Dwarf cichlids are incredibly diverse and therefore environmental parameters are diverse too, and there are some fabulous choices for a subtropical set-up...
Q) I'm currently setting up a 90cm aquarium and, as a way of saving on electricity costs a tiny bit, I'm intending to run this at 21–22°C, rather than the more usual 24–25°C. Please could you tell me if there are any 'dwarf' cichlids that I could add to a tank at this sort of temperature, or are they all totally tropical?
MAX SAYS: Dwarf cichlids are incredibly diverse and therefore environmental parameters are diverse too, and there are some fabulous choices for a subtropical set-up. From South America, you can look at species of Apistogramma from southern Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. Apistogramma borellii, commbrae, trifasciata and erythura are all fantastic candidates for aquaria where temperatures are in the low 20°Cs. As a matter of fact, I kept a group of A. commbrae outside in one of my tubs, two years ago.
You could also consider the lovely little Redbreasted acara, Laetacara dorsigera, which is a cool water species of dwarf acara. Most of the other species in the genus will prefer slightly warmer water, though.
Moving further north through the neotropics, there are a number of Apistogramma species from Peru that don’t require very warm water. If you can get hold of wild-caught or wild type A. cacatuoides or agassizii from Peru, there is nothing to stop you trying these, and there is even more choice from that region too, so research is your friend there.
Across the Atlantic, many West and Central African dwarf cichlids also prefer slightly cool water. Forest dwellers, such as members of the Pelvicachomis genus, which includes Kribs, will be happy at a temperature in the low twenties too. Mix it up by going for something a little unusual. Pelvicachromis kribensis from Cameroon sports a number of different colour forms.