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The hunt for the true Apistogramma cruzi ( A83 ).

 

In October /November 2007, I visited the Peruvian Amazon again, exploring
dwarf cichlid habitats and collecting fish ( among other things ).

From the jungle capital Iquitos, I carried out several expeditions to examine
different biotopes, fish and their habitats.

On one of these expeditions I went to Río Mazán, east of Iquitos, hunting for the true
Apistogramma cruzi.

  
Over the last 10 years, I've seen a lot of fish, and pictures of fish, coming into Europe and other continents that were labeled as Apistogramma cruzi. However, examinations of the fish/pictures have shown that although these fish obviously include many of the species of the Apistogramma-eunotus-complex, almost none of them have been the true Apistogramma cruzi.

In 2007, I decided to dedicate my next trip to Peru to find and collect species of the Apistogramma-eunotus-complex, and especially the A.-cruzi-subcomplex, including the true A. cruzi.


Preparations

I found the most precise information on where to find the true A. cruzi in in Kullander's description, in the book "Cichlid fishes of the Amazon River drainage of Peru" from 1986.
Listing several locations where he found A. cruzi in 1984, one of them was described as: "Departemento Loreto, Río Napo drainage system, lower course of a quebrada right bank tributary to the Río Mazán nearly 2 hours upstreams from Puerto Alegre on the mouth of the Río Mazán" (Station SOK 102).

During the first month of 2007, I examined all the maps I could find, searching for the place called Puerto Alegre. Not one of them had this place marked! 
So before starting the search for A. cruzi, I only knew that I had to start at the mouth of the Río Mazán, try to find Puerto Alegre, and go nearly 2 hours up the Río Mazán in a boat, at speed similar to what I only could guess was the speed of Kullander's boat.

If I found some fish, how would I be able to know if these fish really were the true A. cruzi?

Kullander described the Río Mazán-holotype sample as follows:

"Diagnosis
Similar to Apistogramma eunotus, but with none of the vertical bars split and lateral band including all of squ. long. scale instead of only lower 1/2 to 2/3. Abdominal stripes distinct, 2 upper of 3 reaching Bar 6 or 7, instead of absent or faint and ending with Bar 4, occasionally Bar 5. 5 dentary, 4 infraorbital lateral pores.
........
Shape
Moderately elongate. Snout rounded off, dorsal profile curved, ventral straight. Interorbital flat, slightly narrower than mouth. Orbit tangented by frontal outline, entirely in upper and chiefly in anterior half of head. Maxilla reaching to slightly beyond vertical from anterior margin of orbit."
 

Kullander also presents a description of the scales, fins, gill-rakers, jaw teeth, cephalic lateralis pores and coloration of the holotype in his description; this is too long to refer to here.

From other sources, including personal information from Mike Wise, I knew that I should be looking for a fish with a more slender body than the other fish of the A.-eunotus-complex, with broader blue markings under the eyes and the caudal spot with a 'notch' removed from the back, making it slightly crescent shaped.

I was also studying pictures of the true A. cruzi from many sources, among them pictures in Römer's Cichlid Atlas 1, where only the following pictures are of the true A. cruzi: Page 359 bottom, page 360-361, and page 365 bottom.

And of course Ingo Koslowski's "Die Buntbarsche Americas 2", and Mike Wise's translation of it, was a valuable source of information.

 

In Iquitos, Peru

Finally, in October 2007, I was in Iquitos, Peru, again.

 

 

This map shows where
it's located, in the
Peruvian Amazon:

 

 

 



 


A closer look at the eastern surroundings of Iquitos: (click the map to enlarge)


In order to save a lot of time
and money, we planned to go from Iquitos to Indiana by
boat, and try to find a way
to cross overland from Indiana to the town of Mazán.

The alternative would take
much more time and would be expensive: going by a rented boat
all the way to the mouth of Río Napo, and to Mazán by
following the lower Río Napo.



 

From Mazán, we would hire a small boat (Pecci-pecci) with a driver, and go up the Río Mazán.

I had hired two fishermen from Iquitos to follow and help me on this trip. In addition, they brought a young "trainee", and I also asked my friend Luis to join us, he is a student and speaks some English.

 

Going to Mazán

Off we went: First to the harbor outside Iquitos called Bellavista de Nanay, very early in the morning.
 


 

There we entered a boat with a nice name:

 

 

 


 



 



In this boat we had 16 passengers, the baggage
for everyone, some chickens, the driver and
his 2 assistants!

 

 

 

 

 


Heavy rain was following us, but we finally reached Indiana.

 

 

 

 


 


 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 



 



 

We were happy to learn that there was a
new, narrow, concrete road from Indiana
to the town of
Mazán.

 

 


 


 

 

Soon we spotted the huge Río Napo



 



 

 

 

 

 

Here we arrive in Mazán, in motor-bike-taxis,
in heavy rain.

The green house would be our home the first day and night 

 

 

 

 

Mazán town 
 

 

From inside the house, looking to the right, the Río Napo is heading for its mouth. (See map above).

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Straight ahead: Local life at the Río Napo.

 

 



 


 


And looking to the left, I could see the mouth of Río Mazán,
the home of the true Apistogramma cruzi !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




The fishermen, as usual, were hungry, and we took a walk to the center of the town of Mazán:

 

 

 


 

 


 


 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 




 

 

 

 

and the fishermen finally got their late lunch.

 


 


 


 

Since Kullander described one of the locations where he found A. cruzi in 1984, as: "...... nearly 2 hours upstream from Puerto Alegre .....", we asked a lot of people where to find this Puerto Alegre. Most people didn't know anything about it, but some said they knew, and pointed up the Río Mazán !


 
 

 

Back in "our" house, I arranged my hammock,
of course with a mosquito net
.

 


 


 


 

 

The fishermen where going to sleep on 
plastic and tiny blankets on the floor, with mosquito nets covering them

 




 


 

By the time we prepared ourselves for the next day's trip, rented a small boat (pecci-pecci) with a driver, rented a small engine for the boat, and bought gasoline and food for the trip, it was evening.

 

Surprise, surprise !
The fishermen were expecting dinner ! 


.....and they got it:

 

 



 

After some more preparations, we went to sleep.......and I had sweet dreams about the true Apistogramma cruzi....

 

Upstream on the Río Mazán

 

 

Next morning, when I woke up at 5:00 a.m.,
I could rest my eyes on the Río Napo from my hammock:



 



 


 

 


No matter how early I was up, the women
were earlier.(washing clothes)


 

 


 


 

 

At 6:00 a.m., in a "pecci-pecci" (small boat),
we were heading for Río Mazán
and ......maybe.......the true A. cruzi.

 

 

 

 


We now could see "our" house, and Mazán, from the "sea"side:

 

 

 


 



 

 


 

 

 

 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 


More than 90% of the timber taken out in Peru is illegal ...


 

 


 

 


 

 

and there is lots of it..... 

 

 



 

 

 

 

Getting closer. The mouth of Río Mazán
straight ahead, the main course of Río Napo
coming down from the right

 


 

 

 

 

 

Entering the mouth of Río Mazán, we
stopped at every small community,
asking for Puerto Alegre
.
We didn't get the response we were
hoping for...

 

 


 

 


We stopped at this small cluster of houses
 

 

 



 

 

 

 

where these women where washing clothes
in the river.

They said: "Puerto Alegre, está aqui"
("It's here")!!!!!

Yes!  We were on the right track !


We now knew that Kullander found the Río Mazán-holotype sample of A. cruzi nearly two hours upstream from here.


We had to assume that we could go at the same speed as Kullander did in 1984. Since the engine we had rented for the boat looked as it was made a long time before 1984, we now were very optimistic ! 

Beautiful nature to look at going upstream on the Río Mazán:

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 


 


 


 

 

 

 

 


 


 


 

 

 


 

 




 




 

 

 

 


 



 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 


 


 


Apistogramma cruzi is named for
José Cruz Rodriguez, a highly skilled volunteer who helped Kullander a lot on his trip to the Río Mazán in 1984.

When we passed this small village, we thought
it had a very promising name: Santa Cruz.



 


 

 

We also met some children on their way
to or from the school:


 


 


 


     

 

One and a half hours since we left Puerto Alegre, and we started to look for small quebradas (creeks) in the jungle, entering
the Río Mazán.

 

 

 

 

 









 

 

 

There wasn't much water to be found.

 

 

 


 



 

 

This was not permanent water, but just water from the small amounts of rain from the last few days.

 

 



 


   

 

All we found were some knifefish
(Gymnotus sp.) and some of the usual red Copeina (Lebiasinidae) that could be found
all over the area.


 


 

 

 

 



 




 

 

 

 

 

Before trying to find more fish, we had to
ask the governor of the area for permission
to collect fish (if we found some)





 

 


 

 

They remove most of the vegetation
around their houses because of the
very dangerous snakes in the area.

 

 

 

 


We entered the jungle at several places; all we found were some rest water. No signs of fish at all. 

                                                                               

 
 

 

 

We made stops every place we possibly could meet some people to ask if they knew of any quebradas or igarapés with fish

 


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 


With help from local people, we found  some rest water, but the search for fish in these waters produced no results at all


 

 

 


 


 


 

  


 

People in this small community told us
that there used to be several small streams
with a lot of fish in the nearby jungle, but
due to the long period without much rain,
there wasn't much water. Still, they said
there were fish to be found.

We showed them pictures of
Apistogramma cruzi, and one of them told
us that his father had collected a similar
looking fish, last year!

Could we believe that we were so close?

 

I decided to take a closer look in these areas
and asked if we could spend the day and following night here.

As the people in the jungle usually do, they invited us to stay as long as we wanted.

 


 

 

Success or failure?


We started to search the jungle.



Although there wasn't much water in them,
we used our eyes and nets in every small
stream we could find, and we found many! 




 

 

 




 


 

   

 

 

 

No fish were found, except some small
killifish (Rivulus spp.).

 


 

 

 

 

After a couple of hours in the jungle, all
we had found were some Rivulus spp. and
this frog of the genus "Pipa".

 

 




I was considering giving up, but then we met some local people who told us that there were some more streams with water in them not very far away.

So we continued......

Insects were biting me all over my body, the ground was very slippery, the temperature was 35°C
(
95°F), the humidity was sky high, and I was tired....after a while
I ran out of drinking water...
 

 

After almost 3 hours, we came to this stream.
As usual we tried our nets along the shores.
Nothing......

 

 

 

 

 


Third attempt with the net: we got fish! Not just any fish: two small Apistogramma!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



They were both females, but had some promising abdominal stripes that consisted of spots, and the stripes went far back towards the caudal fin!  Maybe A. cruzi?

We used our nets again and again; for several hundred meters, every part of the small stream that still had water in it was examined: no more fish were found.

 

 

 

We moved on, found several other streams,
but no more fish...
 

 

 


 


After 4 hours I was giving up.
After what some locals had told us, there
was only one more quebrada left, further down.

I sat down, disappointed and tired.
I asked the fishermen to go and have a
look a little bit further down, just to see
if the last quebrada was there, and if there were fish in it.

I would wait where I sat. I was expecting nothing.

 

After 30 minutes, a fisherman came back, a smile all over his face!
I had to come and have a look at the last quebrada.

After 15 minutes, I saw this:

 

 

 

 


 


 

   
and further down there was a clearing in the jungle, where we could see the sun for the first time in many hours:

 

 

 

 


 

 



I measured the water:
pH: 6,71  Conductivity: 91 µSiemens/cm T: 28,4 °C

We used our nets and we got almost 50 fish, obviously Apistogramma!  Yesss!
My heart was beating like a hammer, but I only had time for a quick look at the fish, then the fishermen told me that we had to run back immediately to reach the house before it was completely dark.

After more than 2 hours of very fast walking ( I was running almost all the time), we reached the house, just as darkness came.    

 

The fishermen were hungry, and our host had dinner ready: bananas and rice.

 


 


 

 

I didn't have time to eat much, I just had to examine and photograph the fish!

What a beauty!

 

 


 

 


 


  

 

 

 

 


 



 

Bicolored caudal fin, abdominal stripes all the way back to the caudal peduncle, an A. cruzi-like caudal spot, broad blue markings under the eyes, etc. etc.

We had found the true Apistogramma cruzi!

In my eyes a very, very beautiful fish! None of the local people, nor my fishermen, (nor anybody later on in Iquitos) had ever seen this fish before.

I was happy again!

We went to bed, and guess who had sweet dreams........until something woke me up by pushing my "back", as I was asleep in my hammock, in the living room in "our house".

 

Further upstream on the Río Mazán
 

 

Next morning our host prepared the breakfast
(on the floor!)

 

 


 

 

Our host chased these out, but they
kept coming inside the house all the time.

During the night, there was nobody to
chase them out, and it was the pig that
woke me up by pushing my "back"!

As breakfast was prepared on the floor,
I think all these animals had tasted the food before we got it.




 

 

Breakfast is served.
Chicken, fried bananas and a lot of home
made tea (in the big turquoise plastic tub!)

 


 

 


After breakfast, we said goodbye to our hosts

 

 

 

 


 

 


 


and headed further up the Río Mazán,
to see if we could find some other
interesting fish.

 


 



 

 

 

 

The notice on the tree said that all
exploitation of natural recourses in this
area was forbidden unless permission was
given by the governor. Since we had
such permission, we went on....
 

 

 


Wonderful nature
   

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

It's almost impossible to enter the jungle from the river when the vegetation is as dense as this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 




At last, we found some open areas where it was possible to enter the jungle.

 

 

 


 


We found a lot of residual pools  
 

 

 


 

 


 



 

 


 

 

 

 

 


and constructions used by the local Indians when they are out hunting and fishing:

 

 

 

 

 

 



 


Here two of "my" fishermen are fishing in a pool:

 

 

 


 


 


 


The jungle around us was very luxuriant:     

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

The ground, over and under water, was completely covered with dead leaves:


 


 


 

 

 

 

We found some wonderful Apistogramma bitaeniata:

 

 



 


 
and very surprisingly, neon tetras! This species is not supposed to be here at all.........


 

 

 


 

 

 



some of the other fish we found:


 

 


 

 



 

 

 

 

 


 




 


 

 


 

 

 


 



 


 

 

 

 

 

 



The Peruvian angelfish is a wonderful fish:

 

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

 


 


 

After some fish collecting, we turned our small boat around, and headed for the town of Mazán again, going down the Río Mazán.





 



 

 

and after some hours, we were "home"
in Mazán:

 

 




 



 

 

This huge bird of prey followed us for long
periods during the trip, and who knows, it
might have been this one that brought us luck!

 

 

 

 


Back in Iquitos

 



Quite a contrast, to be back in Iquitos and looking out of the hotel window:

 

 


 

 

I took some more pictures of the A. cruzi from Río Mazán:

 

 

 



 





 


 


 


 

 


 



 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 




 

Back home

After having brought the fish back home to Norway, they started to breed:

 

 

 


 





 

 


 

 

 

 


 

 

 


 

 




 


 At last, I can assume that the true Apistogramma cruzi is in the hobby!