Apistogramma Cacatuoides Stats InfographicApistogramma cacatuoides also known as cockatoo dwarf cichlid, are lively fish that come in the brightest hues. They are also one of the most curious cichlids you’d ever come across. But before you go ahead and purchase one, take the time to learn all about them, including how to care for them properly.

Keep reading to find the perfect care guide for these fishes.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Stats

Minimum Tank Size 30 Gallons
Temperature 72°F to 86°F
pH 6.0-7.0
Hardness 5-15 dKH
Breeding Type Egg Scatterer
Diet Omnivore
Lifespan 5-10 Years


Apistogramma cacatuoides careCockatoo Apistogramma belongs to the extensive Cichlidae family. They are found all across South America in streams and slow-moving rivers in the Amazon River Basin. One thing they sure love is shallow rivers.

Dwarf cichlids, like all cichlids, are given to bouts of aggression and territoriality. Their name stems from the shape of their dorsal fin – it looks just like a cockatoo. Remember when we said the Cichlidae family was made up of a lot of species? We weren’t lying. Let’s take a look at the common Apistogramma species.

Common Apistogramma Species

1. Apistogramma Macmasteri

Apistogramma macmasteri fishApistogramma Macmasteri or Aposti Macmasteri is one cichlid with a hell of an intimidating look. They have large pelvic and dorsal fins that flow and square off, ending with prominent spikes. In their natural habitat, these fish have duller colors when compared to other cichlids. However, thanks to selective breeding, Apistogramma Macmasteri shows much brighter colors in captivity.

2. Apistogramma Viejita

Apistogramma viejita fishApistogramma Viejita look a lot like Aposti Macmasteri. Their bodies are covered in red spots peppered with dark and light spots. The easiest way to differentiate between Apistogramma Viejeta and Macmesteri is to look at their dorsal and pelvic fin closely.

While Macmasteri fish has a flowing pelvic fin that looks more like a square, Viejeta’s fin is rounded. Its dorsal fin also has a large hump at the front and is longer at the rear.

3. Apistogramma Hongsloi

Apistogramma hongsloi fishThese cichlids are also known as Honglos Dwarf cichlid and are colorful! You should see the males in their glory, covered in pale pink with bright red swatches breaking up the pink base. In captivity, Apistogramma Hongslois are even more colorful. Another point for these cichlids is that they get along well with other peaceful fish species.

4. Apistogramma Baenschi

Apistogramma baenschi fishApistogramma baenschi also goes by Inca Dwarf cichlid and is relatively new to the cichlid scene. However, they sure have made their mark in the aquarist scene. They come in different colors, blue and yellow being by far the most common.

Apistogramma Baenschi’s big head makes them stand out from the rest of the crowd. If you think their big head is this fish’s most distinct feature, then you should see their lips; they stick out!

5. Apistogramma Borelli

Apistogramma borelli fishIf you want an Apistogramma species with more subdued colors, the Borelli or Umbrella cichlid is your guy. They have a base coloration of yellow, with specks of dark blue along the length of their body. Their heads are also peppered with blue and sometimes red spots.

Umbrella cichlids thrive in a variety of water conditions and, thus, are suitable for intermediate aquarists.

6. Apistogramma Elizabethae

Apistogramma elizabethae fishApistogramma Elizabethae or Fisherman Dwarf have slim bodies with prominent fins that appear much more extensive. Their dorsal and anal fins stretch across the length of their body. Let’s move on from the shape of their fins and talk about their color.

The Fisherman Dwarf has a lot of colors, from gold to blue and red. Most times, their fins and face have bright red splotches.

7. Apistogramma Agassizii

Apistogramma agassizii fishThe Apistogramma Agassizii or Agassiz’s Dwarf cichlid, as it is fondly called, comes in various shades. The males have vibrant gold colors highlighted by a thick black stripe or spot alongside bright red tails. The females, on the other hand, have a slightly subdued color.

Some Agassizii dwarf cichlids, however, take on a different color, from their belly downwards is gold while the upper half of their body is a rich shade of blue.

Their fins are unlike the Cockatoos. They are smaller, sleek, and tapper off at the tail. This Apistogramma species is more aggressive and territorial than the others, requiring an even larger tank with lots of hiding spaces.

8. Apistogramma Trifasciata

Apistogramma trifasciata fishApistogramma trifasciata or the Three-striped Apisto is a cichlid species that has three distinct bands running down the length of its body. Two of these stripes are positioned on either side of its body, while the third lies underneath its dorsal fin.

The upper portion of the Three-striped fish dorsal fin is longer than the lower portion. This gives it a wispy look, not unlike a Mohawk. The primary colors on this fish are blue and yellow, but a few fish have red accents on their face or the tip of their fins.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Appearance

The Apistogramma cacatuoides is one of the most spectacular cichlids to grace the earth. It gets its name from its elongated dorsal fin that stands erect and looks just like the cockatoos’ crest. Their fins look like the feathers of the cockatoo, especially with their spiky ends. While we are still on the subject of fins, Apistogramma cacatuoides have whispy, feather-like anal, pelvic, and tail fins.

These fish have one of the most vibrant hues, with the male having even brighter colors than the females. While their general body is a vivid shade of yellow, their big head has a racing stripe that goes all the way down to their tail. The yellow base color is made more striking by the splotches of red around their fins.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male Apistogramma cacatuoides have brighter colors than females. Their vibrant colors come in handy when the breeding time comes because they need to dazzle the female. On the other hand, the female Cockatoo cichlids are rounder and have a more prominent abdomen, especially as they begin to fill out with eggs.


Apistogramma cacatuoides lifespan in captivity is between five and ten years. If you want them to reach the upper end of the lifespan age, you must maintain top-notch water quality and not stress your fish.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Care

Dwarf cichlids aren’t the easiest Apistogramma species to care for. You have to put in a lot of effort, but it is a rewarding task at the end of the day. Here’s how you can ensure that your fish gets the best care possible.

Tank Size

Choosing the right tank size is the first step to ensuring your Dwarf cichlids are adequately cared for. We recommend going with a 30-gallon size tank so that they have enough space to swim in. It would be best to avoid situations where they do not have enough space because that can make them overly territorial.


Once you get the right tank, the next order of business is selecting the perfect substrate to line it with. We recommend a thin layer of fine gravel or sand; they have a fine surface and are a replica of what you would see in this fish’s natural habitat.

Water Parameters

Managing the water parameters to suit the Apistogramma cacatuoides can be tricky because they are sensitive to changes in pH and temperature. Our advice would be to replicate the condition you have in this dwarf cichlids’ natural environment.

Start with installing a water heater in your tank so that the water is warm, just like what your fish enjoys in the wild. Then adjust the pH and ensure you stay on top of it. Finally, ensure your tank is adequately cycled before you plop your fish in it.

To summarize, maintain these parameters.

  • pH: 6.0 to 7.0
  • Temperature: 72F to 86F
  • Hardness: 5-15 dKH

How Can I Monitor the Water Parameters?

It’s easy: get an aquarium test kit. It is a great tool that helps you make informed decisions about the water parameters in your tank.

Water Changes

To keep your tank water pristine, you need to carry out at least 25 percent water changes weekly. That way, toxic substances, and waste products do not affect the health of your fish.

Tank Filtration

Regular water changes aside, you need a filter in your tank. We recommend getting a filter powerful enough to remove the volume of waste your fish makes. A great choice would be a canister filter that also has carbon filtration media.

You won’t need to get any air bladders and water pumps because these fish love calm, still water.

Decorating Cockatoo Cichlid Tank

Your Cockatoo cichlid needs a well-decorated tank. And by decoration, we mean a tank with everything that makes the cichlid feel at home. First, make sure your choice of substrate is one these fish can dig into without getting hurt.

Next, plant sturdy plants like java fern and moss. Their leaves also add a bit of spice to your tank and make it look more like the waters in the wild.

Complement the plants with hiding spots made out of caves, rocks, and driftwood. All of which provide your fish with the perfect hideouts and shield them from intense light. The caves also come in handy during the breeding season.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Diet

Cockatoo dwarf cichlid is an omnivore in the wild. However, they seem to prefer protein more. So that means you have to offer them insect larvae, fish fry, microforms, daphnia, blood worms, and small invertebrates. To match their plant need, they scrape off the algae at the base of their tank and nip on the leaves of trees.

While feeding these cichlids is essential, you must ensure that they are not overfed because they are more prone to diseases and stress. Our advice is that you give them small portions of food they can gulp down in a few minutes at least twice a day. That way, they are well-fed but far from being overfed, and all of the excess food does not pollute their tank.


Cockatoo cichlids are semi-aggressive and can be kept with other fish species provided care is taken. To control their territorial nature, you must furnish them with a spacious tank and keep them well fed.

These fish are very active and are a delight to watch. They love to explore the length and breadth of their tank and hide out from time to time. They spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank and are more aggressive when breeding.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Tank Mates

Knowledge of Apistogramma Cacatuoides compatibility will save you from making a huge mistake when selecting tank mates. The first thing is to avoid larger aggressive fish species at all costs because they will target your dwarf cichlid and cause them a lot of stress.

The safest bet is to run a solo tank. That way, you are not scared of your fish being terrorized or not providing the other species with their preferred water parameters. If you do decide to keep them with other species, then here are our top picks.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Breeding

Getting Apistogramma cacatuoides is not as challenging as you picture it. All you need do is create the perfect environment they need to spawn. To start, move them to a separate tank – the breeding tank. We will get down to how you can set up a perfect breeding tank for your fish.

Conditioning Apistogramma Cacatuoides

The first thing you need to do is ensure you pick out a tank with enough space for this fish to swim in and feel at home. We advise that you purchase at least a 10-gallon tank for this purpose. Then add water to your tank and cycle it properly so that it is fit for your fish. Ensure that you raise the water temperature slightly because studies have shown that Apistogramma cacatuoides breed best in warmer waters. 80 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect.

Keep the pH and hardness values the same as in your main tank. At this point, we don’t need to emphasize how important maintaining the water quality is, as we are sure that you don’t want your fish getting sick. So clean up your tank, change about a third of the tank water weekly and ensure you fit in a powerful filter. Place a sponge over the head of the filter so that the force does not suck up the fry after they hatch.

Finally, look into your fish’ diet. Your conditioning will be unsuccessful if you fail to provide your intended pair with enough high-quality food. There is just something about food that gets your cichlids all ready to breed.

Cockatoo Cichlid Spawning

Once your fish is ready to breed, the male will chase the female around in what is called a mating dance. If she wants him, she accepts to mate with him and lays her eggs all over the tank. However, some Dwarf cichlid species are mouthbrooders and will keep the eggs in their mouth until they hatch.

After the female spawns, the male stands guard and defends the breeding area from outside attacks. Because Apistogramma cichlids are highly protective of their young, you will not need to move them out of the tank. The eggs take about 48 to 72 hours to hatch, after which they feed on the egg sac. While this process goes on, you need to get the unfertilized eggs out of the tank to avoid contamination.

For the next few days, the female cichlid will find food for the fry. After a few days, you can begin feeding them with baby brine shrimp, infusoria, and flakes to help them grow.

Apistogramma Cacatuoides Growth Rate

Apistogramma cacatuoides growth rate is fast. With proper care and diet, the fry will reach full maturity in just under five months.

10 Tips to Keep Your Apistogramma Cacatuoides Healthy

  1. Make sure their tank has enough space so that they do not feel swamped.
  2. Clean their tank regularly and install a powerful filter to suck up the waste
  3. Remove any plant that looks like it is rotting to avoid tank pollution
  4. Disinfect all tank equipment thoroughly before dipping them in the tank
  5. Select their tank mates with care
  6. Feed them high-quality live or frozen food rich in protein
  7. Ensure your tank is cycled adequately before you drop your fish in it
  8. Create great hiding places for your fish
  9. Keep the water oxygen levels and other parameters within the range
  10. Ensure that this fish is raised in a school of at least six


Here is the most crucial information about Apistogramma cacatuoides that you learned about in this article:

  • Apistogramma cacatuoides dietApistogramma cacatuoides is a small, semi-aggressive dwarf cichlid
  • They need a relatively large 30-gallon tank so they can feel comfortable
  • Their tank needs to be cleaned regularly so they are consistently healthy
  • Apistogramma cacatuoides need good live or frozen food that is high in protein
  • Avoid putting large fish species in their tank, as they are bound to get aggressive towards them
  • It has a lifespan of between five to 10 years
  • In the right conditions, this fish can be made to spawn
  • There is no need to move the parent fish after the female has spawn because the Apistogramma cacatuoides are very protective of their eggs

Cockatoo dwarf cichlid is one of the numerous dwarf cichlid species in the Cichlidae family. They are not overly aggressive and are relatively easy to breed. Aquarists with a bit of experience will find these fish a delight to have in their tank. One final word of warning – ensure your water parameters are correct and that your tank is well maintained.

5/5 - (20 votes)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here