The Mouthbrooding Apisto Finally Gets a Name:
mouthbrooding. This is opposed to
immediate or advanced mouthbrooding,
where newly laid eggs are uptaken—
ovophilic mouthbrooding, as among Lake
Malawi cichlids. A mouthbrooding apisto
isn’t very surprising, considering the close
evolutionary relationship of this species-rich group to my beloved geophagines.
photographs by Max Galladé
Wayne Leibel has been an
aquarium hobbyist for most
of his 56 years, specializing in
New World fishes, especially
cichlids. He has been an active
member of the American Cichlid
Association for 25 years, serving
in a variety of capacities, and
was made a Fellow of that
organization in 1995. He has
written two small books and
numerous articles on New
World cichlids including the
monthly TFH column “Wayne’s
New World” that previously
ran in this magazine from 1993
to 2000. He is a cheerleader
for all things cichlid, and takes
particular pleasure in turning
on new aquarists to these
wonderfully interesting fish.
Around the year 2000, a new Apistogramma speciesfrom Peru made its appearance on the Europeanand Americancichlid
scene and was traded as Apistogramma
sp. “brustband” (or alternatively A. sp.
“maulbrüter”). Introduction of this fish
followed that of several other undescribed
apistos of Peruvian provenance imported
a few years earlier, which were promptly
and formally named (e.g., A. panduro and
A. atahualpa RÖMER 1997). These were
then followed by several new undescribed
Peruvian species imported in the years
that followed (e.g., A. martini, A. huascar, A.
pantalone, and A. rositae).
For apistophiles, the riches of new
Peruvian dwarf cichlids were many, but for
an eartheater enthusiast (such as myself),
it was the A. sp. “maulbrüter” that caught
my attention and was soon added to my
must-have list. It was less showy than
some of the other new fish, but its German
trade name means “mouthbrooder.” The
buzz generated around this fish was that it
was a mouthbrooding cichlid styled after
its near relatives, the geophagine cichlids
(Geophagus, Satanoperca, Gymnogeophagus,
etc.). I was intrigued to say the least. Was it
really a mouthbrooding apisto?
A few years earlier, we had seen the
first of what no doubt will eventually
become a longer list of mouthbrooding
New World cichlids in the form of (the
real, brown) Heros severus from Venezuela.
This species proved, in aquaria, to be
a larvophilic mouthbrooder (buccal
uptake and incubation of the hatching
larvae), which is a reproductive behavior
formerly known as primitive or delayed
Study and Classification
It has taken nearly eight years for this
fish to be formally described. In honor
of the late cichlid behaviorist George W.
Barlow, Uwe Römer and Ingo Hahn gave
it the name Apistogramma barlowi (Römer
and Hahn, 2008).
The fish was first introduced to the
German hobby by Aquarium Glaser in
the autumn of 1999 as A. sp. “red face,”
and in 2000 Römer wrote about it as A.
sp. “brustband” (breast band) after the
characteristic vertical chest band seen only
in the female. Ingo Kosloski was the first
to report on its mouthbrooding behavior
in the aquarium and dubbed it A. sp.
“maulbrüter.” It was under this trade name
that I received specimens from an importer
in the early 2000s.
Earlier, Römer suggested that A. sp.
“brustband” and A. sp. “maulbruter,”
though close in appearance, might in fact
be two closely related but distinct cryptic
species—one being a typical cave spawner,
the other being a larvophilic mouthbrooder.
In his 2008 description, however, he
describes A. barlowi as a single, facultative
mouthbrooding species—a situational
switch-hitter, if you will. In an account
from 2006, he found that 30 to 40 percent
of the time the female took the hatching