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Apistogramma cacatuoides

18 December 2014 Comments::DISQUS_COMMENTS

One of the most colourful and popular dwarf cichlid belonging to South America, Apistogramma cacatuoides was first described by Hoedemann in 1951 and exported shortly thereafter. It is also known as the Cockatoo Apisto, owing to the male's crested forelock of a few extra long dorsal fin spines, and is found in Peru along most of the Rio Ucayali river.

It is usually found hiding in shallow waters among decaying leaves and mud. It is considered very tolerant with regards to pH and hence is termed as the beginners Apisto. It has been bred extensively for colour and is now available in various strains such as double reds, triple reds, orange flash and blue (I even had a green colored variant that was born in my fish room). The males are very colourful and grow up to 3-31/2 inches in size, while the females are neutral in colour and stay relatively small at around 2 inches. However, females turn into a striking bright yellow when they are ready to spawn. 


Apistogramma cacatuoides prefers soft water around 25-27 degree Celsius, although they will tolerate temperatures up to approximately 32 degree Celsius. It is advisable to house them in a shallow tank not above 12 inches as they reside in a muddy bottomed shallow habitat. A well planted sandy-bottomed aquarium with a lot of cave like structures would suit them the best. You can also house them in an aquarium decorated with a lot of driftwoods using Indian almond leaves to soften the water and provide them a more natural looking environment. A pair would require a minimum 10 gallon tank. Males are very territorial and it is better to keep just one male with 2-3 females in a 30-40 gallon tank. If you intend to keep more than one male then plan the layout in such a way that the males would be able to form their own respective territories. They inhabit slow moving waters so it is best to avoid a strong flow in the aquarium, choose your filter accordingly. 


Apistogramma cacatuoides will accept several varieties of dry foods such as terta bits that are easily available in the Indian market, but for getting them in breeding condition supplement their diet with live foods such as microfex, grindals, bloodworms and mosquito larvae (live food cultures can be obtained from other local hobbyists). Avoid giving them live tubifex which is normally available in most of the fish stores as feeding these leads to various stomach related issues. 


Apistogramma cacatuoides are harem breeders where one male patrols a big territory, which will be subdivided between a group of females. The male will spawn with each female within his territory. They can be bred in pairs as well. Apistos are cave brooders so provide them with a lot of cave like structures to act as spawning sites. The pair will select a potential cave and the female will lay her eggs upside down with the male fertilizing them in the same manner. It is the responsibility of the female to guard and look after the eggs and the fries. She will guard her nest fearlessly and won’t fudge even if you lift the pot. She will continuously fan the eggs to avoid formation of any fungus over them. She will remove the affected eggs so as to protect the good ones. 

The eggs hatch within 3-5 days and the young ones leave their home to search for food guided by their mother after a week. This is the time she becomes extremely aggressive and will not tolerate any other fish or moving object near her young ones. The fries feed on microorganisms within the tank for the first few days so ensure that you put a lot of moss in their tank from a matured tank which will have a lot of these organisms or culture some infosuria and feed them 2-3 times a day. As they start to grow, feed them other larger wrigglers like microworms or newly hatched brine shrimps. 

Sex Ratio

Temperature and pH are widely known as factors that determine the sex ratio of Apisto fries. Sex of the fries is not determined at the time of hatching but during the initial 3-4 weeks. Higher temperature, above 26 degree Celsius, will result in more males and lower in more females. pH levels will also effect the sex ratio, extreme pH (low/high) will give you more males. Keeping the temperature in the 24-27 degree Celsius range will give an even mix of both sexes.

Interesting Observation 

Apisto breeders across the globe have observed that in a harem Apsito females are known to steal slightly larger fries of other females in the group so as to enhance the chance of their broods' survival as the smaller fries will closely follow the larger ones, who are quick to respond to a mother's call for danger. 


Last modified on Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:06
Vijendra Suryawanshi

Vijendra Suryawanshi grew up in a fish loving family. He took up this hobby from his father who is a fish hobbyist since the past 25 years. Vijendra has bred several fish species and invertebrates over the past few years, with a keen interest in Indian natives. 

Nature has always fascinated him and his love for fishes and aquariums extends when he clicks portraits of his babies in the tank. Pursuing this hobby for almost 15+years, he makes sure that he dedicates a lot of time in the fish room to feed, change water, click or just sit and observe them. Wanting to gain more knowledge in this hobby, he keeps exploring and experimenting with various challenging species and setups in his fish room. His aquariums give him a sense of completion and he is at peace when he is around them. 

A genuine and kind person by heart, he works as a deputy manager in a financial and business research firm (well, you need money to maintain a fish room with 18+ tanks, right ;)). He also loves to travel, do photography, and at times loves to be the king of the kitchen cooking different recipes. He wishes to have his own fish farm few years down the line, promoting breeding of fish among hobbyists in India.