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In the wild,Panda Dwarf Cichlid inhabit slow-moving shallow bodies of blackwater under the dense forest canopy, and in many places the substrate is composed of leaf litter. The home aquarium should contain soft acidic water and a dark substrate, and be well matured before these delicate fishes are added. Ideally it will also be heavily planted with plenty of hiding places/territories amongst rocks and bogwood. Floating plant cover could be used to help diffuse the light. Peat filtration and the addition of Indian Almond Leaves (Terminalia catappa) would be very beneficial in helping to create the favoured conditions. The tank should have a tight fitting cover, as these fish can jump. Panda Dwarf Cichlids are generally peaceful, but can become rather territorial when breeding; keep either a single pair, or in larger aquaria, one male with several females (which will form a harem). The females will seek out individual territories, hence the importance of many visual barriers within the tank. Good tankmates includeCorydorascatfish, hatchetfish, pencilfish, small tetras, and suckermouth catfish. Do not house with otherApistogrammaspecies. Like many dwarf cichlids,A. nijsseniwill not tolerate an elevated nitrate level. Regular partial water changes are an absolute must for the continued wellbeing of this species.
Flake, micropellets, small frozen foods such as mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp and daphnia.
Successful breeding can be achieved in the home aquarium, although it is moderately difficult. The water must be very soft and acidic. Ideally, each female fish will be provided with a suitable spawning site in the form of a cave with a small entrance, a flower pot on its side, or coconut shell etc. Up to 60 eggs will be laid on the ceiling of the cave or pot, and these will be guarded by the female. The male fish will usually guard the general harem territory but do keep a close eye on him as sometimes the female can act extremely aggressively towards him after spawning, and he may need to be transferred temporarily to another tank. The eggs should hatch after 2 or 3 days, depending on water temperature. The female continues guarding the wrigglers, and after a further 5 days, will lead the fry out of the cave. She will be very pugnacious at this point, fending off any would-be predators. The fry will require frequent small feeds with appropriately sized foodstuffs at this point, such as baby brineshrimp. If the spawning has occurred in a general community tank, it is a good idea to feed the other fish their food at the opposite end of the aquarium at the same time, to avoid undue stress to the female, who will be desperately trying to guard her young. Sometimes the female will take the fry up in her mouth and move them to another area of the tank.