Cockatoo Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides)

The сockatoo сichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is one of the easiest dwarf cichlids to keep, however it’s not the most spread one among the aquarists.

It’s difficult to tell why it happened so, – possibly it’s the order of the day now or it’s about the fact that this fish is higher priced.

But it is likely to be about the cockatoo cichlid fry color which is inconspicuous and which doesn’t hit the eye considering all the motley of the market.

Just like all cockatoo dwarf cichlids the cacatuoides is good for community tank. The fish is small in size and it’s not an aggressive one so it even can be kept together with small tetras (Characinidae).

Then again it’s a cichlid after all and still it will hunt fry and small prawns, therefore it’s better not to keep them together.
cockatoo dwarf cichlid

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male cockatoo cichlid
male cockatoo cichlid

Cichlid prefers an aquarium tightly covered with plants, with scattered and not bright light.

Lots of caves are necessary. Fish will protect them from the other aquarium inhabitants.

It’s important to control water parameters and purity, since cockatoo is very sensitive to the presence of ammonia and nitrates in the water.

One should mention that cockatoo cichlid wild color is not that bright, but due to selective breeding the colors morfs are now much more pronounced. For example, there are:

  • double full red cockatoo cichlid
  • red cockatoo cichlid
  • apistogramma cacatuoides triple red
  • apistogramma cacatuoides orange

Range and habitat

Cockatoo сichlid was first mentioned and described in 1951. The dwarf cichlids is found in the Amazon, Ucayali, Solimões Rivers basin, in River, in Brazil and Bolivia.

The fish prefers small shallow streams or lagoon-like waters mainly in Amazon River tributaries.

These can be different backwaters, springs and the bottom of these waters is covered with thick layer of leaves.

Depending on the season the water parameters may differ sufficiently, since the fallen leaves when rotting make the it more acidic and soft. Apistogramma cacatuoides are polygamous fish and live in harems which consist of alpha male and several females.

Appearance

A small bright fish with the body typical for dwarf cichlids. The male is larger in size (up to 10 cm or 4 in) and the female is significantly smaller (reaching only 5 cm or 2 in).

Lifespan is about 5 years.

The male’s several first lines on the dorsal are longer then the others and they resemble a cockatoo’s crest that’s how cockatoo dwarf cichlid got its name. Cichlid color even in the wild can differ depending on the water where it lives, not to mention the fish that lives in aquarium. Now there are a lot of new fish colors, for instance apistogramma cacatuoides double red. However, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Fish keeping difficulty

On the assumption that the aquarium has stable conditions they are good even for beginners. This fish adapts well and it eats different feed. Besides they are rather peaceful and not aggressive.

Feeding

Is carnivore and in the wild it feeds with different insects that in a plenty live on the waters bottom in the fallen leaves.

In the tank the fish eats all types of live, frozen and artificial feed.

Keeping

Aquarium with capacity about 50 gallons is quite enough for this purpose. Apistogramma cacatuoides prefer water with high content of dissolved oxygen and moderate flow.

To create such conditions it’s necessary to use a filter rather an external one since the fish is sensitive to the level of ammonia in the water.

Not to mention a regular water change and aquarium bottom siphonage which are obligatory. Optimal maintenance parameters are: water temperature 75–81 °F (24–27 °C), ph: 6.0-7.8 , 5 – 19 dGH.

As for the décor it should be mentioned that dwarf cichlid look better on a dark background and it’s better to use send as a bottom.

It’s a must to add different kind of shelters into the qauarium – one for each cichlid female, plus they should be in different spots of aquarium for each female to have its own territory. They like aquarium with high number of plants, soft light and small amount of dry leaves in it.

Divide the aquarium into sections so that each would have its own shelter and belong to one cichlid female.

Scientific NameApistogramma cacatuoides
Common NameCockatoo dwarf cichlid
Tank size50 gallons (200L) and more
TemperamentTerritorial
DietOmnivorous
Temperature75–81 °F (24–27 °C)
pH6.0-7.8
Size4 inches (10 cm)

Compatibility

Cockatoo cichlids are good to keep in a community tank. Not aggressive fish of equal size can be good tankmates.

They can be kept both in pairs and in harems that consist of one male and 5-6 females. Note that it’s possible to have more then one male only in case when tank is rather spacious.

Characin species like the cardinal tetras and the black skirt tetra, Otocinclus catfish and Corydoras like the julii Cory, neon tetra, , congo tetra, and rainbowfish, discus, angelfish are acceptable tankmates.

Can feed on small prawns and fry since it’s still a cichlid even though a dwarf one.

Amazon Best Sellers for American cichlids
Food
TetraCichlid Cichlid FlakesNutritionally Balanced Diet for All Cichlids
These hearty flakes stay firm and won’t disintegrate when fish strike them
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Hikari 8.8-Ounce Cichlid Bio-GoldFloating pellets allow easy monitoring of amount eaten
Contains Beneficial Probiotic Living Microorganisms – Hikari Germ
More utilization of the nutrition equates to less waste output
Contains stabilized vitamin-C which wont degrade over time and supports a healthy immune system
Hikari Germ super-charges the digestive process allowing better utilization of the color enhancing ingredients
API Cichlid PelletContains one (1) API CICHLID LARGE PELLETS Large Floating Pellets Fish Food 7.1-Ounce Container
CichlidsFloating pellets formulated with a wide range of natural ingredients to meet the nutritional requirements of large Cichlids
Pellets specifically designed for cichlids that are at least 5 inches long
Feed twice a day the amount of food that your fish will consume within 3 minutes
Hikari Freeze Dried Tubifex WormsConvenient, Small Cubes Of Tubifex Worms
Will not cloud the water
Multi-vitamin rich to reduce stress and stress related diseases
Free of parasites and harmful bacteria
Nitrogen charging reduces oxidation prior to opening
Northfin Food Cichlid FormulaOnly the highest marine grade proteins and additives are used
Artificial pigment free and has no added hormones
Manufactured in a CFIA /USDA/FDA registered and certified facility in Toronto, Canada
Gravel Cleaners
Python No Spill Clean and Fill Aquarium Maintenance SystemWill not disturb fish or decor during routine aquarium maintenance
Adapts easily to most faucets
Complete ready-to-use system
KEDSUM Aquarium Gravel Vacuum SiphonFish Tank Sand Cleaner Water Filter with 2.11Gal /min
Aquarium Water Treatments
Seachem American Cichlid SaltReplicates natural environment
Includes all necessary trace elements
Use with water changes
Seachem ReplenishReplaces Minerals Stripped By Ro Units
Prevents Osmotic Shock
Creates optimal conditioning
Seachem PrimeDechlorinates
Detoxifies heavy metals
Promotes natural slime coat
Economical
Will not overactivate protein skimmers
Aquarium Filters
Fluval FX4 Canister FilterMulti-stage filter pumps out 700 US Gal (2650 L) of water per hour
Self-starting – just add water, plug in and Smart Pump will take over
Trapped air auto-evacuated every 12 hours to ensure maximum efficiency
Easy water changes eliminate
Simply attach hosing
Media baskets eliminate water bypass and hold a total of 1 US Gal (3.9 L) of media
Marineland Penguin Power FilterCertified flow rate of 350GPH
Perfect for all aquariums up to 70-gallon
Uses two Rite-Size C” filter cartridges
Delivers easy, three stage mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration
Convenient Penguin Rite Size Cartridges come ready to use with each filter
Aquarium Test Kits
API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-TestIncludes Freshwater pH, High Range pH, Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate.
Kit features computer-analyzed laminated color cards, instruction booklet, 4 test tubes, a holding tray and test tube rac
Made in USA
Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, nitrite, nitrate, carbonate and general water hardness
Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear
Tetra EasyStrips 6-in-1 Test StripsWith Tetra EasyStrips Now More Convenient to Test Your Water
More accurate hardness test
Reaction stops in 60 seconds to prevent false higher readings
Aquarium Décor
Zoo Med Tag Mopani WoodZoo Med Laboratories mopani Wood
A beautiful two color African hardwood for aquariums or terrariums
One of the hardest and densest woods available
Sinks immediately in aquariums and unlike driftwood, will not rot
Coco Philippines Java FernLIVE IMPORTED PHILIPPINES JAVA FERN — Microsorum pteropus “Philippine”, or Philippines Java Fern is a beautiful species of underwater fern
Tantora Premium Grade Catappa Indian Almond Leaves50 Medium “Indian Almond Leaves” 5-7 Inches
All natural and organic; Rich in tannins
Antibacterial and anti-fungal properties
Stimulates fish and shrimp color

Sexual differences

Male are larger in size, they have first several rays of the dorsal fin extending and have a brighter coloring. The females are yeallow and a bit pale in coloring.

Breeding

Apistogramma cacatuoides are polygamous fish and live in harems which consist of alpha male and several females. Such a harem protects its area from everyone except alpha male.

They generally spawn up to 80 eggs. Since cichlids breed in caves they stick their eggs to the ceiling of a cave. After that the female takes care of the eggs whilst the male guards the territory.

So it’s important to put several types of covers — flowerpots, coconuts, bogwood are quite good for this purpose. The water in spawning pond does need to have a pH under 7.5 for the eggs to hatch. Ideal conditions are pH of 6.8 to 7.2 or less, hardness of 10 or less and temperature of 78° to 84° F (26° to 29° C). As a rule the more acidic and soft is the water, the more prolific they are.

Spawning behavior:

To find a good cockatoo dwarf cichlid match we offer to buy 6 fish juveniles so they’ll grow together. During interbreeding process many species become sterile or have some spinal problems, so you’ll get one pair out of 6 fish or a harem if you are lucky.

While spawning the male will approach the female, curve his body, and display hos best colors to catch her attention. Then the female lays up to 80 reddish eggs on the walls of her cave. The male fertilizes them. After that he leaves this cave to keep an eye on the outside area.

The female is left to care for the eggs. If there is a harem, the male will come to the “cave” of another female and fertilize her eggs. It’s funny, that if there are several females they will tend to steal each others fry and add it to their school!

Depending on the water temperature it takes from 3 to 4 days for the eggs to hatch. Several days later the fry will be swimming. It was noticed, that if the water temperature is lower then 21° C most of the fry will be females, if it’s higher then 29° C, the majority will be males.

To a much less extent pH also plays a role in the sex of the fry. For successful fry growth it’s necessary for the tank parameters to be stable during the first three weeks. The juveniles grow quickly and in a few weeks time they can be fed with nauplii, although powder, Vinegar eels and egg yolk are used as start feeding.