Practical Information About Keeping, Breeding and Buying Dwarf Cichlids

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Apistogramma cacatuoides

    Apistogramma cacatuoides (A 200 - A 203) is one of the best known and most widely available Apistogramma species. They are usually correctly identified but are often called Cockatoo cichlids. Apistogramma cacatuoides are relatively hardy and fairly easy to keep and breed, consequently, they are often recommended as an ?easy? species. Not only are they considered a relatively easy fish to keep, they are also spectacularly beautiful. As with most dwarf cichlids the male and female are markedly different in appearance.

Apistogramma cacatuoides male Cockatoo cichlid
Click photo to enlarge
    A. cacatuoides "Orange Flash" male. This domestic strain is especially colorful. This male has an unusually tall dorsal fin.
   Apistogramma cacatuoides is the type species for the cacatuoides group. Males reach about three inches in total length and are very colorful. They sport an extended dorsal fin with several very long rays on the front of the fin. Males also exhibit a strongly lyrate tail and extended ventral fins. Females are much smaller than males, growing to a maximum of less than 2 inches. They are generally a brownish to dusky yellow color but become be a vibrant yellow during times of brood care.

Apistogramma cacatuoides double red cockatoo cichlid maleClick photo to enlarge
     Young male Apistogramma cacatuoides "Double Red". The terms "Double Red" and Triple Red" are often confusing. "Double Red" fish exhibit strongly colored ocelli in both the caudal fin (tail) and the dorsal fin. Triple Red fish express the ocelli in the anal fin as well. Note that this male has a very slight expression of ocellation in the anal fin.
     Apistogramma cacatuoides have been kept by aquarists for many years and selective breeding has led to the development of some very colorful strains. The most common forms are marked by the beautiful pattern of red and black markings on the tail of the male. The size, shape and color of these patterns can vary widely. In wild fish you might find no color or a few red spots in the tail but in the popular aquarium strains the entire tail may be covered. In addition the anal fin, dorsal fin and even pectoral fins may show these same color patterns. Many fish keepers try to specifically name the cacatuoides by gauging how much red they have. In this naming system a fish with a marked tail and one other fin is called a ?double red?. Fish with three fins colored are referred to as ?triple red?and those with even more fins can be called ?quad red? or ?super red?. Personally, I hesitate to use these names as I have found that in any given spawn of highly colored fish there will be a mixture of types. Additionally, I have rarely found them to breed true to type, although, the really red covered fish will usually throw off very colorful offspring.
Apistogramma cacatuoides female with fry     This female cacatuoides is guarding her one day old fry. Baby apistos are usually large enough to eat newly hatched brine shrimp as a first food. Live plants provide an excellent surface for the fry to graze upon.

    In the wild, Apistogramma cacatuoides are widely distributed in the Upper Amazon Basin. They are found in streams, lagoons, lakes and ponds. They are found in both white and clear water environments and do not appear to thrive in black water conditions. These natural water parameters make them generally easier to keep in an aquarium than many other species.
    Apistogramma cacatuoides were first introduced to the hobby in 1950 under the name Apistogramma U2. They were subsequently mis-identified as Apistogramma borellii which was generally accepted as their proper name (at that time, the actual A. borellii was known as A. reitzigi). In the 1980?s Apistogramma cacatuoides was properly identified and since then they are rarely misidentified although some references list this fish as Apistogramma cacatuoides.

     Apistogramma cacatuoides quickly became a favorite of many hobbyists and today they are probably the most popular of all Apistogrammas. Many breeders attempt to enhance the colors of their cacatuoides through selective breeding and through many generations several different color morphs have been developed.

      Cacatuoides are generally considered to be an easy Apistogramma to keep and breed. However, any fish at any time can be impossible so if you have problems with them don't feel bad. Cacatuoides tolerate a wide range of water conditions. For general maintenance water of moderate hardness and neutral pH is perfectly acceptable. In their native range cacatuoides are found in a very wide range of water temperatures. In the aquarium you should have good success keeping them anywhere between 74 and 80 degrees. If you are spawning them research has shown that you will get the most balanced sex ratios if you keep the newly hatched fry at 79 degrees for their first three months.

   Apistogramma cacatuoides are typical apistos and our
aquarium care section should give you the information you need to keep and breed them. I have been keeping cacatuoides continuously since 1985 and in that time I have kept them in many different circumstances. I've had excellent success keeping them in pairs, trios and groups. I have successfully kept and bred them in tanks as small as two gallons but I do not recommend this to you as it is very hard to keep things in balance in this small of a tank.

    Cacatuoides are generally more available than other Apistogrammas. However, that doesn't mean you should expect to find them at your local shop unless you happen to live near a shop that stocks dwarf cichlids. (Time to go on a tangent - If you do happen to find a shop that sells dwarf cichlids on a regular basis please patronize them! Very few shops stock dwarfs and we need to support those that do.) Check out our
buying fish section for leads as to where you might find some of these great little fish. - practical advice about keeping and breeding Apistogramma cacatuoides and all other dwarf cichlids.
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