Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis: My Experiences With the Little Pucs

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to acquire a fish from my hit list, especially as that list becomes increasingly composed of those fish that are next to impossible to find. Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis had been one of those elusive little fish that I had been interested in trying but was having difficulty in locating. When the opportunity came to order some directly from Peru with an order, I jumped at the opportunity. Despite warnings of their fragility, I didn’t want to pass this up. In July of 2002 I received a half box of the T-bar Dwarfs, 67 in all.

I had already set up a tank just for these little fish in preparation for the shipment. I had appropriated one of my 40 gallon long tanks and set it up with thick plantings, some nice big pieces of driftwood and a substrate of fine sand. The water was soft, mostly RO, and just slightly acid. I expected losses, but thanks to some great packing and the good health of the specimens, they were minimal. There were a few stragglers that didn’t make the shipping, but the remainder took to the tank immediately and did very well. Most were young and not quite sexable, but there were a few that were beginning to show some extended finnage and a hint of color. With an initial diet of chopped live blackworms, live baby brine shrimp, and a Cyclop-eeze mix they grew quickly and thrived. In this group setting of over 60 individuals a special dynamic was created and as a whole they were much more robust than individuals that were later separated. They showed little fear of coming out and exploring the tank, and they were quick to try new foods. I actually had them eating pelleted foods within a day or two. They would come out in groups and check the food out, one pecking at it and then another. With the group frenzy mentality they quickly swarmed the pellets and picked at them until there was nothing left. This was exciting. Not only were these reputedly delicate dwarfs doing well, but they were eating prepared foods with enthusiasm!

Once they had some time to grow, I was able to pick out some pairs. I selected the nicest couple of males and a few females that looked like they were ready to spawn. At that point they were still only about 1-1.5”, and they have yet to exceed this. I set these up in a 20 gallon long tank with some of the water from the 40 and near-identical conditions. I figured the strongest male could establish his dominance and then have the pick of the females to breed with. I continued to feed them a varied diet, both in the 40 gallon and in the 20. After a few of weeks of this, I had nothing to show in the 20, but there were two females guarding eggs in the 40 gallon, chasing every passerby away from their hollowed out chunk of driftwood. The pucs in the 20 spent most of their time hiding from me or each other and the females lost their nice yellow coloring. I can only figure that the fish in the 40 felt more comfortable with their numbers and so did better and bred more easily. This makes sense with the information about the natural conditions of many SA dwarfs. The first couple spawns came with no trouble and I siphoned the fry off as soon as they were free-swimming (there wasn’t any chance of them being safe in that tank). Within a couple weeks I had more spawns and this has continued to be the case in the 40, while I have switched out multiple pairs in the 20 with only limited success. Doesn’t bother me. If they want to make things easy for me and spawn in their maintenance tank, more power to ‘em.

The fry are easy to care for and will very small baby brine shrimp from the start. I usually mix a little cylop-eeze with their food as well. They grow at a decent pace and don’t usually give any trouble in raising them up. I would note that I usually keep the temps a bit lower than some, usually around 74F. At higher temps the fry can develop too quickly and are too small and weak to eat bbs from the start. They seem to have no problems with the cooler temps and spawn without any extra trouble. For me the large group strategy seems to be the trick for success with these guys. With the right conditions the tiny little pucs aren’t too difficult and are certainly fun to have around.



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