The cockatoo cichlid is a very popular aquarium fish which is also known as Double Full Red Cockatoo Cichlid, Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid or Big Mouth Apistogramma. It is distributed in the Amazon River basin and their tributaries of the Ucayali, Amazon and Solimões rivers from the Pachitea River to Tabatinga in Peru and Colombia. It inhabits small shallow streams or lagoon-like waters in the rain forest where the water bottom is covered with leaves that are used by the fish for hiding.

Cockatoo Cichlid’s Overview

It has elongated body with a prominent dorsal fin and forked caudal fin. The body is brown to gray in color while the belly is golden brown in color.  The body is marked with one lateral stripe that extends from the eye to the caudal fin. Below this stripe three shorter lines are also present. The eye is marked with a stripe that extends down to the corner of the gill cover. The caudal fin is green in color with a series of red spots on the upper lobe. The anal fin is edged with a blue-green fringe while the dorsal fin is green in color with pointed  rays which are tipped with orange that become green before reaching the main part of the fin. It is primarily carnivorous and it apparently feeds mostly on benthic invertebrates in nature. It prefers water chemistry with pH of 6.0-7.8, Water Hardness of 5- 190 dGH and water Temperature that ranges from 72-86° F. The male reaches a body length of 10 cm while the female is considerably smaller reaching only 5 cm and they can live up to 5 years or more.

Scientific Name: Apistogramma cacatuoides

Common Name: Double Full Red Cockatoo Cichlid, Cristed Dwarf Cichlid, Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid or Big Mouth Apistogramma

Origin: Streams and backwaters of the Amazon River

Adult Size: 5-10 cm

Behavior: Semi-aggressive

Tank Level: Middle

Minimum Tank Size:  30 gallons

Diet: Carnivore

Breeding: Egg layers

Care level: Moderate

Water pH: 6.0-7.8

Water Hardness: 5 – 19 dGH

Water Temperature: 72-86° F

Water Movement: Weak

Lighting:  Low – subdued lighting

Lifespan:  5 years

Background of Cockatoo Cichlid

The Cockatoo Cichlid is one of the most colorful of all the dwarf cichlids. It was first imported into the hobby in the early 1950s and it was formally described by the Dutch ichthyologist J. J. Hoedeman in 1951. It belongs to the family Cichlidae under Order Perciformes of Class Actinopterygii. It is also known as the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid or Crested Dwarf Cichlid. These common names are derived from the male having its first several rays of the dorsal fin extending higher than the rest that gives it a cockatoo or crested look. This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Housing Cockatoo Cichlid

The cockatoo cichlid requires minimum 30 gallons tank with plenty of open areas and hiding places. The tank should have gravel to sand substrate with soft water and a pH of acidic to slightly alkaline that should be ranged from 6.0-7.8. The aquarium also should have a cover and low to moderate lighting. The cockatoo cichlid prefers rosette plants like the Amazon Sword, Vallisneria and other acidic tolerating plants like Wisteria. The cockatoo dwarf cichlid is a community fish that can be kept with other fish that are not large and aggressive. They do best in groups of 6 to 8 individuals. Acceptable tank mates include characin species such as Cardinal Tetras and the Three-Line Pencilfish, Otocinclus Catfish and Corydoras like the Julii Cory, Glowlight Rasbora, Dwarf Gourami, Kuhli Loach, Hatchetfish, Loricarids and Dwarf Rainbowfish. They require good water conditions and regular water changes should be done to make the aquarium disease free.

Recommended Plants

Check out recommended plants for Cockatoo Cichlid

Feeding Double Full Red Cockatoo Cichlid

It is a carnivorous fish and in wild, it apparently feeds on benthic invertebrates. In captive condition, it accepts a wide variety of live and frozen foods such as Artemia, Daphnia and chironomid larvae. It also takes flakes, pellets, tablets and finely chopped meat.  Feed should be supplied 2-3 times a day.

Breeding Cristed Dwarf Cichlid

The double full red cockatoo cichlid is an egg layer fish that prefers to spawn in caves. The female lays up to 100 eggs and the female guards the eggs while the male guards the territory. In the aquarium they prefer upturned flowerpots, fake coconut caves, bogwood and broad leafed plants for cover and as spawning sites. The eggs hatch after three to four days. The fry becomes free swimming within seven to ten days. At this time they should be fed with newly hatched brine shrimp. After a week or two, the fry should be fed with naupli. They are a fast growing species and the fry reaches sexual maturity in about five months.

Sexing Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid

Generally the male is larger in size than the female. The male reaches up to 10 cm in length while the female can grow up to 5 cm in length. The first several rays of the dorsal fin in male are extended and overall brightly colored. The male’s belly and pelvic fins are golden brown in color while the female`s belly is dull yellow in color with the front of the pelvic fins are solid black.

Cockatoo Cichlid for sale and where to buy

The cockatoo cichlid is sometimes known as the big mouth cichlid due to its large mouth. They are readily available in many online pet shops and can range in price from moderate to moderately expensive. The cockatoo cichlid has many color variations such as the full red, double red and triple red, super red and orange. To buy your favorite colored cichlid, look below online vendor that I would recommend from.