Apistogramma cacatuoides (Cockatoo Cichlid)

Apistogramma cacatuoides

Last updated on September 18th, 2022 at 06:41 am

Apistogramma cacatuoides, commonly known as the Cockatoo Cichlid, is a colorful fish from Central and Southern America. This cichlid’s lifespan in captivity is about 10 years and males can reach up to 3 inches in length (8 cm). These cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders, meaning that the female will incubate her eggs in her mouth until they hatch.

Apistogramma cacatuoides (Cockatoo Cichlid) belongs to the Cichlidae family of fish and can be found in the South American countries of Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Columbia. It was first discovered in 1907 by Wilhelm Kner, who named it Apistogramma cacatuoides after its appearance, which resembles a cockatoo’s crest

What are Cockatoo Cichlids?

Apistogramma cacatuoides is a species of freshwater fish from South America. They have 14 different recognized subspecies, three of which are found in their native range and one in captivity. It’s a popular fish for hobbyists, who value its bright colors and hardiness despite its rather small size. If you’re considering adding an ‘apisto’ to your tank, it can be helpful to understand its natural history and needs first.

The Cockatoo Cichlid (apistogramma cacatuoides) is one of the most popular species of fish in the world, with its bright colors and easy-going attitude, making it the perfect addition to any tank. However, there are some specific requirements that should be met before you take your cockatoo home so that it can thrive in its new environment, including a large tank size and plenty of hiding spots, both of which you’ll learn about in this article.

Origin and description

Apistogramma cacatuoides

Apistogramma cacatuoides are small freshwater fishes native to South America and Mexico; they’re popular in many aquariums because of their vibrant colors and behaviors. They usually grow to be between 2 and 4 inches long, which makes them suitable for any medium-sized tank.

The Apistogramma cacatuoides is a species of fish endemic to Brazil. In English, it is called Cockatoo cichlid or Cockatoo dwarf cichlid. This species can be found in shallow waters and feeds on crustaceans and insects. It reaches maturity at 3 to 4 months, producing between twenty and thirty eggs per spawn. They measure around 3 cm when at maturity and 8 cm as an adult.

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Their life expectancy is around five years if kept in ideal conditions. Due to their small size, they should only be kept with larger tank mates, unless they are introduced when very young. They require temperatures ranging from 77 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels ranging from 6.5 – 7.5 for optimal health care.

Bold and colorful, the Cockatoo Cichlid (apistogramma cacatuoides) boasts an impressive set of fins that are bold in color and long in shape. This fish is also sometimes referred to as the Yellow Lined Cichlid, or Yellow Banded Cichlid.

Species profile

Apistogramma cacatuoides

A cockatoo cichlid is a species of freshwater fish, and a medium-sized member of its genus, it belongs to a group known as dwarf cichlids. Male cockatoo cichlids grow to about 3.9 inches long and 1 inch wide; females are smaller and more slender.

Males have been bred in several color varieties for aquariums, including brownish-orange ones marked with horizontal stripes. In their natural habitat, males compete with one another for territory, which has given rise to a form that’s larger than most other male apistogrammas but less aggressive in defending territory; thus, these can be kept together without problems.


Apistogramma cacatuoides are found in standing waters like ponds and large rivers. They can be found living in muddy or sandy substrates and are not aggressive towards other fish.

Apistogramma cacatuoides size

They can grow to a maximum size of 8 cm (3.1 inches) in length.

Apistogramma cacatuoides tank size

This fish prefers smaller tanks with dense tank mates. Keep it in a tank of at least 20 gallons, or even better, a species-only 10 – 15 gallon aquarium.

Tank set up

Apistogramma cacatuoides

The Cockatoo cichlid is not a fussy fish and is suitable for both freshwater and brackish water. This species has a reputation for being slightly more sensitive to environmental changes than other Apistogrammas, but if your tank parameters are stable, it will adapt well. The suggested temperature range is 18 – 22°C, pH of 6.5 – 7.5, and hardness of 1 – 12 dH, with a light level of 2 – 3 8-watts per gallon.

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These numbers may vary depending on which Apistogramma you are keeping; as long as you match them close enough, you should be fine! Provide plenty of hiding places such as rocks or roots in order to keep up their aggression levels towards each other. You’ll want at least 3 Apistos per aquarium, though 5 is preferred and 10+ would be ideal depending on how large they get.

Apistogramma cacatuoides tank mates

The cockatoo cichlid should not be kept with smaller fish or in a tank with other large, aggressive fish. This fish is best suited for aquariums that have several square feet of space. If you are considering keeping a cockatoo cichlid, it is recommended that you have an aquarium of at least 10 gallons. Ideally, keep only one cockatoo cichlid per aquarium to help prevent aggression between species.

Some of the best tank mates are other large, aggressive fish such as Oscars and convicts. If you choose to keep a cockatoo cichlid with a smaller species, watch your fish closely for any signs of aggression or bullying.

Apistogramma cacatuoides breeding

Apistogramma cacatuoides

This particular species of cichlid does not breed as prolifically as other cichlids. But when it does, it’s a beautiful sight to behold. To increase your chances of spawning these fish: Provide low-intensity lighting, decorate your tank with dense live plants, offer them lots of food, and maintain an alkaline pH between 7.8 and 8.4.

Try not to overfeed them, but if you do overfeed, clean up any uneaten leftovers right away. Start off by pairing one male and one female in a bare-bottom tank no smaller than 10 gallons per pair; once they have spawned successfully, you can separate them into individual tanks or move them into larger enclosures.

Once they are moved, add live plants such as Amazon sword plants and Java ferns. The eggs hatch after just 24 hours and become free-swimming roughly three days later. Raise your fry on newly hatched brine shrimp supplemented with baby brine shrimp at first.

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As they grow, feed them crushed flake food along with bloodworms and finely ground pellets until they reach adulthood at around four months old. The young will grow faster if fed several times daily, rather than once a day, so be sure to keep feeding those tiny fins!

Are Apistogramma cacatuoides aggressive or peaceful?

Like other cichlids, apistogramma cacatuoides can be aggressive and territorial, especially during spawning season. However, once their territory is established, they usually don’t show much aggression toward other fish. As long as you keep them with peaceful tank mates, and don’t house more than one male with a female, you should have little to worry about when keeping them in your aquarium.

Apistogramma cacatuoides care

Apistogramma cacatuoides

The Cockatoo Cichlid is not a difficult fish to care for, but there are some things you should keep in mind. The first is that they aren’t community fish; though they aren’t as aggressive as other cichlids, these guys will likely view smaller tank mates as food.

You might be able to get away with keeping them with larger fish like Oscar or African butterflyfish, but don’t even think about putting them with guppies or tetras. Lastly, make sure you set up a nice cave for your cichlid: They love having places to hide and feel safe.

What do Apistogramma cacatuoides eat?

In general, they are carnivores that feed on live foods. In nature, they eat various insect larvae, crustaceans, and fish fry. They may also accept dried food. However, it is preferable to offer them live food as much as possible. They will also eat flake food, but more as an added treat rather than their staple diet.

The more natural diet they get, the better coloration they display. Cockatoo cichlids can be trained to accept different types of food with time and patience from their owner.

Water parameters

Apistogramma cacatuoides

They will fare best in soft to medium-hard water, with a pH between 7.5 – 8. Ideally, it should have an alkaline pH but does better than most African rift lake cichlids in slightly acidic conditions.

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It prefers temperatures of 24 – 27 degrees C (75 degrees F – 80 degrees F) making it more suitable for warm water fishkeeping. A temperature range of 20 – 24 degree C is acceptable, although optimum growth and coloration may not be achieved at lower or higher temperatures.

Apistogramma cacatuoides lifespan

Their average lifespan is between 5 and 10 years

Parasites and diseases

Because it is a tropical fish, The Cockatoo Cichlid can be susceptible to parasites, particularly if kept in conditions below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Flatworms are often more of a problem than flukes. Treatments such as Fenbendazole and Praziquantel are effective against flatworms. It is important to treat all fish in an aquarium with these medications.


The cockatoo cichlid is likely to be eaten by larger fish and even other cichlids. So it’s important that you keep your fish in a species-only aquarium. If you don’t, they will probably not survive very long in an aquarium with larger, more aggressive species of fish.

Some of the common predators are Oscars, Jack Dempsey, bluegill sunfish, perch, and Goliath tigerfish. There are many other fish that will prey on cockatoo cichlids. Your best defense against these predators is to house your cichlids in a species-only aquarium and not to keep them with any tank mates.

Do Apistogramma cacatuoides make good pets?

The cockatoo cichlid is not recommended for beginners, as they have a reputation for being very aggressive. However, if you have some experience with African cichlids and can provide an appropriate environment, they make good aquarium inhabitants. The species requires strong filtration and plenty of space to swim around in and they should be kept in groups of at least six individuals.