Panda Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma Nijsseni ) Ultimate Care Guide

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid is a stunning little fish from northern Peru, South America. These colorful little fish are a great introduction to dwarf cichlids. A pair will happily live together in a well-planted 15-gallon aquarium or a small group in a slightly larger aquarium.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

I have been keeping these little fish for just over a year and they are fascinating. I have a male and female pair and they are constantly busy in their little aquarium. If you are new to dwarf cichlids or you fancy trying something different, why not give the Panda Dwarf Cichlid a try?

Panda Dwarf Cichlid Habitat

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid inhabits very slow-moving streams and creeks as well as small rivers in northern Peru. Most locations where this colorful little fish is found have a deep rainforest canopy above, meaning very low levels of light reach the water.

Many of the waterways the Panda Dwarf Cichlid lives in are stained a deep brown color thanks to the large quantities of decaying matter which find its way into the water. The pH can be as low as 4.0



What Size Aquarium For Panda Dwarf Cichlid?

Panda Dwarf Cichlids do not grow very large and subsequently do not need a large aquarium. A pair of Panda Dwarf Cichlids will happily live together in an aquarium as small as just 15 to 20 gallons (55-75 liters). A larger colony will need a larger aquarium.

I currently keep my pair of Panda Dwarf Cichlids in a 15-gallon aquarium and it is more than big enough for the two of them.



How Should A Panda Dwarf Cichlid Aquarium Be Set Up?

Although the Panda Dwarf Cichlid isn’t at all fussy about their aquarium setup, they do look good in a ‘natural’ setting. I have set my Panda Dwarf Cichlid aquarium up with small pieces of wood and roots. The substrate is pool filter sand covered with a layer of catappa leaves. I have also added some Java Moss.

The advantage of using catappa leaves is that they don’t just help add tannins and lower the water pH, they also provide a source of microscopic life which the fry of the Panda Dwarf Cichlid will eat should my pair successfully spawn.

A Panda Dwarf Cichlid aquarium does require good filtration, but should not have high flow. I use a small filter like the U-series from Fluval (I have written more about Fluval U-series filters in this article).

Lighting in the Panda Dwarf Cichlid aquarium should be subdued. A low-level light fitting will be fine and the addition of some floating plants will help reduce the light levels in the aquarium further.



What Do Panda Dwarf Cichlids Eat?

In the aquarium, Panda Dwarf Cichlids will readily accept live or frozen brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. I have found mine readily transitioned over to prepared foods and now happily eat both Vibra Bites from Hikari and Bug Bites from Fluval (more on Bug Bites in this article I wrote a few months ago)

Breeding Panda Dwarf Cichlids In Captivity

Sexing Panda Dwarf Cichlids is fairly simple. Males are larger and more colorful than females. Males also have fins that are more extended than females.

Panda Dwarf Cichlids are substrate spawners. The female will lay eggs in cavities she finds in the aquarium decor. Female Panda Dwarf Cichlids take care of both the eggs and developing fry. She will defend her brood aggressively. Subsequently, the male may need to be removed from the aquarium after spawning takes place.

In Conclusion

These beautiful dwarf cichlids don’t take up much space and are well worth the effort. They are easy to care for, easy to feed, and easy to breed. What’s not to like?


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
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