Panda dwarf cichlid Care Guide: Diet, Tank Mates, Diseases, Breeding & More

Updated: November 7, 2022

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid is a beautiful and unique freshwater fish that is perfect for beginner aquarists.

This fish is very easy to care for and is a great addition to any community tank. They are also very peaceful fish and get along well with other tank mates.

But before you add one of these fish to your tank, there are a few things you need to know. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know about Panda Dwarf Cichlid care.

Species overview

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma borellii) is a small freshwater fish that’s native to various parts of South America.

They’re most commonly found in Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil but have also been known to occupy areas of Argentina and Paraguay.

Panda Dwarf Cichlids prefer slow-moving waters with a lot of vegetation. This provides them with the perfect hiding spot to ambush their prey.

These fish are relatively small, only growing to be about 2.5 inches in length. This makes them a popular choice for nano aquariums.

Panda Dwarf Cichlids are popular for their unique coloration. They have a black body with white spots, which gives them a panda-like appearance.


Panda dwarf cichlid

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid is one of the most striking freshwater fish in the aquarium world. As their name suggests, these fish are covered in large black and white spots that resemble a panda bear.

The vast majority of their body is a beautiful white color. From their heads to their tails, you’ll find big black spots dotting their sides.

The fins on these fish are also covered in black and white spots. The dorsal fin is tall and thin, starting almost halfway back on their body.

The anal fin is a mirror image of the dorsal and also quite tall. Both of these fins have a white base with black spots.

The caudal fin is forked and symmetrical with a black base and white spots.

The pectoral fins are moderately sized and also black and white.

The ventral fins are small and black with a white base.

These fish have large eyes that are almost completely black. Above their eyes, you’ll find a small dot of white.

Panda Dwarf Cichlids have a small mouth that is downturned slightly. This gives them a bit of a sulky look.


The average lifespan of a Panda dwarf cichlid is 5 to 10 years. These fish are very hardy and can live a long time if they’re well cared for.

As with any fish, there are a number of factors that can impact their lifespan. Things like poor water quality, stress from bad tank mates, or a suboptimal diet can all shorten their lifespan.


Panda cichlids only grow to be about 3 inches long at most.


Tank Size

The Panda Dwarf Cichlid is a small fish, only reaching about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) when fully grown. Because of this, they don’t need a very large tank. A 20 gallon tank is the minimum recommended size but a 30 gallon tank would be even better.

If you want to keep more than one Panda Dwarf Cichlid in the same tank you should add 5 gallons for each additional fish. So for two fish you’d need a 25 gallon tank and for three fish you’d need a 30 gallon tank.

Water Parameters

The water parameters you need to maintain for Panda Dwarf Cichlids are pretty straightforward. You don’t need to worry about too many different parameters, which makes these fish a great option for beginner aquarists.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to their water parameters is consistency. Even though these are very hardy fish, they can be sensitive to sudden changes just like any other freshwater species.

Even though they’re still a bit more durable in this regard, you should use this as practice. Challenge yourself to see how consistent you can keep the water parameters and how easily you can make an adjustment if needed. These skills will come in handy with other species you keep in the future!

  • Water Temperature: 72°F to 82°F
  • pH Levels: 6.8 to 7.6
  • Water Hardness: 4 to 12 dGH
  • Alkalinity Levels: 6 to 14 dKH

What To Put In Their Tank

As far as the inside of their tank goes, you have a few options. These fish come from slow moving waters in the wild so they’re not going to need a ton of space to swim around.

A common approach is to use a lot of plants and decorations to give them plenty of hiding spots. This is a good way to go, but we prefer a more open approach.

We recommend using a sandy substrate with some rocks and driftwood thrown in. This will give them places to hide if they need it but also provide some open areas to swim in.

If you want to add plants, that’s fine too. Just be sure to choose something that can handle being buried a bit (Java Fern or Anubias are both good choices).

You should also avoid anything with sharp edges. These fish are known to be a bit clumsy and they can easily injure themselves on something like that.

Common Diseases

As with most fish, the Panda Dwarf Cichlid is susceptible to a number of diseases. The most common ones are parasites, bacteria, and viruses.

The good news is that, as long as you maintain a clean and healthy environment for your fish, these diseases can be easily avoided.

The best way to prevent your Panda Dwarf Cichlid from getting sick is to regularly check the water quality in their tank. Ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates should all be at safe levels.

You should also be sure to quarantine any new fish before adding them to the tank. This will help to ensure that any potential diseases are not introduced to the tank.

If you do notice that your fish are sick, the best course of action is to consult a veterinarian. They will be able to properly diagnose the problem and recommend the best course of treatment.

Behavior & Temperament

The panda dwarf cichlid is a timid fish that does best when it’s in a group. In the wild, these fish live in schools of hundreds of individuals. So, being alone can be very stressful for them.

Panda dwarf cichlids are also known to be shy. They’ll often hide behind plants or other objects in the tank. This is their way of feeling safe and secure.

Panda cichlids are relatively peaceful fish. However, they can be aggressive towards others of their own kind if they don’t have enough space. So, it’s important to keep them in a tank that’s at least 20 gallons.

When it comes to diet, panda dwarf cichlids are omnivores. In the wild, they eat a variety of invertebrates, plants, and algae. In the aquarium, you can feed them flakes, pellets, or live/frozen foods.

Tank Mates

Panda dwarf cichlids are best kept with other peaceful fish that occupy different areas of the tank.

This is because the Panda dwarf cichlid is a bottom-dweller. It spends most of its time on or near the substrate searching for food.

If you keep multiple Panda dwarf cichlids together, they may fight for territory. It’s best to stick with one fish per tank unless you have a very large aquarium.

Some good tank mates for the Panda dwarf cichlid include:

  • Neon Tetras
  • Guppies
  • Platies
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Danios
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows


The process of breeding Panda dwarf cichlids is a bit more difficult than some of the other species on this list. But with the right preparation, you can successfully pull it off.

As with most cichlids, the biggest obstacle is aggression. These fish can be very territorial, especially when it comes to their breeding grounds. The good news is that there are steps you can take to minimize the aggression.

First, start by sexing your fish. Males and females have different colors and patterns. Males are usually brighter and have more extended fins.

Next, set up a breeding tank. It should be at least 30 gallons and decorated with plenty of hiding places. Driftwood, rocks, and plants all work well.

You’ll also need to add a clay pot or two. These provide the perfect places for the female to lay her eggs. Once the breeding tank is set up, it’s time to add the fish.

Start with a single male and two females. The male will likely be the most aggressive, so it’s best to introduce him last. Give the fish a week or so to adjust to their new home before you start making any changes.

Now, it’s time to lower the water level. You want it to be about halfway down the tank. This will help to trigger spawning.

As the water level drops, the male will start to build a nest. He’ll use the plants and objects in the tank to create a safe place for the female to lay her eggs. Once the nest is complete, the male will start to court the female.

If everything goes according to plan, the female will lay her eggs in the nest. The male will then fertilize them. He’ll also guard the eggs until they hatch.

Once the fry have hatched, you can remove the adults and raise them in a separate tank. Feed them live foods and watch them grow!


Panda Dwarf Cichlids are an excellent choice for anyone looking for a new fish. They’re beautiful, unique, and relatively easy to care for.

Of course, there are some things you need to be aware of before you get one. Make sure you do your research and understand the basics of caring for them.

But overall, we think they’re a great choice for most people. If you’re looking for a new fish, definitely consider the Panda Dwarf Cichlid!