Cockatoo Cichlid (Apistogramma Cacatuoides) – Care, Size & Details!

The Tjere Cockatoo Cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is a freshwater ray-finned fish from the Cichlidae family. This dwarf cichlid will become a real decoration of the aquarium as it is one of the brightest decorative fish from the South American continent. They are also known as the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid or Crested Dwarf Cichlid. These common names are derived from the males who reveal several rays of the dorsal fin extending higher than the rest, giving it a ‘cockatoo’ or ‘crested’ look.

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid is a peaceful fish, an excellent choice for general aquariums and the best part is, Its not very hard to take care of them. They are pretty much adaptable and that is why they are one of the favorite fishes to pet.


General Information

Some aquarium fish with their body shape, color, or other features vaguely resemble land animals. For this reason, various household names often “stick” to them, and we get names like parrotfish, elephant nose fish, etc.

Meet the cockatoo cichlid fish.

The dorsal fin of this cichlid strongly resembles the crest of a cockatoo parrot, Due to which, the fish got its name Cockatoo Cichlid.


It is almost impossible to confuse Apistogramma Cacatuoides with other dwarf cichlids. The fish has an elongated body up to 6-8 cm long. Males are larger than females, are brighter in color, and have a characteristic crest of the dorsal fin. You may notice their bred-out colorings are called Sunset, Red, Double Red, Triple Red, and Sun Spot.

All fins, except the pectorals, are large and pointed. They have large eyes and a small mouth with fleshy lips.

The Cockatoo Cichlid is characterized by an unusually variegated color. The main body color is gray or greenish; a dark stripe stretches from the eyes to the tail, which can be solid or discrete.

The belly of the fish is yellow-orange.

The anal and pelvic fins are blue-yellow, the caudal fins are covered with bright red or orange spots. The dorsal fin is greenish-orange, its first rays are dark, and there is a red edging on the edge.

It is worth noting that through the efforts of breeders, many color variations of the cockatoo Apistogramma were obtained.

In the aquarium, The Cockatoo Cichlid lives for about 5-7 years.


The natural habitat of the Cockatoo Cichlid includes the water bodies of Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia.

Cockatoo Cichlid Fish prefers places with slow currents like flooded areas of the jungle and tropical swamps.

The water is also very soft and acidic.

These Fish prefer shallow waters with a sandy bottom, in which they like to rummage, looking for food. Cockatoos hide from predators among the thickets of living plants and snags.

Cockatoo Cichlids live in groups of a dominant male and several females.

Cockatoo Cichlid Care


It is best to lay sandy soil on the bottom.


Cockatoo cichlids spend most of their time near the bottom as they like to slightly dig it up.

It is useful to plant live plants in the aquarium while leaving the fish a place to swim. Anubias, Echinodorus, Cryptocorynes, Wallisneria, mosses, and ferns are well suited for this.

It is recommended to make a slight twilight with the help of plants floating on the surface of the water: Riccia or Pistia.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides are sensitive to the content of nitrogenous compounds, so they can only be settled in aquariums with an established balance.

It is important to provide quality filtration and aeration. It will not damage the thermostat to maintain comfortable water temperature.

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Aquarium Setup

The cockatoo dwarf cichlid prefers soft and acidic water. Once a week, it is necessary to replace 20% of water with fresh water to prevent an increase in the concentration of toxic metabolic products. They are not much sensitive to water variations, but water changes have to be done on a regular basis to keep organic waste in control.

For water change, You cant take water directly from your water supply system as this can be dangerous for your fish, because such water may contain compounds of chlorine and heavy metals.

Therefore, before adding fresh water to the aquarium, add Tetra AquaSafe conditioner to the bucket, which instantly makes the tap water suitable for fish life.

It is also beneficial to add a conditioner with natural peat extract Tetra ToruMin to the water.

The humic substances in their composition will slightly tint the water brown and will have a beneficial effect on the health and well-being of Apistogramma.

Optimal water parameters for the aquarium: T = 23-27 ° C, pH = 5.0-7.0, GH = 1-19.

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid Tank Mates

Due to its calm nature, the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid gets along well with the vast majority of aquarium fish.

The best tank mates for Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid are fishes who are similar in size like types of tetras, Serpae Tetra, Denison Barbs, Odessa Barbs Corydoras, Pleco Fish, neon tetra, harlequin rasbora, gourami fish, etc.

Two males can only be housed together if the tank is large. However, Apistogramma becomes more aggressive during spawning and caring for caviar.

The male guards his area of ​​the aquarium and drives away any stranger who dares to violate the boundaries of the territory. Avoid snails, crabs, or shrimp, as Cockatoos may get aggressive towards them or try to hunt them.

Feeding Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid

This small cockatoo dwarf fish is a real predator. Flakes, chips, and granules work well.

If you keep cichlids in a shared aquarium, make sure they get food. There have been cases when more active neighbors pushed phlegmatic Apistogramma away from the food.

The following foods are perfect for a cockatoo dwarf cichlid:

  • TetraPRO Color Multi-Crisps or Tetra Rubin are fed containing natural color enhancers. Feed your pets with this food for several weeks, and you will immediately notice that the red, orange and yellow spots on the fish’s body have become even brighter;
  • Tetra Cichlid Color Mini is a universal food for all types of dwarf cichlids. Contains selected proteins for good growth and development, as well as a complex of color enhancers;

Apistogramma cacatuoides are prone to overeating, so you need to feed them in small portions 2-3 times a day.

Breeding Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid

To breed Apistogramma cacatuoides at home, there is no need to create extraordinary conditions. If the fish feel comfortable in the aquarium, then the appearance of offspring will not take long.

Puberty occurs at the age of 8-10 months in the Apistogramma fish. By this time, Puberty differences begin to appear.

Males are larger than females, their color is brighter. The rays on the caudal and dorsal fins are more elongated and sharp.

The closer to spawning, the more saturated the color becomes in males.

Since fish most often lives in harems, one male can fertilize several females at once. Therefore, it is very important in this case that each female has her shelter. To give her privacy, you can decorate the area with plants and pebbles. The male fish becomes vibrant and starts flashing its colored fins to attract the female fish. Once the female fish chooses her mate, she allows fertilizing her eggs.

Once the eggs are fertilized, the female fish guards them until they hatch. They flash beautiful black and yellow colored fins.
These are very caring fishes as they keep guarding and feeding the fry even when they are capable to swim.
You can also breed Apistogramma in a separate spawning aquarium with a volume of 15 liters or more.


The female lays eggs in one of the shelters and one female can lay up to 80 eggs. Cockatoo Apistogramma has a well-developed parental instinct, and there is a separation of duties: the female looks after the eggs and the male protects the territory.

Sometimes, Male becomes overly aggressive and poses a threat to the offspring and the female. In such a situation, it is better to remove the male from the spawning tank.

After 2-3 days of fertilization, larvae appear and after 4-5 days, They begin to feed on their own.

It has been noted that at a water temperature of about 21 ° C, more females are born, and at higher rates (29 ° C) – males.

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