Apistogramma cacatuoides: A Comprehensive Guide

Apistogramma cacatuoides, commonly known as the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid, is a stunning freshwater fish beloved by aquarists for its vibrant colors and dynamic behavior. This guide covers everything you need to know about Apistogramma cacatuoides, from their natural distribution and habitat to their dietary needs and spawning practices.

Distribution and Habitat

Apistogramma cacatuoides is native to the slow-moving rivers and streams of the Amazon Basin in South America, particularly in Peru and Brazil. They thrive in areas with dense vegetation, leaf litter, and submerged roots, where the water is soft and slightly acidic.

Size and Appearance

Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids are small, typically growing to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length. They are known for their striking appearance, with males displaying vibrant colors such as orange, red, and yellow, along with elongated dorsal fin rays that resemble a cockatoo's crest. Females are usually smaller and less colorful, exhibiting more subdued hues.

Water Parameters

Maintaining optimal water conditions is crucial for the health of Apistogramma cacatuoides:

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: 2-10 dGH

These cichlids prefer soft, slightly acidic water and benefit from a well-planted aquarium that mimics their natural habitat.

Tank Mates

Apistogramma cacatuoides are relatively peaceful for cichlids but can be territorial, especially during breeding. Suitable tank mates include:

  • Tetras
  • Danios
  • Corydoras catfish
  • Rainbowfish
  • Other peaceful dwarf cichlids

Avoid housing them with larger, aggressive species that might intimidate or prey on them.


In the wild, Apistogramma cacatuoides feed on small invertebrates and plant matter. In captivity, they are omnivorous and thrive on a varied diet:

  • High-quality flake food
  • Micro pellets
  • Live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia
  • Blanched vegetables like spinach and zucchini

A balanced diet ensures vibrant coloration and overall health.


Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids are active and social fish, exhibiting fascinating behaviors, especially during breeding. Males often display their fins and colors to attract females and establish territories. While generally peaceful, they can become aggressive if they feel their territory is threatened.


Breeding Apistogramma cacatuoides in captivity can be rewarding for dedicated aquarists. To spawn them successfully:

  1. Conditioning: Feed the breeding pair a high-protein diet, including live foods, for several weeks.
  2. Breeding Tank: Set up a separate breeding tank with plenty of hiding spots and slightly acidic water with a temperature around 78°F (26°C). Include caves or PVC pipes as potential spawning sites.
  3. Spawning Process: The female will lay eggs inside a cave or similar structure. She will guard the eggs and fry aggressively, while the male defends the territory.
  4. Hatching: Eggs typically hatch within 48-72 hours. Feed the fry infusoria or liquid fry food until they are large enough to consume baby brine shrimp.

Fun Facts

  • Apistogramma cacatuoides is often referred to as the "Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid" due to the male's distinctive, elongated dorsal fin rays that resemble a cockatoo's crest.
  • They exhibit fascinating parental care, with females fiercely guarding their eggs and fry.
  • These cichlids are known for their intelligence and can recognize their keepers, often displaying excitement during feeding times.


Apistogramma cacatuoides, with their vibrant colors and dynamic behaviors, make a captivating addition to any freshwater aquarium. By understanding their natural habitat, dietary needs, and breeding behavior, aquarists can ensure these stunning fish thrive in captivity. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned fish keeper, the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid offers a delightful glimpse into the world of small, colorful cichlids.

Looking to add Apistogramma cacatuidoes to your aquarium? We recommend purchasing from trusted suppliers like The Wet Spot Tropical Fish and Dan's Fish for high-quality, healthy fish. These reputable retailers offer a great selection and expert advice to ensure you find the perfect fish for your tank.