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Breeding A.sp."Mouthbrooder" (Maulbrueter)

Text by Lois and Max Gallade

Photographs by Max Gallade

Female cleaning clutch of eggs


In July 2002 I received a wildcaught pair of this stunning new, larvaphile mouthbreeding and scientifically undescribed Apistogramma species. It was a surprise gift from a fellow Apistogramma mailing list member. Thanks again Mike!!

A.sp."Mouthbrooder" was first introduced into the English speaking hobby by Dr. Uwe Roemer in the October issue of the 2000 ACA Buntbarsche Bulletin as A.sp."Brustband"-(Breastband). Ingo Koslowski introduced the same species a month later in Germany's DATZ magazine as A. sp. Maulbrueter-(Mouthbrooder).

The known collecting locale are the tributaries of the lower to middle Rio Ampiyacu , in Peru.

I started out keeping my pair in a 10g with sand substrate which is important for this species as they love to sift the sand for food. The tank had the usual hiding spots (Coconut shells,Driftwood and Terra Cotta Saucers) and plant cover. Unfortunately, I didn't get any fry from the first two spawns.

My pair spawned regularly every two weeks after water changes with pure R/O water. I could see the eggs in the breeding cave but they seemed to disappear after a few days. I suspected that the male made a meal out of them.

I decided to move the male after the next spawn and if that didn't work I would steal the eggs and try to hatch them artificially in our hatchery.

Note: I steal eggs from fish as a last resort to ensure the survival of rare hard to get species and only when everything else failed. My experience is that Apistogramma fry have a better chance to survive when raised by their parents.


Male Portrait



1st day

Finally, the third spawn hatched!! I found the newly hatched wigglers in a coconut shell breeding cave this morning.
It appeared that they would be free swimming soon. I estimated about 20-30 tiny wigglers. A rather small spawn compared to other Apistogramma species spawns, which sometimes can yield up to 100 fry.

This is the breeding tank. You clearly can see all the pits the female dug in the sand.

I did leave the male in the tank for now. The female always chased him away when he got too close to the breeding cave. The female left the cave rarely, mostly to get some food or to chase the male away. The female dug up the whole tank before this spawn. I assumed to create hiding spots for her new fry. She really liked to dig near plant roots until they were exposed, probably to give the fry more protective spots to hide in.


Female in breeding coloration


2nd Day

The female left the breeding cave and stayed mostly near a huge dug pit. It seemed that she was carrying the wigglers in her mouth now. I was able to observe chewing motions once in a while. This was probably her way of cleaning the wigglers in her mouth. I also watched her placing the wigglers in the pit once in a while when she left them for a few seconds to get a few bites of food.

Female with her 1st day free swimmers

Female with her 1st day free swimmers in the fresh dug pit


3rd day

The fry got their first tour of the tank this morning. The female moved them from the pit they stayed in the last two days to another one in the middle of the tank near a clump of java moss. She probably moved them to let the fry feed on infusoria found in the java moss. Later they got the first squirt of freshly hatched live BBS which they took to immediately.


4th Day
The fry started to free swim last night.The female's attacks against the male got a bit nastier. SoI decided to move the male to another tank for his own good.



Female with fry

I counted at least 25 fry near Mom. The female seems to be more relaxed now since the male was moved. She picks up strays with her mouth (just like other Apisto Moms do) and spits them back out into the school. Nothing like the mouth brooding behavior she displayed earlier after the eggs just hatched.
Taking quality photographs turned out to be harder to get than I thought, since the female always kept the fry in the middle of the tank.

Raising the fry

The female turned out to be a very caring mother. I found it was not to hard to raise the fry to young adulthood. They eagerly ate live Baby Brine Shrimp and later on larger foods like Daphnia and Brine Shrimp. Unfortunately, this spawn turned out to be a 70/30 % male/female ratio.

After this spawn I decided to move the pair to a bigger , but similar decorated quarters (20g long) . A.sp. "Mouthbrooder" is one of the largest Apistogramma species I have kept so far. A 10g tank is really too small for this species. My male reached a total length of 4", the female was about 3" when I lost her later in 2002.

I truly enjoyed watching this interesting new breeding behavior . It is far different from any other known Apistogramma species.


The breeding tank:

TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) 40ppm

Temperature around 78 Deg .F

Ph 7.0

Water Changes: Weekly 25%

Filtration: Aqua Clear mini with large sponge pre filter on intake tube

Substrate: Pool Filter Sand. To ensure fry survival it is important to have a sand substrate in the breeding tank for this species

References: Mike Wise: Apistogramma Mailing List Archive from 01/05/2001