Apistogramma Cacatuiodes is a species of fish originating from South America and can be found in the Amazon River basin, living in shallow streams & lagoons within the rainforest. They are a dwarf cichlid and are commonly referred to as Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlids & Apisto’s. There are as many as 250 identified Apistogramma species.

Tank Requirements

  • Peaceful Community
  • Temperatures between 24°C and 28°C
  • Water between pH 6.5 and pH 8.0
  • Lots of hiding spaces
  • Slower moving water
  • Minimum of 60cm x 30cm tank for a single pair
  • Large water changes should be avoided, 10-15% weekly is adequate (depending on stocking levels)
  • They prefer sand over gravel as they like to sift, however, I keep mine with gravel and have had no issues.
Male & female apistogramma
Male & female apistogramma

These are generally peaceful fish and do well in peaceful community tanks. Once paired they will claim a bit of the tank for themselves while the female tends to the eggs and the male fends off any intruders. During breeding, the female may become hyper-aggressive, so the pair should be monitored closely and you should be prepared to remove the male if required.

They like to have dither fish around them such as Tetras. When the dither fish are out, it lets them know it is safe to come out. Without the dither fish, you may find your Apisto’s spend a lot of their time in hiding.


  • These are primarily carnivorous (meat-eating) fish
  • Bloodworms
  • Artemia
  • Daphnia
  • Pellets

In my experience, Apisto’s are not overly fussy with food, although others have said they will only eat frozen or live food. A mixed diet of flake, pellet & frozen/live food seems to be appreciated by them.

Male Apistogramma

Male Apistogramma
Male Apistogramma

Size: Maximum length 8cm

Colour: Commonly found with a brown body with a prominent black line running from the back of his eye to the tail, although other colours such as blues, yellows, silvers, and reds can be found. Most have red/orange dorsal & caudal fins, but again, other colours are found. They have more elaborate finage than the females and make a colourful addition to a tank.

Female Apistogramma

Female Apistogramma
Female Apistogramma

Size: Maximum length 5cm

Colour: The majority of female Apisto’s are predominantly grey or brown in colour. Like the males, they have a strong black line that runs from the back of their eye to their tails. Their finage is generally less flamboyant than that of the males with more subtle colouration. While breeding the female will have more of a yellow colouration.

 Personal Review

I adore my Apistogramma. They are happy little fish that, once confident in your tank, will interact with you and rush to the glass to greet you. They seem to enjoy being in front of the camera too!

I have had no issues with them bullying their tank mates, nor have they been bullied. They seem to enjoy the company of my Electric Blue Rams and are often just hanging out together eating.

Although these are carnivorous, I have not seen them trying to peck at or chase my cherry shrimp.  I put that down to a good amount of food going into the tank and regular water changes to make up for the additional foods.

I would absolutely buy Apistogramma’s again. They offer the interaction of a cichlid but don’t grow to the full size and don’t require a species only tank. They are colourful fish and seem to have no issue with breeding in a variety of tank conditions.


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