The cockatoo cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides) is a small fish found in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil in the drainages of the Rio Ucayali and Rio Solimoes. This fish grows to an adult size of up to 3 inches long. Adult males are larger and more colorful than females and develop much more extended "cockatoo" like fins.
Cockatoo cichlids are captive bred on a commercial scale and are now available in many exciting color morphs. The cockatoo cichlid prefers a temperature of 71°F to 84°F, although they can tolerate temperatures in the 60s for a short time. They will do well with a pH of 6.5 to 8.0, and a hardness of of up to 1 to 12°H or higher.
The cockatoo cichlid is found in Peru, Colombia, and Brazil in the drainages of the Rio Ucayali and Rio Solimoes. This part of the Amazon drainage has fluctuating water parameters that, at certain times of the year, are harder and more alkaline with a higher pH than those usually associated with South America in general and the Amazon River basin in particular. At various times of the year, the pH can rise as high as 8.0, hardness can vary from unmeasurable to very hard, and alkalinity fluctuates from zero to well over 6 meq/l. Cockatoo cichlids are found in both white water and clear water, but not in blackwater habitats. This makes them especially adaptable to tap water in the US, and they may do very well in most hobbyists’ tanks without having to do anything to make the water suitable for keeping or breeding.
The cockatoo cichlid should be maintained in an aquarium of 20 gallons or larger, depending upon how many are to be kept. For larger groups, increase tank size accordingly. Keep in mind that floor space is more important than height. A dark colored soft, sandy substrate (CS6631) is a good choice for bringing out the best color. Be sure to provide plenty of caves (UA174) and other hiding places. Driftwood (ZM2000), leaf litter, and live or artificial plants may also be incorporated.
The cockatoo cichlid is generally a peaceful dwarf cichlid. Males may be territorial with conspecifics, so try not to keep too many together unless the tank is large. Good tank mates include many tetras, rasboras, livebearers, small species of rainbows, corydoras and other small peaceful catfish, and smaller loricariid catfish.
In the wild, the cockatoo cichlid is a carnivore feeding primarily on small aquatic crustaceans, worms, insect larvae and other invertebrates. In the aquarium it will readily accept many prepared foods. Good choices include high quality cichlid pellets (NL1004) and frozen bloodworms (SF4792) or brine shrimp (SF6777). For maximum color, growth, and health these fish will look their best when given probiotics (AL169) in addition to a balanced diet.