Scientific Name: Apistogramma cacatuoides
Common Names: Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid, Cockatoo Cichlid, Crested Dwarf Cichlid
Distribution: Leaf littered calm water of South America, Peru, and Amazon river basin.
Water Quality: PH of slightly acidic to neutral, water that is soft to slightly hard. Water needs to be changed regularly and black water extract will help keep them in top shape. Keep the temperature 79-84 degrees.
Temperament: Apistogrammas are usually peaceful with other tank mates in a community of similarly sized fish, but will defend a territory especially when protecting eggs or fry. One male should be kept with a harem of females for best results however; a pair will do just fine together. More than one male will most likely result in violence and eventually death. Females will occasionally peck at each other, but usually at no serious harm. That being said, I have had instances where aggressive females had to be removed from a tank for bullying and jeopardizing the health of other females.
Size: Males are around 9 cm (3.5 in) and females are usually much smaller.
Characteristics: Males are bigger and have more developed fins than the females. The first few rays of the maleís dorsal fin stick out above the rest. The caudal fin is forked and both the caudal and dorsal as well as the anal fins come to an elongated point.
Coloration: The male is the attractive one in this species. Common males tend to have a brown/gold body and fins. The dorsal fin is starts off yellow and black in the front turns to a bright orange or slight red towards the back. The tail can be clear with splashes of orange and green color. As males get older, they tend to show more aqua blue on their pelvic and anal fins. Females are usually are a lot less flamboyant, but some will turn a brighter color such as yellow around spawning time. Both have a black stripe extending from the eye to the bottom of the gill covers. The main body has one black lateral stripe that starts from the eye and ends at the tail fin with three smaller stripes underneath over the belly. With selective breeding, hobbyists have been able to develop different colorations such as triple red, orange flash, and gold. The variety that has color on one fin are single, two fins are double, and all three fins are triple, hence the name triple red.
Feeding: The Cockatoo cichlid should be fed with a variety of foods, live and high quality flake or pellets. Worms and daphnia or brine shrimp will make your cockatoo cichlids fall in love with you.
Maintenance: Cockatoo cichlids should be housed in at least a 20-gallon tank with plenty of plants and driftwoods to make them feel at home. They will not dig up your plants.
Breeding: Breeding can be fairly difficult. The Cockatoos generally like to breed in caves or cavities and deposit their eggs on the roof. The female will then aggressively guard the eggs and fry while the male guards the territory and the territories of his other females. The eggs will hatch in about 4 days then the fry will need to be fed small foods. If more than one female have fry at the same time then they can intermix and the females will take turns guarding them (If the cichlids arenít spawning, rearranging their habitat will most likely provoke them to). At about a month the fry should be removed and raised by the owner because the female tends to lose interest in them and will no longer protect them.
Comments: These cichlids are very social and will greet you every time you pass by the fish tank. They are a delight to have and can add a bit of color and personality to your community tank. It may be hard to find them at your local pet stores, but they are worth the search. They are one of the hardiest of the Apistogramma species. It should also be noted that shrimp should not be housed with cockatoos unless you want to give your cichlid a tasty treat.
Links and Photos: Mongabay.com, Badman's Tropical Fish, Photos, Photo Gallery