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Maximum size : 10 cm

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid - Apistogramma cacatuoides : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid, also known as Apistogramma cacatuoides, is a stunning and hardy species among all the Dwarf Cichlids. Their colourful appearance makes them an eye-catching addition to any community aquarium. The Cockatoo Cichlid is a peaceful fish that can be kept with other non-aggressive large fish. They are also receptive to their own kind and can be kept alone, in pairs, or in groups. A large enough tank can even house more than one male. These Cichlids sift through sandy substrates for food, and although they prefer soft water, it is more important to maintain proper nitrate levels for their health. Male Cockatoo Cichlids have an elongated, silvery-grey body with a black line running through their middle. Their dorsal fin rays are extended higher than the rest, giving them the appearance of a cockatoo. Their tail fin has longer and brighter bottom and top rays, while the belly and bottom fins have golden brown hues. Females, on the other hand, have a dull yellow appearance with a solid black ventral fin as they age, and a more rounded caudal fin.

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

The differentiation between male and female Cockatoo Cichlids, is quite apparent, especially during breeding and parental care of their offspring. The females exhibit yellow colouration with distinctive dark markings, while the males feature elongated dorsal fin rays, which are pointed and sharp. Furthermore, the males boast a more vibrant and pronounced colouration in comparison to females. Both sexes display a prominent dark line that runs from their eyes to the bottom of the gill flap.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameApistogramma cacatuoides
Year Described1951
Other NamesCockatoo Dwarf Cichlid, Crested Dwarf Cichlid
OriginsBolivia Brazil
Max Size10 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asN/A
Lifespanup to 5 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH6.0 - 8.0
GH5 - 19
75 - 81
23.9 - 27.2

Natural Habitat

The Cockatoo Cichlid, known for its distinctive appearance and fascinating behaviour, originates from the pristine waters of the Amazon River basin. This fascinating fish thrives in slow-moving, shallow, and clear water areas, such as backwaters, tributaries, and creeks that are carpeted with leaf litter. In their natural habitat, they prefer sandy substrates, providing ample opportunity for rummaging through and searching for food. Their unique behavioural adaptation also involves hiding amongst vegetation as a means of protection against predators. These features make the Cockatoo Cichlid a popular choice for many aquarists who seek to replicate their natural environment in the home aquarium.
 Ucayali River - Peru
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The sexual maturity of the Cockatoo Cichlid is reached between 8 to 10 months of age. These Cichlids exhibit territorial behavior, with each female defending a small territory against other species, except the dominant male. As cave spawners, they lay approximately 80 eggs on the ceiling of the cave, where they are cared for by the female while the male guards the surrounding territory. To encourage breeding in the aquarium, providing caves such as coconut shells or upturned flowerpots, along with cover for spawning sites using broad-leaved plants or similar, is necessary. Conditioning with live foods, raising the temperature, and frequent small water changes can also help to trigger spawning. The female will signal her readiness to breed by curling her body and performing a dance to catch the male's attention. He will respond by flashing his fins, and the female will lay the eggs. The male will fertilize the eggs and leave the cave to guard the surroundings, while the female takes care of the eggs. In group situations, the male will visit the caves of each female to breed. The females guard a range within the male's territory, and occasionally, they may kidnap the fry of other females to add to their school. The fry becomes free-swimming a few days after hatching, and the female leads them out of the cave. The fry grows relatively quickly and can be fed on rotifers initially and then on nauplii and freshly hatched baby brine shrimp a week or two later.

Diet & feeding

To promote the overall health and vitality of your Cockatoo Cichlid, it is recommended to provide a varied diet consisting mainly of frozen and live foods such as brine shrimp, insect larvae, and crustaceans. While high-quality flakes and pellets can supplement their diet, they should not be the primary food source. To avoid overfeeding and maintain optimal water quality, it is advisable to divide their daily ration into smaller portions and feed them two to five times a day, rather than a single large feeding. This will help to ensure that they receive the necessary proteins and vitamins without compromising water quality.

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