Dwarf cichlids are found in Africa as well as in America. The most well known dwarf cichlid species are American and belong to the genus Apistogramma. These cichlids live in the Amazon region and some species are also found in Venezuela. Agassiz\'s Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma agassizi), Blue Apistogramma (Apistogramma trifasciata), Yellow Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma borellii) and Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) are all examples of commonly kept Apistogramma dwarf cichlids. In the wild, you will find Apistogramma dwarf cichlids in soft and acidic waters, and you should therefore keep the pH between 5.5 and 6.8 in the aquarium and make sure that the water is soft.
Male Apistogramma cichlids will seldom grow larger than three inches, and the females are usually half the size of the males. This makes it possible to house dwarf cichlids even in small aquariums. Dwarf cichlids are however more sensitive than their larger relatives and it can be hard to keep the water quality fine enough in a very small aquarium. Due to their sensitivity, Apistogramma Dwarf cichlids are not recommended to aquarists without any previous aquarium experience. Apistogramma dwarf cichlids are quite docile, but they will defend their territory during spawning. Just like many other cichlids, Apistogramma species will care for their offspring. The male Apistogramma will claim a territory and protect it, and several females will care for the fry in small nests within this territory. The nests are usually quite basic, e.g. holes in the sand or a little pile of leaf litter. Each female will defend her own spawning site against others. If you keep bottom dwelling fish species, e.g. catfish, with your Apistogramma dwarf cichlids, it is advisable to remove them from the aquarium when the dwarf cichlids begin to spawn. Dwarf cichlids are known to pick out the eyes of intruding fish species.
One of the most commonly kept dwarf cichlids from Africa is Pelvicachromis pulcher, the Kribensis cichlid. A male Kribensis can reach a size of 10 centimeters (4 inches), while the females stay even smaller. Unlike a lot of the commonly kept African cichlids, this cichlid does not originate from any of the Great Rift Valley lakes. Kribensis is instead found in the Niger River delta in tropical West Africa, where it prefers rivers with shallow water. If you want to keep Kribensis cichlids, you should house them in a well planted aquarium with plenty of hiding places since this resembles the natural environment for Kribensis cichlids. Drift wood and rocks can also be used to create hiding places. Kribensis cichlids will work well with each other or in a community aquarium. They will claim territories, but these are so small that territorial fights will be unusual. Unlike many larger African cichlids, Kribensis cichlids are not very found of digging. Kribensis cichlids will tolerate temperatures between 25 and 28 degrees C (77 and 82 degrees F). They will adapt to soft as well as hard water, and tolerate a comparatively wide range of different pH-values; 5 to 7.5.