate, a couple of small clay caves, a small piece of driftwood, and a big clump of Java Moss. They took to this setup quickly and ate their twice daily feedings of baby brine shrimp with enthusiasm. Within a week it became apparent that there was only one female in the group of four new ones (an interesting note is that all of the fish that went to Randy and Tim were apparently males. I got the one lucky female!). She became plump and her belly turned a light shade of pink. At this time I was able to observe some of the interesting communications that Apistogramma diplotaenia displays with the use of their lateral bands. Under normal circumstances their double-bands are fused to form one thick lateral band along the length of their bodies. When the female was gravid and ready to spawn, the lateral band suddenly faded in the middle and her belly became transparent to the point that I could actually see what looked like eggs in her belly. She would swim up to a male and show off her stomach and he would follow her around for a bit. The males jockeyed for position and territory and eventually the male from the other pair proved his dominance, taking over the front half of the tank (the half where the food was squirted I noticed). Shortly thereafter they spawned on the side of the tank. I was excited to see this, but the spawn was eaten just hours after. This wasn't surprising to me, as this was their first time and they hadn't chosen the best spot to spawn. They were young too, and I hadn't even excpected them to be breeding yet. Getting them to spawn was something though, and I was encouraged. It also gave me the opportunity to observe another characteristic. The eggs of diplos are creamy white in color, rather than the typical pink or purple of most apistos. Diplotaenia lives over relatively open sandy flats in the rivers of South America, and with the lack of cover for the eggs, they have had to have other ways of protecting their eggs from predation. The whitish eggs and wigglers blend very well with the light sand of their habitat, and unless they move the fry are difficult to see.
With the success of that spawn, I decided that they were ready to breed, so I made efforts to make things more hospitable for raising young. With several other fish breeding in my room, my tank space was at a premium, so I had to leave the pair in the 10. I removed the other males to a grow out tank with some other apistos and left only the pair in the 10 gallon. I did 40% water changes for a few days in a row with pure RO, bringing the TDS down to 18ppm. The temperature was set at 79F. I fed them twice daily with freshly hatched baby brine shrimp in the morning and chopped blackworms or Cyclop-eeze in the evening. Within a couple more weeks the female had become plump again and I could see she would spawn soon. The way I see it, if you have the water right, all you have to do is feed them enough good foods and they'll be so full they have to spawn. My feeling proved correct and on 6/2/02 the female disappeared into one of the clay caves. She re-emerged periodically to grab a bite to eat or to take a look around, but she stayed attached to her cave. She had also become noticeably thinner, another indicator that they had spawned. I didn't have the courage to check the cave for eggs or wigglers for fear of disturbing them and losing the batch, so I resolved to wait it out. I hate waiting.
Each day I came to the tank and checked to see if she was still guarding her cave, and each day I was pleasantly greeted by her popping her nose out to look about. On the seventh day she made her first appearance with her free-swimmers. She took them for a short tour around her little terriritory and then kept them in a sand depression next to the mouth of the cave. I fed them with baby brine shrimp that had been hatched as short a time as possible to make sure the nauplii were small enough. They appeared to be eating ok. I was ecstatic. I hadn't expected to have success so early on, and I was thrilled to be seeing my rare little fish with babies of their own. The fry schooled tightly and the mother kept a close watch over them. The father was tolerated well by the female and he kept a watchful eye over things from a short distance. The pair would communicate frequently through the use of their lateral bands, changing all shades and patterns over this area. I found them to be very expressive. Things were pleasantly harmonious in the little 10 and I was happy. The fry grew at a reasonable pace and at three weeks they were ready to be moved to a growout tank.
Both parents and the fry have continued to do well and I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences with this little fish. They have spawned again since then and continue to get along swimmingly. In a genus that contains dozens or hundreds of species, diplotaenia has managed to stand out as a very unique species. Hopefully they can remain established in the hobby so that future enthusiasts can enjoy this different little apisto. Double Bands might really be double the fun!
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