Apistogramma borellii – Umbrella Cichlid

Apistogramma borellii or Umbrella Cichlid is one of the nicely colored dwarf cichlids. It is a relatively easy to keep fish that is also suitable for beginners.


Apistogramma borellii – Umbrella Cichlid

Apistogramma borellii can reach a length of around 8 centimeters. The males have more color than the females, the females are slightly smaller and have a yellowish color. This species used to be known as Apistogramma reitzigi. In the wild they usually stay smaller; males grow up to about 7 centimeters and the females up to 4.5 centimeters. There are also several variants of this species, the yellow and blue variants. The yellow variant has a more or less yellow head and chest with a deep blue body. In the blue version, the yellow parts are suppressed, with them, parts of the head turn blood red. In the trade you can often find very beautiful specimens with a red head under the name Apistogramma borellii “Opal”.


Borellii: the name is derived from the discoverer of this fish Dr. A. Borelli. Apistos = Greek for unreliable, gramma = line, line.

Synonyms: Heterogramma borellii, Heterogramma ritense, Heterogramma rondoni, Apistogramma aequipinnis, Apistogramma reitzigi.


Mato Grosso, Pantanal, Rio das Mortes, Brazil, Paraguay.

The Aquarium

This fish requires an aquarium of at least 60 centimeters for a couple. Decorate the aquarium with dense planting, use wood, flower pots and half coconuts to create hiding places. The substrate must consist of sand because they chew on the sand looking for food particles. They like a bit of current. This dwarf cichlid is very sensitive to polluted water, so refresh water regularly.


Temperature: 20 – 28 degrees Celsius.
pH: 6.0 – 8.0
GH: 5 – 19

In the wild the temperature can vary considerably. The air temperature can drop considerably in the winter. In the shallow waters in which the Apistogramma borellii lives, this also results in a lower water temperature that in some places can drop to 16 or sometimes even 12 degrees Celsius. So it doesn’t hurt to reduce the temperature a few degrees in the winter. A somewhat higher temperature is required for breeding.

Keeping the fish at the maximum temperature all year round is not good for them. They then remain in the breeding mode, which can considerably shorten the lifespan. It is wise to set the temperature to about 20 degrees and let the lamps and ambient temperature do the rest, this way you get a day and night fluctuation, and warmer water in the summer.


Apistogramma are detritivores , a layer of detritus on the bottom from which they filter their food themselves is ideal. In addition, they take bites from the sand. They chew on the sand leaving food particles on the gill arches after which they are swallowed. They also like black, white and red mosquito larvae, artemia, cyclops, Daphnia and mysis, they will also eat flakes and small granules.


The Umbrella Cichlid is a peaceful fish, but do form a territory. They are suitable for beginners. You can keep them in a couple, but the best is in a harem, so 1 male with several females or a group in a larger aquarium (1.20m), in this case at least 3 males with about 2 females per male. They don’t dig much and leave the plants alone. They usually swim in the lower water layers. Keeping together with angelfish is not always successful, you better avoid this combination.

Breeding Apistogramma borellii

To get the Apistogramma borellii to breed, a somewhat higher temperature is usually required. They are cave spawners, 50 to 70 eggs are laid in a hole. After mating, the male is chased away by the female and she takes care of the eggs. The eggs hatch after about 4 to 5 days. Another 5 to 6 days later the fry can swim freely. The fry can be fed with newly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flakes.

If you have several females with fry in your aquarium, it is possible that females steal fry from each other. Because of this you get mixed young groups in age, hereby the youngest fish learn from the slightly older ones to follow the directions of the mother.



Coby – J. de Lange – Jelle Touwen

Copyright images

Erik Bakker
F. Ingemann Hansen – Akvariefotografen.com


Frank Schäfer – AquariumGlaser.de

Additional information




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Social Behaviour

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